The Never Ending Perfect Storm

Premier Andrews

We all know regulation of the building industry has been on a downward spiral for over a decade. Why does the Andrews Government retain a dodgy consumer protection regime that every consumer body in Australia demeans because it fails the homeowners that need it?

And why do they defend their management of our industry when it has become a complete basket case through the inability of the VBA to understand our industry?

The Andrews government defends the Builders Warranty Insurance (BWI) scheme on the basis it is needed as a safety net, arguing it has no effect on builders or plumbers, as the registrar of those trades have remained neutral and have more recently increased. The consumer protection component has declined to a buyer beware notice hardly building any investor or consumer confidence

Western Institute of Technology is one of many registered training organisations (RTOs) whose primary courses are in building and construction sector. Many of the RTO websites target our industry, and this is of acute concern to the legitimate industry given that dodgy RTOs offer short courses that provide the recipient with a piece of paper but not necessarily the practical skills needed and required for an industry to maintain its credibility.

Intaj Khan’s methods are currently the subject of investigation regarding his recent election to council and it appears he is loosely aligned to Premier Daniel Andrews. One of his business entities is the Western Institute of Technology, whose primary courses are in building and construction.

Further it is fact that if a registered builder decides to leave our industry, they are not removed from the registrar, which gives a false impression of the real situation.

We are all aware that many good builders and plumbers have left and are leaving our industry, citing its dilapidation as the reason for their actions. As we try to embrace and inform government of these and many other serious circumstances, we are faced with spin and tokenism from the Victorian Building Authority (VBA)

Recent attempts to meet with Minister Wynne again went unheeded. It appears he is too busy to meet with the genuine industry, and our written requests to Premier Andrews are met with a stony silence. This is hardly democratic or considerate of the woes we face, and certainly not engaging of their constituents. As far as transparency is concerned, it is a joke.

The domestic builders alone pay an inordinate amount for the current consumer protection regime that delivers little to the building consumers of the nation, including Victoria. In contrast, it delivers an enormous income stream to the two building associations – HIA and MBAV. Those two building associations continue to support the government and the current regime as BWI is their primary income source and heaven help anyone who tries to interfere with that income stream. This income stream is what has given them the political power to maintain the status quo. Now the immediate past CEO of MBA (Brian Welch) is chair of the Victorian Building Authority, a position some see as a direct conflict of interest.

When this terrible product was introduced, the commercial builders were excluded from the BWI regime that domestic builders must endure. That ensures their support for the trade associations, but these commercial builders are now building more homes in terms of apartments than what the domestic builders now build. Yet the domestic builders must carry the complete consumer protection for the whole of industry.

It should also be clearly noted that the whole VBA operation is cost neutral as it is directly funded from our domestic licence fees and registrations.

Be mindful it was the HIA that played the major role in concocting and delivering the Last Resort BWI regime.

This gave the HIA the sale of BWI on their own for a few years, and that escalated their national income stream from some $38 million a year to close on $100 million a year over that period. Amid much unrest in the national industry of an unfair and unjust system, instead of supporting the industry, the HIA chose to advise the government of the day those unsatisfied dissidents were not worthy of being in the building industry.

Builders are not voluntary members of HIA and MBA; they join to obtain the mandatory warranty Insurance. Hence the charade and lack of membership democratic input. HIA is a private company with directors.

It is a simple role to criticize, but to have workable alternatives for what has been termed a complex industry with complex issues such as consumer protection takes a considerable amount of time and effort. However, when that role is shared between all the genuine associations and consumers within the wider building industry, outcomes are found through the intimate knowledge of the sector each association represents. When that knowledge is pooled, it delivers a combined workable outcome.

The solutions are not costly, and if proactive prevention is applied through proper regulatory processes, many of the failures we see today will not exist.

These outcomes are now being presented via the Building Industry Reform Group (BIRG) and it is this entity that is trying to meet with Minister Wynne and Premier Andrews to convey these concerns and resolutions.

BIRG is made up of many associations and industry participants whose time and input is voluntary, but that input is intimate to their profession and the industry and is invaluable in formulating a credible industry.

Tokenism is applied in respect to the advisory councils and stakeholder meetings that end up having no consequence. The boards are occupied by peripheral industry types with government agendas far removed from industry agendas.

While the role of every association is important to the well-being of our vast industry, plumbing itself plays a major role and the input of Master Plumbers and Plumbers United is as important to that of the builder itself, as homes and buildings cannot be delivered without their contribution. Their knowledge of industry and its requirements play a significant role in the formation of the BIRG policies we present to government.

Fire protection is another area that has become very important to industry, particularly in the multi-storey area that we see so much of today. The costly and ongoing Lacrosse building fire fiasco is testament to our concerns with much buck passing and rhetoric and very little action. This leaves the consumers who purchased the apartment holding the repair responsibility.

Surely in the most liveable city in the world, a consumer can take solace in the purchase of a property without having to take on the full responsibility of the build and its failings while the developer, designers, architects, builder and all the trades who produced the building sit back and don’t admit any liability or responsibility.

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