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Denita Wawn interview with Patricia Karvelas, RN Breakfast


Event: Denita Wawn interview with Patricia Karvelas, RN Breakfast
Date: Wednesday 26 October 2022, 6.20am AEDT
Speakers: Patricia Karvelas, host RN Breakfast, Denita Wawn CEO Master Builders Australia
Topics: Federal Budget, Housing Accord, skills, regulation, building and construction

Patricia Karvelas, host RN Breakfast: Denita Wawn is the chief executive of Master Builders Australia which is a signatory to the national Housing Accord and our guest. Welcome to RN Breakfast.

Denita Wawn CEO Master Builders Australia: Good morning.

Patricia: One million new homes built between 2024 and 2029 is the goal. Historical figures show 985,000 homes were completed in the five years to March 2022. Is this announcement just going to be the status quos?

Denita: No it’s not, and part of the reason why is that forecasts for the next five years show that we were going to fall dramatically short. The average over the next five years was going to be more around the 175,000 mark per year which means we were simply not going to build enough homes for Australians. And so we needed to ensure that we additional policy mechanisms to try and achieve that consistent 200,000 homes each year throughout the decade so we can ensure that people have got a home to live in.

Patricia: There’s very little detail about this Housing Accord. What have you actually signed up for?

Denita: I think the important thing is the that the industry has been calling for supply barriers to be removed, and that is predominantly state, territory and local governments, more so than the federal government. We’re talking about problems with insufficient land that is titled, we’re talking about delays in building approvals, development approvals and occupancy certificates, and also development charges. And the most important one is around planning restrictions. And so we needed a comprehensive agreement at all levels of government to resolve those issues. This is the biggest issue that the industry has been facing to try and ensure that we meet that 200,000 a year target.

Patricia: Can anything be done to help alleviate those supply issues that are obviously dogging this industry? Both the construction materials and the workers needed to build the homes.

Denita: That’s why we think it’s important that this Accord doesn’t come into effect until 2024. It gives us the opportunity to resolve the capacity constraints that we’re obviously seeking to address immediately. You’re absolutely right. The labour shortages at the moment, the material costs, and of course small businesses are being hit by new regulation as well. So we need to ensure that we’re prepared but more importantly the governments put in the right policy changes to ensure that if we’re geared up, they are geared up to meet those targets.

Patricia: Your members have also said that they’ve been frustrated with delays in approvals for land title, building applications and occupation certificates, do you think this new Housing Accord can address those issues? What is the… this isn’t really the realm of the federal government, a lot of this actually rests with state governments. How do you think you’re going to get around that with this new Accord?

Denita: I think the important thing is that despite our best efforts, we haven’t got traction on this in really any state or territory over the last decade. There are some good examples, a great example came out of Western Australia for example this week where a local government has agreed to fast track things consistently and have some KPIs. But that’s few and far between. So the fact that the feds have struck a deal with all the state and territories, and the local government association is a good start. But I think more importantly, the government has a number of levers available to it including the homelessness and housing affordability agreement that provides significant funds to the states and territories. And we say that more needs to be done in that agreement to ensure that the commitments that are being made today are in fact assured and implemented into the future.

Patricia: So can you give us any details, are there any details about the role of the Commonwealth here? Obviously, they’ve put millions of dollars on the table in the budget on this. Where does that money go to? Is it in subsidised rents? What is it?

Denita: They’ve indicated that they’ll give more money over and above their election commitments in terms of social housing which we think is a good start. But really this is about the government playing a leadership role with the states and territories. But as I say, we always know that a carrot and stick approach is required. For those of us that are old enough to remember the competition reforms of the 1990s where money was paid by the federal government to the states and territories to reform. That is why I think that the levers such as the homelessness agreement may well be needed to ensure the incentives.

Patricia: Can I just drill down on that? You mean you don’t get this money unless you do this?

Denita: That’s right and that’s what works so well in those competition reform measures in the 1990s. But there’s huge goodwill that we haven’t had in the past between all levels of government to try and resolve this. We’re going to take everyone at face value that they are looking positively for change. But equally, the cynics of us would know that sometimes some carrots are required as well as goodwill.

Patricia: Just briefly, are there any areas of the country that are worse off than others for builders? How do regional areas and cities compare?

Denita: It’s all bad I think is the simple answer.

Patricia: That’s upbeat.

Denita: I spent about two months travelling around the country in the lead up to the election and went to about 25 locations both regional and cities. It was this consistent cry from our members around the country. We would build more, not only if we had more staff but more importantly if some of these local issues were resolved and the delays were restricted to something that was achievable.

Patricia: Thank you for joining us.

Denita: Absolute pleasure.

Media contact:
Dee Zegarac
National Director, Media & Public Affairs
0400 493 071

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