Government Intensifies Crackdown on Dodgy Developers


The Victorian government has vowed to crackdown on developers and builders engaging in illegal phoenix activity as part of a suite of protections for building and apartment owners.

In a bill introduced to Parliament on Tuesday, the Andrews’ government will expand the powers of the Victorian Building Authority to investigate illegal phoenixing activity—where a director deliberately places a company into liquidation to avoid paying debts.

The changes, introduced as part of the Building and Environment Legislation Amendment Bill, will allow the Victorian building watchdog to refuse to register applicants that are suspected to have engaged in illegal phoenixing activity over the previous two years.

The reforms also expand the Victorian Building Authority’s powers to suspend architects and builders that use dangerous building products and undertake unsafe works.

“Plumbers and architects can face immediate suspension under these new laws, as well as not having their industry registration renewed,” Victorian planning minister Richard Wynne said.

Tuesday’s bill follows the introduction of new legislation in mid-October, which allows the Victorian government to chase builders for the cost of cladding rectification.

The cladding rectification amendment authorises the government to raise fees for building permits as well as pursue builders in the courts for cladding rectification costs.

Any returns will be reinvested into the government’s $600 million rectification package, administered by the newly-formed Cladding Safety Victoria.

▲ The 1000-page Grenfell Tower report, released on Wednesday, found that tower’s cladding “actively promoted” the spread of the fire.
▲ The 1000-page Grenfell Tower report, released on Wednesday, found that tower’s cladding “actively promoted” the spread of the fire.

Wynne called on the federal government to make changes to the national company laws to help stamp out illegal phoenixing activity.

“While the Labor government is doing all it can to identify and stop illegal phoenix activity, [it’s] about time our Commonwealth counterparts did the same.

“This bill is about giving Victorians more confidence in the building sector and helping the VBA to weed out those doing the wrong thing.”

The introduction of the latest changes to Victoria’s parliament come as the formal publication of the long-awaited Grenfell tower report is released this week.

The 1000-page report concludes that the tower’s cladding failed to comply with regulations and “actively promoted” the spread of the fire.

Inquiry judge Sir Martin Moore-Bick said that the “principal reason” the flames shot up the side of the 24-storey tower with such speed was because of the flammable polyethylene core.

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