25 September 2017

Gentleman to update Assembly on cladding audit in October

| Ian Bushnell
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Planning Minister Mick Gentleman has agreed to update the Legislative Assembly next month on the progress of the audit of ACT public sector buildings in relation to combustible cladding but stopped short of promising to table the report.

Last week, the Opposition had called in the Assembly for the audit report to be tabled, accusing the Government of skirting scrutiny on potential fire safety risks in ACT public sector buildings fitted with combustible aluminium cladding, such as the new Centenary Hospital for Women and Children (pictured).

Mr Gentleman said fire officials had assured him the hospital building was safe, despite delays in removing the cladding due to a lack of replacement material.

He said the audit was progressing but buildings needed to be inspected.

Shadow Minister for Planning and Infrastructure Nicole Lawder said she was concerned the Government’s silence and lack of transparency on the matter meant it was either not taking the fire safety risk seriously or it was trying to cover up the extent of the problem and how long it had known about it.

“While Minister Gentleman and his Labor colleagues have chosen to withhold a number of documents that could answer these questions, I welcome his decision to update the Assembly on the matter at the next sitting,” she said.

“I will be paying particular attention to who knew what, when and what steps are being taken to mitigate fire risk.”

Ms Lawder earlier had said the Government had been aware of the fire safety risks associated with combustible cladding since at least 2009.

“In that time, it approved construction of at least one ACT public building that we know of, the Centenary Hospital for Women and Children, using the combustible cladding,” she said.

“Following the tragic London Grenfell Tower fire where 80 people were killed, the Government conceded to the fire risks by confirming it would remove the cladding from the hospital while at the same time insisting that the building is safe.

“This does not stack up and despite numerous requests from the Opposition to set the record straight, the Government has opted to avoid scrutiny and withhold what could be vital information regarding the fire safety of public buildings.”

She had called on the Government to provide to the Assembly:

  • The audit report of ACT Government buildings
  • All ACT Fire and Rescue reports on the Centenary Hospital for Women and Children
  • The recommendations of the 2017 audit of all ACT Government health buildings constructed with aluminium cladding
  • The Government’s plans to mitigate fire risks and related security issues associated with existing combustible cladding on all ACT government, private and residential buildings

“I am also calling on the Government to advise the Assembly on why it approved the construction of the hospital considering the fire risk was known and why it is now removing the cladding when it insists the hospital is safe,” Ms Lawder said. “You can’t have it both ways.”

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