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Economics References Committee
19/07/2017
Non-conforming building products - use of non-compliant external cladding materials in Australia

LECK, Ms Amanda, Director, Information and Community Safety, Australasian Fire and Emergency Service Authorities Council

LLEWELLYN, Mr Robert, Built Environment Consultant, Australasian Fire and Emergency Service Authorities Council

WILLIAMS, Mr Scott, Chief Executive Officer, Fire Protection Association Australia

[09:21]

CHAIR: Welcome. I apologise for calling you late today. We are running behind time. I invite you to make a brief opening statement should you wish to do so, and then we will open it up for questions.

Ms Leck : Thank you for the opportunity to address the committee today. I would like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land and pay my respects to their elders past and present. AFAC wish to extend our condolences to all of those who have been affected by the Grenfell Tower tragedy. We extend our thoughts to the emergency services, who showed extreme courage and professionalism whilst tackling that incident and putting their own lives at risk in doing so.

The unprecedented fire at Grenfell Tower and its tragic human impacts on those directly involved serve as a sobering reminder that the threat to the community from structure fire is ever present. AFAC remain deeply concerned that there are many high-rise buildings around the world that have flammable materials installed, with the potential for external fire spread.

AFAC is the Australia and New Zealand national council for fire, emergency services and land management, creating synergies across the emergency management sector. We represent 31 member agencies, comprising permanent, part-time and volunteer personnel, totalling around 288,000 fire and emergency service workers. We have no legislative power. This rests with our members, through their respective state and territory legislation. Our role is one of influence, coordination and advocacy.

Australian fire authorities have an expectation that new buildings are constructed in accordance with the National Construction Code and that developers, architects, builders, building surveyors, fire engineers and others involved all check and certify that construction meets the required standards. These processes are in place to protect the health and safety of building occupants and also firefighters, who may be required to enter burning buildings and search for occupants during fire events.

We seem to have a situation where we may have potentially a large number of buildings, Australia wide, with non-compliant combustible materials. What we don't definitively know is why. Is it certification, code interpretation, procurement, importation, falsified records or all of these reasons? We also need clarity, simplification and consistency across the states and territories of the application of clauses in the National Construction Code, building material certification compliance and regulatory enforcement.

We have also identified a need to formalise building commissioning practices on a national basis to ensure the building functions correctly and all the fire and life safety systems function as designed. Once commissioned, these systems need to be maintained. Currently, this is a state and territory requirement, however AFAC recommends a national maintenance regime be mandated. AFAC has held meetings and detailed workshops with the Australian Building Codes Board and the Fire Protection Association Australia to progress fire safety measures and seek a way forward to balance the need for new developments to have effective fire protection and the increasing costs to builders and developers.

Fire authorities have received criticism in the past from state and territory officials and building authorities because the fire agencies are not all consistent in their approach to fire safety regulations. We acknowledge that and are working to establish a better national approach. However, we need to improve the current compliance certification and enforcement regime. There is also discussion among fire authorities that we should be able to conduct audits to ensure the existing system is functioning correctly. This would speed development approval and potentially reduce costs for developers, particularly where we can adopt a national approach. Currently, there is a lack of confidence in state and territory arrangements to ensure existing private certifiers are fulfilling their responsibilities.

Fire authorities are independent of the certification system and our interest is in maintaining and upholding public safety. Consequently, we must remain part of the approval process. The more we can focus on engineering out the high risk of high-rise fires, the less fire services will need to respond to emergencies—and that is in everyone's interests. Relying on fire services to put out the fire is too late and, for high-rise fires where compliance has not been met, this can be very challenging.

In the built environment, there is a chain of responsibility which is detailed in legislation and extends from the building concept stage through to building occupation. The legislative environment places obligations on a range of parties to ensure buildings are safe for occupation and fit for purpose. AFAC does not advocate for wholescale change. Rather, there are opportunities to examine the current effectiveness and improve regulatory controls in key areas to improve building safety outcomes and the performance of building practitioners.

These changes are necessary. If change does not happen, it is fire and emergency services that must attend the catastrophic fires that will inevitably occur. As we have seen overseas recently and also in the Lacrosse building in Melbourne, it is the fire and emergency services who must decide to send more firefighting appliances to some buildings because the risk to life is greater than if the building was constructed properly. It is the firefighters who must confront risks and try to assist scared, vulnerable, elderly and disabled residents. It is the senior officers who must make decisions about whether the risk at a fire is so great that firefighters must be withdrawn to protect their own safety, with residents consequently unable to be assisted as they otherwise would be. Change is needed so that the emergency services are not forced to make these decisions and the community does not bear the human and financial cost of regulatory failure.

