Cutting red tape on ordinary compliance and approvals for significant developments has emerged as the single-most important business priority in the construction sector for the next government, the latest survey has found.

Released last week, the Policy Priorities for the next Australian Government report involved a survey of 330 businesses across the manufacturing, services and construction sectors. Respondents were asked to rank six policy measures for the next government in order of importance.

The survey found that in the construction sector, reducing red tape and regulatory duplication ranked as the single-most important issue, followed by reforms to reduce the company tax rate and implement tax reform and measures to reform industrial relations and boost productivity.

Policies to encourage skills and training and, perhaps surprisingly, investment in physical infrastructure were considered of lower importance.

Across all sectors, industrial relations reform ranked as the highest priority, followed by reducing red tape.

most important policy priorities

Red tape has been a significant headache for the building and construction industry in recent years, especially with regard to arduous and duplicated approval processes for resource and infrastructure developments.

Approval times for new thermal coal projects, for instance, sit at 3.1 years against international averages of 1.8 according to Minerals Council of Australia figures, and industry bodies such as Master Builders Australia cheered recent Coalition promises to reduce the compliance burden on business. Master Builders said the construction industry was one of the most heavily regulated in the country and time spent dealing with compliance diverted industry attention from building homes, hospitals, roads, schools and other infrastructure.

The industry has also been concerned about tax and industrial relations. The Housing Industry Association has long complained that ‘excessive and inefficient’ taxation is placing an undue burden upon the cost of housing, while Master Builders has expressed concern that changes to the Fair Work Act and 457 Visa rules will create uncertainty and add to compliance costs.

Releasing the report last week, AiGroup chief executive Innes Willox says the results highlight a number of key areas of concern which need to be addressed.

“This report is a significant and timely gauge of business sentiment and priorities in this pre-election period,” Willox says. “Business is looking for genuine commitment and action in these areas from the next government.”

Across different size enterprises, small businesses (those with fewer than 20 staff members) ranked red tape reductions as most important while medium and large businesses says industrial relations is their most pressing issue.