3rd May, 2018

Federal Budget 2018: What does the construction industry want?

Very few industries get excited by a big infrastructure spend in the Federal Budget like the construction industry. This year’s no different.

As we start to rush towards the Federal Budget, industries have lined up their wish lists – with some submitting their lists to the government ahead of time.

These lists aren’t a case of a child asking Santa for more toys. They reveal where industries are feeling the heat and what needs to be done.

We caught up with Master Builders CEO Denita Wawn to ask what the industry wants in the Federal Budget.

READ: MYOB’s Federal Budget 2018 coverage

Make VET Great Again

Wawn said one of the key planks of its wish list are measures that would raise the reputation of Vocational Education and Training (VET) for younger people.

“We would like to see funding for partnerships between industry and government to implement pre-apprenticeship programs that introduce construction students in years 10, 11 and 12,” she told The Pulse.

“This would help overcome the perception that training for a building trade is inferior to an undergraduate university degree. Completing a building trade apprenticeship sets young women and men up for well-paying and fulfilling careers.”

Wawn added that the industry was already trying its best to increase the awareness and appeal of a construction career, but the government could chip in a few marketing dollars.

“We would like to see funding for an advertising campaign targeted at young people, their parents and teachers to restore the apprenticeship brand,” she said.

“This could counteract the erroneous perception that a building industry vocational qualification is the ‘poor cousin’ of a tertiary education.”

Projects to be freed by reducing red tape

The government is already undertaking a red tape reduction program. This could impact the construction industry on two fronts.

Wawn said the first benefit is that small businesses in the sector could get on with the job instead of filling out paperwork.

“We would support any new initiatives that give small business builders more time to grow their businesses, not drown in over-regulation and be burdened with compliance requirements,” she said.

But she also said that reducing red tape at the planning level would create more work for the industry.

“Cutting red tape around land use, particularly in planning and zoning, will have a major impact on housing affordability.”

Keep or extend the $20,000 instant asset write-off scheme

It’s almost a yearly tradition that near the end of June, tradies look lovingly at a new set of tools or a new ute. In recent years the $20,000 instant asset write-off scheme has made the decision to upgrade equipment an easier one.

That’s why Wawn is in favour of extending the scheme or making it a permanent feature for small businesses.

“Building and construction is the biggest sector of the economy for small business. More than 370,000 small building businesses make up 98 percent of our industry,” she said.

“They provide most of the jobs and train most of the apprentices.

“That’s why Master Builders has always been the strongest supporter of the instant tax write-off initiatives in the past few Federal Budgets.”

READ: The $20,000 question the government needs to answer

Keep up the infrastructure spend

Master Builders has been encouraged by the infrastructure spend of the current government, which hit 5.2 percent of GDP last year. They’d like to see that figure reach 6 percent.

Wawn said there were direct benefits of big infrastructure work for Master Builders’ members, but these flowed through to smaller construction firms as well.

The smaller firms work as sub-contractors on major projects so it’s a clear win for them, and indirectly they gain from infrastructure supporting building activity in other sectors.

Wawn wants the government to allow ‘fair opportunities’ for smaller firms. Then they can bid for work on large projects instead of the big companies having them stitched up.

“We want to see fair opportunities for local SME builders to tender for work on large projects being constructed in their communities,” said Warne.

She also called on better transport infrastructure, particularly around the urban city fringes.

“New investment in transport increases the productivity of our cities and helps unlock supply,” said Wawn.

“Nothing increases the supply of well-located land for housing like good transport links.”

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