There’s a few differences in this week’s podcast from previous editions.
For a start, Sue is on the other end of a Zoom call as she takes advantage of easing travel restrictions to get out and promote her new book … and finds herself attacked by birds on the Gold Coast.
Having survived that, we discuss the latest twist in the pets saga as celebrity dog owners are told they are living in a cats-only block (maybe that’s why they call it NCAT).
And the Tribunal Member decrees the recent Court of Appeals ruling that blanket pet bans are invalid is irrelevant.
Isn’t banning dogs but allowing cats discriminatory? Who are we to judge?
Then, another change is that we have short audio grabs from interesting people, rather than long interviews. And we have several of them.
Sue joins Building Commissioner David Chandler on a development and sees for herself the galvanising effect this force of nature – ok, force of structure – has on the developers, architects engineers and builders when he sweeps into a building site.
And you’ll never guess the one thing he always heads for, photographs and then confronts the developer with.
Finally, Jimmy visits a new apartment that’s been tiled with “micro-recycled” product made from old clothes and glass.
That’s all in this weeks’ Flat Chat Wrap.
Transcript in full
Well, this is a bit strange. I’m sitting looking at an empty chair, and that’s because my normal sparring partner and co-host is not here. She’s on the Gold Coast, and that’s because now that all the travel restrictions are lifted, she can do her book tour, promoting her new book. In real life; in person. She doesn’t have to do it on Zoom, which is ironic, because now she has to do this podcast on Zoom. We’ll be talking to her later, about things like the new twist in the pet laws, her visit to a site with Building Commissioner David Chandler, and a new product that I went to investigate in an apartment block, which is a tile made out of old glass and old clothes. I’m Jimmy Thomson, and this is the Flat Chat Wrap.
Sue, what are you doing in the Gold Coast?
I’m being attacked by birds at the moment. I’m just in the Gold Coast doing a talk about the history of the beginnings of colonial Sydney.
Why would you be doing that?
It’s related to my book, an historical novel, called Elizabeth & Elizabeth, about Elizabeth MacArthur and Elizabeth Macquarie in the early days of the colony. The book is apparently going extremely well, so I’m doing a little mini-tour. I’ve done a few Zoom talks and meetings; you know, talks in front of lots of different people, and this is my first one in person. So, with the borders open, they’re doing it here.
Which means you have to talk to me via Zoom.
Yes, that’s right, but never mind. The sound is okay.
It’s not bad. You’re sounding better than me; I don’t know how that works. This whole thing with pets, has reared up again.
Yeah, and in quite a bizarre way. It always seems to be, you just never can quite predict it, really. We’ve had the big fight about allowing pets into buildings. Then we’ve had the Court of Appeals saying, well, no, blanket bans on pets aren’t allowed and now we had a couple who had a dog. They went into a building that didn’t allow dogs. Kind of a little bit like Jo Cooper at Horizon (which started this whole fuss off), and they were told no, they had to get rid of their dog. So, they went to NCAT, saying, ‘well, the Court of Appeal has said blanket bans are unconscionable.’ Then NCAT came back with a very interesting ruling, because that building didn’t actually have a blanket ban on pets. It only had a blanket ban on dogs. It actually allowed cats and fish, so he said the ruling wasn’t relevant. Incredible, really, the twists and turns of this whole saga.
And this is a big complex out in Camperdown isn’t it?
That’s right. It’s 12 buildings; City Quarter, and the Community Association; t’s their bylaws that don’t allow dogs, but apparently, some buildings choose not to enact and enforce that bylaw and some buildings do enforce that bylaw and the couple with the dog were in one of the buildings that enforces the bylaw. So, they’ve been told that their dog can’t be kept legally in the building.
The gentlemen partner in this couple is quite well known, isn’t he?
He is; Scott McGregor. He’s an actor; he used to appear in The Sullivans, and things like Home and Away. He is quite a well-established actor and he’s always been an incredible train enthusiast. He presented a show called Amazing Railway Adventures in Australia, a few years ago and now he has a railway tour company. He does train tours all around the world and he’s always the host. He’s brilliant; happy and really incredible company and I’ve interviewed him a few times for Traveler. It was funny to find him in a completely different context, with his little Jack Russell called Jimmy!
