Here we go again. Prime Minister Scott Morrison has called for left-leaning activist group, GetUp, to be registered as a political party:
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has hinted at launching a fresh bid for an inquiry into GetUp’s political independence, calling for the group to be “straight up” with voters.
Members of the coalition have long accused GetUp of being an arm of the Labor Party and The Greens, arguing the left-leaning activist group should be subjected to greater scrutiny under electoral funding and disclosure laws…
In February, the Australian Electoral Commission declared GetUp was not affiliated with any political party, saying the group’s campaigns were mostly issue-based, rather than linked to a particular political force.
But Mr Morrison remains unconvinced.
“GetUp is no longer a wolf in sheep’s clothing. GetUp is a wolf in wolf’s clothing”, he told reporters in Adelaide on Saturday.
“If they want to be in the political space – fine, [but] call yourself a political party,” he said.
“You’re against the Liberal Party we get that, that’s okay. There’s no problem with that. Just don’t pretend you’re independent.”
*This is hilarious stuff coming from the man who is the former National Manager of Research and Policy for the Property Council of Australia, which vehemently lobbied against Labor’s property tax reforms and has been behind the Coalition’s housing policies.
For example, Scott Morrison admitted that no modelling had been done on the Coalition’s First Home Buyer Deposit Scheme and that Australia’s property lobby was behind the policy.
“We want to see more first-home buyers in the market, absolutely, and we don’t want to see people’s house prices go down”– Scott Morrison, May 2019.
*Given the Property Council is pulling Scott Morrison’s strings, shouldn’t it also be registered as a political party?
Let’s also remember that several Coalition MPs have met with GetUp! in the past (see here and here):
*GetUp! director Paul Oosting revealed to The Australian [Liberal MPs] Mr Wilson and Mr Zimmerman met left-wing campaigners GetUp! over same-sex marriage, while several government MPs have worked with the organisation in pushing a clean energy target…
Other moderate Liberal MPs, including cabinet minister Christopher Pyne, have also recently been exposed as having had secret meetings with the hard-left activist group…
In addition to the Property Council, the Coalition has strong ties to well-resourced industry organisations like the Business Council of Australia, the Australian Bankers Association, and the Minerals Council, all of whom spend millions of dollars influencing public policy (read Michael West’s enlightening article here).
So it seems the Coalition only supports “free speech” when the subject matter is agreeable to its policy position.
Whatever the case, the Coalition’s incessant protesting over GetUp! is likely to backfire. Giving the organisation so much exposure is only likely to result in more donations and members, empowering it even further.
… An extract from a report of someone who it appears has researched the facts and figures, and has put this together regarding what is happening with our big neighbour to the North, and the impact of the migration of the Hokou class to Australia particularly with access to our Visa system in seeking ‘permanent residency’ …
THIS was in response to the article on Macro Business: ‘Time to slash immigration in the national interest’ …
We have 1.361 million mainland born communist Chinese in Australia. And only a tiny fraction are Australian citizens.
The other 1.213 million?
Chinese First mainland born communists on Chinese sole passports. -non Australian Chinese Nationals -non assimilating.
The majority in Australia are the Chinese Hokou* class of Chinese.
Exported by the Chinese government and the Chinese criminal syndicates – A social and healthcare burden? Or else on a visa pretext to work and live illegally ‘long time’ here.
1.361 million Chinese mainland born communists are onshore in Australia.
1.213 million as non Australian Chinese Nationals
on Chinese passports.
▫️238,000 Chinese mainland born communists as citizen grants/ Australia passports / their old, sick, … and the hard core communists as the first wave of the ‘South Guangzhou’ colonisation of Australia. Many here a decade or more, no assimilation, no English, Chinese only enclaves. A social, healthcare and welfare burden.
▫️483,000 as Chinese Nationals on Chinese passports but granted Permanent Residency – Hukuo class exported from the Chinese tier 1 cities. No English no assimilation, no pretence of a contribution …. as China First communist colonists. A massive social, healthcare and welfare burden.
▫️340,000 TR (of the 1.8 million TR) Chinese mainland born communists on Chinese passports allegedly as students or partners, skilled, regional … whatever visas – also the Hukou class trafficked in to work illegally or in vice. A massive social and economic burden.
▫️130,000 Chinese mainland born communists as NZ SCV (of 696,000) trafficked in via the NZ SCV passport stamp loophole, NZ being one of the ‘stepping stone’ routes to get into Australia. Another social and economic burden.
▫️Another 150,000 or more Chinese mainland born communists on Chinese passports as illegally working and living tourist and visitor visa holders. (Of 440,000 or 5% of the 8.8 million … so-called tourist visitors working illegally – Australian Parliamentary submission)
Long stay and repeat stay. A social and economic burden.
▫️Plus at least 20,000 Chinese mainland born
communists as overstayers. (Of 65,000), same.
=> That’s 1.36 million Chinese mainland born communists in Australia of which over 1.1 million are non Australian citizens as Chinese China First mainland born communists.
90% or 1.2 million Chinese mainland born communists in just 2 cities – Sydney and Melbourne, in vast Chinese only non assimilated slums.
* Chinese Hukou class.
“China’s Hukou system is a registration program that serves as a domestic passport, regulating population distribution and rural-to-urban migration. It is a tool for social and geographic control that enforces an apartheid structure.”
100 million of the Chinese mainland born Hukou underclass are to be cleansed from the Tier 1 city slums – relocated internally (five year plan but huge fail – hence the ghost cities) or increasingly exported to foreign countries by the Chinese criminal trafficking syndicates and the Chinese government.
This Hukou class are second and third generation Chinese peasantry that flocked to the eastern seaboard cities in China’s industrialisation.
“Roughly one-fifth of China’s population, some 250 to 300 million people, have irregular hukou status. The reform of the hukou system is a major plank of the Five Year Plan from 2016 to 2020. Under the reforms, 100 million internal migrant illegals are to have their hukou status ‘regularized’ by 2020.
The first-tier cities opted to regularize their populations by expelling hukou applicants.
Second-tier cities like Chengdu grant hukou status only if they have a masters degree.
Third-tier cities will take them if they buy local real estate. But the Hukuo are poor and uneducated with no access to higher education”.
$2k buys an Australian PR in Guangzhou with every
assistance from the Chinese government and the criminal syndicates in
trafficking them out.
1.361 million in Australia, 1.213 million as sole passport Chinese Nationals.
Australia provides them with PR, free Medicare and welfare; while they remain Chinese Nationals and China First
The Australian Transactions Reports & Analysis Centre’s (AUSTRAC) CEO, Nicole Rose, has flagged tough action after being ‘flooded’ with money laundering breaches. From The SMH:
The nation’santi-money laundering regulator warns it is likely to take more action against Australia’s top financial institutions after being “flooded” with reports of potential breaches following its landmark case against the Commonwealth Bank.
Austrac chief executive Nicole Rose said the 2017 case against CBA over its mass breach of anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing laws – which resulted in a record fine of $700 million – had from the companies it regulates.
In an interview with The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, Ms Rose said the financial crimes regulator would have a “very busy” year ahead of it. She said Austrac would use various measures, including legal action and fines, to bring miscreant financial institutions to heel…
Detecting money laundering is a key part of the fight against organised crime, which the Australian Institute of Criminology has estimated costs the nation almost $50 billion a year…
*Recall that last year, Ms Rose put policing of money laundering via residential property firmly on the back burner:
PETER RYAN: You also have to crack down on lawyers, accountants, real estate agents in declaring that amount of money: $10,000. How close are we to changing the law to make that happen?
NICOLE ROSE: That’s going to take a little bit longer. Obviously it’s going to have a big impost on small businesses and that’s something the Government are very mindful of.
So we’re looking at cheaper, more efficient ways we can do that in the interim, while government considers what that proposal might involve.
This comes despite Canberra promising more than a decade ago to begin policing money laundering through property, and the federal government conducting stakeholder consultations in 2008, 2010, 2012, 2014, and 2017.
These reforms have been continually postponedamid fierce lobbying by shadowy “vested interests” negatively impacted. This has led to Australia having the weakest AML rules in the world pertaining to property:
Later this year, we will go through the charade all over again, with the Financial Action Taskforce (FATF) scheduled to conduct another evaluation of Australia’s AML laws, which is bound to lead to more condemnation, finger waiving, and further strengthen Australia’s reputation as a money laundering safe haven.
WHEN the Reporter hit the intercom button and said oh, hello Mr …
THIS is the reply …
‘Just piss off’
AS revealed in this program the trauma caused to home owners is a consequence of the ‘design and construct’ model … it’s at the core of the defects issue
DESPITE all the evidence … will the Building Ministers continue to focus on certification rather than getting to the nitty gritty?
WHY aren’t our governments pursuing the offenders for rectification costs through forensic accounting? That would “P” this lot awf …
ABC Photo: Reporter Sean Nicholls visited the developer of Mascot Towers … John Elias … this is what happened …
SEAN NICHOLLS: Oh hello, Mr Elias?
JOHN ELIAS: Just piss off
CRACKING UP …
Posted Mon 19 Aug 2019
VIEW Source Link for Video: Expires: Tuesday 16 July
Investigating Australia’s apartment building crisis.
“We’ve got a real problem here. It’s systemic and it’s infecting lots of buildings across the landscape, in all parts of the country. It’s very clear.” Building defect analyst
For 20 years the nation’s city skylines have been changing with the building of more than 650,000 apartments across the country.