In a more recent development, AFAC is working with our research partner, the Bushfire and Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Centre, to commission some public good research to assist fire services in relation to dealing with combating fires. We are attempting to gain understanding into the risks to occupants and emergency responders when buildings are identified as not complying with regulations and what strategies can be implemented to reduce the risks. We seek to understand why people take the actions they do when confronted by major fire event. We are also considering a further research project to identify best practice operational responses internationally to the increased risks associated with fires related to non-conforming products.

AFAC, together with our New South Wales member agencies, are currently investigating a fit-for-purpose sprinkler system for residential buildings under 25 metres in height. This is the result of the tragic apartment fire in Bankstown New South Wales and the aim is to provide a sprinkler system that will provide a safer environment for occupants to escape the fire or take refuge within the occupancy until the arrival of fire crews. Thank you, I am happy to take any questions.

CHAIR: Thank you, Ms Leck. Mr Williams, do you have an opening statement?

Mr Williams : Yes, I do. I will make this fairly short. Thank you for the opportunity to appear before the Senate inquiry today. Fire Protection Association Australia, known as FPA Australia, is Australia's major technical and educational fire safety organisation and the national peak body for fire safety. It provides information, services and education in the fire protection industry and to the community. FPA Australia is a not-for-profit organisation supported by approximately 1,500 members, consisting of leading companies and organisations around Australia, employing an estimated 20,000 individuals and operating across every aspect of the fire protection, building and construction industry. Our vision is very simple: leading and supporting a professional industry to minimise the impact of fire on life, property and the environment for a safer community. The associations involved advocate for the continuous improvement of legislation, codes and standards and provide guidance and education independently to pursue our vision, free of bias, coercion, favouritism and external commercial interests.

As comprehensively discussed in FPA Australia's submission to the terms of references in this inquiry, product conformity is extremely important; however, FPA Australia contends to achieve compliant quality outcomes where buildings meet the National Construction Code requirements. It is paramount to have the following three pillars or elements that all come together: (1) conforming products, which are what they claim to be, are validated and, importantly, are fit for purpose; (2) conforming people, who are professional, educated and accredited practitioners who are fit for action; and (3) enforcement, so empowered regulators who are proactive and willing to act to ensure that people and products come together succinctly to achieve the necessary compliant—and I emphasise the word 'compliant'—building outcomes that meet the goal of the National Construction Code, which is to achieve minimum standards of public safety, health, amenity, sustainability and efficiency

FPA Australia contends that no amount of codes and standards will ever replace or compensate for the need for people to be properly educated, professional in their conduct, accountable and able to deliver these minimum building outcomes. Improvements in the National Construction Code and standards will always be healthy to respond to the latest trends in techniques, technologies and advancements. However, unless products are fit for purpose, people are fit for action and, importantly, there regulators willing to act and put in place the necessary administrative and building controls to ensure this occurs, then we will continue to see an unacceptable level of risk to the community. To understand the risk of not taking action, you only need to look at the recent tragic Grenfell Tower fire in London, which represents the full and shocking magnitude of a breakdown in regulatory control. Thank you.

CHAIR: Firstly, in terms of the three pillars that you have identified, would you agree that the three pillars that we currently have are pretty shaky and there a lot of cracks in the system there? Would you agree that we have got a lot of work to do to fix the current system?

Mr Williams : I could not agree more. It is fragmented, it is disconnected and it has too many cracks.

CHAIR: I do not think there are too many witnesses who have disagreed with that general proposition. How do we address that issue if we do not do it at a national level, take national oversight end to end of the problem and pick up the three pillars that you talked about?

Mr Williams : We certainly do need national leadership. I think what we have seen for the last couple of decades is, in fact, a couple of decades of neglect. That is particularly since 1996, when private certification came in. There certainly needs to be national leadership. I have used the terminology that there needs to be a model code surrounding fire safety in this country. There needs to be an expectation set. I think what we have unfortunately seen for the last decade or couple of decades—certainly, from a state and territory perspective—is a lack of enforcement and a lack of controlled administrative processes, which of course have allowed for this to escalate to the issue it is today.

CHAIR: In your submission, you talked about the eerie similarity between the Lacrosse fire and the Grenfell Tower disaster. In terms of the cladding issue, what would you say are the lessons for us?

