Event: Interview with Michael Usher, host 7 News The Latest
Date: Thursday, 28 September 2023
Speakers: Denita Wawn, CEO Master Builders Australia
Topics: housing, insolvencies, labour shortages, industrial relations
Michael Usher, host 7 News The Latest: We now welcome Master Builders Australia CEO Denita Wawn to the program. Denita, thanks for joining us tonight.
Denita Wawn, CEO Master Builders Australia: Thank you, Michael. Good to be with you.
Michael: We’ve just had a look at the background of some of the issues going on. Some builders shutting up shop during rising cost and customers left out in the lurch. What is the solution here? Obviously, some tough times.
Denita: Yeah, we’ve had some really tough times over the last 12 months, 18 months. We’ve had huge inflationary costs which has meant that building materials go up. We’ve had labour shortages which means it takes longer to build and prices are higher for labour. Things have been really, really tough. A lot of building activity but not any profit and in some instances, quite a lot of losses which is why we’re seeing such an escalation in builders going bust, unfortunately. But we think we are starting to get to the back end of that.
Michael: What’s fixing that then do you think? What is the glimmer of hope? Is supply getting better? What are the circumstances that have potentially changed to give home owners and people wanting to build that it’s not going to happen to them?
Denita: I think the important thing is that builders are now pricing to reflect current building material prices and labour prices. We’ve also seen a decline in demand for building because of the increasing costs and also the increasing interest rates so that has also subdued demand which meant that builders are able to build more quickly. But the big issue at the moment still is we still don’t have enough supply of people to work in the sector.
Michael: Does that come down to government policy then to get workers here or not?
Denita: It does. Part of the solution is skilled migration and it also means us attracting more people into the industry including women. We’ve only got a 14 per cent of our workforce are female and that’s not good enough. We also need to look at how we best train our people for the future as well.
Michael: Well I guess the problem Denita is that the problems are now and you’ve got a lot of pressure from politicians especially who are making big plans to fix the housing crisis in pretty much every state. There’s announcements every other week about delivering not only tens of thousands but hundreds of thousands of new houses over the next decade. Is it all achievable?
Denita: We would like to hope so. First of all, we’ve got to find more people it’s as simple as that. We’re estimating another half a million new entrants into the industry. That’s a lot of people we’ve got to find. We’re also deeply concerned about the industrial relations laws that are being proposed by the government and how that prohibits productivity into the industry.
Michael: So realistically say in the next year for example of whatever timeframe you want to put on it. How many homes can be delivered do you think?
Denita: Well, we’re of the view that we’ll build around about 180 odd thousand in the next 12 months. That’s not enough. The minimum target we need to be focused on is 200,000 homes each and every year which is why we need more people to ensure that we can build these houses and also all the infrastructure around it as well.
Michael: A lot of work to do. Seems a bit overwhelming, doesn’t it?
Denita: It does but we’re up for the challenge.
Michael: Denita Wawn, CEO of Master Builders Australia. Thank you.
Denita: Pleasure. Thank you, Michael.
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