Mr GEPP (Northern Victoria) (15:14:41) — I too rise to speak on the Building Amendment (Registration of Building Trades and Other Matters) Bill 2018. This bill’s objectives are to deliver better outcomes for domestic building consumers and building practitioners through further improvements to the practitioner registration and disciplinary system, improve compliance with swimming pool and spa barrier standards and implement some recommendations of the Victorian Cladding Taskforce and the Coroners Court.
I will not go into the depths of all aspects of the bill. They have been covered by other speakers, including Mr Davis. When I moved my point of order earlier, I was a bit churlish about Mr Davis’s contribution, which up to a point —
Mrs Peulich interjected.
Mr GEPP — I do not need your help, Mrs Peulich, but if you want to provide it, then go ahead. Up to a point Mr Davis was making some very reasonable points in his contribution. Then of course he did stray. But he did cover many aspects of the bill, which I will not repeat. Of course the substantive parts of the bill that we are considering deal with a number of aspects, including the registration of building trades and employee licensing, an improved swimming pool and spa barrier compliance framework, changes to disciplinary measures, continuing professional development for plumbers, cladding‑related measures and other measures to improve the operation of the Building Act 1993.
Consultation around this bill has been quite extensive with organisations such as the Master Builders Association of Victoria, the Housing Industry Association, the Australian Institute of Building Surveyors and the Victoria Municipal Building Surveyors Group. The trade registration employee licensing measures have been the subject of consultation with the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union. The swimming pool and spa measures have been the subject of consultation with Life Saving Victoria, the Swimming Pool and Spa Association of Victoria, Kidsafe Victoria, Landscaping Victoria and the Real Estate Institute of Victoria. The cladding measures have also been the subject of consultation with the local government sector and the Municipal Association of Victoria. There has been widespread consultation on all elements of this bill.
I particularly want to leave the building aspects of the employee registration and licensing until the end, so I will come back to those. I will deal briefly with the other aspects of the bill and of course swimming pool and spa barriers. This bill will introduce a framework for the creation of a better funded and more proactive and systemic compliance and enforcement regime for pool and spa barrier compliance. Much of that framework will be delivered by the regulations. The other key aspect of the bill in relation to this area is that it introduces amendments that will now require councils to keep and maintain a swimming pool register in accordance with those regulations. We can never do enough, as we know, to improve the safety of our kids in particular around water and swimming pools and spas. One drowning is too many, and this government, as it has demonstrated time and time again over the past four years, is committed to doing everything that we can to keep our kiddies safe. There have been coronial findings to support the introduction of a compliance barrier under the current framework, so I am very pleased that this bill will go to some of those issues.
On the cladding‑related measures, Mr Davis touched on some of these and reflected upon two fires in particular — the Lacrosse building fire in Melbourne and the fire in the Grenfell Tower in the UK. Who will ever forget the horrific scenes that we were all watching on television of the fire in Grenfell and the aftermath of the reporting. I think everybody who watched any of that footage was touched deeply by those images. We of course formed a task force to look at the circumstances here in our state, and that task force continues its work to reduce the risks of combustible cladding. Through the work of that task force we are well ahead of other jurisdictions on auditing, assessment and rectification orders. What this bill will do is enable dangerous cladding products to be banned.
I just want to deal very quickly with Mr Davis’s contribution. I do note that he acknowledged that we go way back in time in terms of the materials that were allowed in the use of construction for many years, so I do acknowledge that. But I was a little bit confused. I was not quite sure whether he was saying we should do this or we should not do it. Of course when you undertake rectification and examination of these sorts of things, inevitably there are consequences, but that does not mean that we do not do it. We only have to again remind ourselves of those horrific images from Grenfell in London and that in itself has got to be enough incentive for us to do something in this area.
What this bill will also do is enable dangerous cladding products to be banned, but it will also give the power to the Victorian Building Authority to carry out destructive testing and sampling, again strengthening our efforts and endeavours to ensure that construction in this state is done in the safest possible way using materials that we can be confident will be as safe as we can possibly get them for the citizens of this state.
