Next page . . . . Previous page . . . . Speeches . . . . Contents . . . . Debates(HTML) . . . .

Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 8 Hansard (29 October) . . Page.. 2512 ..

MR HARGREAVES (continuing):

This Government has wound down BEPCON, with this agenda on its mind all the time. We do not support this philosophy and would urge the Government to embrace its responsibilities to the community in safeguarding the safety of its citizens and restore resources to BEPCON to discharge their responsibilities as they did before. I urge the Assembly not to support the Bill.

MS TUCKER (5.53): These Bills represent yet another example of the Government attempting to transfer public sector functions to the private sector. In this case it is the transfer of the work of government building inspectors to private certifiers who will be able to undertake plan approval and inspection of building work. At present a statutory office-holder, the Building Controller, or the controller's staff, approves plans for building, issues a permit to a builder to carry out the work and issues a certificate of occupancy for the work when completed. Under this new scheme, private certifiers registered with the Government will be able to approve plans and inspect the building work. The private certifier will also ensure that the consent of other parts of government or other bodies affected by the building work is obtained. In the case of electrical work, electricians will be able to certify their own work. The Building Controller's role is reduced to receiving copies of approved plans from the certifier and issuing certificates of occupancy based on a certificate from the certifier at the end of the job. Checking of the certifier's work will be done only through random auditing.

I have a number of concerns about this virtual privatisation of building control. Inspection work should really be carried out by people who are totally impartial and independent of the person being inspected so that there is nothing to stop the inspector from taking all necessary action against inadequate work. I am therefore concerned that these Bills reduce a government regulatory control over building standards to a commercial relationship between builder and certifier. This sets up a whole range of conflicts which are not present where the certifier is an employee of the Government.

While the proposed new system may have less red tape, it could also lead to lower standards of construction work which could have long-term implications for the health and safety of building occupants. Private certifiers will be under the same financial pressures as those builders and tradespeople they are supposed to be regulating. The temptation will be there to cut corners to increase profits or just to remain competitive. There will be much more risk management in the sense of weighing up the amount of work needed to do a job properly versus the remuneration that will be received for the job. In a small construction market like the ACT there is also the potential for cosy relationships to develop between builders and certifiers.

If substandard or faulty work is carried out, then the proposed auditing process of only a small percentage of jobs is unlikely to pick all of these up. I understand that current building inspections reveal a number of faults with building work and that in a significant number of cases there is a need for reinspection of work after correction. I think that people in the community would be very concerned if the houses in which they live had undetected faulty construction. This could not only lead to maintenance expenses in the future but also have environmental and health implications in the case of faulty water and sewerage connections.

Next page . . . . Previous page . . . . Speeches . . . . Contents . . . . Debates(HTML) . . . .