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Interview with Stephen Cenatiempo, 2CC Radio


Event: Interview with Stephen Cenatiempo, 2CC Radio
Date: Wednesday 10 April 2024, 8.40am AEST
Speakers: Denita Wawn, CEO Master Builders Australia
Topics: Labour shortages, Housing Accord


Stephen Cenatiempo, host 2CC Radio: We heard this week that the ACT apparently is on track to meet its requirements under this new Housing Accord, and despite a myriad of federal government housing initiatives, Australia is on track to fall over 110,000 homes short of its National Housing Accord target. Master Builders Australia has released its 2024 building and construction industry forecast, which from first time, cover the full five-year period of the Accord. Denita Wawn is the CEO of Master Builders Australia and joins us now. Denita, good morning.

Denita Wawn, CEO Master Builders Australia: Good morning, Stephen.

Stephen: That’s a hell of a shortfall.

Denita: It is, and the scary thing is, is that it means that the housing crisis we’re currently experiencing around the country is going to get worse before it gets better, and that is a real shame for the entire community.

Stephen: Because the, from the first of July this year until the 30th of June 2029, which is that five-year forecast period, your analysis says there’ll be, well, let’s say 1.1 million in round figures new homes started, which the problem I see with this Accord is that there there’s a big confusion over there as to whether or not existing projections were included in that?

Denita: Yeah, it’s, there’s so many caveats to these figures. I’m no economist but I am someone who worries about these things, and you’ve got to consider the caveats. So, we know that we need 1.2 million homes to house all Australians by that 2029 figure. We also know that the government has, the federal government, is doing some good stuff when it comes to social and affordable housing through the Housing Australia Future Fund and the first round is about to be announced over the next few months. So that is all good, but there’s a whole series of buts. The but is we need more people to build these homes. So, you can get building approvals, but you can’t commence them, and you can’t complete them unless you’ve got the right people in the right locations. We’ve got a whole stack of IR changes that have gone through over the last 18 months that really, we aren’t feeling the full effect of it as yet. And, of course, we’re not getting our skilled migration right when it comes to where the really acute problems are. So, there’s still a lot of caveats involved in our figure of 1.1, let alone the 1.2.

Stephen: Yeah, which I want to talk about that labour shortage issue for a moment because the government tells us that the reason, we need the accelerated immigration is to fill the skills gap, but it doesn’t seem to be having any impact.

Denita: Well, we would argue that the skills shortage focus is too much on professionals and not enough on trades and people in the service sectors. So, it’s not just us, it’s healthcare, and hospitality and the like. And we argue that more needs to be done on trades. And it’s not just the migration system that impacts our capacity in terms of getting people into the country, but it’s also our licensing arrangements. I’ve found it incredulous that, you know, people wanting to work in hospitality need different responsible service of alcohol credentials for different states, let alone what you need to do to get a licence of a trade in this country between the states, let alone being recognised with the international qualifications. So, a lot more needs to be done around that quals recognition. And that’s at the state and territory level, more so than the federal level.

Stephen: Well, and that’s right. I mean, is there, what would you like to see? Would you like to see the federal government take that over or just as part of this Housing Accord, say, look, all of you guys get your heads together and come up with one system?

Denita: Well, we certainly celebrated the fact that the national cabinet in August of last year agreed to the 1.2 million target and there was a request by the ministers, the chief ministers and the Prime Minister to all of their respective ministers to say, go ahead and sort the problems out as to why we’ve got supply constraints. And I commend the Skills Minister Brendan O’Connor. He has really taken the charge in putting this as a priority and likewise we’re starting to see some changes in planning. But more needs to be done across the entire lot of government, all ministers at all levels need to be focusing on this issue. It is a fundamental human right that we have a house over our heads, sorry, a roof over our heads in a house, hopefully, and as such we need a concerted, holistic approach by all governments.

Stephen: Yeah, which is a mouthful and easier said than done. Denita, always appreciate your time. Thanks for joining us this morning.

Denita: Thanks Stephen. Cheers.

Stephen: Denita Wawn, CEO of Master Builders Australia. Still a little work to be done there and as I’ve said, it’s all well and good for the federal government to come out and say we’re going to do this, that and the other but the federal government is not going to build a single home.

Media contact:
Dee Zegarac
National Director, Media & Public Affairs
0400 493 071

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