The following Brief Ministerial Statement was made by the Hon Bill Johnston, Minister for Commerce and Industrial Relations yesterday:
MR BILL JOHNSTON (Cannington — Minister for Commerce and Industrial Relations):
The loss of life that accompanied the Grenfell Tower fire in London is, simply put, a tragedy. On 21 June this year, I affirmed the government’s commitment to ensuring that a similar tragedy will not occur in Western Australia.
Although the investigation in London is ongoing, it is believed that the type of external cladding used on Grenfell Tower—aluminium composite panels with a polyethylene core—contributed to the fire’s rapid spread. In light of the fire at Grenfell Tower, the government recognised that more needed to be done to ensure that such cladding had not been used in a noncompliant manner on buildings in Western Australia.
On 4 July this year, the government announced that it would undertake a statewide audit to identify buildings that may be at risk. The audit is focused on privately owned high-risk, high-rise buildings built after 2000 and is being coordinated by the Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety’s Building Commission division, working closely with the Department of Fire and Emergency Services and local government. Records relating to some 6 000 building permit applications have been reviewed. Approximately 550 have been identified as falling within the scope of the audit. A preliminary risk assessment of these buildings is currently underway. Those buildings that are assessed as representing a high risk by virtue of the cladding products or systems used will be subject to detailed performance assessments that will include physical inspections, reviews of building plans and specifications and, where necessary, laboratory testing of cladding materials. Buildings found to be at risk will be required to have remedial works undertaken.
Given the arrangement of statutory powers, the responsible local governments will have to take the lead in enforcing any required remedial actions. However, the Building Commission will provide technical assistance. The owners of those buildings assessed as representing a high risk at the end of the preliminary assessment will be notified and kept informed as to the outcome of the detailed performance assessment conducted in respect of their buildings. At this stage the full extent of work required is still being determined and I am unable to provide any firm completion date for this audit. However, the government is committed to completing this work as quickly as possible, but given the safety implications will not cut corners to see it done. I table the “State-Wide Cladding Audit—Status Update”.
[See paper 971.]
With regard to publicly owned buildings, the Building Commission has prepared technical guidance to assist other government departments and agencies as they investigate the types of cladding products and systems used on the buildings in their respective portfolios.
I would also like to briefly comment on the outcome of the recent Building Ministers’ Forum. Ministers at the forum decided that it was appropriate to take steps to prevent the use of aluminium composite cladding with a polyethylene core in certain circumstances until such time as there is evidence that these products will pass the newly established standard setting testing combined with appropriate permanent labelling regimes. This requires a national solution and WA is working closely with the commonwealth and other building regulators to ensure a consistent approach is adopted, including the establishment of an appropriate regulatory regime.