“People are reinventing what the great Australian dream means for them...it’s been a transformation.” Industry spokesperson
Glossy advertising has wooed buyers away from the traditional Aussie dream of a house with promises of sophisticated apartment living and high-end finishes. But the shine has well and truly come off the apartment property boom.
“I have never seen a building that isn’t defective in some way. I know it’s my job, but even just walking around in public, I notice these things.”Forensic engineer
The emergency evacuation of two residential apartment blocks this year has blown open the industry’s secret – buildings riddled with defects.
“They affect people directly, they affect them every day. They cause a significant amount of damage over and above the defect, and so they’re very expensive to fix.”Lawyer
On Monday Four Corners investigates Australia’s apartment building crisis, from shoddy workmanship to lax laws, leaving owners out of pocket and in some cases out of a home altogether.
“If I have to pay for the repairs myself, I would have to go bankrupt. There’s no way that I could pay for it.” Apartment owner, Canberra
Four Corners will take you inside buildings and apartments in multiple cities to show how entrenched the problems are.
“The mould was basically all through the wardrobes, the mould covered the whole of the roof, down the side of the walls and spread over to the other side as well…. it basically rendered the apartment unliveable.” Apartment owner, Melbourne
The evacuations are a public sign of a problem many have wanted to keep quiet. Everyone involved knows the threat posed to property prices when a building hits the headlines.
On Four Corners some inside the industry are now speaking out about how this crisis has been allowed to happen.
“To suggest that we are policing the project couldn’t be any further inaccurate.” Building certifier
What they reveal is a litany of failure, to regulate and protect the buying public, even in the face of repeated warnings.
“What we’re seeing is the outcome from a poorly oversighted industry with a lack of competence and in some cases a lack of integrity. Commercial imperatives have really overtaken public interest in terms of decisions that have been made.” Building industry investigator
Those who know the scale of the problem warn that while new laws may prevent future problems, the legacy of the last 20 years will be with us for decades to come.
“There’s a lot of existing building stock that has defects in it. And we’ve heard many reports of owners dealing with those challenges that can’t be fixed by reforms.” Building industry investigator
Cracking Up, reported by Sean Nicholls, goes to air on Monday 19th August at 8.30pm. It is replayed on Tuesday 20th August at 1.00pm and Wednesday 21st at 11.20pm. It can also be seen on ABC NEWS channel on Saturday at 8.10pm AEST, ABC iview and at abc.net.au/4corners.
SEAN NICHOLLS, REPORTER: Australia’s apartment building industry is in crisis. for decades it’s been harbouring a dirty secret.
(Montage of news stories about the evacuation of Opal Tower and Mascot Towers in Sydney)
SEAN NICHOLLS, REPORTER: A litany of construction defects. (news stories montage continues)
SEAN NICHOLLS, REPORTER: It’s a problem affecting thousands of new apartment owners across the country.
NICOLE WILDE, STRATA LAWYER: For many people, it’s their only asset, and the expectation should be, in Australia, my greatest asset should be safe.
DR NICOLE JOHNSTON, DEAKIN UNIVERSITY BUSINESS SCHOOL:So it’s not until, as we’ve seen, people exit their properties, have to be out on the streets basically, does this start to come to the attention of the government.
ISSAC LEAN, MASCOT TOWERS APARTMENT OWNER: I just think that it stems from loose regulation, government regulation, that basically it’s a cowboy industry.
KAREN ANDREWS, FEDERAL MINISTER INDUSTRY, SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY: There’s clearly a crisis of confidence and there needs to be a lot of work done to rebuild that confidence broadly across the community
MELANIE BICKET, ELARA APARTMENT OWNER: If I have to pay for the repairs myself, I would have to go bankrupt. There’s no way that I could pay for it. If it was asked of me to pay my share. I don’t have the money, I couldn’t get any more money loaned to me. I’d be done.
Sean Nicholls: Tonight on Four Corners we investigate what’s gone wrong with the Australian apartment building industry. and how decades of inaction has fostered a crisis that will last for years to come. (Title: Cracking Up)
SEAN NICHOLLS, REPORTER: On Friday June 14, Roslyn Lean took an early train home from her job in the Sydney CBD after a disturbing call from her son.
ROSLYN LEAN, MASCOT TOWERS APARTMENT OWNER: I was at work. It was about 4:30, quarter to five in the afternoon. Isaac had the day off work. He rang me and said, “I don’t want to alarm you mum, but I think something’s going on here. There’s a lot of workers in the car park basement.”
SEAN NICHOLLS, REPORTER: The Leans lived in a ten-storey apartment complex built above the station, Mascot Towers. Days earlier, cracks had been detected in the carpark. Engineers were called in and they discovered the building was moving.
SUPERINTENDENT JOSHUA TURNER, NSW FIRE AND RESCUE: So the initial triple zero call came in and it gave information about a potential building or structure collapse from the owners from that building. So we classified that as a building structure, rescue or collapse. So our initial response to that was two fire trucks and a rescue truck.
ISSAC LEAN, MASCOT TOWERS APARTMENT OWNER: I saw a hi-vis worker guy in the lift and I just basically said to him in jest, is the building going to collapse? Just expecting a big no as a reaction. And he turned around calmly and said, well yes, there’s a good chance there is. And I said, how much? And he said, oh, probably around about 60 per cent.
ROSLYN LEAN: The sirens started to come. Police, fire engine, all these sirens.
SUPERINTENDENT JOSH TURNER: The first questions that we asked, is it a collapse? Is it a pending a collapse, is it a potential collapse and the information we had that it was only a risk of collapse. So my head goes around what are the risks, the areas, what resources may I need? I start thinking along those lines as I’m approaching.
ROSLYN LEAN: I went downstairs. A fireman, came up to me and said, “If I was you, I’d be packing your bags.”
SUPERINTENDENT JOSHUA TURNER: We decided in conjunction, in a collaborative approach with the whole team that was there, of engineers, police, ambulance, of the best way forward is now to evacuate. Just to stop this, to protect the safety of everybody within that building.
SEAN NICHOLLS: Residents were ordered to gather a few essentials and get out.
ISSAC LEAN: The building manager said everyone has to be out by 9 PM. I think at that time when we found out it was probably seven o’clock so we had two hours to pack everything and arrange accommodation and get our cars out and all sorts of things. So it was chaos.
ROSLYN LEAN: The police that they were closing off the street. It was just get out, basically get out. And you’re in shock and I think when you get out, you’re starting to think, did that really happen?
SUPERINTENDENT JOSHUA TURNER: People were confused obviously. It was a Friday evening, they’d come home from work, some were coming home from work. So obviously a lot of stuff happening around their place that they needed to get information for. We did our best to try and actually keep a level of obviously calm and work through like we would at every incident. But yeah, obviously very emotional and confusing time.
SEAN NICHOLLS: The drama at Mascot Towers has become symbolic of the crisis that has engulfed Australia’s apartment industry.
PETER MCINTYRE, CEO ENGINEERS AUSTRALIA: This is a pivotal time. There’s certainly a crisis of confidence in the broader community. There’s concern amongst industry. There’s concern amongst organizations like ours and Engineers Australia. So this is a pivotal time to take action and to fix it.
SEAN NICHOLLS: Mascot Towers has a troubled history. Craig Young was one of the first to buy in. (to Craig) So Craig, which one was yours?
CRAIG YOUNG, FORMER MASCOT TOWERS APARTMENT OWNER: My apartment was the first balcony you’ll see just above the podium level here. I first bought into here in 2009. At the time it was one of the few places around here. It was only the second apartment block in this area. And it was convenient, close to the train station, and close to work for me, which is not far away. So it worked out well.
SEAN NICHOLLS: Within a few years, defects started appearing.
ROSLYN LEAN: Well, at the beginning we had minor defect problems; hot water, small things like that. Not major. Later on we had a few other defects that were resolved.
SEAN NICHOLLS: In 2012 the owners’ corporation met to discuss suing the builder.
CRAIG YOUNG: When the chairman called for a vote on a motion to proceed with legal proceedings, which we had to do to spend that sort of dollars on the efforts, a representative of the builder and developer was there along with their lawyer. And they stood up. And the representative from the builder said, “If you proceed with this, you’ll never be able to sell your apartments.” And that left everyone wondering whether they should proceed or not, obviously.
SEAN NICHOLLS: Craig Young sold his apartment five years ago … well before the current structural cracking emerged.
SEAN NICHOLLS: And what do you think about that decision now?
CRAIG YOUNG: Oh, I dodged a bullet, obviously. I feel for the people that are here. And I’d hate to be in that position.
SEAN NICHOLLS: Mascot Towers is 11 years old so the owners have run out of time to sue to builder if he’s found responsible for the current cracking in the building. Depending on the state or territory, apartment owners only have between five and ten years to sue for major structural defects. Two months after Mascot Towers was evacuated, the owners are still waiting to find out what happened.
COLIN GRACE, STRATA LAWYER: From what we understand so far, it’s not really owner’s fault that their building’s in the situation it is. It’s major cracking, we’ve got experts all over the place at the moment. So until we get all that back, we really don’t know what’s happened, where it’s happened, and potentially whose fault it is.
DAVID CHANDLER, NSW BUILDING COMMISSIONER: I’m embarrassed frankly that the industry has allowed a product like Mascot Towers to turn up on the market place.
