Robert Gottliebsen (“Gotti”) has hit the prune juice hard today, blaming the widespread use of flammable cladding across Melbourne’s high-rise apartments on the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU):
It might take one, two or three years but sometime in the future a wall fire will break out on an Australian apartment or office tower that is cladded with flammable material.
…in Australia our use of imported flammable cladding was greater in Melbourne than most other centres, particularly Sydney. And when we look at a key reason why this happened we can see the power of the CFMEU’s contractor approval model and how it might work if the CFMEU were to combine with the waterfront union.
…as the new union business model spread through the building industry, cladding makers like most other commercial building suppliers had to work to the union rules which added around 30 per cent to the costs.
That’s a loooong bow that Gotti has drawn, conveniently failing to mention the role played by escalating land (site) costs, which has forced developers to cut corners on construction costs and use cheap inferior product. Nor has he mentioned the influx of ‘fast and loose’ foreign capital, nor the other likely cause: simple developer greed.
Funny, because the CFMEU is one of the parties that ‘rang the bell’ on flammable cladding and demanded stronger government regulations long before the Grenfell disaster happened in June 2017.
Here’s the CFMEU in May 2015 – two years before the Grenfell disaster:
MICHAEL O’CONNOR, CONSTRUCTION, FORESTRY, MINING & ENERGY UNION: It [flammable cladding] endangers the public, it increases the chances that someone’s gonna be killed or someone’s gonna be seriously injured and that’s a concern for everybody…
This product is rife. It’s used in buildings throughout Australia. All the information we’re receiving, Brisbane, Perth, Melbourne, every capital city, we believe this product is used in many buildings and particularly in high rise buildings…
The material that’s fire-resistant is a lot more expensive than the material that isn’t, so if you’re a builder and you see two different products, one’s a lot cheaper and you get told that it meets Australian standard, you can’t blame the builder for going for that product…
When it comes to building materials and particularly imported building materials, it looks like no-one’s in charge. So we have a flood of building materials being brought into this country, some claiming to meet Australian standards and we know they don’t, some not even bothering to make a claim of meeting Australian standards. And when you go to the different authorities, whether it’s the ACCC, whether it’s the building code authorities, everybody’s trying to say it’s somebody else’s problem.
Here’s the CFMEU again in June 2016 – one year before the Grenfell disaster took place:
MICHAEL O’CONNOR, NATIONAL SECRETARY, CFMEU: Most buildings that we see, most modern buildings we see now, we have cladding material used, whether it be residential, office, hospitals, stadiums. So there wouldn’t be many buildings where you wouldn’t use a cladding product now…
What we do know is that the cladding we are using increases the risk of fire, increases the risk to people’s lives and we also know that both the Federal Government and many state governments haven’t done anything about it.
Two prune juices is enough, Gotti.