He’s a fox terrier, if I may correct. On behalf of my namesake, Jimmy is a fox terrier and a very cute looking chap he is too.
Yeah, absolutely. This is kind of a campaign to free Jimmy.
The thing is, it was the couple who went to NCAT. It wasn’t that they were breached. They said, we’re going to NCAT to get the bylaw overturned, and they didn’t even take a lawyer; they were so convinced that the law had been changed, and then we get this ruling that, well… Partly they were trying to overturn a bylaw that didn’t exist, because the thing that they were trying to change was; Section 157 of the Act says that if there is a bylaw that says you cannot unreasonably be refused a pet, then the tribunal can order them to let you have the pet, if they’ve been unreasonable in refusing it. And the tribunal member said, ‘well, that bylaw doesn’t exist here…there is no bylaw that allows the owners corporation to allow them to have a pet. So, you can’t overturn a bylaw that doesn’t exist.’
It’s kind of quite bizarre, really, isn’t it? So if they’d had a blanket ban on pets, one would think the NCAT member would have said, ‘well, yes, because the Court of Appeal has deemed that you can’t have those then, okay, you can have whatever you like in your buildings.’ But now; it was something that took them completely by surprise and took many others by surprise, as well.
But then the other thing that the Court of Appeal did say (that they didn’t try to use), was that you can’t set bylaws to affect what people do in their own homes, when what they do in their own homes doesn’t
affect anyone else.
Yes, so if they’d have challenged the bylaw on that basis, maybe they would have had a lot more success.
Yeah, and I think that’s probably the route that they’ll take. I’ve had several letters from the secretary (I think he is), of the Owners Corporation, who gave very eloquent; very friendly letters (apart from his first; he sent out an open letter to the media, saying this is all the media’s fault, for telling people that dogs were now allowed in all apartment blocks). I’m sure some people got that wrong; we didn’t. But some people said the law had been changed. I don’t think it’s a very good tactic to send a media announcement to the media, telling everyone that the media got it wrong,
And expecting them to print it.
So, we got the exclusive on that. The other aspect of this is that the law is being changed.
That’s right. It’s just been being changed in New South Wales, isn’t it? Because they’re having a little bit of a pause before it’s changed. They voted to change it, but they’re just trying to define what would be an unreasonable refusal over pets.
So, when that definition comes through, the law will change and it seems that most animals will be allowed into most apartments, but the law may allow some buildings to refuse, I guess.
Yes. I was thinking about this; how can they define this? You know, because as you know, I’m pro-pet. I love seeing the little dogs in our apartment block, but I can understand why people want to live in buildings where there are no pets, and how do you define what is a reasonable exclusion? I think the only way they can do it is to get a vote; not just of the people who can be bothered to turn up at a meeting, but say, 75% of all owners and if they can do that, then maybe they can bring in a ban. There’s got to be an overwhelming majority of all the people who own in the building, not just the ones who bother to turn up at meetings.
Yep, absolutely. It’ll be interesting to see how it pans out. I think Scott McGregor and his partner are determined that they’re not going to let Jimmy go and they’re going to wait to get a breach of bylaw notice, and then let the building take them to NCAT this time and see how that goes.
I think the building is determined to do that. I can hear lots of movement; lots of movement in the background. You’re at a library on Broadbeach, I believe?
Yes, that’s right! The library has just opened because the opening hours have changed a bit and there’s actually a big queue of people outside, which shows how much people are reading these days, which is good. Yeah, absolutely. I haven’t seen anyone with my book yet, but never mind; that will happen.
When is your session?
In about three quarters of an hour.
Oh, they’re coming to see you!
Some of these people might be…
Yeah, it’s your fans; it’s your fan club! You’ll be signing books before you know it!
Oh, don’t say that; it’s too scary. You’ll make me nervous. Now, let’s talk about something else, Jimmy.
All right, well, we’re going to take a little break, while Sue composes herself and signs a few books and when we come back, we’re going to talk about your visit to the Building Commissioner. That’s after this.
