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We Live Here

07 Aug 2019

State government follows UK lead on cladding

Daniel Andrews’ pledge of $600 million to fix half of the 1000-plus buildings in Victoria with flammable cladding is welcome news for some “lucky” owners.

The policy shift by the state government follows the lead set by UK Prime Minister Theresa May earlier this year when the UK government allocated 200 million pounds to address the flammable cladding issue in that country.

The UK cladding fund, announced in May this year, is estimated to pay for the rectification of half of Britain’s affected apartment buildings.

The U-turn by the Victorian government follows the release of the final report of the Victorian Cladding Taskforce, headed by former Liberal premier Ted Baillieu and former Labor deputy premier Prof John Thwaites.

The state government now has plans for “risk-tiering” to be applied to determine who gets the golden tickets to have the rectification costs covered.

The Cladding Taskforce deemed 1,069 buildings as having cladding that is a “risk to life”.

Of the 1069 buildings classified as dangerous by the Cladding Taskforce:

  • 72 are rated as an extreme risk
  • 409 are rated a high risk
  • 388 are rated a moderate risk and
  • 200 are rated low risk

What rating is your building? Good luck trying to find out, because the webpage of the government’s newly established agency Cladding Safety Victoria gives scant information, saying simply:

“To be eligible for assistance from Cladding Safety Victoria, your privately owned [sic] apartment building must first be assessed as part of the State-wide Cladding Audit, led by the Victorian Building Authority. Was this page helpful? Yes, No.”

That’s the site’s whole page on eligibility…So you’ll have to go into the lottery to find out if you win a prize.

Mr Andrews expects his Cladding Safety Victoria fund to remediate the cladding issues for the top 500 dangerously clad buildings in Victoria.

Of these buildings many are hospitals, schools, aged care or other government-owned facilities. The Taskforce report says:

“The 2019-20 Budget provides $150.3 for the rectification of State-owned buildings.

We are reasonably certain Ted and the professor meant to say $150.3 million. That’s a big chunk of money that would retrench the $600 million somewhat.

To be accurate, should Dan have announced a budget of $450 million to rectify apartments?

Instead, the Premier has made a media-release appeal to the federal government for matched funding. It seems to be a bid to cover the tens of thousands affected apartment-owners who, as it stands, will miss out.

“There needs to be a true national partnership to put community safety first, to rectify these most dangerous buildings,” the Premier said.

However, federal industry minister Karen Andrews flatly rejected Mr Andrews’ long-distance supplication.

“The Commonwealth is not an ATM for the states. So, no, this problem is of the state’s making and they need to step up and fix the problem and dig into their own pockets,’’ Ms Andrews told Radio National.

It seems to be a clever buck-passing move by Andrews, promising to fix 50 per cent of the problem and blaming Canberra for not being able to fix the whole problem.

At least the ill-fated Cladding Rectification Agreement loan scheme seems to have been put to rest. With its voluble silence on the concept, the Cladding Taskforce effectively damned the loan scheme. The Taskforce report essentially said “A loan scheme was set up. We recommend funding.”

We look forward to seeing how much of the budget relieves affected owners - watch this space!

Finally, to put the cladding disaster in a community context: an apartment resident in an “extreme risk” building told ABC radio: “The great Australian barbeque is under threat…we’re concerned that one wrong move and you might burn down all your friends.”

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