Joint Select Committee On the Quality of Buildings

About this Item
SpeakersMacdonald The Hon Ian; Ryan The Hon John; Chesterfield-Evans The Hon Dr Arthur; Nile Reverend The Hon Fred; Jones The Hon Richard; Sham-Ho The Hon Helen; Cohen The Hon Ian; Gardiner The Hon Jennifer; Rhiannon Ms Lee
BusinessCommittee, Members, Message


Page: 627

    Consideration of the Legislative Assembly's message of 13 March.

      The Hon. IAN MACDONALD (Parliamentary Secretary) [6.07 p.m.]: I move:
          1. That this House agrees to the resolution in the Legislative Assembly's message of 13 March 2002, relating to the appointment of a Joint Select Committee on the Quality of Buildings with the following amendment, in which amendment the concurrence of the Legislative Assembly is requested:
              Paragraph 3. Omit paragraph, insert instead:

              (3) (a) That the Committee have leave to sit during the adjournment of either or both Houses, to adjourn from place to place, to make visits of inspection within the State and have the power to take evidence and to send for persons, papers, records and things, and to report from time to time.
                (b) That should either House stand adjourned and the Committee agree to any report before the House resumes sitting, the Committee have leave to send any such report, minutes of proceedings and evidence taken before it to the Clerk of each House.

                (c) A report presented to the Clerks is:
                  (i) on presentation, and for all purposes, deemed to have been laid before the House,

                  (ii) to be printed by authority of the Clerk,

                  (iii) for all purposes, deemed to be a document published by order or under the authority of the House, and

                  (iv) to be recorded in the official proceedings of the House.

          2. That the Legislative Council members of the Committee be Ms Fazio, Mr Ryan and Mrs Sham Ho.

      In 1998 the Government introduced three significant changes to the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act. Firstly, in regard to consent and complying developments, to try to make sure that smaller issues that otherwise would have taken up valuable council time could be expeditiously dealt with and councils could focus on more complex issues. Secondly, to develop the concept of integrated development to ensure that all players were involved early on in the assessment of the development of the application, so that later items did not obstruct appropriate developments; and thirdly, to introduce competition into the process provided by building certifiers by bringing in private certifiers.

      The third change was designed to break the hold councils had over the inspection of buildings. It was considered that competition could lead to improvements in the certification process. Since the introduction of the changes the Government has monitored their progress. Both the councils and the community had considerable input into the 1998 changes. The Government intends to continue to examine these changes to determine how we can make the system work better. Obviously, private certification required certification bodies to accredit certifiers. I am advised that, so far, 290 have been accredited as certifiers. The major body undertaking certification is the Building Surveyors and Allied Professionals Accreditation Board.

      The Government is becoming increasingly concerned that councils and consumers feel that the process is not delivering the quality we expect. The Government is also very concerned about recent reports that allegedly identified serious flaws in the construction of new buildings. My colleague the Minister for Urban Affairs and Planning is currently assessing the certification system for private certifiers. My colleague is concerned that the Building Surveyors and Allied Professionals Accreditation Board has not been doing its job. The Minister has written to the board asking it to show cause why he should not remove its role as an accrediting body of private certifiers. If the board cannot respond satisfactorily, it may lose its power to provide accreditation of private certifiers.

      The inquiry will also consider the checks and balances in the system, whether it be the private certification system or the system dealing with the qualifications, experience and conduct of the people licensed to build new buildings, the checks and balances in the builders licensing scheme, and the role of consumers, traders and the tribunal in dispute resolution. The Government believes this joint select committee is the best mechanism to examine these issues. Clearly, the system is not working well enough. This inquiry will provide a great opportunity to deliver improvements for the system and consumers by making sensible, practical recommendations to improve the quality of buildings in our State. I commend the motion.

      The Hon. JOHN RYAN [6.11 p.m.]: The Opposition welcomes the motion, at least to the extent that a joint select committee will investigate matters that I have placed before the House again and again, and other matters, such as the protection of consumers and regulation of the building industry, on which the Government legislated in the last session. The concern remains that far too many consumers have been the subject of shonky builders. It is amazing that their road to justice—whether it is through the new Consumer Trading Tribunal the new mediation process or an insurance claim—is protracted and expensive. Recently, I received letters from two constituents that indicate the necessity of this motion.

