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Interview with Kieran Gilbert, Sky News


Event: Interview with Kieran Gilbert, Sky News
Date: Friday 3 May 2024, 11.35am AEST
Speakers: Denita Wawn, CEO Master Builders Australia
Topics: Housing; productivity; building approvals; labour shortages


Kieran Gilbert, host Sky News: Let’s go live now to the chief executive of the Master Builders Denita Wawn. We saw you in Cameron’s report there and I want to you ask you about that longer term, really, shortfall in what the Government is hoping to achieve but let’s talk about the immediate and we’ve seen the ABS numbers for the last month. They in themselves are a worry, Denita Wawn. The lowest numbers for approvals we’ve seen for over a decade.

Denita Wawn, CEO Master Builders Australia: Yes, that was pretty shocking that 12 years was the last time that we saw those numbers and so we are going backwards before we go forwards. And the issue here is this is not a housing issue; it is an economy-wide issue that is depressing the capacity of us to build. So, kudos to the Federal Minister for trying to pursue housing initiatives but she is being thwarted by many of her colleagues and a lack of a holistic approach being undertaken but the Federal Government let alone the state and territory governments.

Kieran: Yeah, so, exactly. That lack of cohesion across jurisdictions is a massive thing. Correct me if I’m wrong but so much of this comes back to planning approvals at the very local level?

Denita: It does Kieran. It is all about planning approvals, the delay in planning approvals, improper zoning to enable us to build. We will need to ensure that in housing going forward at least 50 per cent of those houses built have got to be medium density of up to about six levels through to high rise. So, we simply do not have the capacity both in terms of greenfield and brownfields but then of course we’ve got a massive shock on labour shortages, and we have a massive shock on IR. And I note that our research that was just shown there in that package does not yet factor in the cost implications of the EBAs that are currently being negotiated by the CFMEU with our members nor does it take into account the impacts of the more recent industrial relations changes that we are not able to model at the moment. So, this is best case scenario, and things will only get worse if we don’t have a reversal of some of these IR changes and we don’t resolve our labour shortages as well as those regulatory changes that you’ve just mentioned.

Kieran: And then on top of this you’ve got the impact of high interest rates, sticky inflation. What’s your read Denita? You’ve watched this space as long as anyone. I’m just wondering, how does another rate hike, one or two potentially according to some economists, how would that feed into the industry and the broader housing supply right now?

Denita: Not good at all. We’ve seen this massive dwindle of private investment, and at the moment, it’s only been propped up by government investment. So, if you look at our statistics, the more interest rates go up the less we have in private investment and there is no way known we’re going to meet 1.2 million homes simply through government investment. We have to recharge the private investment market. Whether it’s mum and dad owners, mum and dad investors, right through to institutional investors. Developers and mums and dads are telling us alike the money does not stack up at the moment to start building and that’s very much now reflected in those dwindling housing approval numbers.

Kieran: Denita Wawn, chief executive at Master Builders. Great to chat as always. Thanks.

Denita: Thanks Kieran.

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

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