SEAN NICHOLLS: On Friday at a NSW parliamentary inquiry, the newly installed state building commissioner David Chandler made it clear who he thinks is responsible for the problems.
DAVID CHANDLER: My personal observation of the engineering design is that it’s poor and I’ve built a lot of buildings and I have to say when I walked across that job yesterday I don’t think I’ve seen many buildings as poorly built as that. There’s a builder there that was operating that really shouldn’t have been in the space doing it. They didn’t have the capability, they certainly didn’t know how to read a construction drawing but perhaps the drawings in the first place were flawed.
SEAN NICHOLLS: Four Corners tried to speak to Mascot Towers developer John Elias.
(Sean Nicholls knocks on the front door of John Elias’s house)
SEAN NICHOLLS: Oh hello. Mr Elias?
JOHN ELIAS: Just piss off [door slams]
SEAN NICHOLLS: I don’t think he wants to talk to us.
SEAN NICHOLLS: Lawyers for John Elias said the building was constructed in accordance with all development approvals.
ISAAC LEAN: We’re just moving from location to location and we don’t know when we can move back home.
SEAN NICHOLLS: That must be intensely frustrating?
ISSAC LEAN: Yes, it’s living uncertain every day. One day we could be notified of moving in tomorrow, the next day we could be possibly be notified that we can’t go back in for a year or worse that the building has to be demolished.
SEAN NICHOLLS: Is this an isolated case or is it symptomatic of something that’s going on?
COLIN GRACE: I think construction defects themselves are symptomatic of the problem across, and this is just but one example. You’ve seen in the press recently more and more buildings now, are coming out and saying, “Hey, we’ve got problems as well with defects.”
SEAN NICHOLLS: Mascot Towers is part of an Australia-wide apartment building boom that has lasted for 20 years.Since the Sydney Olympics in 2000, more than 650,000 apartments have been built across the country.
KEN MORRISON, CEO, PROPERTY COUNCIL OF AUSTRALIA: People are reinventing what the great Australian dream means for them, and for a lot of people, that’s still a suburban block or the freestanding house. But for a lot of other people, that’s something different. It’s an apartment in the right location with great access to employment, enjoying a vibrancy of lifestyle that you just the don’t get in a suburbs. The big growth in apartment living has come in recent decades, last two or three decades in particular. It’s been a transformation.
Photo: Daily Telegraph
CAAN: A transformation by the development industry when little else apart from apartments from 2012 to 2017 were constructed. The market target for this industry was Asia particularly China. The FIRB ruling of 2009 allowed them to sell up to 100 per cent of ‘new homes’ to foreign buyers …. hence the supply could not meet the demand …
SEAN NICHOLLS: But the boom has come with a hidden cost. (to Nicole Johnston) How common would you say defects are across buildings in Australia?
NICOLE JOHNSTON, DEAKIN UNIVERSITY BUSINESS SCHOOL: Very common. It’s very common. We’ve got a real problem here. It’s systemic and it’s infecting lots of buildings across the landscape, in all parts of the country. It’s very clear and it’s very prominent, and we’ve got a serious problem here.
BRONWYN WEIR, CO-AUTHOR SHERGOLD WEIR REPORT: What we’re seeing is the outcomes from a poorly oversighted industry with, with a lack of competence and in some cases a lack of integrity. Commercial imperatives have really overtaken public interest in terms of decisions that have been made.
SEAN NICHOLLS: Lawyer Bronwyn Weir co-wrote a major report in February 2018 for federal and state governments that identified many of the problems that have since come to light.
BRONWYN WEIR: I guess the things that we predicted and were worried about have manifested themselves in these, you know, really tragic and awful circumstances for occupiers of those buildings.
SEAN NICHOLLS: The extent of defects problem was revealed in a landmark study published in June this year. The figures are staggering.
NICOLE JOHNSTON, DEAKIN UNIVERSITY BUSINESS SCHOOL: In New South Wales 97 per cent of the buildings that we looked at had at least one defect in multiple locations.
That was followed by Victoria with 74 per cent and Queensland with 71 per cent. There’s a chronic problem here. There’s multiple parts of the building that are affected by defects. It’s not isolated to one type of or one part of the building. It’s across multiple areas in relation to how the building is being constructed.
SEAN NICHOLLS: The problems plaguing Australia’s apartment buildings start right back at the drawing board.
*ROSS TAYLOR, BUILDING DEFECTS CONSULTANT: The process starts not as commonly thought, with it being the turning up at the site and doing a bad job. Shonky tradie sort of thing. That’s a common misunderstanding. In fact the process of these defects being generated starts right at the beginning.
*With the developer.
*SEAN NICHOLLS:Industry trouble shooter Ross Taylor says a common practice by developers is to use big name architects just at the concept stage to give the project sales appeal.
*ROSS TAYLOR: Developers, when they develop a strategy for selling their, they have to get the sales off the plan straight away. Once they’ve got the pre-sales and the bank then allows the money to flow, they then cut the name architect and then go to an unregistered architect or draftsman just to map out the basics to go to tender.
*That’s the start of the defects.
*SEAN NICHOLLS: In the industry, it’s known as the design and construct model … and it’s at the core of the defects issue.
*ROSS TAYLOR: The builder who has no training in design by the way, now takes responsibility for the design done to date, and completing the last half of the detail. Now he’s doing that on a tight budget. And so what frequently happens is he gets the sub-contractor to finish the designs. The way they see fit. The sub-contractor doesn’t have time to complete that design and so he gets his tradies to turn up on the job, to finish the design off on the go. That’s the design and construct model that’s operating in most of these high-rise buildings and is at the heart of the problems that we see today.
SEAN NICHOLLS: The 120-unit Elara complex in the Canberra suburb of Bruce began with excellent credentials.
ROSS TAYLOR: The developer in this case had hired one of the best names in architecture in Australia. In fact the architects that had designed Parliament House in Canberra. It doesn’t get better than that.
SEAN NICHOLLS: The award-winning architects were replaced before construction started.
DAVID ALLEN ELARA APARTMENT OWNER: The initial thing was I guess my daughter was, who was living here, was saying, “Oh, dad, we’ve got some leaks in the balcony,” or, “The car park’s full of water.” That was the initial thing. So I then made inquiries to the strata manager about what was happening. Then the full detail was revealed about the number of issues that we had here.
MELANIE BICKET, ELARA APARTMENT OWNER: We’ve then got occupancy certificates and people have started moving in. People have lived here for years now, and it’s … I don’t want to say it’s falling apart, because it’s not, but it’s got a lot of issues.
SEAN NICHOLLS: And how much worse does it make it, given that it was your first home?
*MELANIE BICKET: It’s shattering. This is what I saved for. All young people are encouraged, save up and buy your first home, because then you’re set for life. Everything’s good at that point. But it’s not. Not when you move into this.
SEAN NICHOLLS: The owners called in defects expert Ross Taylor.
*ROSS TAYLOR: The most apparent, waterproofing issues of water through balconies, and into basements and garages. Then had substantial cracking on the facades, render and brick work of the facades, which is apparent to anybody walking around the place or buying. Then there were fire regulation issues and there were structural adequacy issues that had to be addressed.
*ROSS TAYLOR (pointing to expansion joint at Elara complex) Here is a what’s called a construction joint or expansion joint over the top of the garage which leaks any time it rains.
*SEAN NICHOLLS: After failed attempts to get the builder to fix the defects, the owners took him to court. But the builder placed the company – B&T Constructions – into administration, claiming millions of dollars in debts.
CHRIS KERIN, STRATA LAWYER: It became clear following the appointment of the liquidator that there was no money for the owners corporation. In fact, there was no monies for a number of owners corporations that the builder had been responsible for.
Sean: This was a tactic, was it?
CHRIS KERIN: I mean, I can’t speak to the mind of the builder, but he had a group of companies. There were intercompany loans between those companies. And certainly I would expect that the intention of having a group of companies was to protect his assets and ensure that it was difficult to get at any monies that were around.
SEAN NICHOLLS: The Elara owners tried to claim against a special insurance fund set up by the ACT government. But the federal court ruled they were outside the five-year maximum period.
The owners are appealing the decision … if they lose they face a multi-million dollar defects bill
*MELANIE BICKET: It’s mostly the stress, for me. I’m quite lucky that my apartment itself isn’t affected. I’m not like other people who have leaks within their apartment, who have mould growing and things like that. So I’m pretty lucky in that way, but it’s the stress of it, knowing that things could go wrong in the federal court, and I could be dumped with the cost of repair … my share of repairing this place.
DAVID ALLEN: Now in retirement, we’re still paying off the mortgage, and that’s our superannuation money just going to pay off a mortgage which we never intended to do. so instead of our money running out when we’re 92, it might run out when we’re … I don’t know when it will run out, but certainly it’s our superannuation money now that’s paying the mortgage off on the unit.
SEAN NICHOLLS: In terms of the value of the unit, where are you now from what you paid for it initially?
DAVID ALLEN: Probably minus 50 or 60,000.
SEAN NICHOLLS: Elara’s builder and developer, Ivan Bulum, has a history with ACT regulators.
In 2015 one of his companies was fined $10,000 over defects at a separate development.
*(in front of Canberra building construction site) Ivan Bulum might have walked away from Elara … but that hasn’t stopped him developing new projects. This is one of his company’s latest ventures … selling high end apartments off the plan in central Canberra.
