Governments failed to act on flammable cladding warnings

By Leith van Onselen

The AFR’s Michael Bleby has done a terrific job (here and here) examining how Australia’s government’s failed to act on warnings over flammable cladding.

According to fire engineer Jonathan Barnett, Canadian researchers first raised concerns about combustible cladding in a report published in 1990, whereas testing by the CSIRO in 1995 found that such cladding was a fire risk, but no formal reports on the issue were published in Australia until five years later.

Meanwhile, state and territory building regulators were made aware of fire authorities’ concerns about the use of combustible cladding in 2010, as was the Australian Building Code Board. However, in the case of Victorian regulators, they did not issue any warning about the use of combustible cladding until June 2015, more than six months after the fire in the Lacrosse building in Melbourne.

Now, building industry figures are arguing that if our governments were aware of the dangers of flammable cladding, then it is reasonable to expect them to have to help pay the cost of its removal and rectification:

“There’s got to be culpability somewhere,” said Mr Chandler, the veteran builder of Parliament House in Canberra.

Governments could hold others to account or fund remediation themselves but would likely have to at least partially fund rectification, said Dame Judith Hackitt, who headed the UK inquiry into the 2017 Grenfell Tower tragedy in which 72 people died, during a visit to Melbourne last week.

“Government will have to provide some sort of support, undoubtedly,” Dame Judith said.

Meanwhile, poor building standards have been thrust further into the spotlight, with a Victorian builder suspended over sub-standard Melbourne developments. From The ABC:

A commercial builder has been suspended by the Victorian Building Authority (VBA) over a string of substandard housing developments in Melbourne’s suburbs, including one with dangerous cladding…

The VBA said “the decision to suspend was taken in the interests of the public”.

“Mr Farag is the builder named on the permit for six buildings in the south-east of Melbourne which have been the subject of significant regulatory action through the issue of Emergency Orders, or Building Notices, or both,” the VBA said.

Mr Farag has five buildings still under construction and he will be forced to find another builder to take over…

Residents at one apartment block built by Mr Farag said they had been forced to pay tens of thousands of dollars to fix defects which included leaking pipes and cracks in walls.

Inside some apartments, mould and even mushrooms had grown because of poor drainage and constantly leaking pipes.

17 building site in Gungahlin, Canberra, have also been ordered to stop work after defects were discovered by building inspectors. From The Canberra Times:

Building inspectors have stopped work on 17 non-compliant residential building sites in Gungahlin this week, citing exposed steel reinforcement in concrete, poorly installed window flashings and timber framing that left the structural integrity of buildings at risk.

The unusual crackdown has seen Access Canberra issue 12 building companies with notices over the defects.

The whole development system in Australia is clearly rotten, aided and abetted by the federal government’s mass immigration policy, which necessarily requires lots of homes to be built hastily, thus compromising quality.

A royal commission into building regulations and standards, as well as the development industry, is desperately needed. This would shine a spot light on the systemic issues, finger those responsible, and help prevent a reoccurrence in the future.

Even then, it’s too little too late given the proliferation of poorly built, flammable slums that have mushroomed across our major cities to house Australia’s population ponzi.

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Unconventional Economist
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  1. reusachtigeMEMBER

    Yep, I think the government should be compensating everyone especially developers and builders for these poorly built apartments considering that they have not done their job properly in making sure buildings are nice.

    • Ronin8317MEMBER

      The government should pass laws to make it illegal for builders and developers to be sued. Law should only exists to protect profit.

  2. IN driving areound the rural ares in the heat 40c plus
    you can smell the eucalyptus oil vapour and near hay sheds the oil vapour from the grass
    Bunyip exploding is just how flammable cladding will go
    cos the polystyrene exudes vapour as it heats before it carries a flame.
    the inability of anyone to get off their asses and fix this is culpable.

    Here is a Bolstrood scenario that could occur:
    The summer of will go down in history as the worst fire season in Australia’s history.
    After 21 days of 45 degree plus temperatures and very low humidity the blustery hot winds arrived in Sydney from the parched centre of the continent. No one knows how it started , but, a fire in a bush gully in the drought stricken mountains soon became a raging inferno. The fire storm raced thru the bush to the city’s edge and the ferocious winds carried it across the highways and into the suburbs.
    Homes exploded into flames and the winds swept it from house to house.
    Thousands of people fled.
    The real catastrophe occurred when the fires ignited a high rise apartment block covered in highly flammable cladding.
    It just exploded in flames, none of the occupants stood a chance .
    Worse was to come as neighboring blocks of units took fire, like a spark in a box of fireworks, one after another of these closely built towers erupted in flames.
    By nightfall a quarter of the city was in flames.

    • bolstroodMEMBER

      Thanks WW, I am going to turn it into a Climate Catastrophe thriller.
      Coincidently a week after I posted that a whole city in California went up in flames.

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        The KUB has a flight speed of 80 to 130 km/h, for 30 min
        Carries max explosive or napalm to 3 kg.
        The key advantages of the system are: High precision, Hidden launch, Silent operation, Simple to operate .
        UCAS «KYB-UAV».

  3. darklydrawlMEMBER

    What makes me sad is how this type of inaction and corruption has been going on for decades and this is just the latest in crimes against the very people these idiots are mean to represent (or maybe we are the idiots for trusting and voting for them?).

    For example – ExxonMobil knew about the risks of climate change 40 years ago (as did the relevant Govenments of the day).

    There are dozen of examples of this sort of criminal behaviour being endorsed and accepted by the powers that be.

    • DefinitelyNotTheHorribleScottMorrisonPM

      Exxon does not control the climate. No-one does. Enough of your voodoo pseudo-science.

    • Oil companies will be sued for climate change just like tobacco companies for cancer!

  4. A royal commission is a complete waste of time and money. The answer is in your article.
    “A commercial builder has been suspended by the Victorian Building Authority (VBA) over a string of substandard housing developments in Melbourne’s suburbs, including one with dangerous cladding…”
    “The unusual crackdown has seen Access Canberra issue 12 building companies with notices over the defects.”
    Make this usual and the problem goes away

    • like Pell, many deep rotten networks
      Fortunately the swamp is self emptying,
      and we have started draining

  5. For a good example of the high quality of residential construction in the ACT, and all across the rest of the country no doubt, have a look at some of the pics in this story.

    From the sound of things, the residents tried for ages to get the problems fixed and the builder stonewalled and then wound themselves up. No care, no responsibility and they keep all the money. This took such a long time that the Master Builders fund for covering this eventuality wouldn’t pay out because their time limit for claims had expired. That’s the legal system for you. Lots of law, but no justice.

    These people are so stuffed. I’ve actually overheard people talking about the state of these buildings so it’s pretty well known in Canberra, and there’s plenty more where these came from. There are Opal Towers, large and small, scattered all over the country.

    • DefinitelyNotTheHorribleScottMorrisonPM

      Fake news. Investor grade stock is only supposed to last for 5 years. Plus, capital losses are deductible from any gains, so the savvy investors are laughing all the way to the bank.

  6. Governments failed to act on flammable cladding warnings

    Wow I’m relieved that the Government knew about the problem yet failed to act, i was beginning to think they might somehow avoid being found to be responsible for this whole mess and where would that leave us?
    Personal responsibility is important for sure but nowhere near as important as finding someone else responsible for your mistakes.
    Privatize the profits Socialize the losses ….it’s a tried and proven formula.

  7. I wonder where is Mr Farag from and what did he do before he arrived in Australia.