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Materials must meet local standards

With more and more building products being made offshore and increased access to these products via the internet, the need to focus on compliance with standards and ensuring a level playing field for Australian manufacturers of building products has never been greater. Not to mention ensuring the protection of homeowners.

There is no doubt that the problem of cheaper non-genuine and non-tested building materials and components making their way into residential building is growing.

What isn't often considered is that the cost of failure and subsequent replacement of substandard materials will invariably outstrip any initial savings on the original purchase. The potential cost to the health and safety of tradesmen or your family can be even greater.

So, regardless of where something is manufactured, it should meet Australian standards. A key concern for the housing industry is that the evolution of compliance and enforcement of the product supply chain in Australia has not kept pace with changes to our economy, global supply chains, and how or where products are manufactured or sourced.

Inconsistent compliance regimes have also led to an uneven playing field between the manufacturers that comply with standards and those that do not.

Manufacturers who do the right thing are being disadvantaged against those that do not invest in producing products that meet Australian standards and fail to demonstrate how they meet those standards.

Consumers shouldn't automatically assume just because a product is for sale - especially if being purchased through the internet from overseas – that it is fit for the intended purpose and complies with Australian standards.

Following the recent awareness campaign by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission into faulty electric cabling, the Housing Industry Association called for a Senate inquiry into non-conforming building products.

I am pleased to report that with support from independent Senators Nick Xenophon, John Madigan and Jackie Lambie, the Senate has now agreed to hold such an inquiry. The terms of reference provide a blueprint for the Senate to investigate the growing problem of non-conforming building products in Australia.

The HIA has been working to support builders, contractors and manufacturers and suppliers to better understand the complex processes and the multiple government agencies that play a role in ensuring building products are fit for purpose and safe.

This inquiry will provide an important opportunity to understand who is responsible and where there may be gaps in the building product supply chain.

Finding the right solutions for those gaps will take time but HIA looks forward to the opportunity to put forward our position over the coming months.

As I have said previously - not everything cheap is all bad, but that doesn't mean it's all good either.

  • John Gelavis is the executive director of the WA Housing Industry Association. Follow him on Twitter at @HIA_WA