ACT building minister Gordon Ramsay has issued a stern warning to the territory's construction sector, saying industry resistance won't deter him from exploring new ways to rectify the problem's plaguing Canberra's development boom.
Mr Ramsay said he expected developers, builders and trade contractors to push back against reforms designed to increase oversight and regulation of Canberra's troubled-plagued construction industry.
But he stressed their opposition would not force him to "resile from his determination that Canberra has the highest-quality buildings".
"We would expect that if we are making things stronger and tighter in an around how the industry operates, we expect that some parts would push back," he said.
"If that means from time to time people don't agree with what I'm doing because they think I'm being too hard, then that is a badge I'm happy to wear."
Mr Ramsay made the comments in an interview with The Canberra Times to mark a year since he was appointed the territory's first minister for building quality improvement.
In a wide-ranging discussion, Mr Ramsay also gave the strongest indication yet that the government would not use taxpayer funds to compensate owners for building defects.
Mr Ramsay was handed the portfolio in a cabinet reshuffle in late August 2018, with Chief Minister Andrew Barr hoping to accelerate the delayed roll out of 43 long-awaited building regulation reforms.
In the ensuing 12 months, Mr Ramsay has largely delivered on that aspiration, introducing new mandatory builders licensing exams, a certifiers code of conduct and stricter design documentation requirements.
The full package is due to be implemented before next October's ACT election.
Mr Ramsay has also overseen a major crackdown on non-compliant or unapproved construction work, highlighted by Access Canberra's shutting down of more than 30 building sites - including Geocon's $1 billion Republic development.
The enforcement blitz has occurred in the midst of the ACT Legislative Assembly's ongoing building quality inquiry, during which the regulator has faced near constant criticism for its historically lax approach to punishing dodgy builders.
This week, Mr Ramsay said it became apparent soonafter taking on the portfolio that there were "confidence issues" in the construction industry, both locally and nationwide.
He saw the introduction of mandatory exams for all aspiring Class A, B and C license holders as an "enormous priority".
"The reason for that priority was that it not only increases the quality of the building, but it also increases the quality of confidence of people so they can see that anyone coming into the building industry .... had the skill set and capacity to build high-quality buildings," he said.
Mr Ramsay said while the roll out of the reform package had noticeably accelerated under his watch, it was "not accurate to say" the government was only now responding to problems in the industry.
He said the government had committed to the reforms in 2016, but their implementation was delayed, at least in part, by the difficulties in recruiting suitably-qualified staff.
The government had also needed to take stock of the Shergold Weir report, which put forward 24 of its own recommendations to reform the construction industry in February 2018.
While Mr Ramsay has been determined to reform the industry for future homeowners, he's been forced to confront the ghosts of buildings past after Master Builders Association of the ACT chief executive Michael Hopkins this month said historic government inaction had saddled Canberra with a "legacy" of defect-ridden developments.
Mr Ramsay expressed sympathy for the victims of shoddy building work, saying it was "not something that I take lightly".
But he said owners should not expect government bailouts, insisting that the liability for building defects rested with those directly responsible - the builders.
"I don't think that it is appropriate for government to be providing government, and therefore taxpayer resources, for matters which are the legal responsibility of builders, certifiers and possibly insurance," he said.
Mr Ramsay would not be drawn on particular cases, but his comments suggest the Elara apartment owners' plea for government assistance is unlikely be successful.
However, he has foreshadowed the introduction of new laws later this year to ensure owners have "recourse" when their buildings are "not sufficiently high quality".
He will also continue to lobby the federal government to introduce tough anti-phoenixing laws to crack down on companies who deliberately go bust to avoid paying debts or fixing defects.
Mr Ramsay said the ACT government continued to explore the merits of a property developer licensing scheme.
Property groups were quick to sound alarm about the proposal after The Canberra Times first revealed it was being considered. Urban Development Institute of Australia NSW/ACT chief executive Steve Mann said the extra layer of regulation could drive up prices and delay projects.
But Mr Ramsay said he would not be deterred by the outcry.
"This is one of the reasons ... why we will not allow industry to reform industry," he said.
Mr Hopkins said his industry group welcomed "strong action" to clean up the sector, but said the government needed to do a better job of consulting with industry about major reforms.
He said there had been instances in which engagement with industry had "not been genuine", singling out Mr Ramsay's decision to delay the adoption of new national construction standards without consulting with key stakeholders. The decision was reversed within a week, following belated talks with industry groups.
Mr Hopkins said the government had been more proactive in consulting on a new builders code of practice.
"It's important to note that it's not government that will build these buildings, it's the industry," Mr Hopkins said.