There is no doubt that the ascension of Malcolm Turnbull to the office of Prime Minister has dramatically altered the political and public policy dynamic, but what does it mean for the building and construction industry?

Turnbull’s strong commitment to a stronger and more targeted focus on the economy is good news for the nation’s third largest industry. A more productive building industry will build a stronger economy and stronger communities.

The refreshed ministerial lineup appointed by the Prime Minister can bring renewed and reinvigorated energy to implementing an economic vision and realistic plan to strengthen business and investor confidence that are essential for the commercial and residential building sectors.

In its first few weeks, the Turnbull Government has begun to come to grips with issues of vital import to our industry.

Treasurer Scott Morrison has embraced the need for national leadership to tackle housing affordability to ensure new home ownership remains a realistic aspiration for the current and future generations.  The Treasurer has recognised that the housing market needs reform and he intends to do something about it. A national affordability agenda that works with state/territory governments and local councils to implement structural reforms to increase the supply of new housing must be at the core of the Turnbull Government’s approach.

The Harper Review of Competition Policy recommends the proper use of national competition policy payments to state and territory governments for targeted and permanent measures that remove unnecessary blockages to building new homes that inflate the cost of housing.

There is an opportunity for the new Federal Treasurer to work with the Victorian Treasurer Tim Pallas to give added impetus to the reform process being considered by COAG’s housing affordability working group.

The industry strongly supports Turnbull’s leadership on the need to regenerate urban infrastructure in our major cities to maximise their contribution to the economy as engines of growth and productivity.

The Prime Minister’s vision for our cities, reinforced by his appointment of Jamie Briggs MP as Minister for Cities and the Built Environment and Paul Fletcher MP as Minister for Major Projects, represents a road map to our cities meeting the economic and social challenges of population growth and concomitant demand for new public infrastructure.

Moving forward, we need a bipartisan approach to planning, funding and constructing new public infrastructure. Opposition Leader Bill Shorten’s recent speech, Unlocking the Infrastructure Australia Needs, is also an important contribution to the important debate about how best to fund community infrastructure.

But the cost of construction must not be forgotten as important factor.

The Productivity Commission’s inquiry into the public infrastructure confirmed the link between the hostile industrial tactics of the building unions and the high cost that is paid by the community for public infrastructure.

Master Builders' response to the Draft Report of the Productivity Commission’s inquiry into the workplace relations framework reminds the Commission of its earlier conclusions and calls for the restoration of the Australian Building and Construction Commission as the regulator with proven success in suppressing the unproductive culture of the CFMEU.

The new Minister for Employment, Michaelia Cash, understands that the restoration of the ABCC is a vital productivity reform which will boost economic growth; her elevation to Cabinet and to this important portfolio is a welcomed step forward.

As the Royal Commission exposes more evidence of the CFMEU’s refusal to be bound by normal standards of behaviour, the community must understand that the union’s unacceptable conduct undermines the economy and the liveability of communities.

  • Unlike his predecessor, Turnbull is actually literate when it comes down to not only social and environmental issues but also business, the economy, urban planning and the way cities work.

    What our previous leader failed entirely to understand is that a prosperous economy in the 21st century requires more than just two and three word slogans or hugging traditional industries like coal whilst being openly hostile to investment and jobs in growth sectors like clean energy. It means more than just ignoring Australia's startup and technology sector or shutting down the conversation about our future in advance manufacturing. Building efficient cities with more urban infill and transit oriented development means more than plowing billions into roads whilst ignoring public transport. Productivity requires more than just fighting with unions.

    Now that we have a leader capable of seeing the world beyond black and white, let's bury the pointless slogans and move on to the real discussion about how we move forward with our cities and our economy.

    • Of course productivity is about more than fighting with unions. Industrial relations reforms should be pragmatic rather than viewed as an end in themselves. The recent comments of Turnbull and Cash show they at least understand that.

  • The appointment of a Minister for Cities is an outstanding move. Hopefully Turnbull will make good on Abbot's much vaunted promise to focus on infrastructure development.

  • Malcolm Turnbull speaks my language on economics. His ability to discuss the complexities of financial issues without the use of slogans is refreshing.

  • Affordable housing has to cease being a catch phrase.What is required is a solution to the limitation of land speculation in housing development where the profits are made on the development of the land.
    Affordable housing has to concentrate on how the low cost housing option
    can be made attractive to new home buyers and the culture of the three bathroom-two living room home has to be rethought in order to provide more sustainable as well as affordable outcomes.
    It is essential that government encourages the design of subdivision to be driven by the design of the residential unit.Subdivision and housing design must be a interactive 'had-in-glove' design process in order to yield innovative solutions.
    As a past consultant to the South Australian Housing Trust and the winner of two national design competitions for multiple low cost housing sanctioned by the Institute of architects and the holder of the only Robin Boyd design award in South Australia I willing to contribute in whatever way I can to bring about a more sane and sustainable housing environment in this country.
    Please let me know how I can help.
    Guy Maron AM LFRAIA

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