Mr Williams : If we can just talk about Grenfell, when you have building products, which are installed in a building, that obviously do not perform to the level they should, you obviously can see—as I said to you—the consequences that can occur, which is very tragic. Just coming back to Lacrosse, you have heard many, many comments around how that will not happen in Australia, as our buildings have sprinklers. But I can certainly tell you—and I'm no technical expert, but I certainly have a large team of technical experts—that if in fact that fire propagated and spread beyond just the singular balconies that went to the roof and engulfed the building like it did certainly with Grenfell, then the sprinklers would not have performed. Unlike what we see in Hollywood movies, not every sprinkler in the building goes off. Certainly with Lacrosse the sprinkler system—

Senator XENOPHON: Sorry to interrupt, but just to follow up on that, are you saying that in the Lacrosse situation the sprinklers wouldn't have been effective?

Mr Williams : Just to clarify that comment, say we had an event similar to Grenfell where in fact the fire engulfed a large proportion of the building, whereas with Lacrosse, if my memory is correct, started on the sixth floor and I think went to the 21st or 23rd floor. But keep in mind that it was a singular vertical plane of the actual balconies. So, my point is that if in fact that fire propagated and spread—

Senator XENOPHON: Internally?

Mr Williams : Externally—and then obviously if the fire penetrated internally, then the sprinkler system wouldn't have operated. My comment was that a sprinkler system probably in that sort of building—from memory I think 23 heads performed—I think the design was for about six heads. Clearly once you get beyond a certain point—

Senator XENOPHON: Sorry—it was fortuitous that it performed above specification?

Mr Williams : Absolutely.

Senator XENOPHON: Hang on: so, if in the Lacrosse fire it performed just to specification, that would not have been enough, in your view? Or it would have been problematic.

Mr Williams : It would have been problematic. If the fire spread beyond in fact the balconies that were there with Lacrosse, that fire would have been far more problematic.

CHAIR: And you pointed a couple of times to private certifiers, and the lack of confidence in the certification process at the state and territory level. What is the appropriate response we should consider in respect of that?

Ms Leck : From the perspective of the fire authorities, we have numerous examples of our fire safety officers inspecting buildings that have been signed off as being compliant when they clearly are not—essential services not installed or not working as they should, and that sort of thing. As I said in my opening remarks, we have received criticism from state and territory officials in recent years that we are increasing the regulatory burden, holding things up, costing the building industry more and so on. But it is our contention that, given that our role is very clearly to uphold public safety and given the issues we are currently experiencing, we should still be an essential part of that building commissioning and signing off the compliance.

CHAIR: So, you're getting push back from some of the construction companies? Where is the push back coming from?

Ms Leck : It is coming from I suppose more of that building regulatory area. We have been working closely, though, with the ABCB, because some of the criticism has been that our industry, because of the state and territory jurisdictional arrangements, is inconsistent in its application of guidelines and codes and so on. So, we have been working quite hard over the last year or two to try to get in place some national systems such that all of our member agencies will have a similar set of requirements for any given building.

CHAIR: Does your organisation come across fraudulent certificates and that sort of thing? Is that something that comes across your offices?

Ms Leck : It probably wouldn't come through to AFAC. It would probably be more through our member agencies. I'm not aware of any direct examples. We hear anecdotal evidence of that sort of thing, but I'm not personally aware.

Mr Llewellyn : We are aware of some in the public domain—a sprinkler head that was copied, and there was a notice put out in the public domain for people to watch out for that particular type of sprinkler head. There has also been some other anecdotal evidence, but we don't actually have any specific hard evidence to be able to present.

Senator XENOPHON: We heard evidence earlier about fraudulent documents—widespread fraud of certification. We are actually talking about counterfeit parts, in a sense, or counterfeit sprinklers that aren't to specification, that something as critical as a fire sprinkler is a dodgy product. Is that what you're saying?

Mr Llewellyn : We are aware of one of those, and that's in the public domain, and we can make that available after we've finished today.

CHAIR: What's the nature of the defect?

Mr Llewellyn : I think it was a copy of a sprinkler head that had an approval on it, and I think it had the problem that the glass bulb wasn't to the specification for it to correctly operate. That was a few years ago, and that was a worldwide issue.

Senator KIM CARR: I'm interested in this question about what we do about this problem. You've identified this question of privatisation and deregulation as being at the core of your concern for the failure to actually get proper safety standards implemented. We can have the best standards in the world, but if no-one takes any notice of them then it's all pointless. Would you agree with that contention?

