Leaked documents reveal government sites covered in flammable cladding

By Shannon Jenkins

October 24, 2019

Grenfell Tower. Natalie Oxford/Twitter

At least 11 Commonwealth buildings have been found to contain flammable cladding, two years into a secretive nationwide audit.

Flammable material has been found in five Defence buildings, but more than 200 buildings require further inspection. The federal government has refused to release any details of the hazardous buildings, and has not confirmed whether any occupants have been informed.

Leaked documents have shown 208 Defence department sites could have been affected, as revealed by The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age on Wednesday.

In light of the information, Labor MP Brendan O’Connor has called out the Federal government for consistently blaming the states and territories for hazardous buildings.

“The government has consistently shirked all responsibility and laid the blame on the states and territories saying that it is up to them to fix the problem. Now that they have nowhere to hide because the issue has been exposed on national TV, who will they blame particularly as these buildings are on Commonwealth land?” he said in a statement.

O’Connor said the hypocrisy was “breathtaking”, and pointed to two occasions in July where the Federal government had pointed the finger at state governments. In one example, Prime Minister Scott Morrison told 2GB’s Alan Jones that he would hold the states accountable for the buildings, because it was “their job”.

In another instance, Minister for Industry Karen Andrews warned that if the states and territories would not act, they would “rightfully deserve and get the wrath of the Australian public.”

A national audit of all government buildings was initiated in 2017, following the London Grenfell Tower fire. The audit has not yet been completed and there has been no specified date of conclusion.

The Department of Industry, Innovation and Science has been overseeing the audit. The department has confirmed that another six buildings have the flammable cladding, but has not revealed their locations. 

Meanwhile, Defence has confirmed that work has begun on five of its sites across the country, all of which have “non-compliant cladding”. The five buildings are the RAAF Edinburgh in Adelaide, HMAS Penguin in Sydney, HMAS Cairns, RAAF Townsville, and Melbourne’s Fishermans Bend laboratories, according to The Advertiser. Defence has not said whether the buildings’ users have been told of the risk.

O’Connor has called on the government to be transparent.

“It’s been more than two years since an audit of all Federal government owned buildings began and it’s just not good enough that it is not yet complete,” he added.

“The pertinent question remains, beyond Defence, how many other government-owned and leased buildings contain flammable cladding?”

He said the government must inform occupants, tenants and users of the potentially risky buildings, as they “deserve to know”.

“Australians deserve to feel safe – especially in their own homes and workplaces.”  

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