Event: Denita Wawn interview with Sophia McCaughan, National Radio News, Community Radio Network
Date: Wednesday 26 October 2022
Speakers: Sophia McCaughan, journalist Community Radio Network, Denita Wawn CEO Master Builders Australia
Topics: Budget, Housing Accord, Industrial Relations
Sophia McCaughan, journalist Community Radio Network: Has the Labor Government done enough to address the labour shortages in the building industry in this new federal budget?
Denita Wawn, CEO Master Builders Australia: Well they’ve had a good start. I think there’s two streams of importance for us. First of all is the increased support for taking up apprenticeships. We know it takes time for people to complete their apprenticeships. It’s certainly a big component resolving labour shortages in the long term. But the other issue is more of the immediate shortages and addressing it through migration. We’ve seen an increase in the migration cap and also additional support to get visa applications including temporary visa applications through the system a lot quicker. So it’s a good start and in both instances something we’ve been asking for.
Sophia: And what are your thoughts on the Labor Government’s new Housing Accord?
Denita: Master Builders Australia has been working with the Treasurer for some time on a way in which all of those involved in housing supply, whether it’s all three levels of government, investors and the industry itself, to resolve the long term problems we’ve had around meeting demand. And that’s been around issues relating to restrictions in planning, the cost of land, delays in approvals including development approvals. That all restricts the supply of land. And it’s important to recognise that the government has quickly got approval from every single state and territory plus the local government association to see how they can change that. We also know that investors including superannuation funds have been very keen to invest more in Australian housing but is not getting the return simply because of those supply constraints. And so therefore have been not delving into the industry as much as they could. So we’ve all got a plan to get ahead to resolve the problem. The Accord is the start of the conversation but certainly a good start.
Sophia: Now the government want to build, I guess, more and more houses. They have a very ambitious target for a million houses in the next five to ten years but nothing has been done to address the supply chain issues. Now I know in Western Australia they are currently struggling very hard with their construction industry with finding those supplies due to shortages and the war in Ukraine. What could have been done in the budget to address these supply shortages better?
Denita: Well some of the issues around materials, supplies are not instantaneous solutions unfortunately. And we are reliant on in some instances international supply. So the focus has been therefore on the medium to long term. The importance is around the forestry agreements, the issue around local manufacturing, particularly for engineered timber, and of course labour supply as well. So there’s not an easy solution to these problems but we know that they will more than likely start stabilising over the next six to 12 months. But it really shows the importance of looking at local manufacturing and I know that has been part of the ALP policy to focus on local manufacturing. We think there’s components there that are good but unfortunately there’s no easy immediate solutions to the problem facing the industry.
Sophia: And just my last question for you Denita, a pretty simple one. Are you happy with the Budget in all? Or are you disappointed with a lot of other industry groups from different sectors who are calling it a missed opportunity? Are you happy with the Budget or do you think it’s a missed opportunity?
Denita: We’re certainly happy with the housing component and also the skills component. But we’ve got to recognise that this was a mini budget. It was the government doing the reset to reflect their election commitments they took to the election earlier this year. I think we’ll see some much bigger, bolder things whether they are negative or positive in the May Budget next year. But certainly the priority for us has been housing. We’ve tempered our comments with housing with our concerns around industrial relations. Some of that was focussed on in the Budget but there’s a new bill to be introduced tomorrow that we’re concerned about that will put the breaks on productivity. It’s a good Budget, it’s a mini Budget but obviously concerned about some of the other policy decisions the government is going to take forward over the next week or two.
Sophia: Thank you so much Denita.
National Director, Media & Public Affairs
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