Mr Williams : Absolutely. I think my statement for copious numbers of codes, copious numbers of standards, copious numbers of regulation—if people don't make quality decisions through the building and construction process, you don't get quality outcomes.

Senator KIM CARR: So, the question then of enforcement becomes essential.

Mr Williams : It's paramount.

Senator KIM CARR: And do you think the privatisation of the inspection service is critical to that, and the failure to actually get the enforcement in place?

Mr Williams : I do. Just going back to the question of privatisation, our organisation supports privatisation, but you can't have privatisation but then a hands-off approach from the government, from the enforcement agencies, to say, 'It'll be fine.' So, there must be surveillance, there must be auditing, there must be compliance and there must be consequences through that process for behaviours that don't support the process.

Senator KIM CARR: Mr Neil Savery from the Australian Building Codes Board told this committee on Friday that the industry has changed dramatically in recent decades, with deregulation and globalisation making it harder to ensure that buildings are built to certain standards. He went on to say that sophisticated performance based codes of regulation were introduced in the early nineties which need highly qualified people to understand how it works. He said that, at the same time, former government-run building certification was privatised, and the industry underwent a process of deregulation—for example, a reduction in things like mandatory inspections. Have you noticed that trend?

Mr Williams : Yes.

Senator KIM CARR: What is the consequence of that?

Mr Williams : The consequence of not upholding a regime of auditing and checking is obviously that you can then have opportunistic, unscrupulous behaviour of individuals through different processes, and that includes the sourcing and supply of products and the installation of products and right through the process of commissioning, certification and even post-construction maintenance that we were talking about before. So, clearly there must be a level—and a high level—of auditing and compliance to uphold the whole integrity.

Senator KIM CARR: But that requires government regulators to actually want to enforce regulations.

Mr Williams : Absolutely.

Senator KIM CARR: And I think, as Ms Leck indicated, there is push back from state authorities that to make that suggestion is to be resistant. Is that correct?

Ms Leck : We have certainly experienced that in recent years. However, as I mentioned earlier, we have had numerous examples where fire safety officers have done inspections of buildings that have not been fitted with essential fire safety systems yet have been—

Senator KIM CARR: And have been certified. How does that happen? Can you explain that to the committee? In your experience, how does that occur?

Ms Leck : Well, clearly they're not being certified correctly.

Senator KIM CARR: Yes. Is anyone held legally responsible for that?

Mr Llewellyn : Not that I'm aware of, no, and I think some of the issues are associated with change of specifications and change of given materials during the process. That doesn't get picked up as part of the certification.

Senator KIM CARR: If someone were killed as a result of that, surely a question of manslaughter would be raised.

Mr Llewellyn : One would think so, yes.

Senator KIM CARR: So there is a question of criminal liability at some point here, but are you aware of any prosecutions? We have heard of fraud. We have heard of all of these questions being presented to authorities and no action being taken. Is that your experience?

Mr Llewellyn : I am not aware of any prosecutions, personally, no.

Mr Williams : I am not aware of any prosecutions.

Ms Leck : Nor am I.

Senator KIM CARR: We have this philosophy of deregulation and privatisation where people are able to abrogate their responsibilities to the public on the basic question of public safety. Is that correct?

Mr Williams : Yes.

Senator KIM CARR: That is where we come back to: what do we do about it? One of our tasks here is to recommend action to the national parliament. There are your three pillars, Mr Williams. Can we have copies of your opening statement? Is that possible?

Ms Leck : We are certainly happy to provide them.

Senator KIM CARR: If you could get them the secretariat, that would be really handy.

Ms Leck : We recommend building commissioning practices on a national basis for fire and life safety systems. We recommend that firefighters or fire safety officers still be involved in checking for compliance, whether that is every building or random inspections or whether that is at the time of compliance or subsequent audits. We would recommend ongoing involvement of the fire services.

Senator KIM CARR: I want to put a bit more than that to you. These are national standards, so there is no question about there being a national regime in place. We need enforcement of those national standards. How is that done? A licensing arrangement may well provide a sanction—that is, you can take someone's livelihood away from them if they do the wrong thing in terms of installing bodgie products or if they are negligent in the work that is undertaken. Do you think there is any merit in that approach?

Mr Williams : I certainly do. I used the language before of auditing, surveillance, compliance and importantly, I think I said, consequences. Certainly, my observations around the country are that there are not a lot of consequences for the people doing the wrong thing. To pick up, if I can, on the previous session and a comment that you made, Senator Carr: there is also not much incentive for the organisations who are doing the right thing. There are many good operators within the Australian building and construction industry; but, unfortunately, I think we all know that it is very competitive out there, certainly commercially, and the good operators are not generally rewarded for a higher level of compliance; it is the minimum.

