Why Abbott’s Win is Good for Construction Industry

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Sunday, September 8th, 2013
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It was not unexpected, and many will have differing feelings about the result, but the Coalition’s win in the federal election is overall a positive outcome for the building and construction industry in Australia.

To be sure, there are a few caveats. Changes to the law still have to pass through the Senate where the ALP could still combine with The Greens to block legislation – a potential problem at least for now on some of the more contentious issues such as streamlining project approvals or reintroducing the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC), albeit with the ALP unlikely to be overly obstructive on most issues.

Second, no matter how business-friendly its policies may be, the Coalition does not have a magic wand and cannot simply wipe out the fiscal deficit or wish away challenges in our economy or building industry. Much work lies ahead in these areas.

Third, whilst generally welcome for employers, there result is not so pleasing for other stakeholders in the industry such as workers and unions, who are understandably concerned about the prospects of the Coalition’s desire to return the industrial relations regime to the ‘sensible centre’ as Master Builders Australia puts it.

Be that as it may, from the overall industry’s point of view, the Coalition’s victory brings with it a number of important and positive implications.

Though bitterly opposed by unions and many construction workers, Coalition promises to restore the ABCC is a more than welcome news for employers in light of some of the unlawful and alleged industrial action last year in Melbourne and Brisbane.

Ditto for the abolition of the carbon tax, which according to an Australian Industry Group survey in January added around 14.8 percent of the cost of energy and electricity paid by the construction industry and more than 20 percent of that paid by building materials manufacturers in its first six months.

In smaller ways, too, Abbott has made important promises, such as moving toward an efficient and modern tribunal for faster decision making on industrial relations, cutting the company tax rate, reviewing and considering the need for independent contractors to report payments made to other contractors to the ATO and a range of smaller initiatives to eliminate red tape and reduce the regulatory burden on small business.

Other positives, however, remain dependent upon policy detail. Abbott has not given a clear date by which his promised return to surplus will occur, for example. Nor, outside of a mooted idea about making incentive payments to states to accelerate the release of land, has the Coalition articulated a clear strategy to return address the long-term housing deficit.

Overall, however, from the viewpoint of the building and construction industry, Abbott’s win is a big positive.

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