I want to spend most of the rest of the time on the registration of building trades and employee licensing. I heard some of the objections coming from Mr Davis about the regulatory impact statement, the RIS. What does that mean and when should it be done? Should it be done now, should it be done afterwards, what is the cost factor et cetera? But what I did not hear about from him during that part of his contribution in any great depth was the impetus behind this.
Think about, just for a moment, the types of dwellings and commercial buildings that we are talking about being constructed. We want them to be done by people who are properly trained, who are properly skilled and who are properly licensed to be able to carry out this work. We do not want sham contractors. We have all heard the stories over the journey, and we want to weed that element out and we want to get rid of it, and prior to this bill we were actually lagging behind. If you look at, for example, registrations in places like Queensland and New South Wales. I think our registrations for domestic builders, limited, is 4956; for commercial builders, limited, 3396. Contrast that with the estimates of the Master Builders Association of Victoria — 46 000 registered or licensed trade practitioners in Queensland and 40 000 in New South Wales. So there is a job of work that needs to be done, and we are concerned about building work being performed by people that are insufficiently trained and the lack of accountability for non‑compliant work. This bill will create the capacity in the act to restrict building work to tradespeople who hold the requisite skills and experience.
I cannot imagine in too many other circumstances where we would not support the introduction of a regime that requires people who we are placing a great amount of trust in, in terms of construction, to be licensed, registered and properly trained. The end goal of this scheme — and we must bear this in mind — is that the trade contractors would become registered building practitioners and employees would need an employee licence or registration to perform restricted building work. Mr Davis touched on skills shortages, and to avoid any shortage and to provide fairness there will be a provisional licensing and registration regime that will be put in place. So despite the assertions of those opposite, these things have been thought through by the minister and the minister’s department. They are areas that we will continue to work on with the industry, but the bottom line here is that we need a regime that is applicable across the board so that we can all be very, very confident that we have got very highly skilled, trained, registered and licensed people carrying out the building works, both domestic and non‑domestic, in the state of Victoria.
With just a hint of latitude, I hope those opposite will be okay with this. I do not want to suggest for a moment that what we saw yesterday in Box Hill had any relationship to any one person being at fault. There will be processes and investigations that will go on that will determine those matters, but what it did highlight for all of us I think is that we are talking about an industry where we all have heard the stories, as I said earlier. We all know of the sham contractor or the shonky building arrangement that has occurred where people get it done on the cheap, but of course inevitably that means you are getting a product that is defective and inevitably will lead to significant problems. What we know is that in terms of health and safety the industry that most suffers from workplace injury and death in this state is the construction industry, and unfortunately we saw it yesterday all too starkly with the death of a construction worker and the hospitalisation of two others. One person is at this very moment fighting for their life.
I was very moved when I saw those images again on television last night, and in full disclosure my son is a mechanical services plumber. He works on non‑domestic construction sites, and I hear again and again and again some of the issues in relation to health and safety. He has not worked for a couple of weeks now because his job has been shut down because it is unsafe, and I have got to say that when he told his mother that he would not be at work for a couple of weeks because the job is unsafe, she said, ‘Thank goodness. Thank goodness you were able to come here and tell me that in person’, because last night — and I do not want to get emotional — there was a family that was grieving for the loss of another worker on a construction site, killed. When are we in this state going to be outraged about that? We need to be outraged about it.
I often hear across this chamber barbs thrown at me about my relationship with the CFMEU. I have got to say to you that I take my hat off to those people from the CFMEU who I spoke with last night who were traumatised, the women and men from the CFMEU who were down on that site, who today have spent all day wrapping their arms around the family and colleagues of the worker who passed away and the others who are in the hospital, because that is what they confront every day. I also take my hat off to the emergency services workers who had to go to that site yesterday and perform what I am sure were for them very, very difficult tasks.
I know Mr Dalla‑Riva and Mr Bourman, whom I have had private conversations with, have told me about the worst aspects of their role in a past life as police officers, and to those people who went to that site yesterday and performed the wonderful work that they did, thank you, and please, please, please, we need to be outraged. We cannot allow this to continue. I commend the bill to the house.