Australia's construction industry is corrupt, but protected by government. This has left building consumers in a terrible situation. A current scandal is that they are being forced to pay billions for builders' mistakes in a situation where no building over 3 stories is insured. This video is of an interview with Nerrida Pohl about the dangers of inflammable cladding on skyscrapers, using her own building as an example. The location affords views of similar problems on surrounding skyscrapers in South Yarra. It also illustrates the irony of having one's view built out, even when one lives in a skyscraper, as massive population growth an deregulation accelerate infilling and raise heights. Nerrida was a speaker at the Victorian Building Action Group AGM this year.
VIDEO UNPUBLISHED: Unfortunately the person interviewed in this video has asked me to unpublish it pending her dealing with some pressure she has received in response. Because this was a very educational video, I am regretfully unpublishing it for the time being.
"People end up with nothing because they really don't believe we have a system as bad as we do." Consumers are unprotected in Australia's building disaster. "You may have a house that's being demolished, but you still have a block of land. If you've got any superannuation or anything in the bank, at least hang on to that." Anne Paten of Victorian Building Action Group (VBAG) talks about how the system that's supposed to help building consumers actually bleeds the victims of the industry even more. People qualify for insurance, but never get the money. They go to VCAT and are sent away with nothing. The results are bankruptcy, divorces, and suicides. Substantial reports and inquiries are removed from the internet. Australians need to realise that the government won't help them; they have to join together and help each other.
We have transcribed some highlights from the videoed speech full of extraordinary revelations - made at the Victorian Building Activists Group AGM 2019.
Since 2002 there have been mandated payments for builders in all states to take out domestic building insurance (DBI in Victoria), yet almost no owner who has suffered by bad building has successfully claimed their insurance, despite multiple defects. For instance, in 2011, $88m was paid into the Victorian fund, a year when 40% of building consumers suffered financial loss.  Yet, for that same year, only three owners had successful insurance claims against their builders. Yet many, many more qualify. The money goes to salaries in administrative infrastructure for the funds. Recently it was reported that owners who suffered in the 2011 Lacrosse dangerous cladding fire disaster had a 'big' win of $7.5m at VCAT. This sum does not even cover the amount paid to get people out of the building on the day of the fire. Owners have borrowed far more than that just to go to court. And the builder was not even held responsible. They system protected him.
At 10 minutes into the video:
"In 2012, the Victorian Omsbudsman found  that the [Victorian] Building Commission, instead of being a 'regulator'[...] was taking the big building companies out to dinner, to the best restaurants, with the best bottles of wine then getting them tickets for the tennis centre, for the football, and so on, and giving the money to the HIA, the MBA. [...] the money that runs all of those organisations is from building permits [...] so, in other words, all of us [victims of this system]. [...]"
"[The Victorian Building Commission, VBA] uncovered the registration system. Effectively the registration system is, if you cannot speak English, cannot read plans, cannot write a sentence, know nothing about building, and have never seen a hammer, you would make an excellent builder. So get registered. The book, the Game of Mates, calls it the 'favour system'. It's not like you go to the doctor, the teacher, the school: These people have no qualifications. And, of course, they don't build! So, we have builders who don't build, we have surveyors who don't survey, and we have regulators who don't regulate. So, in a sense, that's it. That's all we have to really understand.
So, by 2015, they had changed the name of the [Victorian] Building Commission. They had removed everything from its 20 year history from the web."
[You cannot even find the Auditor General's 2012 report. The link from TROVE to the pdf at Auditor General's site leads to a page-error.]
In 2015, they're [...] doing the third Auditor General's report, and they've changed auditor generals and they've changed the Ombusdsman, because anyone who is putting all the facts and pointing out has to be moved on.
 Consumer Confidence and Market Experience Study Victorian Consumers CAV 2011.
"This report identifies problems in the governance and administration of the Victorian Building Commission and the manner in which it expends monies generated from its regulation.
"In March 2012 the Ombudsman's Office received information from several sources in relation to concerns about the Victorian Building Commission (the Commission). These concerns included that the Commission:
- paid contractors significant amounts for investigative services
- contracted external investigators who were former Commission staff
- made significant payments to external investigators based upon invoices which lacked detail about the amounts charged
- employed former police officers as investigators with little or no building experience
- poorly managed an information technology project which was several million dollars over budget
- operated at a significant deficit.
-This resulted in Ombudsman conducted an own motion investigation into the governance and administration of the Commission.
During the investigation additional issues were identified. These included significant expenditure by Commission staff on hospitality and entertainment and concerns about the administration and integrity of the registration system for building practitioners."
With an aggregate rectification bill of billions of dollars, the fallout from flammable cladding is unfolding through the building industry, property market, and legal systems.
As well as immediate practical challenges of making buildings safe and compliant, flammable cladding raises broader questions around risk in our buildings and cities, and the frameworks that govern them. How do we, and how should we, assign responsibility for cladding issues and for fixing them? How do governments balance tensions between accountability, certainty, and the immediate need to make buildings safe? How did we get here and what are the options moving forward?
In light of such questions, Builders Collective of Australia, present a public event comprising an expert panel with a primary purpose to discuss the causes, consequences and solutions to flammable cladding. The expert panel draws together a range of perspectives to help illuminate how the flammable cladding problem came about, what the range of consequences are, and what could or should be done to fix it.
Speakers will discuss government, consumer, academic and industry-based insights into different aspects of the combustible cladding challenge. The discussion will cover questions around the building industry, litigation, regulation, owners corporations, fire engineering, consumer rights, and planning processes.
The event will comprise a short facilitated panel discussion, but more importantly it then gives the Moreland residents and the wider Victorian community a chance to particpate in an audience discussion on the issue.'