A new agreement by the Building Ministers Forum to implement a national approach to reforms is a major step forward in addressing poor building outcomes and restoring community confidence.

At a Building Ministers Forum (BMF) meeting yesterday, state, territory and Commonwealth ministers agreed to the establishment of an implementation team to develop a national framework for the 'consistent' implementation of the Shergold Weir recommendations.

The new national approach will see an expanded role for the Australian Building Codes Board (ABCB), and the implementation team will include both government and industry representatives.

It will also examine potential changes to the National Construction Code (NCC).

As part of the change, the ABCB’s strategic plan will be recast, and the organisation’s capabilities further strengthened to meet its expanded role and responsibilities.

The Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) CEO, Rob Whelan, welcomed the reforms but said the insurance industry needed to play a bigger role in the implementation process including permanent representation on the ABCB.

He also called for the implementation of a nationally consistent audit and risk assessment regime to enable an accurate register of at-risk buildings.

This is in addition to a national cladding and Non-Conforming Building Products rectification program.

While the BMF supported a national approach to the Shergold Weir recommendations, the forum made it clear that states and territores should retain responsbility for building and construction matters.

“The Commonwealth will continue to help facilitate on the clear understanding that the states and territories have powers and responsibilities to regulate building matters. States and territories will take responsibility for their individual paths to remediation and rectification,” the BMF said in a communique.

It is also up to the states and territories to work towards a coordinated approach to professional indemnity insurance, the Communique said.

To achieve this a professional indemnity options paper will be released setting out a pathway for professional standards schemes and alternative insurance options.

Consultation outcomes will be reported back to the Building Ministers’ Forum by September 2019.

The building ministers called on insurers to meet their existing obligations and to lift their exclusions on professional indemnity insurance.

At the same time Standards Australia has begun consultation on a technical specification for the permanent labelling of aluminium composite panels (ACPs).

The Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council (ASBEC) welcomed the adoption of increased energy efficiency provisions in the National Construction Code (NCC).

This is in addition to enhanced safety measures in the NCC.

Fire Protection Association Australia (FPA Australia) CEO, Scott Williams, said these reforms are a significant step forward.

“Building compliance is a national problem, and we congratulate the BMF on coming together to agree to a national response,” he said.

“The ABCB is absolutely the correct vehicle to drive that response, and its coordination will provide the leadership and stability needed to implement the major reforms required.

“The community’s trust in the building sector has been eroded, and there is a lot of work to be done to restore that by both industry and government.” The BMF will meet again in December 2019.


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