Photos from a fire-damaged Melbourne tower covered in combustible cladding. Image: AAP/Supplied

On May 18, Scott Morrison won the federal election, publicly crying “how good is Australia!” to an audience of voters across the country. Morrison boldly proclaimed in his acceptance speech that he would support “every single Australian who [depended] on their government to put them first”.

For those affected by the combustible cladding crisis, his words fall on deaf ears.

Aluminium composite cladding is present in buildings across the country, from Sydney and Victoria, to Queensland and Western Australia. It’s also highly flammable. The Neo 200 apartment fire in February, threw the dangers of combustible cladding into the spotlight, which had already claimed 72 lives in Britain’s 2017 Grenfell disaster.

The reality is that hundreds of thousands of people are stuck living in high-rise tinderboxes, and others are left without housing after losing the apartments they worked so tirelessly to secure.

Many affected by the flammable cladding epidemic remain in an unacceptable living situation. Some have been forced out of their homes, and some are instead forced to remain in fear with no recourse. Meanwhile, Scott Morrison is spending his time passing the buck to state governments.

There is a certain irony in Scott Morrison’s victory proclamation that he would “burn for the Australian people, every single day”. Instead, it is us who may burn.

The Coalition government has failed to allocate a cent to a crisis that is endangering human lives, with Josh Frydenberg claiming “the problems in relation to cladding have been a failure of compliance and enforcement at a state level”.

How Australian is that?

In 1961, when 16,000 people in Singapore were left homeless following a major fire, the incident was declared a national emergency. Here, it is declared a “state problem”. Following the Grenfell Tower fire, the UK government offered $358 million for a cladding rectification program. Here, our federal leaders offer little more than thoughts and prayers.

The reality is that I, and many others like me, are directly affected by the actions of this malpractice. My parents worked tirelessly on their dream home, and due to the lack of information they received about the dangers of this cladding, all that work could be thrown into chaos with a stray spark. Yet, our family is one of the lucky ones.

At least we can still escape from the first-storey window when our lives go up in smoke.

For many, the Australian dream has quickly become an anxiety-inducing nightmare. While Canberra debates which human lives matter and which ones don’t, the many students, workers, retirees and families living in these apartments are left wondering whether they’ll be immolated in sacrifice to stubborn bureaucracy. This issue affects Australians from every corner of the country.

As the Morrison government continues to celebrate their $7.1 billion dollar surplus, there is a staunch refusal to spare even two cents for one of the worst building disasters since the asbestos crisis. Regardless of politics, it is irresponsible to waste our time passing the buck while people are living in fear.

We should not need to wait for a corpse to show up before we start taking this seriously. Do not let us burn for you, Scott Morrison.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
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