Flammable cladding the new asbestos

The head of Victoria’s cladding safety agency, Dan O’Brien, claims that 35% of buildings audited have flammable cladding, and has likened the problem to asbestos:

Mr O’Brien said the Statewide Cladding Audit by the Victorian Building Authority had inspected 2300 buildings since it began in 2017, with 805 found to have aluminium composite panels or expanded polystyrene.

He said 416 buildings had been identified as high risk…

“The EPA … will be classifying this waste, I understand, as a class C waste — a bit like asbestos.

“From the time we take the cladding off to the time it is disposed of, it will need to be treated and stored properly and EPA is keeping a pretty close eye on that”…

Mr O’Brien said 40 per cent of buildings with combustible cladding were three storeys and 93 per cent were under 10 storeys…

He said the $600 million world-first project would only fund cladding removal or replacement from high risk buildings and not other defects.

35% of audited buildings is an extraordinary number. One can only wonder how many of the thousands of apartments built over the past decades construction boom are impacted:

One thing’s for certain: the $600 million allocated for rectification by the Victorian Government is unlikely to be adequate, with the bill likely to climb into the billions:

Consumer advocate Anne Paten, from the Victorian Building Action Group, said the $600 million funding package would not come close to fixing the state’s cladding issues.

She told ABC Radio Melbourne the real cost was “many, many billions of dollars”.

“The people who have already been damaged and the taxpayers who’ve had nothing to do with this are going to give this token amount,” she said.

“And on the other hand, the people who caused it and should have to give and live up to the warranty that comes with the building once again walk away scot-free.

“We need enforcement of the laws and regulations that exist, and we need penalties when people ignore those laws.”

This whole flammable cladding fiasco is a microcosm of what is wrong with Australia’s rentier population ponzi economy. Here we have private developers making-out like bandits and privatising the massive profits from development, while the costs are socialised.

Rather than throwing taxpayer money at the problems caused by dodgy development, the Victorian Government should launch a sweeping royal commission into the state’s construction processes, regulations and standards. This would identify the failures, finger those responsible, and help prevent a reoccurrence in the future.

Leith van Onselen

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