The voice of the building and construction industry, one of Australia’s largest sectors in the economy, is calling on the government to ensure spending is carefully targeted at boosting productivity for business, building resilient supply chains and supporting the workforce.
Master Builders Australia has today released its pre-budget submission which highlights the short and long term pressures for the sector in providing for Australia’s future building and infrastructure needs.
A strong building industry means a strong economy. The building and construction industry plays a critical role in boosting economic growth by leveraging our three times multiply effect says Master Builders Australia CEO Denita Wawn.
“The 2023-24 federal budget is being formulated against a difficult economic backdrop. Inflation is at its highest in over 30 years, partly because of labour shortages and cost pressures in the markets for raw materials. This has resulted in the toughest phase of interest rate increases since the early 1990s.
“While this represents a challenge, it also provides a real opportunity for bold budgetary reform to be advanced and for businesses to be unshackled.
“At present builders are facing a shortage of key tradespeople as well as bottlenecks in the market for key building materials whilst substantial industry transformation is underway for a net zero economy.
“It is possible for us to overcome these obstacles and our budget submission makes detailed proposals which we believe will get us moving forward again. At times of economic difficulty, private sector demand can make the vital difference and our industry has much to offer in this respect.
“In making these proposals, our focus is on improving productivity in the industry and allowing for more favourable outcomes when it comes to the cost, quality and quantity of building and construction output.
“We recognise the Government has a difficult balance to strike this Budget and urge them to work alongside the private sector to weather the storm together to reduce the impact on business, workers, and the broader economy.
“Master Builders is the only industry peak body that represents small, medium and large businesses in the building and construction industry and we are calling for Budget measures that will underpin construction activity for contractors and sub-contractors across these sectors,” said Ms Wawn.
The key priorities for the Budget include:
Dealing with industry cost pressures
Resourcing and additional flexibility for government agencies when dealing with building and construction companies whose operations have been hampered by cost spikes, labour shortages and other supply chain complications; and continuous monitoring of the market for materials with a view of taking action against anti-competitive behaviour. Over the long-term, allow for the National Reconstruction Fund to be fully leveraged to expand Australia’s onshore manufacturing and distribution capacity with respect to building materials like timber, steel, and modern manufacturing.
Supporting the construction workforce
Fund a National Partnership Agreement on Quality Careers Education to improve the standard of careers education in secondary schools; develop an apprentice commencement and retention strategy; develop and publish VET quality indicators at the RTO level; refocus apprenticeship incentive payments to better achieve policy objectives; increase the permanent skills visa cap to at least 200,000 in 2023-24 and 2024-25; expand visa eligibility; and pilot additional visa pathways.
Delivering Australia’s housing needs
Release more government land; financial payments to states and territories that are linked to progress in boosting housing supply, planning reforms and taxes imposed on new homes.
Redirect development taxes and charges to social and affordable housing; introduce tax incentives to address the risk and return gap for institutional investors; and expand the size of the Housing Future Fund capital investment from $10 billion to $20 billion.
Investing in infrastructure
Ensure a 10-year rolling pipeline of infrastructure; sufficient resources for the full implementation of the ongoing review of Infrastructure Australia; continue funding for community, city and regional focused infrastructure through genuine partnerships with embedded housing targets in these programs; and resources to ensure small businesses are not precluded from tendering for contracts with federal government and public entities.
Enhance the safety of everyone in the industry
Reverse the decision to abolish the Australian Building and Construction Commission or establish a dedicated division for the industry within the Fair Work Ombudsman with resources available for training, field work, pro-active site visits and rapid response; ensure appropriate resourcing of federal government agencies including the Asbestos Eradication & Safety Agency and the Office of the Federal Safety Commissioner; and budgetary measures that ensure the rights of independent contractors are protected, and that independent contracting continues as a legitimate and necessary form of business engagement.
Achieving the right tax settings
Temporarily expand depreciation allowances to non-residential building work that is productivity boosting in nature and financed by the private sector; extend the Technology Investment Boost and Skills and Training Investment Boost until June 2025 with non-employing businesses eligible; incentives to business through tax breaks for productivity enhancing investments in digital and IT system; and the extension of company tax cuts for businesses over $50 million in turnover.
Commence a deregulation agenda with a meaningful impact and a mechanism where any proposed new regulation is rigorously tested with alternatives considered before introduction; funding under the Australian Building Codes Board Intergovernmental Agreement to be increased to allow for Australian Standards to be accessible to builders free of charge; and resources to facilitate the transfer of all building product chain responsibilities away from the builders using them.
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