On TV pouring cold water on the flammable cladding controversy


The fire earlier this month (February 2019) on the outside of the Neo200 building in Melbourne conveniently coincided with a meeting of state and federal government ministers at which it was announced that the highly dangerous product would be banned from our shores.

Of course, this is way too late for the people who have bought apartments in buildings that are covered in the potentially deadly material. You might as well set fire to the stable door – the horse has bolted.

Although they are approaching this in very different ways in different states, the end result for apartment owners like you or me, is that we have to identify the stuff then – unless we are very lucky – pay to have it removed.

Now, there may be cases where the buildings are still under warranty and the developers haven’t disappeared up their own flammable phoenixes, and then you just have to pay lawyers to persuade the developers to get it removed.  Good luck with that.

Now, I can hear a chorus of voices saying: “Tough luck!  Nobody told you to go and live in apartments. In fact, we told you it was a bad idea.  So don’t expect us, the taxpayers, to pay for your stupidity.”

Hmmm.  Imagine if we applied that to bushfires. “Hey, we didn’t tell you to go and live in the middle of forests full of trees that nature has designed to burn ferociously.  So don’t expect us to pay for the back-burning that might just prevent you from losing your home (or even worse) next bush-fire season.”

Of course, we don’t say that because we believe in collective responsibility.  We’ll contribute to your back-burning if you contribute to our freeways.

So why doesn’t that apply to flammable cladding?  The people who are responsible, if they get half a chance, are walking off whistling their “nothing to do with me” tunes.

Politicians have overseen lax and laissez-faire controls on  builders and developers for decades.  And as for the aforementioned high-rise high rollers … well, we are all reaping the dubious reward of allowing unscrupulous people to do unspeakable things in pursuit of profits.  In fact, it doesn’t need to be all that blatantly corrupt.  Cut a few corners here and there and it’s money in the bank.

Meanwhile 85 percent of new blocks report defects and the average rectification bill is, according to experts, over 20 per cent of the cost of the building (so much for NSW’s 2 per cent defects bond).

So now we find ourselves in a phase of punish-the-victims policies. Whether or not we live in blocks covered with cladding, or crumbling like the Opal Tower, we deserve better.

All of which I didn’t say when I was invited on to Weekend Sunrise a couple of weeks ago to talk about cladding. Click in the pic below to watch the item. (Note to self – next time iron shirt.)


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