And, we’re back and there’s lots of authentic background noise, going on. Sue, you did a ride-along with the Building Commissioner. What’s it like being with him? Do people take him seriously, do you think?
Yes, it was the first time I’ve met the Building Commissioner, David Chandler, and as you know, he has been in his office (where he’s had these extraordinary powers to close down building sites), for six months now. I wanted to see what it was actually like to go with him onto a building site and it was absolutely fascinating. I was standing there, waiting for his arrival, with some developers and water proofers and tradesmen, and the owner of the development company, and tilers and all these different people, and they’re all assembled, waiting for him. When he arrived, it was like royalty; it was almost as if we were going to roll out a red carpet for him. Every single person stood up when he arrived; they all kind of gathered around him to shake his hand. It’s really interesting, because he’s quite an impressive personality. I mean, he’s kind of a bit school teacherish. You know, we were kind of all naughty pupils, and he ordered us around and told us what to do and where to go. He’s quite a jocular man; he shook hands with everyone and inquired about their families and the state of their haircuts and things. You know, passed free comment on things. It was interesting to see what in what regard he’s held. I mean, people are very nervous of him, because obviously, he has this incredible power, but at the same time, they’re very, very keen to please him and show him the good work they’re doing. The building site I was on turned out to be a good one and David Chandler was very pleased with most of what he saw. He did notice a couple of tiny little things and he called them up immediately, and everybody kind of jumped to try and go over and rectify almost immediately; it was quite incredible. I’ve never seen anyone move as fast. So, it was fascinating to see him, and I talked to a few people and said ‘do you think he’s making a difference?’ and they all said, “absolutely, because the bad developers and builders are kind of looking at him and thinking, ‘it’s just not worth it anymore,”’ and are shutting up shop. They were saying that some developers have just left the industry immediately. The good developers obviously don’t have to worry. The middling developers, they may make mistakes here and there, but they were all saying that everybody has really lifted their game. I said to one guy who’s in charge of a waterproofing company, “What was the atmosphere like in the industry at the moment?” He said, ‘absolute panic.’
You made a little recording of David Chandler himself, when you asked him what kind of an impression he was making. So, let’s just play that and hear what he says.
David Chandler 13:26
Sue, you’ve asked me how I feel things are going. I think everybody’s starting to tell you and others that things are changing. I’ve yet to see that industry-wide. So, what I’ve got to do is build on the positive stories and make sure that they become everybody’s story.
So, he’s cautiously optimistic; I think would be the phrase.
Yes, absolutely. He’s a very determined man and I think when the New South Wales Government announced that they were going to appoint a Building Commissioner…. I mean, everybody thought, ‘oh, is this just going to be another bureaucrat and just a pen-pushing exercise,’ but he’s somebody who’s very determined to hit the ground running. He knows stuff; he’s obviously got that fantastic background and is eager to use his powers. He is not shy of calling stuff out. I can’t actually think of a better personality to do something like this, really.
He’s the kind of person that strikes you that, in another life, he could have been a builder or a developer, because he has that forceful personality.
Yep, sure thing. I was talking to Kathlyn Loseby, the former head of the New South Wales Architecture Institute. She was saying in that capacity, she would love to see Building Commissioners appointed in all the states, because we’ve seen what an electric impact, he’s had on New South Wales… They would like to see him having the same kind of impact in Victoria and Queensland and the other states and territories too.
Before all the dodgy developers go to those states; leave New South Wales and set up shop somewhere else.
Just on the bus coming into town here, on the Gold Coast, I mean, there’s some shocking buildings; really awful buildings and it would be nice to have the whole industry cleaned up.
Yeah and talking about cleaning up; he revealed some obsession about a women’s toilet?
That’s right. It was a bit odd, really. It took us all by surprise, except the developer (he’s obviously talked about these kinds of issues to him before). He always makes a point of visiting a women’s toilet on the building site, or in the area that the women who are working on the site would have to use and he is adamant that those toilets should be really good and really clean. He goes as far as taking a picture of the toilet bowl to make sure it’s clean and showing that to the developer if he’s not happy, because he says we need more women in the building industry and development industry and we’re not going to get them, when we can’t even provide basic facilities which suit them. I mean, all power to him really for that. In the International Women’s Day week, it’s kind of a nice thing to note.