Four Corners approached Bulum Group for an interview … but didn’t get a response.
MELANIE BICKET: If I have to pay for the repairs myself, I would have to go bankrupt. There’s no way that I could pay for it. If it was asked of me to pay my share. I don’t have the money, I couldn’t get any more money loaned to me. I’d be done.
SEAN NICHOLLS: Of all the defect problems, water issues are by far the most common.
NICOLE WILDE, STRATA LAWYER: They affect people directly, they affect them every day. They cause a significant amount of damage over and above the defect itself, and so they’re very expensive to fix. (Bronwyn Cosh and Sean Nicholls walk into apartment with major rectification work)
BRONWYN COSH, MELBOURNE APARTMENT OWNER: So yeah, this is the apartment. Oh wow, it’s been gutted.
SEAN NICHOLLS: How does it feel seeing it like this?
BRONWYN COSH: I’m not sure…
SEAN NICHOLLS: Bronwyn Cosh bought her inner Melbourne apartment as an investment two years ago. It’s the first time she’s been back since rectification work began after serious water damage.
BRONWYN COSH: Basically before this the apartment was full of mould. This was the bedroom here and this was like a walk-through and wardrobes on either side. The bathroom … so the mould was basically all through the wardrobes, the mould covered the whole of the roof, down the side of the walls and spread over to the other side as well. So it was all over the roof as well. And it was black mould as well. So it basically rendered the apartment unliveable.
SEAN NICHOLLS: The problems started weeks after she bought the place … shortly after her first tenants moved in.
BRONWYN COSH: The bathroom, every time they had a shower, the bathroom would flood because the floor wasn’t falling the right way. We’ve had irrigation out the front that flooded by whole courtyard. Then the last flood, which is what caused, kind of like a bomb, was the tenants came home and found the carpet completely saturated. It looks as if water had been running down the walls or it came from somewhere around here. So, yeah, it was quite devastating.
SEAN NICHOLLS: Pretty much have to start from scratch?
BRONWYN COSH: Pretty much as you can see, yeah
SEAN NICHOLLS: The builder accused her tenants of sabotaging the apartment, so they could break the lease.
BRONWYN COSH: That’s what got me angry. How dare you blame my tenant when clearly it’s your fault. It’s your shonky workmanship.
*SEAN NICHOLLS: Bronwyn Cosh was forced to sue her builder, because he didn’t have insurance covering her for defects or unfinished work. In Australia builders don’t need the insurance … if the building is over three storeys high.
*BRONWYN COSH: So of course, this apartment is more than three stories high, my builder doesn’t have builders warranty insurance. So I’ve got nothing to come back on, except the builder himself.
SEAN NICHOLLS: How surprised were you to learn that?
*BRONWYN COSH: Horrified, absolutely horrified. Because it’s not known.
*NICOLE WILDE: If people are not prepared for that kind of financial burden, they can find it really devastating, and I see it with almost all of my clients coming to me and asking, “Well, what do we do now?” And, unfortunately, they all have to spend more money on more expert reports, more legal fees, before they can even get the builder in a room to start talking about what they might cover. And, generally, they’re always somewhat out of pocket, even if they do recover part of it from the builder.
*BRONWYN COSH: Yeah, I’ve just got no words. I never expected this, at all. And I never expected not to have support or back up from the government departments and things like that and, you know, where builders or whoever can just wipe their hands and go, not my problem. And I’m left standing with something that completely wasn’t my fault.
*SEAN NICHOLLS: The other major defect issue is fire protection. In June 2017 the world woke up to the dangers of inadequate fire prevention in high rise towers. The Grenfell disaster in London killed 72 people … the fire spread due to flammable cladding. Flammable cladding on Australian buildings is now in the spotlight. But other common fire safety defects largely remain hidden.
*JONATHAN DULER, FORENSIC ENGINEER: I have never seen a building that isn’t defective in some way. Yeah. And I mean, I know it’s my job, but even just walking around in public, I notice these things. I’ve never seen a building that isn’t defective.
SEAN NICHOLLS: Forensic engineer Jonathan Duler sees first hand the consequences of cost cutting and poor design.
JONATHAN DULER: So, this building, the apartment doors aren’t actually fire doors. They’re just solid core doors. And they did that to save on cost. A fire door is quite expensive at about one and a half grand to install. These ones are a couple of hundred bucks.
SEAN NICHOLLS: So what does that mean for the fire safety of the doors?
JONATHAN DULER: It means that you’re only going to get a maximum rating of about half an hour that the door can resist fire. But that’s not guaranteed.
SEAN NICHOLLS: He’s taking us through a Melbourne apartment block with serious problems … Including fire stairs that in an emergency could put lives at risk.
*JONATHAN DULER: So in a fire there’ll be a lot of smoke in the hallways, people won’t be able to see. Emergency lights will come on but that won’t make a difference. Then they’ll get to the doors, then they’ll come into the stair and they might be faced with 750 people trying to get out at the same time. As you can see, there’s no space to fit that amount of people.
SEAN NICHOLLS: What’s the primary motivation for the builder of doing what’s happened here?
*JONATHAN DULER: Primary motivation, is definitely to get more floor space that is sellable and in apartment buildings that’s worth a lot of money.
SEAN NICHOLLS: Given all the regulations that are in place, how does a system like this get signed off in a building like this?
JONATHAN DULER: It started with the privatisation of the building surveying industry.
SEAN NICHOLLS: One of the biggest changes to the building industry happened 25 years ago with the shift to private certification. State governments started allowing building work to be signed off by private contractors to speed up the approval process.
ROSS TAYLOR: The certifier in this current system is contractually obligated to the developer. The developer hires them. So in a lot of ways they’re representing the developer, not the future owner. The certifier system then has become virtually, it’s a placebo system. It’s one that you put in place when you feel you have to have one that is of no actual effect.
SEAN NICHOLLS: How big an issue in, in your view has this been in creating the current situation?
BRONWYN WEIR, CO-AUTHOR SHERGOLD WEIR REPORT: Well it depends who you ask. Some stakeholders say this is the very reason for all of this. The certifiers themselves of course deny that.
DAVID BLACKETT, PRIVATE CERTIFIER: There are bad apples in every process and every discipline. So, yes, of course building certifiers have a case to answer in relation to the quality of construction, in NSW and Australia today. In terms of the proportion of the responsibility, the proportion of blame certifiers are receiving, is very damaging to our brand, very damaging to our discipline, and blatantly, completely incorrect and inappropriate.
(To Sean) DAVID BLACKETT: So what we’ve got here is typical with an apartment building under construction where we’ve got all the fire rated walls that separate all the apartments.
SEAN NICHOLLS: David Blackett has been a building certifier in NSW for 25 years. He says the problem is not the certifiers, it’s the system.
*(To David Blackett) SEAN NICHOLLS: There is a perception that the certifier is like the policeman on site. Is that accurate? And if not, why not?
*DAVID BLACKETT: No, absolutely not. The frequency of site attendance is governed by legislation. Now if we stick to minimum legislated requirements, we are on site 5 per cent of the construction program, if that. Or we’re here for absolute milestone inspections only, so to suggest that we are policing the project couldn’t be any further inaccurate.
SEAN NICHOLLS:The law says certifiers are only required to check a fraction of these important safety devices called fire dampers designed to prevent fire spreading through a building.
DAVID BLACKETT: In a building of this size – what are we, five or six levels, there could literally be hundreds and hundreds of fire dampers penetrating the walls.
SEAN NICHOLLS: And you’re only required to check one in every 10.
DAVID BLACKETT: One per floor.
SEAN NICHOLLS: That seems crazy.
DAVID BLACKETT: If I have 300, I check one. 299 escape our look.
SEAN NICHOLLS: The same applies to the waterproofing of bathrooms.
*DAVID BLACKETT: Certifiers in NSW, we’re required to look at 10 per cent only per floor. A hundred bathrooms, ten bathrooms only we’re required to look at. So when we come out we’re looking at a membrane on a floor.
We haveno knowledge of how many coats have gone down, we’ve got no knowledge of how it was installed. And we’ve certainly got no knowledge of what happens to that floor after we walk away from the site.
SEAN NICHOLLS: Certifiers approve most construction work by relying on tradespeople and engineers saying they’ve done the job properly.
DAVID BLACKETT: None of that paperwork carries any legal recognition. They’re not legal documents; in some instances they could be written on a beer coaster, because they carry no recognition in the statutory process. The only one document that carries the legal recognition, is our occupation certificate. If something was to fail or go wrong beyond the track, it’s the occupations certificate that’s brought to the table.And it’s the issuance or the author of the occupations certificate who is in the firing line.
SEAN NICHOLLS: And that’s you.
DAVID BLACKETT: And that’s me.
SEAN NICHOLLS: A spectacular example of alleged poor certification of buildings is currently playing out in the Northern Territory.
(ABC News item) NEWS READER: Later this month a structural engineer is set to face an inquiry into alleged professional misconduct after nine multi-storey buildings in Darwin and Palmerston were deemed to be non-compliant.
SEAN NICHOLLS: A government audit of the engineer’s work showed the buildings he approved failed to meet the national construction standards. If found guilty he faces deregistration in the Northern Territory. But that wouldn’t stop him from practising in other states.
