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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 07 Hansard (Thursday, 1 July 2010) . . Page.. 3053 ..

In summary, I am very pleased that all three sides of politics take this as the serious issue that it is. The Greens’ amendment is the most practical way to go in the circumstances, but I strongly support Mr Seselja’s move in bringing this before the Assembly. It is an important issue, and I am glad that we are dealing with it.

MR BARR (Molonglo—Minister for Education and Training, Minister for Planning, Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation and Minister for Gaming and Racing) (11.09): The government share the Assembly’s interest in this important issue. Our building quality standards affect thousands of Canberrans and will affect thousands more in the future. Accordingly, the government want to ensure that we have the best possible regime in place to ensure quality work. We certainly believe that this is a debate that all sides of politics should take seriously. In that context I particularly welcome the constructive contribution of Ms Le Couteur.

The government believes that any policy work in this area should include all stakeholders, especially owners. Policy work done in this area should also be mindful of the professional bodies who manage multi-unit buildings, whose day-to-day job it is to resolve these issues on behalf of owners. The government is already talking to the community about the concerns that have been raised. The government is resolving those problems which can be addressed immediately.

I thank the Leader of the Opposition and Ms Le Couteur for the opportunity to raise these challenges. I would also like to take the opportunity to discuss a few issues that are perhaps not widely understood. For example, in the case of multi-unit buildings, the owner of the building during construction is often not the eventual owner who buys the unit and lives in the building. This creates a number of difficulties in the realm of consumer protection, as the legal protections for contract or sale of goods during construction apply to the owner at the time of construction. These protections do not inherently flow to individual owners who buy discrete units after the building is complete. So this is a complex area of policy and a complex area of law.

One of the first order issues we all face is getting hard data. Whilst there is clearly a problem with building quality in some developments, it needs to be restated that the majority of developments are of good quality. One of our most important early steps, therefore, is to gather and analyse hard evidence. ACTPLA has provided me with some analysis, but has advised me that more work needs to be done.

In the financial year just passed, ACTPLA received approximately 88 building complaints of a nature consistent with the types of issues raised by the Owners Corporation Network. The Owners Corporation Network has identified three buildings as particular sources of problems. These buildings indicate the problems they raise are significant and worthy of government response. It is my view that the government response be steady, proportionate and evidence-based.

The government can, and do, take steps to address shoddy building work, but we must do it in a rational, consultative way that does not undermine all of those in this important industry who do the right thing. But the government cannot fix everything on their own. There is no quick legislative fix for this complex problem. The solution will lie in partnership with the community and the building industry.

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