Senator KIM CARR: This morning, Senator Ketter and I were at a meeting with sprinkler fitters. They reported that they work for reputable companies and that where reputable companies would issue default notices the building owners would ignore those and get in a fly-by-night crook operator to give a clean bill of health to a building that had not had those faults corrected. Are you aware of that practice?

Mr Williams : Our organisation is obviously heavily involved with all state and territory governments, not only from an educational perspective, as we are a registered training organisation, but also from talking nationally about competence broadly in the industry. I am certainly aware that generally across Australia—with the exception of Queensland, the QBCC, ex-BSA, where there is occupational licensing—that, within the fire protection industry, there is little to no licensing at all. As we sit here, the New South Wales government is moving to a new co-regulatory framework that has been announced, and new regulations will come in on 1 October.

Senator KIM CARR: They have standards that are amongst the lowest in the country. Is that correct?

Mr Williams : Yes, that is right. At the moment, through fire protection, irrespective of design, installation, commissioning, certification and post-occupational or occupying the building from the point of inspection and testing, repairs, alterations and/or maintenance, there is no requirement to be a registered practitioner at all.

Senator KIM CARR: It has been put to us that this dumbing down, this de-skilling of the industry through this privatisation and deregulation approach, is actually putting public safety at risk. Do you think there is merit in that claim?

Mr Williams : Absolutely, there is merit in that claim.

Senator KIM CARR: I want to come back to the original point I made: can the Commonwealth intervene to establish a national licensing regime, with sanctions, to lift the standards across the country?

Mr Williams : Yes. I agree it needs to be national. But does it need to be licensing? I don't know. Certainly, the medical profession, the accounting profession and the legal profession operate within an accreditation framework controlled by industry. It works extremely well.

Senator KIM CARR: Sure. You try and get a run in this country being a bodgie doctor and see how far you get.

Mr Williams : Absolutely. We all know what happened with Dr Patel. But I think it proves that the system works—that is, accreditation of practitioners. I think it starts with understanding the roles and responsibilities of individuals in the industry.

Senator KIM CARR: The problem is that the TAFE system, the VET system, has been devalued; it has been deskilled.

Mr Williams : Yes.

Senator KIM CARR: The competency based model has meant that there has been a substantial reduction in the amount of resources required to be put into the training of people claiming to be tradespeople. In Victoria, which I am very familiar with, you don't have to have any qualifications to assert that you are a builder, for instance. How can we allow that situation to continue—that is, the process of self-accrediting that is going on? How can that be satisfactory?

Mr Williams : It is not satisfactory. As I said before, you use the terminology or the language of 'licensing'. I use the terminology 'accreditation', because it is not just about getting a licence at a point in time; it is also about the ongoing, continuing professional development to make sure that, as Australian standards change, and the building code changes, people have knowledge of it. We don't have a mechanism at the moment for that.

Senator KIM CARR: There is a question about the scale of this problem. There have been reports of thousands of buildings across this country that are characterised by the use of non-compliant building products. In your experience, how big is the problem in Australia?

Mr Williams : I believe it is a huge problem. What concerns me, senators, is not what we know but what we don't know. We are focused at the moment on a single building element within the fire protection industry called 'cladding'. Certainly, we are aware of Infinity electrical cable and we are certainly aware of asbestos, but they are just a couple of products within thousands and thousands of products within the building and construction industry. Certainly, as we speak, we all know that around the country different government task forces are undertaking a whole range of different things to try and identify the condition of our building stock. Certainly, what we are seeing coming back is potentially an alarming statistic about the amount of non-conforming buildings; but, of course, as I said, to repeat and reiterate: we are looking at one building element and we are not looking at how the systems perform. We are not looking at post-occupation from the point of maintenance, inspection and testing and all those other things that you spoke about before.

The difficult thing about fire is that it does not happen very often. We have an excellent building code and excellent standards, but it is alarming to me, certainly in my role, to think that a fire protection system might never work or be required to work to the point that you have a fire and then you really want it to work and it might not work. If you just analyse that statement, it is alarming. We are in a building right now, and I can see some sprinklers right there. We hope they work. We don't really know that they do. We just hope they will work, knowing in the background that nobody needs to be competent, licensed, accredited, have knowledge or have skills. You and I could subscribe to SAI Global standards online for the maintenance of this product. You and I could grab a Wix website and register our business name, and there is nothing to say that we need to have insurance. There is no requirement to say that we even need to have business insurance. It is alarming, isn't it, to think about public safety when we have that situation?

