Flak Catchers and Building Defects

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I think it was PJ O’Rourke who coined the term “Flak Catcher” in his scathing analysis of liberal politics, “Radical Chic and Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers”.

Last week in Canberra I witnessed a tremendous display of Flak Catching by Vanessa Morris, ACTPLA officer and author of a discussion paper released by the ACT Government on the “Regulation of design and inspection practitioners in the construction industry”.

Ms Morris displayed heroic patience and fortitude in fronting up before scores of angry apartment owners and for the best part of one and one half hours took hostile questions all  of which could be summarised by one question, “How is it that my apartment has defects?”

The ACT Government, which is more pro-consumer than most, has for some years now been mulling over what reforms it should introduce to address building defects in the ACT. We were told that the ACT Government was still addressing the regulation of licensees such as builders and building certifiers but wanted to expand its oversight to include design professionals such as engineers and architects.

If ever there was an opportunity for the expansion of government power, this is it. Since the drought broke in that part of Australia, ACT residents have been screaming about building defects and it is an issue which is probably higher in the public consciousness than elsewhere in the country.

The question however remains, in circumstances where the heart of the cause of building defects lies with builders and building certifiers, does this discussion paper represent an opportunity to reform the regulation of design professionals or is it simply a grab for power?

And as PJ O’Rourke once said, “A little government and a little luck are necessary in life, but only a fool trusts either of them”.

25 February 2014

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