Building Bill 2010

Extract from Hansard
[COUNCIL — Tuesday, 21 June 2011]
Hon Ljiljanna Ravlich; Hon Lynn MacLaren; Hon Simon O'Brien


Second Reading

Resumed from 14 April.

HON LYNN MacLAREN (South Metropolitan) [9.35 pm]: The Greens broadly support these bills. As I have
mentioned, there was a suite of building bills and the Building Bill 2010 is the final big one. We still broadly
support these bills.

Hon Simon O’Brien: We better go to a vote quickly then, before that goodwill evaporates!

Hon LYNN MacLAREN: It is not changing. As Hon Ljiljanna Ravlich mentioned, an update of the existing
legislation is clearly needed, since the existing process for building approvals was established in the Local
Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1960. As I understand it, the building bills have been on the cards
for 10 years. As I said when we debated the other bills, we congratulate the government on finally seeing the
light of day.

The objectives of the bills are to provide a comprehensive system of building control in WA, reduce building
approval time, set standards for building and demolition work, and deal with building or demolition work that
affects other land. The Building Bill is slightly more controversial than the other three bills and it is worth
looking at it in a bit more depth, as I think has been flagged. The bill makes quite major changes to the way that
buildings are assessed, by allowing private consultants and local governments to assess buildings. Local
government officers will also be able to assess buildings, but in some cases their role will be reduced to only
checking whether the bill is compliant with plans and has planning permission. The Western Australian Local
Government Association, the Master Builders Association of WA and the Housing Industry Association Ltd
have all argued that there are large gaps in the legislation and that it has a big reliance on regulations. All three
organisations argued that the bill should not be implemented until these details are fleshed out and their concerns
with the legislation addressed. I look forward to hearing the minister’s response to those concerns.

Some of WALGA’s concerns are that the bill may indeed lessen building standards. If anything, there needs to
be an improvement in building standards. It is not clear that the bill will achieve this. Some local governments
have argued that the bill could result in the assessment of buildings becoming fragmented and that there is a
danger that the whole process will not be coordinated. Local governments also raised the concern that builders
often submit work that is below standard and there is a danger that this will not be picked up. From the briefings
that I had, I think that these risks have been identified. Basically, we want to hear that a system is in place to
reduce the risks. Another concern that was mentioned to us was the danger of private building surveyors,
particularly those who may work within the offices of large developers.

[Quorum formed.]

Hon LYNN MacLAREN: The Building Bill 2010 currently relies on registration as a mechanism for preventing
this kind of behaviour. It has the capacity to deregister building surveyors if they approve dangerous buildings. I
am sure the minister recognises that this would occur after the fact; we want to make sure that this does not occur
in the first place. Because of this, local governments have argued that the bill may go against the government’s
duty of care and may not be in the public interest. The Western Australian Local Government Association also
mentioned to us that the bill may affect housing affordability. This is a serious matter that this house has
considered at length over the past two years, and it is something that we do not want to worsen. Although the
Building Commission has argued that the changes could make the system more competitive, the experience of
the eastern states, with the exception of Tasmania, has not borne this out. In some cases the costs for assessment
of housing doubled, and we would not like that to occur here, so we would like to hear how the minister is
looking at keeping the costs down to make sure that housing affordability is not impacted by these otherwise
quite important changes to our system.

Local governments have calculated that the bill may result in increased costs of $3 000 per client, with no clear
benefits, and this may have an impact on housing affordability. These changes are likely to benefit large
developers who can employ their own surveyors to work within their business, so they would potentially have
those costs paid to them. The Building Commission has admitted that it may push up costs for individuals who
are building their own homes, and that is of some concern as well.

Whilst the minister argued that the bill will encourage innovation in building design, innovative designs are
likely to be the most costly to assess under these new stipulations. There is a danger that the bill may stifle
innovative design. These days, when we are trying to increase energy efficiency, innovative design is critical,
and we want to ensure that the system does not discourage innovative design, particularly energy-efficient
design. In common with Hon Ljiljanna Ravlich, I am interested in a cost–benefit analysis so that we can see the
costs to the end user—someone who is buying or building a house—under this system versus under the old

The Western Australian Local Government Association also raised concerns about how the bill would interface
with other approvals in areas such as planning, R codes, heritage and health. The concerns that were raised
included increased potential for disjointed applications; inefficiencies in referrals; adverse health, heritage and
amenity outcomes; and a general lack of integration within the approvals process. This might relate to the lack of
detail and reliance upon regulation, so anything the minister can say to address those concerns would be most

The Greens (WA) broadly support this bill and the need for legislation to be updated; however, there are large
gaps in the legislation and a lot of reliance on regulation. We think the bill should not be implemented until these
gaps have been filled or fleshed out, and the concerns that I have raised have been addressed, because of the
significance of the stakeholders—the Western Australian Local Government Association, the Housing Industry
Association and the Master Builders Association. I would like to hear the minister’s responses to that, but the
Greens (WA) support the bill.