Australia’s prime minister has thrown his support the nation’s construction industry, declaring that the industry is a critical part of the Australian economy and has been crucial for the nation’s economic recovery.

Addressing the online National Summit hosted by the Urban Development Institute of Australia (UDIA), Scott Morrison did not make new announcements but said ‘Stage 2’ of the nation’s economic recovery plan would be outlined in the May 10 budget.

Morrison said the importance of construction should not be underestimated.

“Your industry is a vital part of our economy,” he said.

‘Next year you celebrate 60 years of the UDIA. Throughout that time, your industry has driven the emergence of a modern Australia, whether it is large-scale urban development or greenfield housing projects which have opened up the Australian dream to young families.

“We are seeing more and more of these young families getting their first home under the variety of policies that we have been introducing …

“… Property development is a cornerstone of our economy. In 2020, the residential construction industry was valued at some $100 billion – around five percent of our economy.

“That is why when COVID hit, we knew it was crucial that your industry stayed open. So we worked with you to keep building sites open in a way that was COVID safe.”

According to Morrison, the government has backed the industry in three areas.

First, HomeBuilder has exceeded expectations in stimulating new home construction.

All up, more than 120,000 households applied for the grant, which Morrison says will support more than $100 billion worth of construction.

Along with this, the first-home deposit scheme has helped to propel first-home-buying activity to its highest level in more than a decade.

Another priority has been policy and regulatory reform.

Here, Morrison points to several actions.

Last October, a new regulator performance role was established with the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet to drive cultural change and increase performance and accountability among the nation’s regulators.

In addition, the Prime Minister’s Deregulation Taskforce was promoted from the Treasury Department to the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.

Next, Morrison says the government has streamlined environmental approval processes for major projects (it agreed to most of the 71 recommendations of a review of the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act but rejected 18 recommendations) and is making it easier to for small business to become first-time employers through its Employing Your First Person Taskforce.

In the upcoming budget, the Prime Minister says $120 million will be allocated to further streamline green and red tape.

Finally, there is skills.

Here, Morrison says a concern upon the pandemic’s onset had been that apprentices and trainees would be first to go.

Toward this end, the Government introduced the Supporting Apprentices and Training Wage subsidy through which small and medium employers could access subsidies of 50 percent of apprentice wages paid until March 31 along with the Boosting Apprenticeship Commencements wage subsidy through which businesses have been able to receive 50 percent subsidies for up to a year on wages paid to new apprentices whom they take on before September 30 this year (up to a maximum of $7,000 per quarter).

This latter program was fully subscribed within its first five months. As a result, the government removed the cap on places and made the number of places instead driven by demand.

All up, around 70,000 new apprenticeships will be created through this.

Morrison said property and construction’s importance must be acknowledged.

“Thanks for keeping so many Australians in jobs, thanks for keeping your sites going, thanks for putting young families into their first home,” he said.

“There is nothing more thrilling than to see people realising their own dreams and you are a part of that.

“Thanks for the work you do.”