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Doorstop – ABC TV, Melbourne

5 February 2019

Subject: Cladding audits and Building Ministers’ Forum

E&OE

The Minister for Industry, Science and Technology, the Hon Karen Andrews MP was doorstopped to discuss cladding audits and the upcoming Building Ministers' Forum

Question: Well we’ve known about this cladding issue since the frost, as you’ve pointed out, what’s your kind of general response to how things are progressing now that we’ve just had another fire?

Minister Andrews: Building regulation is a state issue so it’s a responsibility of the Victorian State Government to deal with building regulations. Clearly there is a significant issue with planning. I understand the Victorian Government has undertaken an audit. What I would like to see is the Victorian Government being much more transparent with the findings of their audits, so that consumers, residents and occupants of the building towers know that they are going to be safe into the future.

Question: Any building that’s been audited they get a letter - you’ve got cladding here’s what you need to do. How much more transparent can they be?

Minister Andrews: Well there was clearly an issue earlier this week with the Neo200 building. Many of the residents appeared to be unaware that there was an issue, so clearly there is at least a level of communication that has not been taking place.  There’s also a timing issue, we know that there is significant issue with aluminium cladding. It’s time for the Victorian State Government to step up and start fixing these issues as a matter of urgency.

Question: Considering Victoria’s more advanced than any other state with its audit, shouldn’t your complaint be towards other states, that they should at least even start an audit let alone catch up to Victoria?

Minister Andrews: So later this week in Hobart we will be meeting with all off the building ministers from around Australia, so it’s a Building Ministers’ Forum in Hobart on Friday. Cladding will be one of the most significant issues that we are discussing.  We’ll also be discussing the Building Confidence Report that was submitted about 12 months or so ago, it was a report from Shergold and Weir about the building sector in particular; certification was one of the issues.  So we’ll be discussing that in depth and I will be looking to see what each of the states have done to progress those issues and what their implementation plans are.

Question: Do you want the states to do an audit that is as comprehensive as Victoria’s?

Minister Andrews: It’s up to each state what they wish to do and of course that’s one of the issues where each state has a responsibility for building regulation in its own state. It would be helpful if there was a level of consistency in building regulations, but that’s up to the willingness of each state and territory to be part of that.

Question: You’re entitled to express your opinion, is this something that states need to kind of step up to?

Minister Andrews: Absolutely. Each state and territory has a responsibility with building regulation and they have to convince and enable all of the people who live in high rise apartments, in particular and work high rise apartments that they are going to be safe. This is not an opportunity to play politics and anyone who says that this is not a state related matter is just being mischievous.

Question: So is your concern that not just Victoria’s being a bit slow, but all states are being slow in responding to this issue considering how long we’ve known about this issue?

Minister Andrews: I’ll hear more about that on Friday when I hear from each of the building ministers. There is an implementation plan that is being developed, I want to see what the status of that is, I want to understand what each state and territory is doing with the issues that they’ve uncovered with cladding and I want their assurances that they are going to address those issues in a timely manner.

Question: I guess finally with this issue, you see a lot of people saying: why is this stuff even on buildings, just get rid of it, get rid of it, get rid of it?  Why is it still an issue all these years later?  Why can’t we just ban it or get rid of it?

Minister Andrews: There’s two parts to the issue, one is new buildings and the other is existing buildings.  And you’ll understand that with Neo200 it was an existing building, that it was built well before cladding was identified as an issue, so you’ve got a rectification part that has to be dealt with as well too. I understand that most, if not all of the states, have dealt with cladding on new buildings, but they understand and they know they have a problem to fix with the existing buildings.

Question: And you’d like that to be a priority for this Friday’s meeting, the past buildings that already have this stuff on there?

Minister Andrews: Absolutely because there’s clearly a risk whether that’s a low, moderate or high risk that is the issue that has to be addressed by the state governments.

ENDS