Page 2407 - Week 06 - Thursday, 24 June 2010

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MS LE COUTEUR (Molonglo) (12:03): The Greens will also be supporting the Construction Occupations Legislation (Exemption Assessment) Amendment Bill before us today. We note that in February we passed a bill which introduced a new occupation of works assessor, which enables elements of unit titling to be assessed outside of ACTPLA. In general, we support this shift to the creation of more official occupations which are able to be monitored, audited and reported upon by ACTPLA.

The key parts of the bill include the introduction of a new category of licensed occupations, which is an exemption assessor. This person will be able to do the work to ensure that the development is indeed an exempt development, and issue a notice to that effect. This option is not a mandatory proposal for all exempt developments but it may be helpful for people who are developing houses, or other types of development, which can include things such as internal alterations, refinishing of buildings, chimneys, fences, sheds, decks, water tanks, signs and suchlike.

These may all sound quite straightforward, but in some instances it can be quite complex to determine whether these things are exempt or not. This new exemption assessor will be able to give these people an official opinion to determine whether or not they are officially exempt rather than leave people guessing. I imagine this certificate will also be very useful in the case of a house being bought or sold because the buyer will then be able to see that the development did not need approval; it was exempt.

I do not really have a lot more to say about this COLA bill but, as we are talking about COLA and related issues, I thought I might talk about the things that we would be hoping to see in some forthcoming COLA bills. I am particularly concerned about the auditing of buildings and building standards. Ensuring high-quality building standards should be a high priority for the government. I understand the government is trying to rectify the current problems. They have been discussed quite widely, most recently on Stateline. They have been mentioned in the Canberra Times and many other forums recently.

We want to see this work continue. We support the government’s engagement with the industry. We support the continued investigation of more COLA-related legislation so that there are more relevant occupations which are going to be properly licensed and regulated. We support the investigation of more training requirements and a consumer education program so that consumers have a better idea about what to look out for when they are buying a building or when they are supervising the building of their own home, as well as compliance mechanisms and checks to ensure that high-quality building materials are used. One of the things that have been raised with me as issues is that some of the building materials are imported from overseas and they do not in fact meet the Australian standards.

We want to ensure that building subcontractors are licensed, as well as builders. We want to see the investigation of dispute resolution mechanisms; insurance options and, in particular, insurance options which relate to phoenix companies—I understand the commonwealth is also looking at the general issue of phoenix companies—extensions to building warranty; and possibly a defects fund for the future. I note the significant issue of existing buildings which have unresolved problems which need rectification.

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