Event: Interview with Peter Stefanovic, Sky News
Date: Thursday, 17 August 2023, 6.45am AEST
Speakers: Peter Stefanovic, host Sky News; Denita Wawn, CEO Master Builders Australia
Topics: National Cabinet, housing supply
Peter Stefanovic, host Sky News: Let’s send it over to Canberra now. Joining us live is the Master Builders Australia chief executive Denita Wawn. Denita, good to see you. Thanks for your time this morning. Did you watch the game last night?
Denita Wawn, chief executive Master Builders of Australia: Yeah I did, Pete. It was pretty exciting but disappointing at the same time. But you know the fact that they got to the semis, just an amazing feat.
Peter: It was, it was indeed. We’re just all going to have to allow ourselves to be disappointed for a bit and then you know look at the numbers of people who are going to be joining the sport in years to come because of this result. Now let’s talk about housing, Denita. Sweeteners to state and local councils. Is this the magic bullet?
Denita: Well, Pete, we’ve been asking for something like this for over five years now. We’ve known for a long, long time that supply constraints were inhibiting housing development across this country. Whether it’s planning laws, zoning laws, the slowness of building approvals, developer charges, you name it, supply has been the constraint. And we have said to now successive governments that you need to put incentives on the table just like Hawke did with the dereg reforms in the late 1980s, early 1990s. So, the Albanese Government has listened. They’ve put those incentives on the table. It is now up to the governments to implement those as quickly as possible so we can resolve the housing crisis.
Peter: Are you encouraged that the states and councils will do that?
Denita: Well, we’re very encouraged that they signed the Housing Accord. We’ve now been asking for the detail. The detail was uncovered yesterday but now it’s about action and we will be holding all states and the local governments and the federal government to account to ensure this is rolled out as quickly as possible. There is no time to lose in resolving the housing issues that we’ve got around the country. We need to get on with it and get on with it now. The industry is ready. We have capacity.
Peter: So, you think this will work?
Denita: We do so long as everyone meets the obligations that they’ve agreed to yesterday. We have said repeatedly that supply constraints are inhibiting housing development and the infrastructure around it for the last 10 years. We’ve got to solve the supply issues. Yesterday was the first time we’ve seen all levels of government get together and actually agree that that is the problem and they’ve not provided a pathway to resolve the issues. So, now it’s all about getting the things done and getting housing built. It’s as simple as that.
Peter: Okay, and big numbers too. 1.2 million homes. That’s the wish. Can they be built in the next five years?
Denita: Yes, Pete, we think that they can. The industry has been flat out but unfortunately flat out without making much money, if not losing money over the last couple of years. That has significantly subsided that demand because of high inflation and the reduction and also increasing interest rates. So, it is critical that governments are providing incentives to ensure that we get investment back into the housing market. This enables this to happen and we’ve got capacity given the downturn in building approvals that we’ve seen over the last six months.
Peter: What about rent? Look, landlords being banned from raising rents more than once a year, most states had already moved on this anyway but do you think this will change the game at all?
Denita: No we don’t. We were very, very concerned that there was going to be rental freezes put on the investment market. Simply a ridiculous notion given that it would actually reduce investment in housing. It’s the reason why we think it’s important that investors are encouraged into the marketplace because we know rental properties there is a huge shortage in rental as well so we’ve got to encourage investment back into the industry just as much as we see owner-occupiers wanting to get into owning their home and also building a new home.
Peter: And onto the point of planning, zoning and land release, what’s the reason why that had not been done in the first place with so much of this falling down to states and councils out of the PM’s hands essentially?
Denita: Well it’s been really disappointing that we’ve needed the federal government intervention to resolve these issues. State and territory governments have simply not moved to ensure that we remove these supply constraints. There have been a bits and pieces approach over the years but there needed to be significant reform and the feds have answered that. But equally, as you quite rightly say Pete, it shouldn’t have needed federal intervention. But the time has come, we have reached a crisis and everyone now has to dig in and do their bit.
Peter: Okay. Could the Prime Minister have done any more?
Denita: Well I don’t think so. He’s put in money for an area that is not his responsibility. But nevertheless, he knows that the housing crisis needs to be resolved and we commend from leaning in and looking at how we incentivise the states and territories to do what they need to be doing.
Peter: Okay, Denita Wawn, appreciate it. Thank you.
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