In the 24 recommendations of the recently-released Shergold-Weir report can be seen an achievable roadmap to address the shortcomings of Australia’s compliance and enforcement systems.
In May a long-awaited report on the compliance and enforcement systems for fire protection in the Australian building and construction industry was released by the Building Ministers’ Forum (BMF). The report’s authors, Professor Peter Shergold and Ms Bronwyn Weir, were tasked by the BMF with assessing the effectiveness of these systems and making recommendations to address their deficiencies.
The report makes 24 recommendations, and in many ways they set out a realistic roadmap to improving the consistency and compliance of Australian construction, with an end goal of improving fire safety. The report calls for these changes to be implemented over the next three years.
In making their recommendations, Shergold and Weir look to have struck a balance between improving consistency between states and territories, particularly in application of the National Construction Code (NCC), while recognising their autonomy to make their own legislative and administrative arrangements.
Instead of prescribing national regulations which override the states and territories, they have recommended increased collaboration between the existing jurisdictional bodies to lift consistency, and improved education, auditing and enforcement to increase adherence to national standards.
But the report also recognises that national consistency is an important but secondary goal behind effective compliance and enforcement. Reflecting this, the largest share of Shergold and Weir’s 24 recommendations address auditing and inspection, roles and responsibilities of regulators, private building surveyors, and documentation and information management.
Fire Protection Association Australia (FPA Australia) believes the report offers an achievable pathway that can yield real and critical improvements.
Shergold and Weir’s recommendations are also ambitious, however, and will require government and industry buy in at all levels to ensure its success.
“All jurisdictions will have work to do to deliver the national best practice model proposed. That work program will include legislative reform, but perhaps the more challenging task will be to make changes that can shift industry culture and improve regulatory practice,” the report says.
“The building and construction industry needs to actively participate in lifting standards, competency and integrity if it is to produce safe and reliable buildings and continue to be an important driver of infrastructure development and economic growth.”
It is an important call to action for the fire protection industry. We are in a unique historical position to take a guiding role in the development of our industry, but to do so we must lead from the front. That will require close collaboration with all stakeholders, and for the industry to push ahead with new initiatives that improve quality and consistency, are economically sustainable and ultimately prioritise life safety.
For more information, go to www.fpaa.com.au