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.