Event: Denita Wawn interview with Peter Stefanovic, Sky News First Edition
Date: Tuesday, 20 June 2023, 6.45 am AEST
Speakers: Peter Stefanovic, Sky News First Edition; Denita Wawn, CEO Master Builders Australia
Topics: Industrial relations; Master Builders campaign; Housing Future Fund
Peter Stefanovic, host Sky News First Edition: The building and construction industry is launching a campaign today against the new IR reforms. Master Builders say the employee-like reforms will increase costs for small businesses and harm independent contractors as well as freelance workers. Let’s bring in Master Builders’ chief, Denita Wawn. Denita, good to see you. Thanks for your time as always this morning. So you’ve got your own campaign today on IR. What’s the crux of it?
Denita Wawn, chief executive Master Builders of Australia: Well the crux, Pete, is that the government are proposing to make new laws that say that independent contractors and subbies who are independent contractors and look at those they are employees should in fact be employees despite the fact they’ve chosen to be an independent contractor. And the proposals that are currently out for public consultation with the government causes considerable alarm. So, we say, the government needs to narrow down, significantly, its proposals. The blanket approach of roping everyone in to the system is totally inconsistent with the importance of small business in this country and also freedom of choice.
Peter: Okay. You mentioned consultation there Denita. Tony Burke has accused opponents of running a fear campaign and his recently singled out yourself by claiming you’re not capable of consultation. What’s your response to that?
Denita: Well I think many in this building at Parliament House would disagree with that notion but it’s really simple Pete. Master Builders Australia takes an evidence-based approach to policy and our board expects us to be clearly articulating our approach. We will consult with anyone but if we have sham consultation and if we have policies put forward to us that don’t have any underpinning evidence then we will call it out and if governments feel uncomfortable with that approach then so be it.
Peter: So what is a worse-case scenario that you’re looking at if these reforms do proceed at the moment from a job loss or even a business loss perspective?
Denita: I think we really should nut it down to what does it mean to individual subcontractors, independent contractors. If I’m an independent contractor, chippie, working for predominantly the same builder because I like working with them but I’ve got other jobs on the side, I want to work when I want to work, I want to take leave when I want to take leave, then that system is good for me. I’ve got control of how I operate. Under those scenarios though, under the proposals, that independent worker could actually in fact be deemed an employee and we don’t think that is fair because it then takes away their freedom to choose. That’s what this campaign is all about.
Peter: Okay and just separately from that Denita. I want to get your thoughts on the government’s future housing fund. It’s now been kicked down the road to October after it was nixed by the Greens yesterday. What’s your thoughts on that?
Denita: Really disappointed with the decision that’s been made by the Greens and the opposition to oppose this legislation. This is a piece of the puzzle to solve Australia’s housing crisis. There are a myriad of issues that we need to address and we continue to commend the government on the work that they are doing around housing. Many of the policies that they are pursuing are policies that we have been advocating for at least five or six years and it is great to see that they are taking a collaborative approach to housing unlike, we say, the opposition and the Greens need to come to the party on this one. We need houses and our industry needs jobs to do.
Peter: Okay. Denita Wawn, as always, thank you. We’ll talk to you soon.
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