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Improvements to Fire Safety Act recommended

PLP Senator Diallo Rabain

Three pieces of legislation were unanimously approved by the Senate during yesterday’s sitting.

The Government Fees Amendment Regulations, the Charities (Anti-Money Laundering, Anti-Terrorist Financing and Reporting) Regulations, and the Fire Safety Act 2014 were all supported by both sides of the Chamber, although suggestions were made to improve the Fire Safety Act.

The Fire Safety Act, which has been worked on since before the general election, includes a number of changes to improve safety, most notably requiring commercial buildings to obtain a fire certificate from the Chief Fire Officer.

The rules would also implement new standards and codes for fire prevention — and those who fail to abide by the rules would face penalties in court.

While the old code would continue to apply where applications for a fire certificate were received before the new legislation comes into effect, existing premises may be surveyed for fire risk under the new Act.

This can apply where a building has been unoccupied for 30 days or more, where there is no valid fire certificate, and if there is a change to the conditions imposed to a fire certificate.

Progressive Labour Party Senator Diallo Rabain expressed his support for the legislation, but suggested that in the future the Government look at amendments to give the fire service greater input at the planning stages of new developments.

While the legislation makes the Chief Fire Officer an ex-officio member of the Development Application’s Board (DAB), he argued that it would be better if the officer had a position on the Advisory Architectural Panel.

“Having input in the planning stage would be more helpful than at the DAB stage,” Mr Rabain said.

“At the DAB stage, it is being presented by the Department of Planning for approval or refusal.

“Having the Chief Fire Officer at that stage has little to do with the development of the project. It’s really coming in at the end game.”

Meanwhile, the Government Fees Amendment Regulations sets out a fee structure for use of various radio frequencies, while the Charities Regulations hold charities to higher standards when it comes to preventing money laundering.

Responding to questions by PLP Senator Renee Ming, Home Affairs Minister Michael Fahy said the additional responsibilities were designed to not be “overwhelmingly burdensome”.

He added that the Centre on Philanthropy would be helping charities meet the requirements, which would include holding information sessions about the new regulations.