With a Building Act that’s not fit for purpose, ongoing problems with responsibility for white set plaster, and the lack of equal recognition of all construction trades, Master Painters & Decorators Australia [MP&DA] is joining the call for urgent and targeted changes to WA’s Building and Energy [formerly the Building Commission].
MP&DA President, Gary Cox, a painter with 27 years’ experience, says it’s not helpful to have the key agency in charge of the building industry claiming standards of workmanship in WA ‘are not great’, when its own systems are fundamentally flawed and policing of the industry is poorly executed.
“Since the Painters Registration Board was abolished and the Painters Act rescinded eight years ago, the State Government has shown little interest in cracking down on the activities of unregistered and unqualified painters, along with others who are providing substandard work”, Mr Cox said.
“Despite our suggestions and offers to assist in this area, the situation remains unchanged and unworkable.”
“For many years we’ve been calling for an effective compliance framework that protects the community and supports the industry through investigation, mediation and resolution of complaints.
“The number of complains reported by Building and Energy, and the way it handles complaints does not accord with the anecdotal evidence we see and hear month after month.”
White set plaster dilemma
According to Alan Walters, MP&DA executive member with 40+ years’ experience, the issue of responsibility for white set plaster is one of the most perplexing problems the painting and decorating industry has ever had to face.
“It’s ludicrous to expect painters to be responsible for testing the suitability of another trade’s materials and workmanship, yet this is basically the outcome of current directions handed down by Building and Energy,” Mr Walters said.
“Despite our best efforts to assist and advise, it would appear the Government’s lead agency has insufficient trade experience within its ranks to fairly adjudicate on industry issues such as this.
“We need a well-informed, courageous adjudicator to set clear boundaries and responsibilities to move the whole industry forward on this issue. The current stalemate is an unacceptable position.”
Registering all trades and upholding quality of training
MP&DA immediate past president and owner of Mandurah Painters & Decorators, Ian Glen, says the white set plaster fiasco has cast light on a further area of concern, exacerbated by the comment from Building Energy Compliance Director, Sandy Randall about poor quality levels of construction in WA.
“There are Australian Standards in place that set the benchmark for products and workmanship in WA but we are lacking an effective policing mechanism to ensure these standards are met and maintained,” Mr Glen said.
“Until we have a situation where all trades in the building industry are operating on an equal basis, including registration and proof of qualifications, the opportunity exists for some to get away with shoddy and non-standard work.”
Mr Glen says this lowering of standards is also working its way into apprenticeships across several building industries.
“Our industry has been successful in maintaining apprenticeships at four years of training while many others have significantly cut apprenticeship times, resulting in limited practical experience and lesser skills covered.
“A fast-tracked apprenticeship may suit project home builders as they can train to the lower level of their own needs, but this does a disservice to all concerned.
“This apprentice will never be a master of his/her craft as they will likely be learning from a tradesperson who has also completed a truncated apprenticeship and will therefore be passing on just a fraction of the skills required for a fully qualified tradesperson.
“This behaviour has the potential to seriously erode the skills and expertise of future generations of tradesmen and women across Australia,” Mr Glen said.
MP&DA calls for action
As a significant trade within the building industry, painters and decorators employ more than 12,000 people in WA, including hundreds of apprentices, and contribute millions of dollars to the State’s economy.
MP&DA CEO, Amanda Dawes says the need for an efficient and effective agency to manage and police the building and construction industry is a necessity to ensure high standards are maintained across all industry members, and that consumers can have confidence when making what is often, the most important investment of their lives.
“We have worked collaboratively with the Government on important industry issues in the past and we are ready and willing to do so again,” Ms Dawes said.