Senate Inquiry Calls for Total Ban on Flammable Cladding

Cladding on Brisbane’s Princess Alexandra Hospital will be removed following tests that revealed the material was more flammable than previously thought. 

The news comes amid a Senate inquiry into non-conforming building products in the Australian construction industry.

The Senate committee tabled an interim report earlier this month that recommended the Australian government implement a total ban on the importation, sale and use of Polyethylene (PE) core aluminium composite panels (ACPs) “as a matter of urgency”.

“In light of the Grenfell Tower fire tragedy, the committee does not consider there to be any legitimate use of PE core Aluminium Composite Panel ACPs on any building type,” the committee said.

“The committee believes that as there are safe non-flammable and fire retardant alternatives available there is no place for PE core ACPs in the Australian market.

“While Australian Border Force and suppliers of aluminium composite materials are currently unable to determine whether an imported building product will be used in a compliant manner, the committee believes a ban on importation should be placed on all PE core ACPs.

“In addition, the sale and use of PE core ACPs should be banned domestically.”

[Related reading: Victoria Forms Cladding Taskforce To Stamp Out Building Fires]

The recommendation came after news broke last week that the Princess Alexandra Hospital will have cladding removed due to tests revealing its combustibility.

Housing and Public Works Minister Mick De Brenni subsequently advised Parliament that work to remove the cladding would begin as a priority, ahead of a replacement process.

The entire process may take up to 18 months and for a significant amount of this time the hospital will not have external cladding.

[Related reading: Introducing A Ten-Point Plan For Fire Safety Reform]

During the period that the cladding is being removed, the additional safety measures put in place in recent months will remain. The hospital has a modern fire safety system in place with more than 13,000 fire sprinklers and 6,000 fire detectors across the campus and we are well prepared to deal with any potential emergency situation.

According to the Princess Alexandra Hospital, the cladding is primarily aesthetic and it is important to note patient care will not be affected in any way.

The Senate committee also recommended that a national licensing scheme be established for continued professional development for all building practitioners, and that accountability be increased for participants across the supply chain.

Punishments could also be put into place should the recommendations take effect, as the Senate also suggested the government crack down on building practices that are “non-compliant” with the National Construction, with penalties like heavy fines, the “revocation of accreditation” or a “ban from tendering for Commonwealth funded construction work”.

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