Yes. He’s flushed with success.
You’ve been practicing that, haven’t you?
I just thought of it, honest! I’m beginning to wonder if I should edit it out. When we come back, we’re going to be talking about a couple of other women, making a difference in the building industry. We’re going to be talking about micro-recycling. That’s after this.
And we’re back. I was out and about, last week too.
Yeah. Tell us about what you saw.
Well, I went to a launch at the Pavilions building (which is one of Mirvac’s new buildings out at Homebush), of this new product that they are promoting and sponsoring, which (to put it in some sort of context), is a kind of tile; kind of fake ceramic, which is made up out of old clothes and glass, believe it or not.
Oh, right and also, I saw coffee bags; jute coffee bags as well in there.
Yes, I thought they were those little coffee bags you make a cup of coffee with, but no, it’s the sacking thing.
Yeah. How does it look?
It looks great, actually. It’s not a shiny tile; kind of semi-shiny (in some of them, if they are polished). It’s got a real texture to it. They had floor tiles, they had wall tiles, they had splash backs, they had tabletops, they even had pendant lamps, which are like a long cylinder lamp, all made out of this product… All made out of recycled glass and fabric. In fact, Professor Veena Sahajwalla from the University of New South Wales Smart Section; she presented Susan Lloyd-Hurwitz, who is the CEO and MD of Mirvac with a tile; a little 10-centimeter tile, made from her son’s school uniform.
Oh my gosh! So, when her son’s searching for his school uniform, she has to say ‘I’m sorry, it’s gone to a better cause.”
It’s sitting under that cup. I thought that was really interesting. The Environment and Energy minister; State Minister, Matt Kean was there, but first of all, let’s hear a little clip from Professor Veena Sahajwalla
Veena Sahajwalla 18:56
‘But I have to also acknowledge the fact that we have received funding from both federal government and state government and particularly acknowledging the fact that science and technology again doesn’t just happen in isolation. You know, we’ve got incredibly fantastic support, if you start to think about the fundamental science. In this particular case, we’re talking about recycling science and the fact that we had to literally go back and discover and do the basics of that science and to make those discoveries. We actually realized very quickly that there was no name for the science that we were doing, so we said ‘right, okay, this is going to be micro-recycling science from now on,’ and if I might just explain for one moment why micro-recycling science, because fundamentally when you think about recycling, people think about converting like-for-like, where you basically take plastic bottle, convert it into plastic bottle and that’s a fantastic outcome, when you can do that. When you’ve got a nice clean PT water bottle, but what if you’ve actually got (as we know in this case), glass, fabric… You know, all the old clothes, things that we see many times that go into our yellow bins that we would love to be able to convert them into more glass. And of course, that’s how recycling is typically thought of; nothing wrong with that. But what if you did not have the opportunity to have a glass smelter close enough and you had to transport your waste over long distances. In that way, what you’ve actually done is you’ve made it not that cost-effective. So, the ideal scenario is if you can create different pathways to recycling, so one could well be the more traditional recycling, of converting glass into glass and the other one that we’ve developed of course, and the work that you’ll see today at Mirvac, is converting materials into a whole new form. And this thing we call As We Form, because it’s going beyond recycling. You’re converting glass and textiles into a whole new green ceramic. What this allows us to do is minimize the cost of transport; decentralize these facilities, have manufacturing happening, and converting waste into value-added products.
So that is one of the most interesting things about this. What they’re setting up, rather than having a big factory, somewhere where you take all this stuff (even if it was recycled stuff), making it into something new. They’re saying, ‘no, let’s have the factory near where it’s used and near where the material comes from.’ So, you have a little workshop somewhere that’s turning this stuff out, so you don’t waste the benefit of recycling, by using up your carbon footprint by trucking stuff out to the country and bringing it back again.
That’s great, isn’t it?