*PETER MCINTYRE, CEO ENGINEERS AUSTRALIA:The trouble at the moment is almost anybody in Australia can claim to be an engineer, other than in Queensland where there’s been a registration system in place since 1930. In other states and jurisdictions there is no restriction on anybody claiming to be an engineer. We regard that as being unacceptable, and I think the community, regards this as being unacceptable.
(ABC news item) ABC NEWSREADER: Tonight a 30 storey Sydney apartment building is evacuated amidst fears it could collapse.
SEAN NICHOLLS: Last Christmas Eve Opal Tower residents in Sydney were forced out of their apartments after major cracking. The building was less than a year old.
OPAL TOWER RESIDENT: I was thinking Australia you know is very good in regulation stuff but it was very shocked for me.
*SEAN NICHOLLS: An independent investigation found the damage was caused by changes to the original design. The report said it could have been avoided with a registry of engineers to ensure high standards and regular inspections of the design by another, independent engineer.
*PETER MCINTYRE: That expert report identified that one of the critical factors to the problems in that building was it was not built as designed. So the people who were constructing that building made changes to the design. Presumably not knowing the impact of those changes. What they were doing was going to fundamentally alter the functioning of the building.
*SEAN NICHOLLS: Another major problem contributing to defects is the use of poor-quality building products.
*RODGER HILLS, BUILDING PRODUCTS INDUSTRY COUNCIL: There is structural steel work that’s substandard, there has been problems with asbestos contamination of fibre cement boards in various hospitals around the country. There is also a concern now about lead and lead contamination of plumbing products. There is glass which is substandard, balconies that have exploded and fallen to the street in Melbourne. We’ve got the flammable cladding issue.
(QBCC Inspectors drive to construction site)
SEAN NICHOLLS: It’s a Tuesday morning and inspectors from the Queensland Building and Construction Commission – or QBCC – are heading to a Brisbane building site.
QBCC INSPECTOR: One of the Qld Building commission’s programs we do random site inspections and we’d like to have a quick come on site and have a look at your floor plans, whatever the private certifier signed off and then go for a walk, if you’ve got time.
SITE FOREMAN: Yeah absolutely we’ll get you signed in and we’ll go for a walk ok, come this way.
SEAN NICHOLLS: The QBCC has broad powers to police building sites. One of its key roles is to crack down on a major issue in the industry – dangerous building products. This site gets the all clear.
BRETT BASSETT QBCC COMMISSIONER: One of the key reasons that the Queensland Parliament gave us this power is to make sure that if you are bringing a product into Queensland and then putting it on a building site, that it is safe, that it meets the requisite standards, and that people can have confidence in the built environment in Queensland.
*SEAN NICHOLLS: Queensland’s law is designed to ensure that every person involved in a building can be held legally responsible for the products they use.
RODGER HILLS: It imposed a duty of care on all the people in the building supply chain, to ensure that it wasn’t just the building surveyor at the end of the process that had the duty, it was actually everybody. Which means that you can’t then as an architect, turn around and say, it wasn’t my fault, or the builder, it wasn’t my fault, because you now have a duty to actually make sure it actually is your responsibility. So that’s a fundamental change in the way that building governance and building regulation is supposed to happen and should happen.
*SEAN NICHOLLS: The Queensland law was supposed to be a model for the whole country. In 2017, NSW was set to follow Queensland with its own building products law. The industry was shown a draft bill … but when it got to parliament it had been watered down. The reason? Four Corners Cabinet was worried more regulation could slow down the construction business.
**RODGER HILLS: We were shocked, because the whole thing had been heavily edited and we counted up about 80 clauses that had been pulled out of the documentation. And those clauses were all around non-conforming building products. In fact, the definition of a non-conforming building product wasn’t even in the bill.All of the clauses to do with chain of responsibility and duty of care, they were all taken out. As were all powers, the recall powers the Minister had to recall defective products. So all of the things that actually would make the bill a chain of responsibility bill were gone.
SEAN NICHOLLS: So it had been gutted.
RODGER HILLS: Gutted. Absolutely gutted. And so the industry, we were appalled. When New South Wales failed to do that, the other states and territories went cold on the whole idea.
SEAN NICHOLLS: When Australia’s building ministers met in Sydney in July, there was a growing sense of crisis.
KAREN ANDREWS, INDUSTRY MINISTER: What we need to do is rebuild confidence in Australia’s building and construction sector.
SEAN NICHOLLS: But they’d known about the problems for years.
NICOLE JOHNSTON, DEAKIN UNIVERSITY BUSINESS SCHOOL: People have been jumping up and down about this for years and years and years. I’ve spoken to a lot of people in the industry that have been really concerned about the nature of building defects in this country. And there’s been lots of committees formed, there’s been lots of task forces, there’s been lots of consideration around this, but really nothing has happened.
SEAN NICHOLLS: Seventeen months before the July meeting they’d been handed a major report by lawyer Bronwyn Weir and former public servant Peter Shergold.
BRONWYN WEIR: One of the tasks we were asked to do was to consider other reports. And essentially what our report does is draw the threads together of other, you know, very eminent experts who’ve told governments that these issues are occurring in the sector.
That’s why our report is so concise because it was so obvious looking at a range of reports, what the key themes were. So these, the people have been saying these things for a long, long time.
NICOLE JOHNSTON: So it’s not until, as we’ve seen, people exit their properties, have to be out on the streets basically, does this start to come to the attention of the government or governments.
SEAN NICHOLLS: The building ministers finally agreed to implement the report’s recommendations including a crackdown on private certifiers and registering everyone involved in the building process.
KAREN ANDREWS: The states and territories have committed to nationally consistent outcomes. That’s what industry has been calling for. They’ve got the key recommendations from the Shergold Weir Report and if they don’t act, I think that they will rightfully deserve and get the wrath of the Australian public.
KEN MORRISON, PROPERTY COUNCIL OF AUSTRALIA: It’s very important that as governments work through these issues that they do give it priority, it doesn’t just disappear from the headlines and therefore disappear from policymakers’ focus, and that we do get those recommendations in. It’s important obviously for all those people who are living in apartments or looking to purchase apartments, but it’s also important for an industry which provides hundreds of thousands of jobs for the Australian economy at a time when we need those jobs.
CAAN: PCA: DEVELOPER LOBBY; Scott Morrison wrote their policy before entering politics
(To Bronwyn Weir) SEAN NICHOLLS: If the states and territories implemented all of your recommendations in your report today, what’s the legacy that we’re still left with in terms of buildings that have been constructed over the last 20 years?
BRONWYN WEIR: The existing building stock is what it is. You know, we have hundreds of thousands of apartments that have been built across the country over the last two, three decades. Probably the prevalence of noncompliance has been particularly bad, I would say in the last say 15 to 20 years. It’s gotten worse over that period. And that means there’s a lot of existing building stock that has defects in it. And we’ve heard many reports of owners dealing with those challenges that can’t be fixed by reforms responding to our recommendations.
SEAN NICHOLLS: Would you buy a new apartment today?
BRONWYN WEIR: I wouldn’t buy a newly built apartment. No. I’d be, if I was going to be investing in in an apartment, I’d buy an older one.
SEAN NICHOLLS: The drama of Mascot Towers has forced governments to act on the national defects issue. But that’s little comfort for residents.
ROSLYN LEAN: We received an email on a Monday night saying that our building was moving in a downward motion and it would be better if we moved all our furniture out. It conjured up images of the building sinking.
SEAN NICHOLLS: Roslyn Lean is living in a serviced apartment partly paid for by the NSW government. She’s allowed back into the building on restricted days to water her plants.
This week owners expect an engineer’s report to reveal what’s wrong with the building.
*ROSLYN LEAN: My worst fear would be that if we can’t move back at all or we’re out for much longer what are we going to do financially, I don’t know how this is going to go. That’s my worst fear, not knowing how long we’ll be out of our apartment and the financial situation its going to put on all of us. So that’s my worst fear.
SEAN NICHOLLS: Close to 140,000 apartments are currently planned or being built across the country. The lesson from this crisis is buyer beware.
BRONWYN COSH: For me, personally, I would not buy a brand new apartment ever again. For me, this has done the damage for me. I don’t want to go through this again.
MELANIE BICKET: Don’t buy an apartment. I’d just kind of say, you don’t know what you’re walking into anymore, with this going on everywhere. You’re really rolling the dice now.
In Clive Hamilton’s view, these are serious matters. “Events like these give pause to the public that is not formerly focused on the issue of CCP influence to say, ‘What the hell is going on?’ ” says Hamilton. “If you have a bunch of angry students who appear to be representing a dictatorial regime on one of our campuses, that fires people up, in a way that events in the South China Sea might not.”
Others see it very differently. David Brophy, senior lecturer in modern Chinese history at Sydney University, thinks the debate risks sliding into McCarthyism and racism.
He stresses that he is no apologist for the Chinese Communist Party.
“I’m very critical of the situation in China,” Brophy says. “I am particularly concerned about what’s happening in Hong Kong and in Xinjiang [where the Chinese government is engaged in a process of cultural genocide against the Muslim Uygur population].
“But it all needs to be put into perspective. There is a tendency to link all these issues – of which there are many – into a common story. If there’s a sense that the hundreds of thousands of Chinese students are part of some conspiracy to deprive us of our liberties and/or democracy, I can see that easily turning into something quite nasty.”
