The building industry and economic progress go hand-in-hand in Victoria. The next state government will need to recognise the importance of building as an enduring economic priority.
Leading up to the election, Master Builders has been engaging the major political parties on a range of policy matters. Policies are developed through member consultation. We work with our member Sector Committees to develop our thinking.
We have assembled a scorecard which shows the positions of the three major parties on the 23 issues Master Builders identifies as most important to our industry. You may also wish to read our complete analysis of election-relevant issues by clicking here.
These may be helpful references when casting your ballot for the election.
Let’s take a moment to appreciate the lay of the land…
- Building Minister
It is vital that the Government-elect appoints a Building Minister for Victoria given the economic importance of the building and construction industry. Building and construction contributed 7.4 per cent of Victoria’s GSP in 2016/17. Employing over 300,000 persons, it is the largest employer of full-time jobs and third largest employer across all industries.
There are major issues such as cladding, housing affordability and excessive red tape that would benefit from a concerted focus on building issues by a peak Ministry. Lack of co-ordination and leadership in Government hampers our ability to deliver results. One of the biggest issues facing our industry is skills – and a multitude of different departments such as schools, VET and employment deal with the issues in silos. VMIA insurance for the industry is managed through Finance, whilst Consumer Affairs manages the DBDRV. Consumer Affairs itself is located within Department of Justice and the Victorian Building Authority within Planning. There are common themes and issues across these regulators which, if solved, would improve the industry and the quality of building– yet there is no single Minister responsible across these divides. One building Minster can cut through the fragmentation between the different departments to coordinate responses for the sector. While numerous commissions, taskforces and working groups have been launched to investigate and resolve challenges in our industry there is not yet an overarching strategy – or one Ministerial Department – responsible for addressing these challenges.
Will your government commit to creating a Building Minister to address the future challenges the industry faces?
- The Labor party has given no indication it will change the current structure of the building regulation and oversight in Victoria. The Labor government has established a building unit within the planning authority, and therefore would not address the cross-portfolio issues pertaining to the industry.
- The Liberal party appointed a Shadow Building Minister, Brad Battin, recognising the importance of building industry issues as distinct from planning or DELWP. Matthew Guy, as a former planning Minister, understands the challenges of the sector and has recently remarked at a lunch hosted by Master Builders that the current focus on building issues in Victoria is “95% planning and 5% building.” Master Builders would advocate for further structural reform of the regulatory oversight of building to improve the focus even more across a range of issues including skills.
- The Greens do not support the creation of a Building Ministry.
- Trades registration
Introducing mandatory trades registration for the building and construction industry is vital to address the crucial shortages in construction trades at present and in the future. Victoria is currently experiencing record levels of population growth which drives demand for new housing. Forecasts show that if population growth continues, the construction of 2.2 million homes will be required by 2051. Supply of construction trades people is needed to meet such demand. Trades registration would not only address quality shortcomings in the industry, but make trades more attractive as a career path
Master Builders advocates for a model of subcontractor registration based on the existing domestic trades registration categories limited, at least initially, to eight ‘structural trades’ that are important to the integrity of a building. This would include carpentry, bricklaying, waterproofing, and concreting.
The Building Amendment (Registration of Building Trades and Other Matters) Act 2018 also sets up a model of employee licensing, which is of concern to Master Builders as the system of employee licensing does not already exist and may well be impractical. Ultimately, a cost-benefit analysis will determine whether a broader system of trades licensing is a manageable one.
Will your government introduce mandatory trades registration in Victoria?
- The Labor Government has passed mandatory trades registration legislation in the last term. How the legislation will be implemented remains unclear and is subject to a regulatory impact assessment (i.e. a cost benefit analysis).
- There has been no formal policy on trades registration released by the Liberal party and it is unclear how the party will treat the Act if elected. The liberal party states that the trades registration legislation, which created models for registration and licensing, went too far and should have been subject to a cost-benefit anlaysis.
- The Greens support Labor’s introduction of Trades Registration.
- Support industry RTOs
The delivery of industry-relevant training for the building and construction industry is fundamental to ensure strong employment outcomes. Industry Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) provide tailored specialised training services for industry.
Master Builders is a key construction RTO (RTO 3935) and provides training courses in business management, leadership, sustainability, safety, building and compliance, industrial relations and legal requirements. In addition, Master Builders also delivers training through its Building Leadership Simulation Centre (BLSC), which is the only provider in Australia to offer experiential learning by simulation as part of construction and project management qualifications.
According to the Victorian State Government’s 2018 RTO Performance report into Master Builders, 91.4 per cent of students were satisfied with training provided by Master Builders, compared to state average of 77 per cent. It is disappointing that the Greens and Labour Governments continue to prioritise TAFE funding above industry RTOs, creating an anti-competitive environment and making it more difficult for industry RTOs to operate.
Will your government increase current funding for industry RTOs to provide equity with TAFEs?
- The Labor party has invested considerably in VET training and education by making specific courses free at TAFEs, and by not allowing industry RTOs the same benefit has created an anti-competitive environment and made it more difficult for industry RTOs to operate.
- The Liberal party recognises that industry groups like Master Builders provide training that “reduces the pressure on TAFE to deliver” the skills needed for the industry. The Liberal government states it is “vital to support both government and industry training options.”
- The Greens do not support funding industry RTOs and go further to say that VET “should be primarily provided through the public TAFE system”.
- Centralised Planning scheme
The Victorian planning system is plagued by costly delays and inefficient practices. Local councils continue to be slow in decision making and have become a barrier to urban densification. Councils are not accountable for their lag costs on the economy. For example, according to the Know your Council website, in 2017/18 the Yarra Council took 117 days on average to make a planning decision. That is more than two months longer than the required 60 day timeframe. This exacerbates costs of construction projects and affects housing affordability. The Victorian Auditor-General estimated that on a project with a land cost of $5.2 million, holding costs could increase by $100,000 per month if the process drags on past the standard 12 month project timeframe.
