Australia has extensive regulations and standards in the building and construction sector. However, the lack of independent verification and visible regulatory authority is making the conformance framework ineffective and unfair. Ai Group has long maintained that non-conforming product is adversely impacting our community, putting lives at risk and harming Australian businesses. To date, we have only seen the tip of the iceberg.
Innes Willox, Chief Executive Ai Group
It is a problem for all product manufacturers and importers in Australia but particularly the building and construction sector. Non-conforming products (NCP) are those products that do not comply with the relevant standards and / or codes (e.g. the Infinity Cable recall). A variant of this is non-complying product where the product may comply with the standards and codes but is installed incorrectly or in the wrong application (e.g. the Lacrosse Fire).
Australia's regulatory system has not kept pace with the emergence of complex global supply chains. As a result, unscrupulous operators have taken advantage of weaknesses in the conformance framework by supplying NCP into our markets.
We listened to members concerns and sought Government support to conduct research and then wrote a report (“The quest for a level playing field: the non-conforming building products dilemma” – see here) on how extensive the problem was and why it was occurring. We found that 92% of 222 respondent companies reported non-conforming product in their market. We found gaps and weaknesses in the building and construction conformance that included inadequacies with surveillance, audit checks, testing, first party certification and enforcement.
Ai Group believes that we cannot solve this problem on our own and so we formed the Construction Product Alliance (CPA) involving over 40 industry bodies. We chair this group and share the secretariat with BPIC - see the CPA's website here. CPA developed an 8-point action plan to tackle NCP and submitted it to the Building Ministers Forum for consideration.
Currently we are:
The Building Ministers Forum (BMF) Senior Officials Group (SOG) have released a document "Strategies to reduce risk related to non-conforming building products" (see here) that outlines how industry and Government can work together to tackle the problem. There were 6 key recommendations that picked up many of the elements of the CPA’s 8-point plan.
The Federal Government has held a Senate enquiry (see here) into NCP in the building sector and they have released an interim report "Safety - not a matter of good luck". It stated that:
“Clearly there has been a serious breakdown in the regulation and oversight of both non-conforming and non-compliant building products, which requires determined action.”
Ai Group and the CPA are pressuring the Government to reconvene and complete the Senate enquiry.
Ai Group believes that the examples of NCP in the public domain are merely the tip of the proverbial iceberg and that Australia is facing a significant issue if effective action is not taken immediately. If Australians cannot be certain that a modern hospital, a high rise building and their own homes are safe, then public confidence in our regulatory systems will continue to be eroded at a rapid rate.
Ai Group believes that the following are priorities to address the problem:
London fire and non-conforming building products – Ai Group comment – see here
Asbestos discoveries in building products the tip of the iceberg – see here
Asbestos on building sites a continuing regulatory issue – see here
Welcome action ahead on non-conforming building products – see here
Cable recall highlights the dangers and costs of non – conforming products – see here
Non – conforming building products create an uneven market – see here
Non – conforming products widespread across building and construction sector – see here