Labor Senator Chris Ketter has today tabled the Senate Economics References Committee Report into Non-conforming Building Products: The need for a coherent and robust regulatory regime.
The final report hands down thirteen recommendations around national consistency and regulation, better consultative and reporting mechanisms and border protection.
This inquiry has run over two Parliaments, during which time the committee has received 164 formal submissions and a number of supplementary submissions. There have been ten public hearings, in Canberra, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Sydney and Adelaide.
The final report follows interim reports in May 2016, September 2017 and November 2017 – the latter two drilling down on deadly flammable cladding and asbestos products respectively.
This report examines product issues found in electrical, lighting, windows and glazing, plumbing, engineered wood products, steel and Vinyl/PVC categories, as well as compliance issues raised in the Shergold-Weir report Building Confidence, commissioned by the Building Minister’s Forum.
This final report recommends that the Building Ministers’ Forum take urgent action to:
• Develop improved consultative mechanisms with industry stakeholders and introduce annual reporting requirements to address non-conforming building products (Recommendation 1);
• Expedite consideration of a mandatory third-party certification scheme for high-risk building products and a national register for these products (Recommendation 3); and
• Examine international approaches for testing of high-risk products prior to import (Recommendation 5).
In addition, the report recommends the Australian Government:
• Develop a confidential reporting mechanism on non-conforming building products for industry (Recommendation 2);
• Require sampling and testing by a NATA (or equivalent) accredited authority prior to importation of high-risk products to Australia (Recommendation 4);
• Work with state and territory governments on a national licensing scheme
• Consider imposing a penalties regime for non-compliance with the National Construction Code (Recommendation 11); and
• Consider making all Australian Standards freely available (Recommendation 8).
The final recommendation (Recommendation 13) urges the government to review the Customs Act 1901 (and other relevant legislation) to close loopholes and tighten enforcement action to address the continued importation of life-threatening asbestos to Australia.
Labor takes building safety seriously. That’s why a Shorten Labor Government has already committed to ban the importation, future sale and use of highly flammable polyethylene (PE) cladding; establish a national licencing scheme; and introduce a new penalties regime for all building practitioners who breach the National Construction Code.
Public safety is a fundamental responsibility of government and Australians have the right to feel safe in their built environment. The findings of this Labor-led inquiry have forced the government to act. But there is much more to be done.
It is time the Liberal National government stepped up to restore public accountability for public safety in the building industry.