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Interview with Joe O’Brien, ABC News


Event: Interview with Joe O’Brien, ABC News
Date: 9 February 2024, 5.30pm AEDT
Speakers: Denita Wawn, CEO Master Builders Australia
Topics: Housing Accord, regional housing


Joe O’Brien, host ABC News: Housing advocates and industry representatives have met in Canberra to thrash out some solutions for Australia’s housing crisis. The summit focused more specifically on housing in regional areas where new home approvals continually lag behind population growth. Danita Wawn is the chief executive of the Master Builders Association and joins us now from Canberra. Denita Wawn, welcome. So, was this worthwhile today?

Denita Wawn, chief executive Master Builders Australia: Look, I think so, Joe. It’s certainly been a situation where the regions can be easily overlooked in this debate around the housing crisis in this country, and it was great to get everyone together in a room. We all know the solutions. The question is, how do we actually help each other get to fixing those problems?

Joe: And, so, what needs to happen in the regions?

Denita: Well, it’s simply all about supply. And it’s a supply of investment, a supply of build-ready land, it’s about skilled workers, not only for the building industry, but also for councils. We’ve got a significant shortage of planners and building surveyors that are critical in terms of getting approvals started in the first place. So, violent agreement in terms of where we need more people to get the building going. Unfortunately, we need all help from governments. We acknowledge there is a national cabinet decision to actually facilitate supply around the country, but we need to see more on the ground action. That was the key message out of today.

Joe: And I noticed in one of the stories about this today, there was talk about the first high rise in Dubbo being established, and so what’s been the move of more kind of medium density to high density housing in the regions and is there any pushback in the regions against that?

Denita: Certainly, the sentiment today was we need to get the dwelling mix right. We need to get the right amount of housing in the right places, and certainly, there is a recognition particularly to attract professionals into towns and cities in the regions that we need to look at 1-2 bedroom units and also detached houses as well as townhouses as well. So we need a mix, but certainly, there is a recognition that high rise in certain areas will need to be part of that. We just need to get the investment mix right in the first place to ensure that they’re actually getting investment returns from such a building.

Joe: And was there any talk today about how you can address those supply issues that you mentioned a couple of answers back.

Denita: Well, certainly, we know we need to encourage more people into the professions that we have shortages of. We need to encourage them into the regions and, bizarrely enough, one of the issues around encouraging people is there’s not enough housing. So it’s a chicken and egg situation. But also, we know that skilled migration is critical. The federal government has addressed that in their skilled migration report last year. We’d like them to go a little bit more and also not only recognise professionals, but also try high paid trade qualified people as well. But they’re stepping in the right direction. We just need more.

Joe: And did any ministers attend today? And did you get any commitments from them?

Denita: We certainly had a message from the housing minister. We had the shadow housing minister. We had a number of state ministers there and a number of local government councillors as well. So there was a really good mix of representation from government. I think we’re all in agreement, as I said, around supply is the answer. We just need to be helping each other actually address those issues. Get the money where we need it and ensure that we are supporting in terms of those desperately needed resourcing. One of the biggest things that seemed to be discussed today was around flying squads of surveyors and planners on to the smaller regions where they simply cannot afford to get those experts on the ground and get those planning approvals and building approvals ticked off and ready to go.

Joe: Okay. Denita Wawn, thanks so much for talking to us and have a good weekend.

Denita: Thank you, likewise.

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



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