      One aspect of the building industry that the committee has been charged to investigate is private certifiers. When people who build a house have a question about whether the house conforms to Australian building code standards, the builder is able to have his construction certified. Unfortunately, there have been plenty of reasons to question whether certifiers are complying with the law. They are providing certificates for buildings that do not comply with the law. Last year I was contacted by a constituent in the Camden area whose house was being constructed by a well-known building firm. I have forgotten the name of the builder, and I will not even attempt to guess it. The house was constructed on a sloping building site. The builder gave my constituent certificates stating that the building complied with all the necessary requirements of the Australian building code, and that it was structurally sound.

      The building is falling down the slope and does not comply with the requirements of the Australian building code; nor, clearly, does it meet the requirement of being structurally sound. The building is now the subject of an inquiry by the Department of Fair Trading. During the course of the dispute between my constituent and the builder, the piers that underpin the house were dug up. During that time a more detailed inspection of the piering by a structural engineer revealed that the piers did not accord with the instructions by the engineer for the construction of the house. The builder had taken a number of shortcuts and failed to build the house to appropriate requirements. My constituent was able to show me engineering certificates that said the house complies when, clearly, it does not.

      My understanding is that Campbelltown City Council wrote to the Minister for Urban Affairs and Planning questioning the veracity of private certifiers for buildings that council inspectors have found do not comply with the Australian building code. I note that at least one local council, and perhaps others, has questioned the quality of engineering certificates provided for private residential buildings. Today I was given correspondence from a Cherylyn Zeene and Eileen Dean complaining about a builder in the Marrickville area. They believe that Marrickville Council has issued a final occupation for that building based on certificates given to them by a private engineer. At the request of my constituent the house was reinspected by an engineer named Alfred Frasca and another engineer. Both engineers found that the house does not comply with the requirement to be structurally sound.

      There is ample justification to question whether certificates given to consumers and councils certify that a house has been constructed according to the Australian building code, and whether the house has been constructed soundly. The construction of a house is one of the most expensive investment decisions any individual, or group of individuals, might make. They ought to be able to be assured that the house, given that ordinary individuals are not able to tell this by sight, has been soundly built. Therefore it is appropriate that the committee of this Parliament examine the matter. However, there are other issues of concern in the building industry that I will refer to in a moment. A series of articles published in the Sydney Morning Herald revealed that a number of houses that were part of strata title or high-rise developments were found not to be structurally sound or adequately built.

      Under the Home Building Act and other legislation in New South Wales consumers can make a complaint to the Department of Fair Trading and raise questions about whether the builder is appropriately licensed, go to the Fair Trading Tribunal and initiate dispute resolution, or make an insurance claim against the home owner warranty insurance scheme. Even though the consumer has three options to choose from to try to solve the problem, none of them is working. I am pleased that, in another place, the substantive motion was amended to ensure that people making submissions to the committee could raise questions about the operation of the home-owner warranty insurance scheme. I have plenty of evidence I could give to this House that indicates that the insurance industry is stalling those claims. It is taking much longer to deal with such claims than it would take to build a house. I was concerned by the recent announcement of the Government that the arrangements for home-owner warranty insurance in New South Wales will be attuned to schemes operating in other States.

      What bothers me is not that there will be a uniform scheme across Australia, but that that uniform scheme will be the least common denominator for consumer protection available in each State. It has been suggested, for example, that someone could take out an insurance policy but would only be able to make a claim against that policy as a last resort. That means that before a consumer could make a claim against the insurance policy, he or she would have to take the builder to the Fair Trading Tribunal, which would refuse to investigate. The consumer would then have to take the builder to the council and have it certify the building and refuse to investigate the claim. Following that, the consumer would have to take the builder to the Department of Fair Trading and go through what is often expensive and lengthy litigation. When all else fails, the consumer would finally be able to make a claim against the insurance policy, for which a large premium had been paid.

      Consumers are particularly concerned that that might occur and they will be keen to make submissions to the committee. I am pleased that the Government has accepted amendments from the Opposition in another place that will enable those matters to be properly and thoroughly canvassed. I believe the motion before the House is timely. I understand there are to be amendments for the House to consider, and the Opposition will take care in considering those amendments. I am pleased that, at long last, we will have an inquiry into the home building industry that will be able to canvass all of the issues for all sorts of buildings. I am equally pleased that the Government will chair the committee—that will not be a bad thing—but I sincerely hope it ensures that everyone gets a fair go in having their matters heard. I hope the Government does not judge this issue in a self-serving manner. To date it has tended to deal with this matter by keeping information from the public instead of being open about inquiries that it conducts. I commend the motion.

