By Wilhelm Harnisch, Chief Executive Officer, Master Builders Australia
It’s the start of a new year and inevitably we asking, what are the priorities, the issues the challenges that must be tackled in 2015?
For the building and construction industry the overarching answer to that question is business confidence.
The industry wants policies from all levels of government that will allow it to do what it does best – building the homes we live in, our workplaces and the community infrastructure they depend on.
We want to train more young people and provide them with pathways to rewarding careers, and we want to do so in a way that better equips our skilled workforce to meet the future demand for building and construction.
Building more and better housing, schools, hospitals, roads and bridges creates a stronger building industry and national economy, amplifying the benefits the industry already delivers through its employment of more than one million people.
The industry needs the confidence now found in the residential building sector to gain traction in the commercial and civil construction sectors.
The latest Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO) confirmed the deteriorating budget position and must work as a circuit breaker in the debate about the solutions to structural budget challenges it set out.
The increase of the 2014-15 budget deficit to $40.4 billion must be the catalyst for an end to obstructionism in the Senate and a mature approach to passing the Government’s legislation.
The building and construction industry is heavily dependent on confidence to underpin its growth prospects. The opportunity to recalibrate macro policy settings to tackle the structural budget deficit is vital to the industry in continuing its role in transitioning the economy as the resources boom fades, getting unemployment down and young people into jobs.
The need for the return of the powers of the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) as a strong regulator of the nation’s construction sites has been reinforced by the evidence heard by the Royal Commission into trade union governance and corruption.
An effective building industry watchdog with appropriately strong powers to enforce the Federal Government’s new building code is vital to restoring the rule of law, boosting productivity and confidence in the commercial construction sector. Master Builders calls on the Senate cross bench to pass the Government’s legislation and implement this reform immediately.
Similarly, common sense reforms to return the industrial relations system to the sensible centre are needed and Master Builders welcomes the release of the Productivity Commission’s terms of reference for its forthcoming inquiry into the industrial relations system.
These are but two of the public policy reforms required to lift confidence in the building and construction sector so that a stronger industry can play its role in creating a stronger economy.