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Denita Wawn interview with John Stanley on 2GB Nights


Event: Denita Wawn interview with John Stanley on 2GB Nights
Date: Tuesday 25 October 2022, 9.20pm AEDT
Speakers: John Stanley, host 2GB Nights, Denita Wawn CEO Master Builders Australia
Topics: Federal Budget, Housing Accord, skills, regulation, building and construction

John Stanley, host 2GB Nights: Denita Wawn is the CEO of the Master Builders Australia. Lots of questions. Good evening to you.

Denita Wawn, CEO Master Builders Australia: Good evening.

John: Just on all of that. First of all, is it possible? Can it be done?

Denita: Well, I think it can but you’ve identified that we have a series of capacity constraints at the moment and I think that’s why the government has said this Accord will effectively start in 2024 which enables us to have those serious discussions with governments at all levels to resolve some of the barriers and also some of the issues we’re facing at the moment.

John: So in terms, so you build affordable housing and then how does that reduce, first of all overall housing costs and homelessness? Who would be in this affordable housing?

Denita: Well affordable housing generally means not only social community housing but subsidised rental housing and also to some degree, subsidised homes that people are owning themselves, first home buyers. The focus for us has been that the fact that we’ve estimated that in our forecasts that to meet the housing needs of every Australian in this country, we need to building at least 200,000 homes each year for the next five years to meet those housing needs. Now at the moment we’re only building around 180,000. So, we’ve acknowledged and the government has acknowledged that we need to be doing more and a lot of the issues are around the supply constraints, not enough land, delays in approvals, delays in land titles, the developer charges, planning restrictions, the list goes on and it’s something that we’ve been advocating for a long time. And finally, we’ve got at least an agreement but all levels of government to do something about it.

John: Just in relation to, I want to get into some of those in a moment, that number you mentioned, 200,000 per year over the next five years just to keep up with housing demands, is that separate to the plan to build those social housing and affordable housing?
Denita: That’s correct John. We need at least, if not more, 200,000 new homes built each year to meet demand. And I think it’s been estimated we’ve got a shortage of around about 500,000 affordable homes in this country let alone all the other homes we need to build for the remainder of Australia. So, we’re talking about a lot of homes needing to be built. And as a consequence, we’ve argued that the policy levers that are there at the moment are not being utilised effectively for us to be able to build so everyone gets the home they deserve.

John: So, when I see things like lengthy approvals for land titles, that could include councils, state governments, so can that be fixed quickly?

Denita: No, it can’t unfortunately. It’s been a problem that’s been going on for decades. But why we’ve supportive of is this Accord is the fact that the federal government has been able to secure the support of local government as well as state and territory governments in this Accord. And that shows some leadership in being able to utilise some of the mechanisms they have available to them including the funding agreements they have such as the homelessness and affordable housing agreement to actually knock some sense into some of the state and territory governments. We are seeing some positives at the moment but it needs to happen more rapidly and across the board.
John: So people listening, the builders listening to us, or people thinking they want to do some development and they’re having the same nightmares you talk about. I see you’ve got Harry Triguboff talking tonight, he’s always been talking about this as well. So how quickly could this change happen? Because in the end the issues are with us, they’re in front of us right now aren’t they?
Denita: They absolutely are and we would hope that there’s some early adopters. I know I’ve seen some examples already of a local government in Western Australia who’s committed to halving their approval rates. So if we see some change immediately that would be great but nevertheless I think the important focus here is getting down to business. And while governments are fixing up their end of the problems, we need to ensure that we’ve got the skilled people we need. And that’s why the migration decisions of the budget tonight are important. We’ve still got material costs going through the roof so inflation is still a major concern to us. And the industry has been hit by new regulations and that is always a burden that a lot of our small to medium sized tradies have got to deal with as well.

John: Yeah. We’ve obviously got an issue with materials. That was happening during the pandemic and it’s something that’s still there isn’t it?

Denita: Yep it is. The supply has eased up but the problem is the prices are still ridiculously high, 20 – 30 per cent increases on most materials is something that none of us foresaw. And we can’t see that declining anytime soon particularly with inflation estimated to go as high as nearly eight per cent by the end of the year.

John: Yeah and the other thing we talked about, skilled migrants coming in to fill some of the gaps that are obviously there at the moment. What about this plan in the budget, it was an election promise, for these free TAFE courses where there are skills that are needed? Can you imagine that it might help you with getting people skilled up relatively quickly to work in your area?
Denita: Well it takes time for an apprentice to learn their craft, three to four years. So we would like to see of course as many commencements as possible. But equally the focus for us is also making sure commencements actually come to completion. We are unfortunately as an industry are only seeing completions average just over 50 per cent. So it’s critical that we see the completion rates up. We’re very proud of the fact that Master Builders members around the country run registered training organisations and their completions are more sitting around the 80 per cent. But nevertheless, we want more people entering into trades and more of them completing. We’re going to need some more help from the governments around those completion rates if we’re going to meet the skill shortages of the future.
John: Okay. Most interesting, we’ll see what happens in the months and the years ahead, I suppose, in relation to all of this. Thank you for your time tonight.

Denita: Pleasure. Thanks for having me on.

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

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