      The Hon. Dr ARTHUR CHESTERFIELD-EVANS [6.21 p.m.]: I congratulate the Government on the motion, but it is belated, after all the door knocking to address the problem. If the Government had not established this committee, the crossbench and the Opposition undoubtedly would have established it. The terms of reference are broad enough to cover the issues. Irene Onorati from the Building Action Review Group was concerned that the subject be aired widely, but publicity in the media had suggested that the inquiry would deal only with high-rise buildings, because of the lack of certification of some city high-rise buildings and concerns expressed by the Lord Mayor of Sydney, Frank Sartor. The problem of uncertified high-rise buildings has emerged particularly since the introduction of self-certification, a Government and Opposition initiative that adhered slavishly to a market philosophy that will not solve all of society's problems.

      The concept of competitive markets can be found in the first chapter of any economics book, and most of the later chapters explain why that concept is incomplete. Many people fail to read beyond the first chapter of the economics books, but beneficial competition requires a strong legislative framework. Inexperienced builders should not be allowed to pick off consumers, most of whom build one house during their lifetime. Consumers come to grief at the hands of builders who rip them off and, Phoenix-like, turn in to another company as things get hot. This is a huge problem. Some builders are either inherently shonky or incompetent, and experts may not be available to advise or provide evidence for people who have been taken down through shoddy work by builders. Many of the experts get most of their work from the building industry and are reluctant to submit damning reports about building work.

      This problem has caused much angst. The building certification process should fund impartial inspectors to provide opinions on building quality and neutral reports to back up claims by consumers who have been dudded. A cheap court system is also necessary. Excessive court costs are a problem in Australia and in all common law jurisdictions. The courts are prohibitively expensive and complicated. The records of builders should be opened to scrutiny so that consumers may know whether a builder has been the subject of complaints, and whether a court has ruled on those complaints. A person complaining about a builder should not have to establish everything de novo. The builder's records should be open to inspection. Let the chips fall where they may. Frivolous complaints against a builder that are dismissed would also be recorded.

      Access to records would enable consumers to know see what a builder had done in the past. Indeed, a record of contracts would allow consumers to check on a particular builder by speaking to previous clients of that builder. That would not infringe civil liberties but would enhance market operation in an open society. Those details need to be worked out by the committee. A builder who does a poor job should not necessarily undertake the restitution work. A consumer who does not trust a builder undoubtedly would prefer someone else to fix the work. The builder may be incompetent or unethical, or both, and restitution should be undertaken by another builder.

      Insurance must be considered, but with a good regulatory process, an appropriate restitution system and a way of weeding out bad builders, legal costs and insurance premiums will decrease. We should not look at the money, then at the court process, and then at the certification of builders and inspection of buildings, almost as an afterthought. The key is a credible and neutral inspection and certification process, which will make the legal and financial problems far easier to solve. I ask that the committee take that into account in its deliberations to solve problems that we have heard far too much about in this House. I ask the Government to allow the crossbench members to choose their own representative on this committee, rather than attempt to influence them. That would reflect the democratic processes of this House.

      Reverend the Hon. FRED NILE [6.28 p.m.]: I support the motion for the formation of a Joint Select Committee on the Quality of Buildings in New South Wales. No doubt all members of this House have had contact with many of the anguished consumers in this State who have been ripped off by shoddy building work. In some instances the building is falling down, or the foundations or walls are cracked. Sometimes repairs are shoddy and the builder does not want to know anything about it. Regardless of whether one calls them shoddy builders or criminal builders, I hope that the inquiry will establish who they are.

      The committee will inquire into the quality of buildings in New South Wales to determine whether there are enough existing checks and balances to ensure that consumers are guaranteed that their new homes are safe, properly certified and built to satisfactory standards. The second part of the terms of reference relates to certain provisions of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act that have been in operation since July 1998. There must be some opportunity for those aggrieved consumers to give evidence before this committee. Organisations will give evidence to the committee, but representative and private individuals should also be encouraged to give evidence. The inquiry must not be restricted to associations and organisations. I am sure the Hon. John Ryan will ensure that consumers get their so-called day in court, or at least their day before the committee.

      I support the amendment moved by the Government. The resolution requires that the committee report to the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly. A joint committee should report to both Houses. Following the Government's amendment, paragraph (3) (b) will guarantee that reports, minutes of proceedings and evidence taken before the committee will be sent to the Clerk of each House. As amended, paragraph (3) (c) will refer to reports being presented to the Clerks, plural. It is important that the upper House receive equal status in joint committees. It may not always have happened but we will ensure that it happens in the future. We are very pleased to support the resolution. Many notices of motion and other procedures have referred to this problem. We are pleased that we have now reached this point, the beginning of the inquiry, which should at least give some satisfaction to consumers. A lot more will have to be done during the inquiry.