Brophy suggests such thinking is the obverse of Chinese propaganda that promotes the notion of conspiracy against it. He points to the “citizen panellist” on Monday’s episode of the ABC’s Q&A program, Li Shee Su, who suggested the Hong Kong demonstrators might be termed terrorists, and that foreign intelligence agencies were behind the protests. Many, including Hamilton, were concerned by Li’s rhetoric, which appeared to echo the propaganda in official Chinese media.
“I saw Li on Q&A,” says Brophy. “There’s no doubt he was expressing views that exist in the Chinese community, but equally there’s no doubt in my mind that a lot of this simply reflects a Chinese patriotism, a sense among the Chinese–Australian population that China doesn’t get a fair run in the Australian media.”
He has a point. As does Hamilton. It’s a difficult balancing act.
At least, though, such debate can be had. Unlike in Xi’s China.
Let’s scope the degree of difficulty. The weekend provided lots of input. Via News:
Pro-China counter protesters clashed with Hong Kong democracy demonstrators on Friday. Picture: Erik Anderson/AAPSource:AAP
Thousands of people marched through the streets of Sydney today with protesters chanting that Hong Kong is part of China.
It comes after disturbing footage from Friday showed pro-Hong Kong protesters taunted with expletive-laden chants from pro-Chinese activists before scuffles broke out in Melbourne and Adelaide.
Hundreds of protesters converged in cities across Australia for the rallies in support of the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong last night.
*Footage posted to social media shows Chinese students at a protest at the University of South Australia in Adelaide, chanting “Cao ni ma bi” or “F*** your mother’s c***” to Hong Kong protesters.
In Melbourne, footage from last night shows pro-Chinese activists chanting “Jiao baba” — which roughly translates to “call us dad”.
Other videos from last night show up to 1000 rival activists jostling as tempers flared at the demonstration in Melbourne — which began at 7pm outside the State Library in Swanston Street last night.
The two groups faced off and exchanged heated words before police formed a line separating the groups. Among the chaos, an ABC cameraman was shoved by a man who then appeared to attack his gear.
The Herald Sun reports that pro-democracy advocates chanted “Free Hong Kong” as they gathered on the steps of the library, carrying signs pledging “solidarity with Hong Kong”.
Some of their posters read, “Say No to Hong Kong Police’s Brutality”, “Support Hong Kong people against tyranny” and “I can’t keep calm because Hong Kong is dying.”
Some were also wearing red bandages over their right eyes in solidarity with a girl who was allegedly shot in the eye by police in Hong Kong late last week.
A social media post by the rally’s organiser claimed it had been disbanded about 9pm due to “acts of violence from counter protesters”.
Hundreds of protesters are gathered in Sydney yesterday. Picture: Tim HunterSource:News Corp Australia
*The Communist Party of China (CPC) loved every minute of it, via the ABC:
*Chinese Government-controlled media has publicly congratulated pro-Beijing protesters who gathered in Melbourne on Friday, while the nation’s ambassador to Australia has warned foreigners not to support pro-democracy activists.
An estimated 600 people from rival pro-Hong Kong democracy and pro-China groups took part in demonstrations outside the State Library of Victoria in Melbourne.
Several scuffles broke out, forcing police to separate the groups.
*Footage of Friday night’s protests quickly spread on Chinese state media, where reports were favourable of the pro-China protesters who they said surrounded the pro-democracy demonstrators.
*“Melbourne’s Chinese students and Chinese immigrants spontaneously came and hung the national flag, supported the motherland and surrounded the pro HK independence people,” one report said.
“In order to prevent the national flag from getting wet, the patriots held umbrellas for the national flag in the rain. There are Chinese flag guards everywhere. Good job!”
At the time of publication, the post had been “liked” more than 1.1 million times and shared almost 100,000 times.
*Ambassador warns foreigners not to interfere
China’s ambassador to Australia, Cheng Jingye, issued a statement on Saturday morning, as further rallies were taking place in Sydney and Melbourne.
He denounced the Hong Kong protesters’ actions as “radical, violent and illegal” and said they were determined to undermine its “one country, two systems” arrangement.
“Their behaviours have grossly trampled on the rule of law and social order in Hong Kong, seriously threatened the local residents’ life and safety, severely jeopardised Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability,” he said.
No responsible government would sit idly by.”
He added that the unfolding situation was “solely the internal affairs of China” and warned foreign governments, including Australia’s, to not support Hong Kong’s protesters or interfere.
“We sincerely hope that people from all walks of life in Australia will see the real picture of situation in Hong Kong, act in the interests of Hong Kong’s prosperity, stability and rule of law,” he said.
“Any attempt to mess up Hong Kong is doomed to fail.”
*But it’s OK to interfere here apparently.
The CPC is very likely directly behind the protests in some significant measure. And is 100% behind them indirectly, via SBS
The fallout following the altercation [at the University of Queensland] saw reports that the Hong Kong students’ political activity would be documented and sent to the Chinese government.
Fearing for her own safety, [Hong Kong international student] Phoebe is now protesting from behind a cleaning mask.
“We just found out our photos have been spread over the Chinese internet,” she told The Feed.
I’m worried that if the Hong Kong government or the Chinese government find out who I am, then I may not be able to go home, “I do feel like I have to protect my identity in order to keep standing with the Hong Kong people.”
There are also many reports of intimidation here and in China, including shadowy CPC officials threatening relatives of Hong Kong protesters at home.
Hong Kong protest movement leaders are calling on Australia for support, at News:
In an exclusive interview with News Corp, the group’s spokesman Joshua Wong, said the Australian government must take a stand against China following their abuse of power in the autonomous region.
“I hope the Australian government sends a clear message to President Xi. Now is the time for Australia to stop supporting China’s military and take a stand with Hong Kong,” he said
“Now is the time for world leaders to speak out against what has been done to Hong Kong and support our human rights.
“The ‘one country, two systems’ has been eroded.”
But also to keep it peaceful, at a rally by teachers in HK on Saturday, at The Australian:
Angel Chen, a teacher of Chinese literature and culture, told The Weekend Australian that pro-China supporters were deliberately trying to provoke a violent response from the protesters.
She said it was important that protesters remain calm in the face of those provocations.
“China is upset and they want to make us fierce,” Ms Chen said.
“We will not be, we just want to say our demands.”
Another teacher, who did not want to be named, said the principal of the public school at which she works had instructed its teachers to “keep their mouths shut” and not be part of the rally.
The Australian: Chinese troops mass near the border, a ghoulish parlour game has emerged among the city’s expat population.
ScoMo’s dills are miles behind the curve, at Domain:
Four Liberal MPs have warned that the Chinese Communist Party holds too much influence over Australian universities, adding their voices to a growing chorus of federal politicians looking to reassess the government’s China strategy.
Thousands of pro-democracy and pro-Communist Party protesters clashed in capital cities on Friday night following an unprecedented week of rising tensions in Hong Kong.
Queensland senator Amanda Stoker, freshman Sydney MP Dave Sharma, and Victorian backbenchers Tim Wilson and James Paterson warned that university administrators must remain vigilant to ensure not only free speech is protected when managing the clashes, but national security as well. Senator Stoker and Mr Wilson are members of the powerful Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security.
It comes after Education Minister Dan Tehan on Saturday urged universities to subscribe to the model free speech code proposed by former High Court chief justice Robert French in his government-commissioned review released this year.
Sure, but who’s listening? Nobody. Not even the Coalition, via The Australian:
Education Minister Dan Tehan says the government is taking foreign interference in the university sector “incredibly seriously”, slapping down concerns from Liberal MPs that the sector is not doing enough to combat subversion from the Communist Party of China.
Mr Tehan this morning rejected a claim by Liberal National senator Amanda Stoker there was a “crisis of leadership” on the issue.
These are issues that have emerged over the last few years. They are ones which require careful consideration. But I must say the engagement I have had with the sector, they understand how important this is that we get it right,” Mr Tehan told Sky News on Sunday.
So seriously it’s talking, talking, talking.
*So, what should we do? The major constraint on explicit action is not economic fallout. It is the 100k Aussies in Hong Kong that are effectively diplomatic hostages. Therefore we should keep things neutral as we:
heavily police all protests to protect the public, and
halve the permanent migrant intake without targeting any one nation.
That will also kill off the inflow of mainland Chinese students. Special dispensation for Hong Kong residents can be made in due course, when things get nasty.
Australia needs to get on the front foot with this. As Hong Kong deteriorates, it’s going to get much worse here. Via The Australian:
The latest rally — the biggest in weeks — took place at Victoria Park in Causeway Bay, but so large were the numbers that the maze of streets leading into the park were jammed shoulder to shoulder, forming a human gridlock through a shopping district famous for charging some of the highest retail rents in the world.
Themain roads in and out of Hong Kong remained closed at around 9.30pm local time, with thousands of people continuing to stream through Wan Chai towards Centralmore than seven hours after the event formally began.
Despite persistent and at times torrential rain, organisers estimated that around 1.7 million people filled Hong Kong’s Victoria Park and the streets of the surrounding Causeway Bay retail precinct in what was the biggest single protest in the city since June.
Aussie liberalism, multiculturalism and democratic integrity need protection as the CPC goes to war with its persecuted subjects.
The inquiry into NSW building standards on Friday featured the state’s new building commissioner, David Chandler, who lambasted the dodgy builders and engineers behind Sydney’s apartment crisis. From The SMH:
“It’s time for the NSW building industry to be different,” Mr Chandler, an experienced builder and manager who was last month appointed to the position by Premier Gladys Berejiklian.
