Industries demand action on building rules

Mixed responses to combustible cladding on high-rise developments are fanning a building crisis.
Mixed responses to combustible cladding on high-rise developments are fanning a building crisis.

Australia's five largest industry groups are demanding urgent action on the nation's "patchy and inconsistent" building rules.

Labor has accused the federal government of failing to show leadership on the issue, but the responsible minister blames the states and territories for the mess.

Leading figures in the building, construction, property and insurance industries have taken aim at state and territory governments for their mixed responses to combustible cladding on high-rise developments.

The groups argue the inconsistent approaches are fanning a crisis in the building supply chain.

"Building surveyors, engineers and architects are now struggling to obtain the insurance they need to do their job," they said in a joint statement on Monday.

"Consumers, building owners, building practitioners and their insurers need certainty and confidence in building regulation."

The industry groups are calling on the Commonwealth to urgently pull the states and territories into line.

But the federal industry minister is in no doubt about who is to blame.

Karen Andrews says the Commonwealth does not have the constitutional power to regulate buildings.

"The states and territories cannot continue to ignore calls from industry to implement nationally consistent reforms to the building and construction sector," Ms Andrews told AAP.

The industry groups want a consistent, national response to risk assessment and a joint strategy for existing buildings with combustible cladding.

"This will reduce confusion, clarify the scale of the challenge and support a viable professional indemnity insurance market that provides the coverage needed by industry participants and building owners."

The groups also want a joint task force, comprising government and industry representatives, to oversee the response to a recent report into building surveying.

"I offered to fund a similar task force at the building ministers' forum in February but the states rejected it," Ms Andrews said.

"I will again make the offer at the (forum) this week."

Labor's industry spokesman Brendan O'Connor has called on the federal government to show national leadership to ensure commercial and residential buildings are up to scratch.

"Each day the Morrison government fails to respond to the widespread risks of dangerous building products, more Australian lives are put at risk," he said.

"Australians deserve to feel safe, especially in their own homes and workplaces."

Australian Associated Press