      The Hon. RICHARD JONES [6.32 p.m.]: I support the motion. Irene Onorati from the Building Action Review Group [BARG] briefed the crossbench today. She had files on various shonky builders and the houses they had partially or badly built. At the briefing she said she was hardly able to cope with the number of complaints coming to her from people from all over New South Wales, but particularly Sydney. I hope she will be delighted that she can now finally come before the committee and give evidence. I imagine it will take quite some while for the committee to examine all her files. It will be quite a job.

      It is a pity it has taken this long to get this thing right. The Hon. John Ryan has been raising this issue in this Chamber for a very long time, referring to case after case and naming builder after builder. Amazingly, some of these people are still in business. I am very pleased that the committee will be a joint committee and I am sure it will do a very good job. There will be some interesting evidence in the files of BARG. I move:
          That the question be amended by:
          1. Omitting the words "Mrs Sham Ho" from paragraph 2, and inserting instead "one crossbench member chosen by ballot in accordance with Standing Order 236."

          2. That paragraph 2 be amended to reflect the result of the ballot.

      The Hon. HELEN SHAM-HO [6.33 p.m.]: I also congratulate the Government on setting up the Joint Select Committee on the Quality of Buildings. I welcome the opportunity to speak to the motion, which deals with some of the key areas of the home building industry: the quality of buildings, consumer protection, the process of certification and builder licensing. This issue is obviously of tremendous importance to people in New South Wales, where an estimated 9,000 home-owners are said to be victims of the home building industry.

      As the Hon. John Ryan has said, the motion is timely with the royal commission into the collapse of HIH headed by royal commissioner Justice Neville Owen having commenced last year. As honourable members will remember, the collapse of HIH in May 2001 was the biggest corporate collapse in Australia's history. It created enormous uncertainty, distress and hardship for tens of thousands of individuals, families and businesses.

      But even before the collapse of HIH, it had become apparent to many people, including me, that the home building industry was failing to protect home owners in New South Wales. Over the past two years I have been inundated with correspondence from victims of the home building industry, many of whom I had the opportunity to speak with personally at the conclusion of the budget estimates committee on Fair Trading both this year and last. The Hon. Richard Jones and Reverend the Hon. Fred Nile referred to the backbench briefing by Irene Onorati, President of the Building Action Review Group, or BARG. Last September at another crossbench briefing I met with her and a number of victims of the home warranty insurance scheme. I spoke to them for almost two hours, staying on after the conclusion of the briefing to listen to their stories and concerns and answer their questions.

      The complaints raised with me covered unscrupulous or bankrupt builders, builders refusing to rectify defective work, delays in having matters heard in the Fair Trading Tribunal, and problems in having insurance claims finalised or paid. A consistent complaint was the culture of the Department of Fair Trading and its inability to enforce the Home Building Act. A related concerned alleged by these people was potentially corrupt or improper conduct by particular members of the Department of Fair Trading. Many others spoke of the lack of responsiveness of the director-general of the department.

      On the whole, the general consensus was that many aspects of the home building laws are inefficient and non-effective. The letters I have received from constituents on this matter are extremely distressing. They tell stories of legal pressure, financial hardship, emotional turmoil, depression, and family breakdown. They speak of dream homes turned into building nightmares, and of lives shattered by corrupt builders and insurers who refuse to pay claims. Many of these families have been waiting years for a resolution from courts and tribunals, all the while having to bear the high cost of defective or derelict homes.

      Nearly three years ago now the Chens paid over $25,000 to a builder to construct their Wentworthville home. The builder took off before the job was finished, leaving the house incomplete and structurally unsound. The Chens were not able to claim insurance because the builder was not covered by the home insurance scheme. Two years ago Paul Vogel contracted a builder to remove his garage roof and build on a second storey to his Eastlakes house. The builder walked off the job and the garage collapsed into his neighbour's garden. The Department of Fair Trading rejected his claim. I am very sad to report that Mr Vogel was ordered by the local council to demolish his home in January this year. Allan and Janine Dyason paid a builder $69,000 to perform work on their Waverley home. Two years later their claim still has not been finalised.