Mr Chandler told the committee the building industry in NSW had developed an “unsustainable culture of … ‘what’s in it for me’.”
Mr Chandler said he visited Mascot Towers and the evacuated apartments at Zetland on Thursday.
“When I walked across that job yesterday I don’t think I’ve seen many buildings as poorly built as that,” Mr Chandler said of the Mascot block, which had been “poorly” engineered in his opinion.
“I’m quite certain that the builder didn’t know how to read any construction plans,” he said… “There’s a builder there that’s operating that really shouldn’t have been in the space doing it. They didn’t have the capability, they certainly didn’t have the construction drawings. But perhaps the drawings in the first place were flawed.”
Seriously, who can be surprised by this debacle given the track record of the private building certifier “primarily responsible” for privatising the supervision of building standards in the 1980s and 90s. Also from The SMH:
Lyall Dix, who enjoys Sydney Harbour views from his Vaucluse home, received the largest ever fine of $50,000 in 2012.CREDIT:RENEE NOWYTARGER
*Lyall Dix has been fined more than $88,000 by the Building Professionals Board following a dozen complaints about his role as a certifier, including that he “failed to adequately inspect” buildings, and “exercise reasonable care and attention” as the principal certifying authority.
*The Herald revealed earlier this month that Mr Dix lost his accreditation and was disqualified from being a certifier for five years in 2012, but back in the 1980s, he was the head of the building branch of the NSW Department of Local Government.
*This department was “zealous in its enthusiasm to break local government’s monopoly” on building controls, Development and Environmental Professionals’ Association (DEPA) Secretary Ian Robertson, said.
*“Lyall Dix was the person primarily responsible for introducing private certification options in the Local Government Act in 1989, ” Mr Robertson, who has worked with DEPA since 1984, said.
*“The process managed by the Building Branch in the lead up to the legislation was disgraceful.
*Local government bodies representing councils as well as employees who were building surveyors were never consulted.”
*The fact of the matter is that for the better part of 20 years, the development industry has demanded more and more deregulation and the removal of “red tape” in the planning system to allow them to build bigger apartments faster.
*This, they claimed, would allow housing supply to respond to demand and help fix the housing crisis.
Fairfax’s Elizabeth Farrelly summed up the farce nicely last month:
In effect they insisted that legitimising rubbish housing was the key to affordability. Developers, went the unstated theory, couldn’t be expected to do anything but gouge the market. To build anything affordable, therefore, they had essentially to be subsidised – with dodgy materials, permissive planning, outsize buildings, suspect certification and professionals more flexible than your average yoga-mat.
They had to be allowed to produce crap.
Except that suddenly – 10 years on – these crap homes, for which almost all public protection has been ritually burned, don’t look terribly affordable at all. In fact, they look like cynical, developer-fattening honey-traps set to impoverish families, communities, and the construction industry for years to come.
And suddenly they’re all pretending they never pushed for it.
Suddenly Meriton wants immediate reform to stop substandard buildings.
The Urban Taskforce supports Shergold and Weir’s calls for reregulation, clear materials standards and independent certification.
The proof is now in the pudding, with rubbish apartment blocks spreading like weeds across Sydney, many requiring rectification, and owners and taxpayers left to pick up the tab.
For years, the development industry has been allowed to run rampant across Sydney. It now must be muzzled by the government.
*New criminal penalties and a scheme to identify company directors are urgently needed to crack down on the scourge of illegal phoenixing activity, according to the peak body of insolvency practitioners.
*Both measures are contained in the Morrison government’s Combating Illegal Phoenixing bill but the Australian Restructuring Insolvency & Turnaround Association (ARITA) is frustrated at the pace of reform after the bill was allowed to lapse at the May election.
“Despite the claims of action by government, unfortunately almost nothing is really being done,” the ARITA chief executive, John Winter, told Guardian Australia.
*ARITA wrote to federal parliamentarians this week urging them to do more to combat phoenixing – a practice where under-capitalised companies intentionally go into liquidation to avoid paying creditors and workers’ entitlements – warning that reforms should be in place ahead of potential economic downturn.
In February the Morrison government introduced the phoenixing bill, which lapsed when parliament was dissolved ahead of the May election. The assistant treasurer, Michael Sukkar, reintroduced it in July.
Sukkar told the House of Representatives illegal phoenixing “has been a problem for many decades” and boasted the bill would give regulators the ability to “prosecute or penalise directors and others who facilitate this illegal activity, such as unscrupulous pre-insolvency advisers”.
Under the new criminal offences illegal asset stripping would attract penalties of up to 10 years imprisonment.
The ARITA report to MPs and senators says the bill “goes some way to addressing this issue and is worthy of support but much more focus is still needed to protect the community as a whole from this scourge”.
ARITA noted the phoenixing bill would also create a director identity number, “linking their past and present directorships to help prevent illegal phoenixing and limit the damage done by inept entrepreneurs”. It said this would require “resourcing and prioritising a complete overhaul of the ASIC register”.
In addition to higher penalties and the director identity number, ARITA wants: a greater focus on enforcement actions by the corporate regulator, Asic; abolition of fees on its members which it claims are “effectively working as an extension of the regulator for free”; and a crackdown on unregulated “pre-insolvency advisors” it claims help companies avoid their obligations.
On Friday Guardian Australia reported that Asic is yet to use powers it gained in April to disqualify company directors or managers who improperly access the taxpayer-funded safety net to pay workers of their failed companies, because the lack of retrospective effect of the laws means no officers eligible for the penalty have yet been identified.
Winter said ARITA had been “pushing the government for reform” because its members “are at the frontline of combatting phoenixing – they uncover it long before the ATO or Asic are even remotely aware of it”.
The safety net for unpaid wages, the Fair Entitlement Guarantee, is expected to cost $882m over the next four years. In the last four years, the commonwealth has recovered just $170m from companies that accessed the scheme, a figure boosted by Queensland Nickel repaying $66m to taxpayers.
‘It’s almost been 10 months (!!) since City of Ryde supported my refusal recommendation on this Meriton monstrosity.
The Berejiklian State Government still haven’t formally refused it.
Get on with it.’
“People in Ryde are sick of state government-enabled overdevelopment in Ryde – our demands are simple – abolish priority precincts, exempt us from the Medium Density Housing Code and listen to our community,” council said.
Meriton calls off lawsuit against NSW government over towers
Apartment developer Meriton’s Karimbla Constructions Services has withdrawn its legal action against NSW Planning Minister Anthony Roberts and the Greater Sydney Commission over a stalled high-rise apartment project in Sydney’s Macquarie Park.
It was a second blow to Meriton which had already been knocked back on an initial 63-storey tower at the site by the City of Ryde council.
Following council’s plea to the NSW government to support its recommendation to refuse the project altogether – there were more than 400 public submissions opposing the development – Ryde Liberal MP and Minister for Customer Service Victor Dominello raised concerns with Ms Berejiklian before a moratorium was put in place.
In March, Karimbla filed legal proceedings against Ms Berejiklian, Mr Roberts, the GSC and the Department of Planning secretary Carolyn McNally in the NSW land and environment court in an effort to force an approval for the project.
Mr Dominello has welcomed the withdrawal of the lawsuit.
“A number of my opponents believed the Greater Sydney Commission’s review into local planning laws was a publicity stunt, but this decision proves the naysayers wrong. This is a big win for our community,” he told The Australian Financial Review.
Thewithdrawal follows an earlier court decision in June to allow the removal of Ms Berejiklian from the lawsuit. At the time, the court set down last Friday for a mediation between the parties and if that failed, a two-day hearing would follow.
The mediation didn’t take place following the withdrawal of the lawsuit.
*Macquarie Park has been the subject of many high rise apartment developments over the past few years since it was identified for urban renewal and given its access to two Sydney metro train stations.
CAAN Photo: Prime by JQZ a PRECINCT of 4 towers and 1 block within the Macquarie Park Precinct!
CAAN Photo: Park One 80 Waterloo Road by ICON
CAAN Photo: Natura by RomeCiti Waterloo Road next to the Icon development Park One and to a reserve; a deep excavation is underway
CAAN Photo: April 2019 Herring Road Precinct Macquarie Park. Much of Herring Road has been redeveloped for high-rise. Development is now underway on the opposite side of Herring Road to match this!
High-rise development extends into Peachtree Road, Epping Road, Talavera Road, Waterloo Road, Macquarie Park … to Lachlan’s Line Macquarie Park, North Ryde Station Precinct, throughout North Ryde, Top Ryde, Gladesville and the Godzillas of Meadowbank!
*In its refusal to support Meriton’s Talavera Road development, City of Ryde said there wasn’t sufficient infrastructure (particularly surrounding traffic and congestion) to support rising overdevelopment in Macquarie Park.
*“People in Ryde are sick of state government-enabled overdevelopment in Ryde – our demands are simple – abolish priority precincts, exempt us from the Medium Density Housing Code and listen to our community,” council said.
The co-author of a landmark report on how to fix Australia’s building industry has declared she would not buy a newly built apartment, given the scale of the problems.
“If I was going to be investing in an apartment, I’d buy an older one. It’s common sense, isn’t it? It’s just logical,” Bronwyn Weir told a Four Corners investigation into Australia’s building industry.
