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Asbestos on building sites a continuing regulatory issue: Ai Group

28 July, 2016

Imported building materials containing asbestos highlights inadequacy of Australia's approach to ensuring the safety and quality of goods sold in Australia.

"The exposure of the use of imported building materials containing asbestos in a range of buildings including the Perth Children's Hospital highlights the inadequacy of Australia's approach to ensuring the safety and quality of goods sold in Australia.  These inadequacies are particularly pronounced for building products and corrective action is clearly required," Ai Group Chief Executive Innes Willox said recently.

"Ai Group understands that the testing and certification documentation for the asbestos-containing products incorrectly asserted conformance with Australian regulatory requirements. This incident is far from isolated and is a sharp reminder of the findings of Ai Group's report The quest for a level playing field: The non-conforming building product dilemma. This 2013 report found major shortcomings in the surveillance, audit checking, testing and conformance of building products used in Australia. Unfortunately little has changed in the past few years.

"Similar findings are contained in a 2016 interim report from the Senate Economics References Committee enquiry into non-conforming building products. That report referred to the "various areas of glaring weakness in the regulatory regime, including the certification process, and the disjointed regulation of the use of building products, both manufactured in Australia and overseas". It is vital that this enquiry is reconvened and finalised as a matter of priority.

"It is also critical that the Building Ministers Forum puts in place an accelerated work program following its 2016 report Strategies to address risks related to non-conforming building products. A particular recommendation was that regulators' powers should be enhanced to respond to incidences of non-conforming building product.

"There is a clear need for adequately-resourced, highly-visible and effective enforcement that extends from border controls, to points of sale and to building sites. This is the single most important step required to ensure the safety and quality of products sold in Australia and so that the vast majority of businesses who comply with Australia's regulatory requirements are not undercut by unscrupulous operators," Willox said.

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