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Interview with Kieran Gilbert, Sky News


Event: Interview with Kieran Gilbert, Sky News
Date: 13 February 2024, 11.20am AEDT
Speakers: Denita Wawn, CEO Master Builders Australia
Topics: Housing Accord, industrial relations


Kieran Gilbert, host Sky News: I want to turn our attention to the housing crisis that continues in Australia, the shortages and the price crisis. With me is the Master Builders chief executive, Denita Wawn. Denita, thanks for your time. Further reports out today confirming your numbers of late last year that the construction pipeline looks like we’re going to fall 200,000 properties short. Is that your, is that the general view within the industry?

Denita Wawn, chief executive Master Builders Australia: The industry is predicting that we will fall short because of the conditions that we currently have of that a million to 1.2 million homes over five years that the government has signed up on the Housing Accord. We think a million is still doable but there’s a lot of buts and the buts mean that if we don’t get things right, conditions right over the next six months as the clock starts ticking on that Accord process, 1 July 2024. Then we’re not going to achieve it and so…

Kieran: So the one million looks likely or achievable. But to get to the 1.2 million within five years, which starts to chip away at that affordability and that access question that we face in this country, that’s where the dilemma?

Denita: That’s where the dilemma is. But if we’re not careful with policy decision-making, we’re not going to get to that one million either. So, the one million is predicated on the national cabinet decision of all three levels of government actually recognising and implementing the decision to remove supply barriers in terms of development, zoning, costs, timing and so forth, of enabling us to build. But the other big issue of course is making sure we get the right investor mix as well and so if we don’t get all that policy right, and of course we say that the IR laws that have just been passed as well as the ones previously reduce our capacity to deliver, so for us…

Kieran: You need the right properties for the right cohorts, don’t you? If you got downsizers, people, the over 55s, over 60s say wanting to downsize, but you’re building big new property, this is in simple terms, then you miss the mark. That’s your concern?

Denita: Absolutely. This is not just about pure macro numbers. This is about making sure that through a population strategy, we understand what type of housing, what type of, whether it’s high rise or medium rise, what price points and where. And that is the big debate we’re having at the moment. And do we actually have the capacity to deliver that as well? It’s a big issue coming into the budget.

Kieran: You mentioned the IR discussion. On the right to disconnect, business groups and your colleagues have been very critical. Do you accept, though, that if you’re a tradie or another employee in construction that this might actually sound quite appealing to you? The ability to disconnect on the weekends and so on?

Denita: Well, tradies are on site, so you know they’re there, they’ve got a job to do. Our focus had been on the issue around independent contracting to make sure that they could still be of their own boss. The crossbench and the government gave us a compromise on that, which is part way of resolving our concerns. But the big issue is ensuring that we get on with the job. So many people went home and worked during COVID, our guys didn’t. They stayed on the job, they stayed on site.

Kieran: Has the crossbench taken the rough edges off this bill?

Denita: They took the rough edges off a few things, but we’ve got to remember it was not just about this bill. It’s the cumulative impact of three pieces of industrial relations legislation over 18 months, including the abolition of the ABCC.

Kieran: Do you feel like the coalition is still spooked by the WorkChoices era? Are they not going hard enough in making this a political point?

Denita: Well, we’ve certainly said to the Coalition that they now have an opportunity. That WorkChoices should be well behind them, that there are significant changes to IR that are unacceptable to business, and they should be stepping up in terms of their policy positioning for the next election.

Kieran: Denita Wawn from Master Builders. Great to see you as always. Thanks.

Denita: Thanks Kieran.

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



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