      Five years ago Denise Perry's 87-year-old mother spent $400,000 on a home in Blakehurst only to find out later that it had major structural defects. The cases go on and on. Although an independent structural engineer recommended that the house be completely demolished, Mrs Perry's mother was denied home building insurance on the basis that her claim was out of time. I hasten to add that many of these cases have been settled recently, largely due to the intervention of the previous Minister for Fair Trading, the Hon. John Watkins. I commend the Minister for the very efficient manner in which he has dealt with these complaints. I conclude by saying that I hope the Joint Select Committee on the Quality of Buildings will rectify some of the concerns and complaints of people who are suffering because of the present defective laws.

      The Hon. IAN COHEN [6.40 p.m.]: This matter has been covered to a great extent and I will not repeat much of what other honourable members have said. I congratulate Irene Onorati who, in her role as President of the Building Action Review Group [BARG], has been relentless and consistent. She has done a fantastic job for many disempowered people. The Greens support the establishment of the Joint Select Committee on the Quality of Buildings and are keen that this inquiry be undertaken. In my time in this House I have said much about planning issues and the reasons why shonky practices have developed that broke people's lives because of poor quality workmanship by less-than-scrupulous and less-than-honest builders.

      That process was aided and abetted, relatively if not consciously, by the system that farms out the review of building work to private certifiers instead of to local councils. This goes back to the original integrated development assessment legislation that went through this House when I first arrived—and I remember that we debated it throughout the night. The work of people such as Irene Onorati leads to the telling of many manifest stories, particularly plumbing stories that would curl the hair on anyone's head. People have moved into their family dream home and had to live with constantly overflowing toilets. We heard many disgusting horror stories, which we could call "Faulty Towers—A Case Study on Planning" under the Hon. Craig Knowles who expects to be the future Premier.

      The Hon. Duncan Gay: Not unless he is Premier before the next election.

      The Hon. IAN COHEN: The Opposition knew what was going on at that time. It was very quiet and acquiesced to the direction that much of that legislation took. The Opposition knew that the Government would find itself in trouble, which it has. It is good that the Deputy Premier, the Hon. Andrew Refshauge, has proposed the establishment of this committee. I hope that the parameters include building certifiers, private certification and the licensing process for builders, and that the committee gets to the bottom of this. People of non-English speaking background are vulnerable. They have gone to builders and been seriously done over.

      I am pleased that the Hon. John Ryan is a member of the committee. Over a long time he has done a significant amount of work on this problem, and I have often referred to his wealth of knowledge on building matters. The material he has collected contributed to appropriate pressure being placed on the Government to establish this inquiry. The former Minister for Fair Trading, John Watkins, deserves credit for his work in settling complaints. Many families have had their lives destroyed by crumbling buildings, and their frustration has led to illness.

      In my limited exposure I have heard many heart-rending stories about the conditions that people have to live in even today because they had been badly treated and because the remediation work was either non-existent or of very poor quality. They have gone through many problems in acquiring adequate living conditions.

      People have been extremely unfairly treated. A significant number of people have approached me and other members of this House and said they had to demolish their house and start all over again. When that is compounded with the problems of insurance, an argument could be laid for the re-establishment of the Government Insurance Office so that people can get proper compensation. I am keen that this inquiry be undertaken and that there be an open, transparent process of offering people some degree of representation. Many people have been really badly done over by both the Government and private industry on this matter. I commend the motion.

      The Hon. JENNIFER GARDINER [6.44 p.m.]: After my election as a member of this place the first file I saw was on the subject of the quality of buildings in New South Wales. It was handed to me by the Hon. Sir Adrian Solomons, who was in extensive correspondence with the aforementioned Mrs Irene Onorati of BARG. It is good news that this long-running problem is to be addressed by a joint select committee. It is noteworthy that this is another case of the Carr Labor Government playing catch-up politics. After all, it was the Opposition that proposed the establishment of a parliamentary inquiry into the quality of buildings, to be conducted by General Purpose Standing Committee No. 4. As chairman of that committee, I acknowledge the support for such an inquiry by the Deputy Chairman of General Purpose Standing Committee No. 4, the Hon. Ian Cohen.

      The Opposition and crossbench members had the numbers to hold a parliamentary inquiry, but it only became a reality when the Deputy Premier, and Minister for Planning decided to try to recapture some of the political ground on this very important issue. The Government had a change of heart and decided to support the establishment of this joint select committee. I look forward to the work of that committee and I commend its inquiry into this very long-running problem. Hopefully there will be some relief to many people who have been adversely affected over a long time.

