Topics: Gold Coast Airport Hotel ground breaking, cladding audits and Building Minister’s Forum
Karen Andrews: Good morning, and it’s an absolute pleasure to be here this morning for the commencement of this brand spanking new facility here on the Gold Coast. We have long-needed and wanted an airport hotel. So I’m so happy that the first real steps have happened today. And of course, the federal Government has committed significantly to the transport infrastructure that’s needed here on the Gold Coast to support the Gold Coast and to support our residents and to support our tourists. The federal Government has committed $1 billion to upgrade the M1, including upgrades from Varsity through to Tugun, right next to the airport. The federal Government has also committed $112 million to Stage 3A of the light rail to get the light rail through to Burleigh. I’m absolutely committed to keep the fight going so that we can look at getting heavy rail through to the Gold Coast Airport as soon as we possibly can.
Question: What would you say Ridges would do- what does that mean for our local economy, I guess?
Karen Andrews: Well there’ll be a significant number of jobs that come in to the Gold Coast Airport through this. Firstly, there’ll be the jobs through construction, and then there will be the jobs that will come once the facility is up and ready- ready and running. So this is a big commitment from Ridges. It’s supporting one of our local construction companies, Condev, so it keeps their workers working here on the Gold Coast. So for jobs and feeding our economy it’s great. We know that tourism is a key part of our economy here on the Gold Coast. We need to make sure that more tourists are coming into the Gold Coast and that they stay for longer. And of course, having a hotel here at the airport is just one more of the facilities – the great facilities – that we have on the Gold Coast, particularly on the Southern Gold Coast.
Question: Having a conference in those sort of facilities as well – do think that will encourage people to do more business in the area and more overnight stays?
Karen Andrews: Yes. We know that we need to attract more businesses to the Gold Coast – to conventions, to the conferences – and we need to increase the length of stay for people who are here. So the conference facility ideally located right next to the airport is going to be so significant to increasing the number of conferences that we have here; the ease of people to get to the facility straight out of the plane, straight into the hotel, straight into the conference. That’s great news for our city.
Question: Thank you. And just on another matter – given what’s happened down in Melbourne this morning with a building going up in flames – is there a real focus now in Queensland to regularly audit our buildings here to make sure that they are safe and they don’t have that specific cladding on them?
Karen Andrews: It was very disappointing to hear that there has been another fire in a building in Victoria this morning. So, a number of years ago we had the Lacrosse Apartment fire in Victoria, and now we have this facility at Neo 200 up in flames again this morning. We know that internationally there have been some issues with building cladding at the Grenfell Tower fires as well. As the federal Government, we are absolutely committed to working with the states and territories on building regulation. We commissioned through the Building Ministers’ Forum a report on, broadly the building sector, but building regulations. This Friday in Hobart, there will be the Building Ministers’ Forum meeting. I chair the Building Ministers’ Forum. Each state and territory will be asked to update on the status of audits in each state and territory and their progress in implementing the Shergold Weir Reports. This is critical for Australians. We need to know that we are safe in our buildings. We do know- need to know that the construction sector is doing the best that they possibly can. The building regulators, the building inspectors, the building surveyors, are doing the work to keep Australians safe.
Question: What are the regulations at the moment? I mean, is it illegal or is it legal to install buildings with this sort of material?
Karen Andrews: It’s too soon to comment on this morning’s fire in Melbourne, but what I can say is there’s a number of issues that need to be considered. One is whether or not the material complies with the Australian standard; and secondly, whether it was fit for the purpose that it was implemented. Now, we know that some building cladding is not approved to being installed on buildings that are greater than three storeys, so one of the questions that I would be asking is: was the cladding- did it comply with Australian standards? Was it properly installed? What other issues were involved in today’s fire? Cladding is certainly an issue that’s front-of-mind for everyone; as are the issues surrounding the Opal Tower. So, the New South Wales Government will be asked to report back at this Fridays’ Building Ministers’ meeting on the status of the Opal Tower, as well as other cladding issues.
Question: And Queensland’s history – have we had any major incidences or cases?
Karen Andrews: Queensland has undertaken an audit. I’m not aware of the outcome of that but I will be briefed on that quite fully on Friday. So, the state government has responsibility for the building regulation and I will be calling on them to demonstrate what action they have taken to make sure that they have conducted the audit properly, and then what the next steps will be. This is a critical matter for all of Australia and as a Queenslander, as a local Gold Coaster, I’m vitally interested in what is happening with our buildings here throughout Queensland and definitely here on the Gold Coast.
Question: Thank you very much.
Karen Andrews: Thank you.