'The public has a right to know': Buildings identified in cladding audit kept secret
A list of South Australian buildings that could contain highly-flammable cladding will remain secret after the State Government refused to release information through Freedom of Information (FOI) laws.
- The SA Government has refused to release a list of buildings with cladding in the state
- The Victorian Government has announced $600 million to help fix cladding issues
- It follows the deaths of 72 people in the Grenfell Tower fires in 2017
The ABC applied for access to the information from the Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure (DPTI) in October, amid significant international concern over the use of the material in high–rise buildings.
However, DPTI has refused to provide the list of buildings identified through a statewide audit, citing among its concerns the impact on the department’s “business affairs”.
While South Australia has refused to release information about buildings containing aluminium composite cladding, the Victorian Government has moved to address public concern over the dangerous material.
Today, it announced a $600 million package to fund major works to “keep Victorians safe”.
It follows a similar audit undertaken by the Victorian Government, which found there were more than 1,000 buildings considered as “high risk”, with 51 buildings issued with emergency orders for urgent work.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews called on the Federal Government to help fund the rectification works.
“Combustible cladding is a national problem and we want the Federal Government to be part of the solution here in Victoria,” Mr Andrews said.
The Royal Adelaide Hospital is one of four high-profile buildings in SA containing aluminium composite cladding. (ABC News: Chris Lawless)
SA Best MP Frank Pangallo said information on buildings containing potentially-dangerous cladding needed to be released by the South Australian Government under its duty of care to the public.
“The public has a right to know — we cannot just say it’s not in the public interest to tell you,” Mr Pangallo said.
“This Government has promised to be open and transparent and here they are closing the door.”
The refusal to release the information comes despite Infrastructure Minister Stephen Knoll’s release of a list of four high-profile buildings in the CBD containing aluminium composite panels, with another release in May 2018 of a list of some public buildings identified during the audit.
The high-profile buildings included the newly-built Royal Adelaide Hospital, Women’s and Children’s Hospital, Adelaide Convention Centre and Adelaide Oval.
The Government said all four buildings were assessed as having a “low or moderate risk” in the case of a fire.
In its refusal to release the documents, DPTI referred the ABC to a website that explained that the statewide audit began two years ago and had been in an “investigation” phase since March 2018 to determine whether cladding posed a risk to life.
According to the website, the Government and councils were yet to start “phase three”, which included the removal of aluminium composite panels and installation of additional alarms, escape points or sprinklers to increase safety.
Minister Knoll said the Government was continuing to identify buildings that could pose a risk.
“In South Australia we have managed … public buildings to make sure that the risk is quarantined and (are) also working with councils right across the state to identify private buildings that may be at-risk and work through those risk assessment processes,” Mr Knoll said.
“To date we are lucky that we don’t see anywhere near the number of issues that Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane are seeing.”
Cladding caused 72 deaths in fire
The South Australian audit followed the deaths of 72 people in the Grenfell Tower fires in London in June 2017.
In May, the UK Government said it would pay 200 million pounds ($AU368 million) to help repair private buildings covered in flammable cladding.
The exterior of the Lacrosse apartments in Docklands caught on fire in November 2014. (Supplied: Wade Savage) (News Video)
There have been three blazes in Melbourne attributed to aluminium composite cladding — including a 2014 fire in Melbourne’s Lacrosse tower and a 2019 fire in the CBD.
Insurance companies have now stopped giving surveyors personal indemnity coverage for properties containing cladding.
The building industry has been pleading with the Federal Government for a national response to the problem.
The next Council of Australian Governments meeting is in August.