71 people died when the Grenfell Tower went up in flames. Picture: Getty Images
71 people died when the Grenfell Tower went up in flames. Picture: Getty Images

Building boss slams epic ‘failures’

The boss of a major Australian building materials company has lashed out at the safety of the industry in the wake of cracking residential towers, calling for regulations to be "implemented immediately".

Brickworks managing director Lindsay Partridge said both local and international failures had highlighted the danger of unsafe materials and construction practices, with changes needed for the safety of residents.

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"Unfortunately, these failures do not come as a surprise," Mr Lindsay said in the company's annual profit results announcements to the ASX on Thursday.

"Over the past decade, I have never seen a combination of such poor-quality building products and substandard construction practices, and this is placing consumers at risk.

"This situation is clearly unacceptable, and at Brickworks we have represented our concerns to all levels of government in support of the calls for tighter controls and increased compliance within the industry."

Mr Partridge's comments come after a series of structural failures and cracking buildings, including the forced evacuations in Sydney of the Opal Tower on Christmas Eve and Mascot Towers in June.

Residents at Opal Tower were forced to evacuate on Christmas Eve after cracks appeared in the walls.
Residents at Opal Tower were forced to evacuate on Christmas Eve after cracks appeared in the walls.

The managing director also called for cladding to be made from non-combustible building materials after 71 people died in the devastating Grenfell Tower fire.

Mr Partridge demanded three immediate changes to building regulations:

• Buildings constructed using lightweight permanent formwork should be inspected by X-ray or other legitimate methods prior to a certificate of occupation being issued.

• The removal of an exemption in the National Construction Code that does not require some products such as fibre cement, which "disintegrates in a fire", to be tested.

• All exterior cladding on residential houses should be made from non-combustible, fire-resistant building materials.

Seventy-one people died when the Grenfell Tower went up in flames. Picture: Getty Images
Seventy-one people died when the Grenfell Tower went up in flames. Picture: Getty Images

PROFIT RESULT

Brickworks' full-year profit slipped 11.9 per cent to $154.6 million as record earnings from its industrial property portfolio failed to offset the impact of Australia's cooling housing market.

Higher energy prices and lower demand over the 12 months to July 31 contributed to an 18 per cent fall in earnings at its Australian building products division, while investments earnings fell 16 per cent after Round Oak Minerals - which is part-owned by Brickworks through its interest in Washington H Soul Pattinson - reported a large full-year loss.

Brickworks, which raised $208 million during the year by trimming its interest in Soul Patts from 42.7 to 39.4 per cent, raised its final dividend by two cents to 38 cents but flagged a soft first half to FY20 for its local building products.

- AAP

Lindsay Partridge has called for immediate changes in the building industry for the safety of residents. Picture: Hollie Adams/The Australian
Lindsay Partridge has called for immediate changes in the building industry for the safety of residents. Picture: Hollie Adams/The Australian

SOUL PATTINSON PROFIT DIPS ON ROUND OAK WOE

Washington H Soul Pattinson's full-year profit has slipped 7.1 per cent to $247.9 million after flooding and start-up costs drove its Round Oak Minerals subsidiary to a large loss.

Metals producer Round Oak's loss widened from $9.7 million to $54.1 million for the year to July 31 as the impact of start-up expenses and increased corporate overheads was compounded by delays stemming from this year's North Queensland floods.

Elsewhere, income from a 25 per cent stake in TPG Telecom fell 12.8 per cent on the NBN rollout and the telco's costly decision to scrap construction of a mobile network.

Nonetheless, Soul Patts, which also holds stakes in coal miner New Hope, Brickworks and Australian Pharmaceutical Industries, said revenue from continuing operations grew by 38 per cent to $1.62 billion.

Chairman Robert Millner said regulatory issues across several of its major investments had proved frustrating.

"After 12 years, New Hope continues to await approval for its New Acland extension, TPG is before the Federal Court seeking approval for its merger with Vodafone, and Brickworks continues to be impacted by the higher gas and energy prices in Australia," Mr Millner said on Thursday.

- with AAP's Alex Druce

Continue the conversation on Twitter @James_P_Hall or james.hall1@news.com.au


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