Event:Migration Pathway to Nation Building Parliamentary Committee Inquiry
Date: Friday, 12 May 2023, 9.45am AEST
Speakers: Alex Waldren, National Director Industry Policy, Master Builders Australia
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Master Builders represents all areas of building and construction sectors. That’s residential, commercial and civil. It includes a membership of 32,000 members which are tier 1 and 2 building contractors, trade contractors/subcontractors and small business and sole traders. The sector overall employs 1.3 million workers and 1 in 6 Australian businesses are in the building and construction industry. The majority of which are small businesses (98.7 per cent).
The economy needs to grow its population to support growth and productivity and a better migration system will support this.
As the Government’s review of migration states, Australia faces many challenges and opportunities where migration can play a role. Stagnating productivity, geopolitical risk and an ageing population are critical issues for government to address.
Master Builders agrees on the importance of sustainable migration as an essential part of growth, prosperity and diversity in Australia. Migration directly supports Australian businesses to meet their workforce needs – for the building and construction industry this need is around half a million workers by 2026. Without the workforce, we won’t be able to build housing and community infrastructure needed to support population growth.
The combination of improved policies around skilled migration, training and education, industrial relations and workforce development, collectively will offer opportunities to build a more productive labour force in the building and construction industry.
But there are conflicts between the record migration numbers and housing needed for new immigrants to Australia. This further highlights the need for a clear national plan on where housing need is; faster investment in housing; supporting infrastructure; and improvements in state and local planning processes.
Whilst the volume of new home building over the years to 2024-25 should be sufficient to accommodate the volumes of inward migration expected, migration is only one source of growth in housing demand.
The precise housing needs of 975,000 migrants forecast in the budget are not yet known. But if we assume size of households is more than two people, good access to land and no delays in construction, the volume of new home building is likely to be sufficient to accommodate the volumes of inward migration.
However, changes in population age structure as well as depreciation and demolition of existing housing stock, will also affect demand.
This combination of factors is expected to result in total new home building activity falling short of underlying demand over the years ahead.
Government action therefore in migration and housing policy needs to be working together to resolve the challenges of a bigger population. This will be difficult to achieve while inflationary, workforce and interest rate pressures are constraining building activity and construction business viability.
We find ourselves in a catch-22 where we don’t have enough workers to build the 200,000 dwellings a year that we need but at the same time don’t have enough homes to meet current migration levels as well as extra demand in the housing market.
Failure by states and territories to approve enough new homes and delays in delivery of government programs that support investment in housing are exacerbating the problem.
In addition to this, the budget announcement to cap international student work hours back to pre-covid levels to 48 hours per fortnight restricts access to workers that are already in Australia and should be unrestricted to all areas with workforce shortages, not just aged care. So long as this doesn’t impact the individuals capacity to study.
In regard to our submission, MBA’s recommendations include the following to address some of these challenges:
- Progress government reforms to address planning and zoning issues that impede access to land, unnecessarily restrict urban development, and inflate land prices.
- Deliver a simpler visa system with lower costs, quicker processing, better employment outcomes and clearer pathways to permanency.
- Simplify and streamline visa pathways for international workers with qualifications and experience that already exceed minimum Australian occupational requirements.
- Provide less demanding English language requirements for visa holders to better align with occupational requirements.
- Expand eligibility for the post-study work stream visa to include all Certificate III, above and international graduates.
- Explore interest and viability of an apprentice visa pilot program something that Master Builders has promoted in a number of government committee forums.
Master Builders is also working with members of the National Alliance for Regionalisation facilitated through the Regional Australia Institute on how to adapt a system thinking approach to regional development with regions expected to grow to 11 million by 2032.
Since the inquiry commenced the government has released its review of the Migration System Final Report and outlined a broad plan for reform that aligns with review findings. The review is fair and balanced overall and Master Builders will continue to engage in government consultation as it finalizes its Migration Strategy later in the year.
All but one Master Builders recommendation is being considered further as part of government reforms and the Budget announcement restricting student work hours should be lifted.
Media contact: Dee Zegarac, National Director, Media & Public Affairs
0400 493 071 | email@example.com