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Federal cladding action ‘lacking’

Concern over the cladding comes in the wake of last year’s Lacrosse tower fire in Melbourne’s Docklands precinct, which was found to have been spread by the non-compliant use of highly flammable cladding.

Parliamentary Secretary for Industry and Science Karen Andre­ws has scheduled a Building Ministers’ Forum for next month, so federal, state and territ­ory ministers can discuss the issue.

During a Senate estimates hearing yesterday, the Department of Industry revealed the government had taken little other action.

Ms Andrews responded: “In government, Labor did not convene the Building Ministers’ Forum for three years, which is disappointing given the BMF is the key forum to take actions on national building issues.

“It’s disappointing that Labor when in government failed to act on the issue of non-conforming building products coming into Australia and also the use of building products that are not fit for purpose.

“I have already written to the ABCB asking them to prioritise investigating the relevant Nationa­l Construction Code requirem­ents and test method for non-combustible external wall assemblies to ensure their suitability and I am meeting with the board’s chair in the coming few weeks to discuss this matter.’’

Ms Andrews added: “Given many of (the relevant) laws are held by states and territories, we clearly need a co-ordinated effort­ to address­ these matters.’’

Since a Metropolitan Fire Brigade report into the Lacrosse fire was released, The Australian has revealed that the same or similar flammable Asian cladding has been widely used across the high-rise building industry and is believed to have partly fuel­led the apartment boom.

Labor’s innovation and industry spokesman Kim Carr said the government had to act on the issue “as a matter of urgency”, adding: “The public have a right to know that the buildings they live in are not death traps.”

The Australian revealed yesterday that authorities had failed to act after a 2012 symposium on fire science and technology exposed­ the deaths of 59 people in China as a result of fires fuelled by the cladding.


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