“I wouldn’t buy a newly built apartment. No.”
Ms Weir and former senior public servant Peter Shergold co-wrote the Building Confidence report commissioned by Australia’s federal, state and territory building ministers.
“The existing building stock is what it is. We have hundreds of thousands of apartments that have been built across the country over the last two, three decades,” she said.
“Probably the prevalence of noncompliance has been particularly bad, I would say in the last say 15 to 20 years. It’s gotten worse over that period. And that means there’s a lot of existing building stock that has defects in it.
“[The new reforms] won’t improve existing building stock unfortunately. So there’ll be legacy issues for some time and I suspect there’ll be legacy issues that we’re not even fully aware of yet.”
Beware of buying off the plan, Ms Weir warns
Ms Weir said for those looking to buy an apartment, it was more prudent to opt for a building “that maybe is, say, five years plus [of age]”.
CAAN: Mascot Towers 12 years old? Body Corporates tend to conceal building defect issues due to concerns for loss of property value
“You would like to think that if there are major issues with that building, they’ll have started to show,” she said.
“So I think if people are looking at investing, there are ways to do good due diligence. Buying off the plan is a really tricky proposition at the moment.”
Ms Weir said high-profile cases such as the evacuation of Opal Tower and Mascot towers in Sydney meant “there is a lack of confidence” in the building industry.
But she hoped some better builders would give people assurances it was safe to buy “and try to salvage what has been a pretty damaging impact of these latest news stories”.
A recent study of apartment building defects in Australia by Deakin University and Griffith University found 97 per cent of buildings examined in NSW had at least one defect in multiple areas. In Victoria the figure was 74 per cent and in Queensland it was 71 per cent.
One of the study’s authors, Deakin University’s Nicole Johnston, told Four Corners previous calls for reform had gone largely unheeded.
“People have been jumping up and down about this for years and years and years,” Dr Johnston said.
“There’s been lots of committees formed, there’s been lots of task forces, there’s been lots of consideration around these, but really nothing has happened“.
NSW missed opportunity to bring in stricter laws
One glaring example of inaction is how NSW failed to implement laws that could have addressed a major underlying reason for defective building work: dangerous or inferior products.
*The laws — known as chain of responsibility laws — ensure every person who uses or supplies a product on a building can be held personally responsible if it fails.
*Later that year, NSW showed a draft bill of its own proposed law to a meeting of building industry groups.
*”What we saw was a draft bill that was the Queensland legislation but on steroids — it was better,” Rodger Hills, the executive officer at the Building Products Industry Council, said.
“They had taken a lot of time to incorporate all the learnings and findings from the Queensland experience and wrapped it up into a piece of legislation that was robust, it was easy to use, and it would have done its job.
“The industry representative left that meeting very hopeful that this was something that was going to be useful and it actually worked properly.”
*When the bill entered the NSW Parliament, Mr Hills said the industry was shocked to see it had been “absolutely gutted.”
*“We counted up about 80 clauses that had been pulled out of the documentation,” he said.
“Those clauses were all around non-conforming building products. In fact, the definition of a non-conforming building product wasn’t even in the bill.
“All of the clauses to do with chain of responsibility and duty of care, they were all taken out. As were all powers, the recall powers the minister had to recall defective products.”
Government did not want to add more red tape
Four Corners has confirmed the NSW Cabinet rejected the proposed chain of responsibility law due to concerns it would impose more red tape on the building industry, potentially slowing it down.
The NSW Minister for Innovation Kevin Anderson would not comment on Cabinet deliberations but said: “The NSW Government is currently implementing the largest reform to the building and construction industry in the history of the state.”
“As part of those reforms, the Government is considering a raft of measures that will improve the transparency, accountability and quality of work within the sector,” he said.
Mr Anderson said the current situation “is a collective making of industry and the need for more modernised legislation”.
The property industry disputes that there is a crisis, but is backing calls for state governments to implement the recommendations of the Shergold-Weir report.
The chief executive of the Property Council of Australia, Ken Morrison, told Four Corners “the overwhelming majority of people in the industry are doing the right thing and, in fact, there’s great projects right across our cities”.
“I think that statistic [on building defects] points to the fact that when you’re doing something very complicated like building a high-rise apartment building, there are going to be things which need to get fixed up,” he said.
Asked if he would buy a new apartment, Mr Morrison replied: “I would, absolutely. I think I would be a discerning buyer looking for quality, but absolutely I would.”
Watch Sean Nicholls’ investigation, Cracking Up, tonight on Four Corners at 8:30pm on ABC TV and iview.
The personal health information of 317 people applying for Australian visas was accidentally emailed to a member of the general public, an ABC investigation has revealed.
317 names, dates of birth, passport numbers and medical test notes were sent to an unknown Gmail address
The subcontractor was removing data from secure Immigration Department systems, against government policy
Subcontractors are increasingly relied upon to handle sensitive public data
The security bungle occurred when a spreadsheet was sent by mistake to an unknown individual’s email address, because of a typo.
The privacy breach, which happened in 2015, occurred under the watch of Australia’s largest health insurance company, Bupa, and one of its subcontractors, Sonic HealthPlus (SHP).
Bupa is contracted by the Department of Home Affairs to assess the health of people applying for visas and permanent residency in Australia.
Documents obtained under a Freedom of Information request by the ABC reveal that in August 2015, an SHP employee accidentally sent the names, dates of birth, and passport numbers of 317 people, along with “brief notes, summaries and comments about the status of the medical tests being conducted” to an unknown Gmail address.
It was a mistake that would eventually lead Google Australia to intervene.
Bupa has also struggled with data security in the past. In 2017, the information of an estimated 20,000 Australians was compromised when a Bupa employee in the UK was found to have put client data from the insurance giant up for sale on the dark web.
Bruce Baer Arnold, a privacy and health law expert from the University of Canberra, said the latest privacy breach was “deeply concerning”.
“With this one, I’m just speechless,” Dr Baer Arnold said.
“The idea that we have an inadequately-supervised subcontractor using something like Gmail to transfer sensitive, personal health information is utterly appalling.”
In a statement to the ABC, the Department of Home Affairs said the matter was immediately brought to their attention and fully investigated.
“The document contained bio-data details of visa applicants. No actual personal client medical records were disclosed as part of this incident.”
The department said it was satisfied Bupa, and all of its subcontractors, currently only use systems that comply with the government’s data security protocols.
Contractors can be a security vulnerability
Following the freshly revealed 2015 privacy breach, the then-department of immigration and border protection discovered that subcontractor SHP was removing the data of visa applicants from “authorised departmental health systems” and creating status reports in the form of Excel spreadsheets to send to Bupa.
The information was being extracted and shared in this way between SHP and Bupa against the department’s policies and without its knowledge.
It led the department’s chief medical officer to write to the managing director of Bupa to inform him the company had “failed to comply” with the privacy obligations set out in its contract with the Federal Government.
The matter was referred to the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner.
Following the privacy breach, SHP and Bupa made several attempts to recall the email.
Bupa eventually went to the extent of contacting Google Australia, five weeks after the incident, to try and get the email back. Google agreed to remove the email from the receiver’s inbox after notifying them.
Seventy days after the breach, on 16 October 2015, the department contacted the people whose information had been disclosed.
“A routine report prepared by a SHP temporary employee was sent to a SHP clinical officer for clearance,” stated the letter, which was later published on the Migration Alliance website.
“The SHP clinical officer inadvertently mistyped the Gmail address of one of the intended recipients, and as a result, the report was sent to an email account … the identity of the recipient unknown.”
The department instructed Bupa to undertake an immediate review of all policies and procedures related to the security of personal information handled by Bupa and its subcontractors.
“Bupa acknowledges that the process used to share the document containing the data was outside of the authorised departmental health systems,” a spokesperson said.
“We know the importance of responsibly managing private data and took immediate actions at the time to address the matter.”
The spokesperson said Bupa had since improved its data security practices, and introduced mandatory privacy training for employees dealing with visa health assessments, and an audit program to assess subcontractors’ security practices.
More transparency needed
Dr Baer Arnold said incidents like this made it difficult for Australians to trust governments with their personal information.
He said private contractors were increasingly getting access to government data but that there was little transparency around the data security practices of those contractors or their subcontractors.
“I think it’s extremely likely that there have been other problems, we just haven’t heard about them,” he said.
“We’re increasingly relying on agents in the private sector to do work for government and many of those agents clearly are just not up to it.
“If this information is not encrypted, if it’s being shared by badly-supervised subcontractors using a Gmail address, we’re not up to speed. We need to do something about it.”
Dr Baer Arnold said security standards had to be a priority whenever the government awarded contracts that would allow private service providers access to sensitive personal data.
“Is this something we should bear in mind when we give contracts, sometimes very profitable contracts, to entities such as Bupa?” he said.
“If they’re not up to speed, we shouldn’t be rewarding them by encouraging bad practice.”
Bupa has the contract to provide immigration health assessments and medical services for the Government until 2021.
“The Government should be reasonably expected to have proper supervision of its contractor and by extension subcontractors,” Dr Baer Arnold said.
Who was affected?
Immigration medical assessments, carried out by Bupa and its subcontractors, are required for certain visa applications and for people applying for permanent residency in Australia.
The purpose is to protect the Australian community from public health risks, but also to assess whether applicants are likely to impose a significant burden on the public health system.