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Cladding scandal turns up heat on building industry












Opposition industry spokesman Kim Carr said he would refer the issue to a Senate estimates hearing next week in a bid to find out what the federal government was doing to strengthen compliance and inspection regulations in the construction industry. “I want to know what action this government is taking through the Building Ministers Council to ensure the enforcement of standards,” Senator Carr said.

Victorian federal Labor MP Lisa Chesters also warned the building and construction industry that it could face broader calls for an “inquiry or commission” into the inappropriate use of building materials if the “wall of silence” surrounding the misuse of flammable cladding was not broken.

She said the “crisis” surrounding the flammable cladding scandal was intensifying and the federal government needed to act to protect the owners and dwellers in high-rise apartment complexes.

“Ultimately, if government and the appropriate authorities don’t act now, and this wall of ­silence and inaction continues, this crisis will compound,” she said. “We may then find ourselves answering calls for broad-reaching inquiries, commissions and so on.”

Ms Chesters said the blaze in the Lacrosse tower in Melbourne’s Docklands last year, found to have been spread by cheaply imported, highly flammable and inappropriately used cladding, had set off alarm bells in the industry and questions as to how widely spread the issue was.

The comments came as the Victorian Building Authority revealed it was using its performance audit powers to compel Lacrosse tower builder LU Simon to provide information on any building projects where it had used the Alucobest cladding.

The builder identified two buildings — Aura on Flinders Apartments in Melbourne’s CBD, and Mitcham Village Apartments in Melbourne’s east — where the cladding had been used.

The VBA said council surveyors had advised that the use of the cladding had not compromised the continued safe occupation of the buildings.

In a motion to federal parliament, Ms Chesters has called on the Abbott government to strengthen regulations surrounding the misuse of dangerous building materials and to review penalties for importers of dangerous goods.

“These companies are putting the lives and safety of Australians at risk by importing building products that do not comply with Australian Standards,” Ms Chesters said.

She also called on the federal government to investigate the surveying industry.

The Parliamentary Secretary for Industry and Science, Karen Andrews, said the government was very concerned about the ­issues raised in the Metropolitan Fire Brigade’s report into the ­Lacrosse tower fire.


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