Senator KIM CARR: Yes, indeed. Ms Leck or Mr Llewellyn, how widespread do you consider the problem to be?

Ms Leck : We are currently on the advisory group for the Victorian task force that has been established to deal with this matter, and it is clear that, as reported at the inquiry on Friday, that the 170 that have been identified—

Senator KIM CARR: They are in the CBD—

Ms Leck : In the CBD. They have not moved outside of that, and this task force seeks to do that. We are also concerned about this legacy issue. There are currently buildings—whether it is hundred or thousands—that are noncompliant and potentially have flammable cladding. So, from a fire agency perspective, we are in discussions with our members on risk management around that. Many of our members are now conducting audits on fire safety checks in residents' homes and towers that have been seen to have flammable cladding and increased response rates—so if they would normally send one to a particular call-out, they are now sending two, three or more based on the risk. We are about to start working on developing some sort of risk framework to identify—'If we have to inspect all these thousands of buildings and there are only so many resources, how do we prioritise which ones we should inspect first?' So we will be doing some work on that. Our thoughts are around non-sprinkler buildings clearly having a heightened risk and buildings where people sleep as distinct from office buildings. Part of our interest is: how do we deal with this legacy issue while maintaining and upholding public safety?

CHAIR: I was alarmed this morning to hear of an inspection done on the sprinkler system of a major hotel in Sydney—and I will not name the hotel—and, when the defects were pointed out to the owner of the hotel, there were attempts made to bar the sprinkler inspector from the building. This is a person with decades of experience in the industry. Then there were attempts made to bring in, as Senator Carr indicated, a dodgy operator to certify that the system was working. So you might think that you're dealing with a properly certified building, but it is actually not the case. How do we get to the bottom of those types of situations?

Ms Leck : I think Mr Williams had something to say about that in terms of accreditation and ongoing professional development of people who work in that industry.

Senator KIM CARR: It is criminal. This is not professional development. This is a crime school. I do not know where you do your professional development in crime school. Maybe in this town it is a great feature of public life, but it really is just not satisfactory. No amount of soft-soaping will cover the proposition where a major hotel gets in a dodgy operator to give them a leave pass so they get their insurance in line.

Senator XENOPHON: There is a question as to whether the hotel should be named. I do not know which hotel it is.

Senator KIM CARR: We can't verify what we are told, so I think—

Senator XENOPHON: I understand that, but if it gets verified it may be in the public interest—

Mr Williams : I am certainly not going to mention any names, but you may be aware that several years ago G20 took place in Brisbane. Before all of the various hotels were occupied, the commissioner at the time, Commissioner Lee Johnson, ordered an audit of all 71 hotels where dignitaries were staying, including Mr Obama and Mr Putin, amongst many other dignitaries, and 71 buildings were audited. How many buildings do you think actually passed?

Senator KIM CARR: Three.

Mr Williams : Sixty-eight buildings failed. Those failures included pumps, where the batteries were flat and would never start, and diesel tanks that had no diesel in the tank. Particularly concerning was what we call passive fire, where there were penetrations over many, many years and different contractors coming in punching holes through firewalls without then having the necessary collars or seals. I could go on and on and on. Mind you, Queensland has had occupational licensing for many, many years. So what does that tell you?

Senator XENOPHON: It is a lack of enforcement. I do want to put some technical questions on notice, including on Australian Standard 5513, about the new standard for private property testing and classification of external wall cladding. It is a technical question as to whether you believe it could be improved in any way. Unless you want to answer that quickly now, I am happy for that to be taken on notice. But I also have question for Ms Leck, Mr Williams and Mr Llewellyn. You mentioned, Ms Leck, the issue of private certifiers. If the system is breaking down with the drop of standards with deregulation and the like, do you think it ought to be a criminal offence for a certifier to recklessly certify something rather than it just being a question of professional standards? In other words, it is not a question of them just losing a licence; they could lose their liberty if they have been reckless in the way that they have certified a building.

Ms Leck : There certainly needs to be an enforcement regime, whether that enforcement translates into criminal penalties I don't know. But there certainly needs to be an enforcement regime and currently that does not appear to be occurring.

CHAIR: Thank you very much for appearing.

Proceedings suspended from 10 : 01 to 10 : 1 3