Event: Denita Wawn interview with Tony Jones, 3AW
Date: Friday, 28 July 2023, 8.30am AEST
Speakers: Tony Jones, host 3AW; Denita Wawn, CEO Master Builders Australia
Topics: VIC gas ban, skills, labour shortages, UK visas
Tony Jones, host 3AW: I want to bring Denita in a little earlier if I can. Good morning to you. Hello Denita, are you there?
Denita Wawn, CEO Master Builders Australia: I am Tony, thank you. Good morning.
Tony: Yeah, good morning. Thanks for coming on. As I said, we were talking about another issue we’ll get to in just a tick but in terms of this one. The ban by the state government on new gas connections for new homes. Is this something that you would welcome? Is it something that is going to be detrimental to the industry?
Denita: Well, it’s interesting. I’m not aware of the announcement today given I focus on national issues. But nevertheless, we’re seeing the ACT a ban on new builds connecting to gas from 2030. It creates more work, but decarbonisation of our climate is part of the push by governments on getting to net zero emissions. It’s something Master Builders Australia supports around moving towards net zero. But nevertheless, we’ve got to ensure we’ve got capacity to undertake all of this work and I know that there are concerns in the ACT of ensuring do we have enough tradies to undertake all of this work that will require eventually not only new builds but conversion of existing homes to full electricity as well. That’s a lot of work to do and that’s why we’re so concerned about trade shortages.
Tony: Well and this is what I wanted to talk to you about and again I will get to that about the trade shortages and now there’s a new supplier on the block so to speak. So, I mean if we are to sort of say okay there’s now a ban on gas being fitted to new homes, is it easier said than done?
Denita: `Well, it is easier. The issue is just making sure that we’ve got enough not only capacity of our workforce but also capacity of our systems for energy generally. And that is something no doubt governments are grappling with at the moment around decarbonisation. The federal government announced recently a pathway for decarbonisation including a specific plan for the built environment. We applauded that move because while the intent is good, transition is hard. And someone said to me the other day, this is probably as big as the industrial revolution. So, we’ve got to be prepared as a community to ensure that we make transition as smooth as possible.
Tony: Okay. Well, I’d love to hear tradies, I’d love to hear from potential home owners who would rather have gas. I mean, how does this change your mindset? 13 36 93. And as Denita has said, we need the labour to actually carry out this new policy. 13 36 93. Is it actually going to work? So, Denita, let me ask you about that. So, we’ve got a tradie shortage. We know that at the moment. You’re talking about, you know, if a policy like this is to be implemented and confirmed at 9.30 this morning, we need the tradespeople to actually see it through. But now there’s a report in The Australian this morning which reveals that the UK is relaxing its visa laws and what that potentially means for us here in Australia is that those migrant trades that we desperately need to actually fill the gaps that there are here at the moment. And I think maybe the Master Builders Association you’re saying something like 46,000? What does that mean for us? Now there’s a new player on the block, a new attractive player on the block, and we could be the ones who cop it in the neck?
Denita: We’ve got to stay nationally competitive in terms of migration and skilled migration. It’s really important that we are as attractive a destination as possible and part of the components of what people look at is how easy or difficult is it to get into a country. And that includes recognition of existing skills. It’s really important that we have skilled recognition and licensing that maintains the high level of skills that we require from a safety and quality perspective. But nevertheless, do we need to review how we accept people into this country and provide a transition process for them that at least enables them in the short term to work in some regard while their full licenses are being clarified by authorities. So, we want to stay internationally competitive. We know we’ve got skill shortages and as such we need to ensure that we are not making it difficult for people who would like to live in Australia.
Tony: So how do we make it more attractive? I mean, what sort of incentives do we throw their way or are we already at that point anyway where we simply can’t throw any more?
Denita: Well, we’ve got a lot of incentives that I would commend the Federal Government. When they came in last year, they determined to prepare a skilled migration review and part of that is to look at the impediments for people of which skills that we need to get into this country. That process is still underway and we have said that it’s really important to have an easy pathway for people to have their skills to be recognised, to look at the gaps and their skill needs in terms of meeting Australian standards and ways upon which we can facilitate that without it being too cumbersome or too expensive.
Tony: Is there a risk also that young tradies who are here at the moment like local tradies, Australian tradies, might just be sort of like tempted to go after the incentives being offered by the UK government?
Denita: No doubt they would, and we would certainly think it’s fantastic that Australians explore the rest of the world, they use their skills to best intentions, we just hope they all come back. It’s really important for career development to see different opportunities. So, we certainly would not try and get tradies not to have that experience, but we’d certainly encourage them to come back to Australia when they’ve had their experiences overseas.
Tony: Yeah. Alright, well a fair bit to digest there Denita. So, there’s always plenty on your plate and we do appreciate your time this morning.
Denita: Absolutely, pleasure. Thank you and have a lovely weekend everyone.
National Director, Media & Public Affairs
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