Event: Craig Edmunds interview with Belinda King, ABC Radio Northern Tasmania
Date: Tuesday 29 November 2022, 7.50am AEDT
Speakers: Belinda King, host ABC Radio Northern Tasmania, Craig Edmunds, National President Master Builders Australia
Topics: jobs and skills, housing, industrial relations
Belinda King, host ABC Radio Northern Tasmania: A Tasmanian has just taken over the reins of Master Builders Australia. Craig Edmunds appointed president of the country’s national advocate body for building and construction. This Launceston construction veteran is the sixth Tasmanian apparently to actually steer the organisation in their 132-year history. He joins us this morning. Craig, good morning.
Craig Edmunds, National President Master Builders Australia: Good morning Belinda, how are you?
Belinda: Really well. Congrats on the new role. How does it feel to be top dog, to get the top job?
Craig: Yeah, look a huge honour. Very proud, exciting, all those things and obviously plenty ahead to do.
Belinda: Indeed. You previously worked as CEO of the major construction company Fairbrother which I believe also worked on the expansion of MONA in Hobart. It’s going to be a vastly different role for you though with Master Builders I would have thought?
Craig: Yes, I’ve worked with Fairbrothers for 33 years, still do. Did serve as their CEO for 18 years and just stood aside from that role last year to become their chair of the Fairbrother board. That’s an ongoing role for me. So, the Master Builders role is a side role, a different role as you say. I have actually been on the Master Builders Tasmanian board for 12 years commencing back in 2010 and sort of serving for a couple of years as the state president. Resigning from that position recently to concentrate on a national role. But I’ve also been on the national board for the past seven years too. So, it’s not like commencing from scratch. I know what I’m in for and now just been elected as the national president so taking more a leadership role there.
Belinda: So, what is going to be the main areas of focus for this new role for you Craig?
Craig: Look I mean Master Builders Australia represents all the state and territories at a federal level and it’s basically to do whatever the current issues of the time are to make sure that the policy settings are right and suitable for our industry. To make sure that our industry is sustainable for the future.
Belinda: I guess one of the big challenges at the moment has to be training and recruitment. Getting people into industries in the first place?
Craig: Absolutely. Yes, getting enough people to enter our industry and training has always been a challenge. But probably more so in recent times with the huge labour shortages that we have which is basically with the ongoing supply chain disruptions it’s all creating delays for projects and increasing costs and the like. So that is a big concern for us at the moment. Having said that, with recent government grants there has been a high number of, increased number of apprentices and trainees who have actually commenced in our industry. So, probably suggesting that the future looks a little brighter. It takes a while for those skills to be developed and for those people to complete apprenticeships and then sort of move on through the industry sort of thing. While the higher commencements are great it is all at the end of the day about completions rather than commencements, but we are on the right track I think moving forward.
Belinda: You mentioned some government grants and support there. I wanted to touch on the government’s contentious industrial relations Bill looks set to pass this week after striking a deal with the Greens and independent Senator David Pocock. Senator Pocock says he’s struck a reasonable middle-ground with Labor to ensure that vulnerable workers and small business are protected. What’s your position on the Bill?
Craig: Well, it’s the Master Builders Australia position obviously which has had consultation across all the states and territories. And look, Master Builders Australia don’t think it is good for business and not good for the economy. And yes, unfortunately, it looks like it will go through which will create more challenges for the industry. But yeah, look there’s some parts of the Bills that are good but there’s parts which also aren’t good which has made it difficult for Master Builders Australia to support it. Things like the abolition of the ABCC and basically multi-employer bargaining which is just not a good thing.
Belinda: So that is something that you would like to, well not I was going to say, see done differently? You’d like the status quo, the current status quo to remain?
Craig: In our industry specifically, which is what we’re referring to the status quo has been good. Individual employer bargaining with their own employees to make sure that they’re actually putting conditions in place that actually suit that business and their employees is a good thing. Rather than multi-employer bargaining which then could see businesses inheriting conditions just aren’t wanted or suited for that particular business. I should also note that some of the amendments that have happened have actually carved-out commercial construction and civil works, but it still leaves residential and more importantly all the subtrades. So, while commercial construction is sort of excluded all the subtrades that is so important and part of the supply chain for building still will be caught with the new Bill.
Belinda: We know with literally every passing day and the stories that turn up in our news programs, we know there are enormous issues around housing shortages, supply and availability of builders. What role can Master Builders Australia play in improving that Craig?
Craig: Well Master Builders has been active in that space, of course recognising that housing supply and affordability has been a big issue for a long time. Master Builders is a signatory to the new government’s Housing Accord which is committing to build a million houses over five years from commencing in 2024. Now that will basically mean we need to be ensuring that we see 200,000 houses built nationally a year. We are falling short of that and that’s only compounding the problem. So, over the next few years Master Builders is forecasting that’s going to sort of be a problem. And we’re working with the federal government to make sure that all the road blockages that is hindering the houses from being built can be sort of overcome and sort of put on the right track sort of thing.
Belinda: Indeed. I am sure that many people are very keen to see just that happen. Craig, good to catch up with you this morning. Congratulations on the role. Great to see a Launnie lad taking up the reins of Master Builders Australia, president, national president. And good to have some of your time. Thank you for joining us.
Craig: You’re welcome. Thanks very much Belinda.
Belinda: Craig Edmunds with us this morning on ABC Northern Tasmania.
National Director, Media & Public Affairs
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