ACT laws to protect locals falling victim to dodgy builds

The ACT will become the first Australian state or territory to introduce a developer licensing scheme after a new bill was introduced to the region’s parliament last week.

Paul Eyers
By Paul Eyers
5 Min Read

The ACT will become the first Australian state or territory to introduce a developer licensing scheme after a new bill was introduced to the region’s parliament last week.

The laws are set to protect Canberrans from falling victim to dodgy developers which have previously plagued the territory.

The legislation is the culmination of years of campaigning from the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union, who have been urging the government to put a stop to decades of unethical behaviour surrounding property development in the state.

The government will ensure new developers have to pass a fit and proper person test to be licensed, while those who do the wrong thing will be fined if problems aren’t resolved and potentially banned from holding a licence.

Property developers will be held liable for defects along with builders and landowners for up to a decade under the licensing legislation.

Bill to rebuild homebuyer confidence

Minister for Sustainable Building and Construction Rebecca Vassarotti says the developer licensing and regulation bill would tackle defects and compliance failures in residential property developments that appear before, during, and after construction.

“When Canberrans buy or rent a home, they should be able to demand the best from those who built them,” Ms Vassarotti said.

“This Australian-first move aims to give Canberrans the confidence that their homes will be built to the highest standards by trustworthy professionals. To put it simply, it’s all about quality.”

CFMEU ACT National Secretary Zach Smith says the new laws would protect ACT residents and tradies, ensuring they are better protected.

“This bill is a massive step forward in ensuring Canberrans aren’t taken advantage of by shonky developers,” he said.

“This Australia-first developer licensing scheme will save lives on ACT worksites by cracking down on dodgy operators.”

The new licencing scheme is too little too late for those left footing the bill due to property developers running construction companies into the ground.

ASIC’s investigation bans developer

Earlier this month, The Australian Security and Investments Commission (ASIC) disqualified ACT developer Paul Hamilton from managing corporations due to his direct involvement in the collapse of five companies between 2019 and 2021.

The developer oversaw the collapse of several major ACT developers, including Lifestyle Homes, 3 Property Group and Be Athletic Canberra, the five companies owed a staggering $12 million to unsecured creditors and approximately $5.5 million to the ATO.

ASIC’s investigation found Mr Hamilton had shown a “lack of care and diligence and a lack of commercial mortality” in his role and concluded he had categorically failed to manage and direct the now liquidated companies effectively.

Ms Vassarotti said high-profile cases of poor development had reduced trust in the ACT’s building industry, costing Canberrans more than $50 million each year.

“This law change will add property developers to the chain of accountability for building quality and safety,” she said.

“Our legislation will establish a Property Developer Registrar which will have strong powers to be able to take regulatory action against developers that do the wrong thing. It will compel them to fix problems and face fines or suspend or revoke their licence if they don’t rectify works accordingly.”

CFMEU praised ASIC’s decision to pull Mr Hamilton’s developer licence but said nationwide developer licencing schemes were now necessary to avoid more drawn-out investigations and ensure Australians are protected in every other state and territory.

“Developer licensing schemes like this should be in place all over Australia,” Mr Smith said.

“Polling showed us the huge level of support for developer licensing in the ACT and there’s no reason to think that wouldn’t be replicated around the country.”

“The CFMEU urges all other federal, state and territory governments to get cracking on protecting people from dodgy developers.”

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Paul Eyers has worked as a journalist for a range of media publishers including News Corp and Network Ten. He has also worked outside of Australia, including time spent with ABS-CBN in the Philippines. Stepping away from the media, Paul spent five years sharpening his tools in construction - building his skill set and expertise within the trade industry. His diverse experiences and unique journey have equipped him with an insider view of Australia’s construction game to dig deep into the big stories.