The following Brief Ministerial Statement was read into Parliament yesterday by the Hon Bill Johnston, Minister for Commerce and Industrial Relations
MR W.J. JOHNSTON Yesterday the Minister for Housing spoke in this house about the horrific fire at the Grenfell Tower in London and the actions taken to ensure that social housing tenants in Western Australia are kept safe. As the minister responsible for building regulation and standards in Western Australia, I confirm this government’s commitment to ensuring that all buildings in this state are safe. Although it is too early to know all the circumstances and failures in the London apartment building, it appears that a combustible external cladding may have contributed to the severity of the fire. In 2014, the Lacrosse fire in Melbourne occurred whereby the fire spread rapidly on the facade of a high-rise building that was clad with the wrong type of aluminium composite panels.
The Lacrosse fire has been a catalyst for a sustained effort of national coordination through the Building Ministers’ Forum, in conjunction with the Australian Building Codes Board. In 2016, building ministers agreed on a comprehensive package of measures to improve fire safety in high-rise buildings; to include more rigorous building product testing standards; to provide greater clarity in the National Construction Code to deliver better application and compliance, better information, and tools about compliance for industry and enhanced inspections, auditing and enforcement. In addition, in 2015 the Building Commission, in conjunction with the City of Perth and the Town of Victoria Park, audited high-rise apartment buildings with aluminium composite panels constructed in the last 10 years. The audit suggests that there is no immediate danger from the types of aluminium composite panels that have been used here. However, the Building Commission remains vigilant and continues to monitor buildings, including Perth Children’s Hospital, which was the subject of a report in April this year.
The Building Commission and the Department of Fire and Emergency Services will work with their colleagues nationally to assess the circumstances of the Grenfell Tower fire and develop a coordinated response aimed at the prevention of such fire events in this state. This will include identifying high-risk buildings, including older refurbished high-rise apartment buildings. I expect that local governments will assist with identifying and managing building risk in their locality. This statewide response will include preparation of fire safety information for building occupants, owners, designers, builders and permit authorities. The Australian Building Codes Board is meeting this week, and I anticipate a national response to this disaster will be prepared for endorsement at the next Building Ministers’ Forum scheduled for 30 June. The Building Commission continues to work closely with the Australian Building Codes Board and the Building Ministers’ Forum nationally to ensure our building standards remain effective and will be monitoring the findings of any investigations into Grenfell Tower.