Yeah, I think I think they have a place out at Cootamundra; a little experimental factory there. There was a big thing on Australian story (which you’ll be able to see on iview), about the whole process.
Oh, fantastic. You said, it looks really good; how does it actually feel?
Well, it’s not as cold as ceramic, you know, a proper ceramic tile. It can have texture, like the one made from the coffee bags; you could actually feel the surface, which is, you know, quite a common thing, now entirely. The floor tiling was smooth, although it did have a pattern in it and this splash back stuff… I think it was smooth, but it looked like it had color through it; it had a texture in the color. It was really, really interesting. I asked them the million-dollar question, ‘does this cost more to produce than ceramic tiles?’ And they said, no, it’s about the same and as they ramp up production, it will become cheaper.
So, then it becomes really viable as a product, in terms of its cost.
I also asked, does it not use a lot of energy to make the stuff anyway, and they said no, because it’s a cold process. They don’t have to superheat the stuff.
So how does it actually compare in terms of the carbon footprint, then?
Much, much less. I mean, so much less. Remember that TV show, A War on Waste, where they showed you the tons and tons and tons of clothing (because we now live in an era of disposable fashion) … All these tons of clothing that are just thrown out by Australians, every day. Well, now there’s somewhere for them to go. I think it’s amazing.
And that was in an apartment in the Sydney Olympic Park, wasn’t it? The Pavilion’s Apartment? Are they putting in more apartments out there, or was that just a show apartment?
I think it was a show apartment, to show what they’re planning to do, but I think it will be an option for apartments that when you go into a new apartment, they will be offering, ‘would you like to have this micro-recycled stuff?’
I don’t know if it’s gonna cost a bit more or a bit less, but I think it’s a kind of passion thing, isn’t it? People are passionate about recycling.
Yeah and it becomes a real feature to talk about as well, doesn’t it?
Yeah. So, I think it’s terrific and Matt Kean, the Minister, he was there (he was quite funny, actually). The right-wing press; the Fox TV, Sky News people call him Green Kean. I think that’s a badge he wears with pride. Here’s what he has to say.
Matt Kean 24:36
What to celebrate here at the Pavilions residences, and in particularly, this fantastic collaboration between the University of New South Wales Smart Center, and obviously, Mirvac, but in addition to celebrating that collaboration, also celebrating that Sydney continues to be the construction capital of Australia, leading the nation out of the COVID recession and the best thing about this is that we’re making it a green recovery. If any of you watch Sky News, you will see that Green Kean is out there. I’m a big part of this, but I’m glad to see it’s not just me; it’s the great people here involved in Mirvac and the University of New South Wales because it includes innovations, like green ceramics in this amazing development. So, a couple of things that you already know, that this industry is the single largest global consumer of resources and raw materials and right here in New South Wales, construction and development/demolition waste makes up the majority of all waste generated right here in this state. Now, we’ve got a pretty good track record in dealing with it. In fact, our recycling rates are up at around 77%. But we’ve got a long way to go, making the industry truly sustainable and it’s projects like this here; right here in Homebush, that are going to make sure we deliver on that promise, to make the industry and make our community truly sustainable.
So yeah, he’s enthusiastic. He’s on board with it. I’m probably gonna do a feature (I’m hoping), about this for this weekend’s Financial Review so that will have a lot more detail in it.
Great. I look forward to reading it.
I look forward to writing it. Alright, Sue, I’d better let you get back to your fan base there. No stage -jumping!
They look a bit of a motley crew.
Just tell them that there’s something in the book that they buy, that isn’t in the book that they borrow. That’s the trick. Okay, you enjoy yourself the rest of your trip, and we’ll talk again soon.
Fantastic. Cheers, Jimmy. Bye.
Thanks for listening to the Flat Chat Wrap podcast. You’ll find links to the stories and other references on our website, www.flat-chat.com.au And if you haven’t already done so, you can subscribe to this podcast completely free on Apple podcasts, Google podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or your favorite pod catcher. Just search for Flat Chat Wrap with a W click on subscribe, and you’ll get this podcast every week without even trying. Thanks again. Talk to you again next week.