      Ms LEE RHIANNON [6.47 p.m.]: I join with my colleague Mr Ian Cohen in welcoming this inquiry. We congratulate the Government on seeing its way free to establish this committee, and we acknowledge that considerable work has been done by members of other parties to highlight this issue. I join with other members in thanking Irene Onorati and all the other members of BARG for their consistent work over the years. We met with some of them today and their stories were just as graphic as they were when we met them some years ago.

      We were very heartened to read in the terms of reference that the Government has opened up certification. Paragraph (1) (a), (b) and (c) of the terms of reference cover certification and available disciplinary procedures. The Greens believe that those issues go to the heart of the problem of why we need this inquiry. Private certification has destroyed many people's lives. Originally this work was done by councils but, thanks to the wisdom of certain people in this place, private certifiers were accredited to work in this industry. That means that a builder or developer can choose a certifier. We know that certifiers would go bust if they were tough; therefore, it is in the builders' and developers' interests for private certifiers to be quite compliant and co-operative.

      This is similar to the problem with environmental impact statements. Many times the Greens have raised problems with consultants and how they can be co-operative with people who want certain outcomes. The building industry has the same problems. Private certifiers know that if they deliver a certain decision, they will get more work. Essentially that is why we have heard these horror stories about people's dream homes slipping down a hill, about the front end of a house falling off, about electrical work that is highly dangerous, about bathrooms that do not work, and about not being able to access running water.

      This has happened because the private certification system does not work. The seeds of destruction of this process were sown from day one. The introduction of private certification led to the problems that so many citizens of New South Wales grapple with every day. We must examine the inappropriate use of competition in such an important area as home building. The role of councils should also be examined. The Greens believe that local councils should be reintroduced into the centre of the process, where they can act as honest brokers, free from commercial pressure. I congratulate BARG and the other interested community groups around New South Wales on their work in this matter. Development and individual housing construction comprise the bulk of complaints received by the Greens and other honourable members.

      The Greens are pleased with the terms of reference, but we feel they should have gone a little further. It is necessary for there to be stronger terms of reference that include the examination of a whole range of conditions of consent, including construction compliance. However, the establishment of the inquiry is a good start and we are pleased to support it. We believe that the introduction of private certification was part of a longer set of changes to make life easier for developers at the expense of residents and the community. The inquiry will bring some balance to development in this State and it will ensure more equitable and affordable housing for all people in New South Wales.

      The Hon. IAN MACDONALD (Parliamentary Secretary) [6.51 p.m.], in reply: I thank all honourable members for their contributions to the debate. Much has been made of problems relating to the quality of buildings. It is not a new problem but it is one that we are in a position to address. The inquiry will allow an unbiased and rational review of the process used to certify buildings, as well as processes used to register or license people involved in the construction of buildings, be they council officers, private certifiers or tradespeople. Most important, the inquiry will give the Parliament much-needed advice on whether there are checks and balances to provide safe, properly certified and, most important, quality buildings.

      At the end of the day we should be concerned about the quality of the buildings in which people are to live. Let us not forget that a house is probably the biggest investment a person will make. The Government is committed to ensuring that that investment is a safe one and that it provides both personal and financial security. The Government will support the amendment moved by the Hon. Richard Jones.

      Amendment agreed to.

      Motion as amended agreed to.

      The PRESIDENT: Order! According to the procedure for the conduct of a ballot under Standing Order 236, I order the bells to be rung for five minutes for the conduct of the ballot. I would like to explain to honourable members the procedures to be followed under Standing Order 236 for the conduct of the ballot. There is no procedure under the standing order for the nomination of candidates. Under the standing order each member is required to give to the Clerk the name of the crossbench member he or she intends should serve on the committee. For this purpose ballot papers have been printed and will be distributed to members. After voting, members should deposit their ballot paper in the ballot box near the Clerk, who will record the presentation of the ballot papers against a list of members of the House.

      The member reported by the Clerk to have the greatest number of votes will be declared by me to be the member of the committee. If two or more members have an equality of votes, the standing order provides for the President to decide who will serve on the committee. The Clerks will now distribute ballot papers.

      [The ballot proceeded.]

      The Clerk advised the Chair of the result of the ballot.

      The PRESIDENT: Order! There being an equality of votes, I cast my vote for the Hon. Helen Sham-Ho. I therefore declare the Hon. Helen Sham-Ho as the crossbench member on the Joint Select Committee on the Quality of Buildings.

      Message forwarded to the Legislative Assembly advising it of the resolution.

      [The President left the chair at 7.06 p.m. The House resumed at 8.45 p.m.]