Australian building experts discuss the Grenfell Tower fire
12 July 2017
World Socialist Web Site reporters spoke last week with a fire safety engineer and a building maintenance inspector about the June 14 Grenfell Tower disaster in London and their own experiences in Australia.
Both commented on declining building, product-testing and inspection standards, which over the past 15 years have generated massive profits for developers and construction corporations, as well as windfall tax receipts for governments.
During the post-World War II period, Australian state governments built and administered public housing schemes. These programs were progressively abandoned during the 1990s by Labor and Liberal-National governments. Building industry safety was also deregulated and safety inspection privatised, in line with demands from property developers and the construction industry.
According to a recent Reserve Bank of Australia report, the number of people living in apartments dramatically increased during the past five years. In Sydney, the number of apartments grew by nearly 20 percent from 2012, and these units accounted for one-third of residential building approvals last year. Sydney now has almost half a million apartments, most privately owned. Apartment numbers increased in Brisbane by 36 percent on 2012 levels, and by 30 percent in Melbourne and 20 percent in Perth.
According to Engineers Australia, over 85 percent of new residences are faulty on completion, with fire safety, plumbing and other major problems. Some fire safety authorities told the media after the Grenfell Tower fire that there could be thousands of dangerous aluminium-clad buildings in Australia, but no national audit has ever been conducted.
Fearing victimisation, the two men…