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Senate inquiry launched following Lacrosse apartment fire

30 Jun 2015

Senate inquiry launched following Lacrosse apartment fire Image

The senate will investigate “dodgy” imported building materials following the fire that took hold of the Lacrosse apartment building in Docklands last year.

Independent Senator Nick Xenophon last month announced the senate inquiry into the safety and legality of imported building materials, in a move that has been co-sponsored by Senators John Madigan and Jacqui Lambie.

The inquiry follows a range of incidents including windows falling off the new ASIO headquarters in Canberra and the November 25 Lacrosse fire.

In April, an MFB report found that non-compliant, combustible materials used in the external cladding of the building contributed to the rapid spread of the fire, which was started by a stray cigarette.

The inquiry follows consultation between Senators Xenophon, Madigan and Lambie with the Housing Industry Association (HIA), Australian Windows Association chief executive Tracey Gramlick and other representatives of Australian building product makers.

The HIA supports the move and last month called for a formal inquiry into non-conforming building products.

“The problem of non-genuine and non-tested building materials and components making their way into the building product supply chain is growing. Regardless of where something is manufactured it should meet

Australian compliance standards,” HIA building products spokesperson Kristin Brookfield said.

“With more and more products being manufactured offshore, and increased access to these products by individuals, the need to focus on compliance has never been greater.”

Senator Xenophon said a key aspect of the inquiry would be the inspection and regulation framework that was clearly failing.

“This inquiry is a breakthrough in addressing what many of the building industry and their clients have known for some time: Australia has become a dumping ground for some of the world’s dodgiest and most dangerous building products,” he said.

The Senate inquiry will address:

  • The economic impact of non-conforming building products on the Australian building and construction industry;
  • The impact of non-conforming products on industry supply chains, workplace safety, costs passed on to customers and the overall quality of Australian buildings; and
  • Possible improvements to the current regulatory frameworks for ensuring that building products conform to Australian standards.

The Metropolitan Fire Brigade (MFB) has also called for a coronial investigation into the Lacrosse apartment fire.

The Coroners Court of Victoria last month confirmed it had received the MFB’s request for State Coroner Judge Ian Gray to investigate the Lacrosse fire.

The November 25 fire caused more than $5 million worth of damage and led to the evacuation of more than 400 residents.

While no deaths or injuries resulted from the incident, the Coroners Court can investigate fires.

“The MFB had been advised that Judge Gray will consider the request to investigate the Lacrosse fire, Docklands,” a Coroners Court of Victoria spokesperson said.

“The Coroners Court will advise the MFB of the State Coroner’s decision in due course.”

The Victorian Building Authority (VBA) is also continuing its investigation into the conduct of Lacrosse builder LU Simon Builders and the building surveyor.

A class action relating to the fire could also still be on the cards. In April, Slater and Gordon confirmed it had received enquiries from more than 100 Lacrosse residents and owners and was investigating whether they had claims against the builder and building surveyor.

The law firm did not provide any further comment when contacted by Docklands News last month.

At the same time the VBA is conducting an audit of cladding on 170 high-rise buildings to determine whether there has been further use of non-compliant cladding.

The builders and building surveyors involved in the projects were asked to provide the VBA with evidence that the external cladding used complies with the National Construction Code by June 19.

The VBA is currently examining the requested material and is following up with buildings and building surveyors who have not yet responded.

The VBA had also used its coercive powers to compel LU Simon to disclose any other buildings where it used Alucobest, the same cladding product used at Lacrosse.

Two buildings have been identified as a result and referred to municipal building surveyors.

In April LU Simon Builders’ Peter Devitt said aluminium composite panels (ACP) such as Alucobest had been widely used in Australia and internationally and conformed to Australian building codes and standards.

He said it was a requirement of the building contract that ACP was used and that this was documented on planning and building permits. He also said a sample of Alucobest was submitted and received approval.

Mr Devitt said ACP was compliant with ignitability and spread of flame, heat and smoke tests, however there was no ACP product that passed the test relating to combustibility when the building was commissioned in 2010.


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