Page 1607 - Week 05 - Thursday, 2 June 2022
and those of you who are not able to join us today but who I know are keenly watching the debate.
Combustible cladding is a known hazard present in our community. It can be life-threatening. The extent of the issue is still not completely understood in Canberra. The reason it is not completely understood is that this Labor-Greens government refuses to acknowledge, refuses to take action and refuses to actually find out the full extent of the problem. In the years since the Lacrosse Tower fire in Melbourne in 2014 and the Grenfell Tower fire in London in 2017, the Labor-Greens government has barely been able to address the issue of combustible cladding in its own ACT government buildings.
This government has not taken, and still does not take, combustible cladding seriously. It put an inexperienced minister in charge in the last term—a minister who took over eight months just to respond to a letter from one owners corporation—and it has yet again put an inexperienced junior minister in charge. This government is still dragging its feet on providing any certainty, any assurance, for the thousands of Canberrans that are affected.
It was not until July 2021—July last year—years after the issue was first raised as an urgent problem, that the ACT government finally announced some assistance for residential buildings in Canberra. The tardiness of this response left some owners corporations high and dry, because it was a case of too little, too late. Owners corporations who were so frustrated with the delay in action by this Labor-Greens government were forced to take proactive steps to remediate their combustible cladding or face the enormous risk of being unable to insure their buildings or, worse, see their buildings go up in flames.
Here we are, almost a year later, June 2022, and the Labor-Greens government still has not finalised the details of a scheme to support owners corporations to remediate cladding on their buildings—remediation works which can reach costs in the tens of millions of dollars. The financial burden of cladding remediation is enormous and it affects thousands and thousands of Canberrans.
Perhaps it is worth noting at this point that this is the same government that is forcing 70 per cent of Canberrans into high-rise apartment towers, and it does not even have the decency to ensure that those people can do so safely and affordably. The minister says that 65 residential buildings will probably be eligible for the loan scheme that the government has not even finalised yet. We do not even know what the eligibility criteria are going to be.
A couple of weeks ago I was at a combustible cladding forum run by the Owners Corporation Network—and I acknowledge their president, Gary Petherbridge, who is joining us today—and the Strata Community Association, and its head, Shelley Mulherin. It was well attended, with representatives from owners corporations, insurance providers, the Master Builders Association and over 100 affected members of the Canberra community. They were there to share their experiences but, most importantly, they were there to get answers. What they got instead was a minister floundering, a minister not across her brief, and a minister who clearly does not understand the gravity of the issues affecting thousands and thousands of Canberrans.