Member Communique - Building Ministers Forum

11 February 2019

Dear Members,

On Friday 8 February, I represented AIBS at the industry roundtable which was part of the Building Ministers Forum (BMF) in Hobart.

The BMF is currently chaired by Karen Andrews, Federal Minister for Industry, Science and Technology. At the conclusion of each BMF, a communique is issued on behalf of the Chair and the State & Territory Ministers. The communique from this BMF can be found here.

Like the previous BMF in Adelaide last August, industry representatives were invited to a roundtable with the Ministers. In Hobart, the industry roundtable was held in the morning prior to the Ministers’ formalised meetings. The Ministers invited industry representatives to brief them, in 3 minutes each, about what we are doing to improve and develop a ‘culture of compliance’ within our own organisations.  

I raised three points. The first highlighted the AIBS Policy – Building Regulatory Reform in Australia and how we as an organisation and profession are taking a pro-active approach to the improvement of our national building regulatory system.

Secondly, I reiterated to Ministers that we had closely examined how we could improve our profession and that we strongly believe the overall culture of building surveying can be enhanced through the development of a professional standards scheme which we are currently working on and seeking their support for.

The third issue was in relation to the various and confusing labels used across jurisdictions to describe our profession and that we believe there should be a consistent single name that properly reflects the role a Statutory Building Surveyor undertakes. I pointed out that in some jurisdictions, building surveyors are referred to as certifiers and building surveyors in others, which causes no end of confusion about what they actually do and are responsible for.

At the conclusion we sought support from the Ministers for two things: 

  • All jurisdictions adopt the common terminology of Statutory Building Surveyor to consistently identify and improve the public awareness of the profession and the crucial role we play; and

  • Governments require building surveyors registering in each jurisdiction to be a member of an approved Professional Standards Scheme

While we know a lot more needs to be done, achieving these two aims would be a significant achievement for the profession and give us a solid basis from which to move forward. 

During the BMF, NSW Minister Matt Kean announced a number of key changes to building and construction regulations which were reported widely in the NSW media yesterday.  This announcement, which can be viewed  here on ABC iView reflects the matters we raised in discussions with the Minister’s staff following our communications about the Opal Tower. 

Equally important is that the proposed changes appear to be in line with the AIBS position in our AIBS Policy – Building Regulatory Reform in Australia with regard to greater accountability for all in the supply chain, not only building surveyors. We look forward to seeing the details underpinning the Minister’s announcement, and until then we will remain cautiously optimistic about seeing genuine improvements in NSW.

As you will see from the BMF communique, Ministers again discussed the recommendations from the Shergold Weir Report and it is intended that a plan for implementation of these recommendations will be published at the end of February. This is somewhat concerning and disappointing. When the BMF announced a plan would be developed, it was to be in consultation with industry. We have now waited ten months to be told a plan will be revealed at the end of this month, and still there has been no consultation with industry on the plan.  

AIBS reaffirms our support for the majority of recommendations in the Shergold Weir Report and we continue to be frustrated with the lack of action. The longer there are delays in implementing the recommendations, the more concern we feel that the required reforms will not be implemented at all. Meanwhile, construction of buildings around the nation continues every day without any of the identified and much need controls being applied. What we urgently need to see is action on the proposed reforms and support from all political parties. Australians who own, live, work and visit our buildings deserve nothing less. 

AIBS is also disappointed there appears to be no further work or information by the BMF on the availability and sustainability of PI Insurance which is crucial to the ongoing viability of the building regulatory system.   We will seek an explanation from the BMF as to why this has not been advanced.

Also coming from the BMF and widely reported in the news media over the weekend, was the proposed national ban on external flammable cladding. The agreement by all Ministers nationally to ban external flammable cladding has merit but needs further investigation as to what this might mean in practice. 
However, the main priority and attention should be on a consistent national program for rectification and remediation of all current at-risk buildings. This should be a higher priority because the revised NCC already provides more stringent provisions around the use of flammable external cladding on new buildings. It is AIBS’s previously stated position that there must be a consistent federally co-ordinated approach with funding support for owners to rectify their buildings. Leaving the responsibility solely to owners, and ultimately insurance companies, to fund rectification works will put further pressure on PI insurance. 

The AIBS position was put forward by Vice President Wayne Liddy via ABC News on Saturday which can be seen here.

Nearly twenty Industry bodies were represented at the BMF industry roundtable and it was very encouraging to see industry present a unified position on calling for a consistent and harmonised approach for the building and construction industry right across Australia.  We hope this message will translate into positive and decisive action when the plan to implement the recommendations of the Shergold Weir Report is finally published!

There will be further updates to come and, once again, it is the support of members that allows us to make this type of important representation at the highest levels of government on your behalf.

Kind regards

Brett Mace - MAICD
Chief Executive Officer