Ms DUNN (Eastern Metropolitan) — I rise to speak on the Building Amendment (Enforcement and Other Measures) Bill 2016. This bill provides some badly needed improvements to the regulatory framework for the building construction and property development sectors in Victoria. The outrageous actions of greedy developers have of course heightened community interest at this point. The Greens have been campaigning for better protection of heritage places that come under the ownership of developers. We have continued to see over many years many heritage places lost, some with permission and of course many without any permission at all.
The illegal demolition of the Corkman Irish Pub, formerly the Carlton Inn, was the flashpoint around which the community coalesced to call for more stringent regulations on protecting local heritage and ensuring that developers could not knock over buildings in the middle of the night. Certainly one of the core issues has been that there is very little penalty applied in relation to illegal demolitions. In fact any penalty that may be applied is just built into the cost of the development and considered part of doing business as usual.
The Corkman was not, of course, the most salubrious of establishments. I laugh about one of the stories I heard about the Corkman. A customer ordered a pint of Guinness at the Corkman. As that was being delivered the keg expired mid-pour. The barman’s response was to pour half a pint of a different ale and present both half glasses to the customer. The customer expressed his displeasure at receiving two half pints of different beers when what he actually ordered was a pint of Guinness, noting that this was hardly an outrageous request to make at an Irish pub. In response, the barman sculled both half pints in quick succession and walked off.
It is stories such as this of course that add to the fabric of this wonderful city of ours and enhance the heritage of places. It is not about just the built form; it is about the culture and the special places that these buildings hold in the community and the experiences the community can share in these places. It is certainly this gruff charm that people will miss about the Corkman pub. The penalties faced by 160 Leicester Pty Ltd, which owns the property on which the Corkman stood, could add up to over $1 million. But this is grossly inadequate because the improved value of that site could turn out to be many, many millions of dollars. The penalties would just be considered the cost of doing business. That is why the increase in penalties and the addition of indictable offences and the prison term in this bill are so important.
I certainly continue to have concerns about the building inspection regime in this state. It is fraught by the fact that builders are generally the contracting party for inspectors, and this allows for cosy operating relationships. This bill does not disrupt that dynamic. The reality is that the state government will one day have to get serious about ensuring the independence and integrity of the inspection regime by separating their contractual arrangements from builders.
I know from my experience as a local government councillor that there are many, many occasions when building works inspections by private building surveyors are signed off when they should not be signed off because the works in fact do not comply. It continues to be an enormous issue for local government and local government councillors, who are really at the front line when things go wrong in relation to building, private building surveyors and the signing off of works.
Nevertheless, this bill does take some steps in the right direction. We will certainly talk more in relation to this bill when it comes to the committee of the whole and certainly explore some issues in relation to that that have been raised by local government, but the bill will be supported by the Greens.