Victorian Government Leadership on Cladding

17 July 2019

The release of the Victorian Cladding Taskforce Final Report and associated program of work is welcomed by the ACA, but the Federal Government must also take action to ensure a unified national approach.

The Association of Consulting Architects (ACA) congratulates the Victorian Government for taking the lead on the issue of combustible cladding and committing $300 million to accelerate the remediation of high-risk buildings to ensure the safety of the public.

The Victorian Government commitment was made in conjunction with the release of the final report by the Victorian Cladding Taskforce, a substantial document that makes 36 recommendations.

The ACA agrees that the dysfunctional and sometimes toxic culture of the construction industry must change, and that professional bodies have important roles to play in this. Many ACA initiatives already work to promote and support this essential cultural change. This must occur in concert with identifying methods and processes to improve the quality of construction. The ACA fully supports the recommendation to consider reintroducing the role of the Clerk of Works. The ACA also supports the proposed re-introduction of homeowners’ insurance on multi-storey developments; however, it is important to note that this fails to address the ongoing obligations of the developer once the project is completed.

The ACA is concerned about the potential consequences of allowing certifiers to continue with exclusions to professional indemnity insurance. We call for a coordinated approach from all building professionals to ensure that liability is not merely passed onto other team members. The ACA is seeking further advice on this issue, as well as other changes proposed in the report such as introducing statutory obligations of duty of care.

Many of the problems now facing the industry result from poor procurement practices and emphasising profit at the expense of quality and sound building practice. The ACA is committed to being a voice for a construction industry that values design, quality, sustainability and safety.

The ACA is very concerned that the Federal Government is walking away from the issue, claiming it falls to the responsibility of the states. This has direct impact on state-based initiatives. For example, in the absence of Federal Government support, the Victorian Government is proposing to fund the shortfall through a very significant increase in the building levy. This will have a serious effect on building costs, making it more expensive to undertake works in Victoria.

This absence of Federal leadership also means that it will be much more difficult to achieve a coordinated, nation-wide response to very serious problems. This is a systemic building industry issue, which can only be addressed though a unified approach from Federal, State and Territory governments. The ACA reiterates its call for national coordinated action – the Federal Government must take a proactive lead.