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Senate moves on cladding fire fear

Senator Xenophon has co-sponsored the inquiry with Senator John Madigan and Senator Jacqui Lambie in what will be a broad investigation that will take in cladding as well as foreign products such as windows and wiring.

The probe has been backed by the Housing Industry Association and follows a series of stories by The Australian into a high-rise apartment fire in Melbourne’s Docklands last year, which swept through the building.

The fire’s rapid path has been attributed to inferior foreign cladding, which has been linked with overseas deaths.

Senator Xenophon, from South Australia, said the inquiry was sparked by substandard important building materials, which included windows falling off the new ASIO headquarters in Canberra. He believed the regulatory framework was “clearly failing”.

Independent Senator Nick Xenophon has combined with Senate colleagues to launch the investigation after months of concerns about faulty products.

“High-profile incidents have included massive windows falling off the new ASIO headquarters in Canberra and a high-rise building fire in Melbourne’s Docklands last year that quickly spread when the exterior cladding — imported from China — caught on fire, something that should have been impossible under Australian building regulations,’’ he said.

“This inquiry is a breakthrough in addressing what many in the building industry and their clients have known for some time: Australia has become a dumping ground for some of the world’s dodgiest and most dangerous building products,” he said. The Lacrosse Tower fire in Melbourne started from a smouldering cigarette on the second floor in November last year, rapidly spreading to the 20th floor.

Officials are now investigating 170 high-rise buildings in Melbourne’s CBD to determine whether they have been built with safe cladding.

If many have been built with the cheap cladding it will send shock waves through the price-sensitive industry.

Housing Industry Association senior executive director Kristin Brookfield last night welcomed the investigation.

“The apparent ease with which products are making it on to the Australian market, whether via importers or directly through consumers, is concerning.

“We are simply asking that all products meet the standards required by law and that the many manufacturers and suppliers that do the right thing are not being disadvantaged.”

The inquiry is due to report in October.


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