Event: Denita Wawn interview with Madeleine Morris, ABC News Breakfast
Date: Tuesday, 20 June 2023, 7.18am AEST
Speakers: Madeleine Morris, host ABC News Breakfast; Denita Wawn, CEO Master Builders Australia
Topics: Industrial relations; Master Builders campaign; Housing Future Fund
Madeleine Morris, host ABC News Breakfast: Let’s get the response of Denita Wawn. She’s CEO with Master Builders Australia. She joins us now from Canberra. Denita, thanks for coming in. What is your response to this delay?
Denita Wawn, chief executive Master Builders of Australia: Really disappointing that the opposition and the Greens have kicked this down the road. We have a housing crisis in this country. Particularly around social and community housing and it is critical that we maximise the amount of funds in the system to ensure that we are building for those people. It is a no-brainer to get this government’s legislation through. It’s part of a large puzzle that we are all working collaboratively together on to ensure that we can resolve the housing crisis. We are forecasting for the next financial year that we will only build just more than half of the homes we need to house all Australians. That is alarming and therefore delays are simply not good enough.
Madeleine: And what is the practical outcome of that? We heard in the last hour from the Community Housing Association saying that they’ve taken out options on land in the expectation money was going to come through. Now that’s going to have repercussions. They may have to pay more for that. Do you know of any practical implications already?
Denita: Well it’s certainly of concern to the building industry. We’ve come off a profitless boom effectively over the last two years and we now forecasting a significant decline in private investment over the next 12-18 months simply because of inflation and interest rate hikes. We were desperately relying on government funding to ensure that we can have land that is shovel-ready. Ready for us by the time we complete existing contracts. So there is a long supply chain impact on the decision not to proceed. We commend the government with the announcement by the Prime Minister on Saturday for an additional $2 billion to go into the system immediately. That will take some pressure off. But it is critical that politics is put aside and the opposition and the Greens work with the government to resolve some of these critical housing issues.
Madeleine: Denita, the Master Builders, moving on to another subject, is today launching a campaign against the government’s proposed ‘Same Job, Same Pay’ IR change legislation. Now this legislation hasn’t been officially settled yet. It’s meant to target people who work in the gig-economy but you’re saying that it has, going to have an effect on contractors in the building industry. What are your concerns?
Denita: Our concerns have been around for some time since this policy was announced by the Labor Party prior to the election where it is unclear whether or not the employee-like laws of trying to rope all independent contractors not just those who work as ‘gig-workers’, whatever the definition of gig-worker is, is actually going to encompass the 250-odd thousand independent contractors in our sector. The policy and then the subsequent discussion paper that is currently in the public domain make it clear that there is capacity for this proposal to well and truly encompass all independent contractors in our economy. And we say a blanket approach is simply unfair for those who just want to be their own boss. And as a consequence, we are seeking very clear commitment by the government that it will exclude all independent contractors except for a small component that they think are not being looked after in our economy. And we simply have not seen the evidence to date. So we’re putting them on notice to say make it clear that our members are not covered.
Madeleine: Can I just check with you, it’s been reported that you personally were excluded from a meeting about this between employers and unions held last week and the quote is that apparently you are unable, the Minister thought you were you unable to work constructively on this. Is that correct? If so, what’s your response to that?
Denita: Well I think there’s many people here at Parliament House that would disagree with that notion from both sides of politics. I’ve worked as a lobbyist for 30-odd years and have had very consultative processes with many Ministers and Prime Ministers including the Minister himself in a previous government. We are very steadfast by MBA of saying we’re an evidence-based organisation. We are clear and firm in what we say and articulating in the interests of our members. Where we think there is insufficient evidence and or sham consultation, we will call it out. If the Minister is feeling uncomfortable with that direct approach then so be it. But we are continuously willing to work with the government on IR and any other issues as we are in the housing arena.
Madeleine: Okay. Denita Wawn from Master Builders Australia. Thanks for your time this morning.
Denita: Thank you.
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