Such poor performance by councils in efficiently delivering planning decisions warrants the need for the Government-elect to set housing and development targets and sanctions or rewards for planning delays to make Councils accountable. Alternatively, there should be planning hubs or other mechanisms in place so that planning decisions can be taken out of the hands of Councils (under certain circumstances like when there is a very costly and complex project, or when the Council hasn’t adhered to the statutory decision-making timeframe).
Will your government set targets and sanctions or rewards to make Councils accountable for poor performance on planning and decision making?
- The Labor party has no intention to make councils more accountable to government or to create a framework that improves outcomes. It rejects a one size fits all approach to planning and considers the variety in planning across 79 councils in Victoria reflects “the unique views of their local communities” and states that the Know Your Council website has been part of making councils more accountable.
- The Liberal party has recognised that the planning system needs to be changed to address a “backlog of planning decisions that unnecessarily hold up development and drives up the cost of housing...” but have not provided clarity around how to deal with Council planning decisions.
- The Greens do not support increasing accountability for Councils, believing increased centralisation has eroded community voice.
- Increase as-of-right codified planning approvals
As of right codified planning is a regulatory tool that allows decisions to be made quickly. Greater use of as-of-right codification will fast track planning approvals and alleviate inefficiencies associated local councils decision making. It is important that secondary dwellings and subdivisions are entitled to as of right to appropriately fast track non-contentious development.
Does your government commit to introduce more as-of-right codification, including for secondary dwellings and small apartment blocks, in the planning scheme?
- The Labor party reports that its Smart planning regime (which includes enhanced as of right provisions) has increased the proportion of applications eligible for ‘fast track’ from 10 to 23 percent.
- The Liberal Party does not commit to increased as of right codification but does commit to fast tracking the completion of all metropolitan Precinct Structure Plans by 2020.
- The Greens do not commit to more as of right but agree more could be done to fast track some planning decisions and support a fast-track planning scheme that accelerates ‘affordable, sustainable, deliberative housing developments.’
- Industrial manslaughter legislation should not be introduced in the OHS Act
Master Builders opposes the introduction of industrial manslaughter to the OHS Act 2004. For Master Builders and its members, workplace safety is a key priority and will therefore support any initiatives that genuinely aim to increase safety in the workplace. Such legislation can divert attention from other actions, like appropriate application of safe work method statement (SWMS) and compliance with duties, which are more likely to result in improved safety outcomes in Australian workplaces and the focus should be on initiatives to improve safety such as better enforcement of existing legislation and better education and guidance on achieving safety outcomes.
There is no practical reason for introducing industrial manslaughter when criminal offences like manslaughter already cover workplace deaths. In addition, Section 32 under the OHS Act 2004 which outlines the offence of reckless endangerment already provides prosecution for negligence in the provision of workplace safety.
The focus should instead be on safety, by improving funding of the regulator and proactive and practical education and training and enforcements regimes.
Do you agree with us that the introduction of industrial manslaughter legislation is unnecessary because laws covering these issues already exist?
- The Labor party plans to create a new criminal offence of industrial manslaughter
- The Liberal party is not pursuing an offence of industrial manslaughter. At a Master Builder’s lunch on 25 October Leader Matthew Guy stated that the issue of industrial manslaughter is ‘not on the agenda’.
- The Greens support the introduction of industrial manslaughter legislation.
Cladding remains a potent issue for the building and construction industry and has created considerable uncertainty for the industry. Master Builders views that the solution to the cladding issue is a whole of industry approach and that includes all stakeholders in the sector as well as government. Master Builders was appointed to the Stakeholder Reference Group to the Victorian Cladding Taskforce and supported the recommendations of the Taskforce for the introduction of a State Building Surveyor. More proactive guidance is required from regulators to understand how to apply the NCC and to comply with changing building practices, and it is hoped that the State Building Surveyor will improve the guidance and communication with industry on important matters like cladding.
Do you agree that the solution to the cladding issue (including costs) is a whole of industry approach, including government?
- All parties support a whole of government response to the issue of cladding.
- Education and enforcement of Safe Work Method Statements (SWMS)
Health and safety should be a central focus on each and every construction site and, as such, it is integral that there is greater compliance with duties and enforcement of those duties. The OHS Regulations (Regulation 327) requires SWMS to be produced for High Risk Construction Work (HRCW) and that work must be performed in accordance with the SWMS. Greater education and awareness of those requirements and how to comply will improve adherence to the regulations. To this end, Master Builders welcomes WorkSafe Victoria’s recent announcement that the regulator intends to develop an Elevated Work Platform Industry Standard. Master Builders stands ready to engage, in a tripartite manner, with WorkSafe and Unions in the development of this important guidance for industry. It is also important that WorkSafe continues to focus on education and prevention as part of their campaigns and activities. This can be done through providing guidance materials and modern information on new and emerging methods of construction.
Will you ensure that WorkSafe is properly resourced to educate and enforce the safety requirements such as the use of SWMS?
- Labor states that it will work with Master Builders to address the effectiveness of SWMS. WorkSafe has sought legal advice on how to take a stronger enforcement position and is had agreed to a $360k funding proposal by Master Builders to train its members on SWMS in 2018/19.
- There was no specific comment from the Liberal Party on SWMS or compliance and enforcement by WorkSafe
- Victorian Greens support measures that improve the safety of Victorians working on construction sites, particularly high-risk projects. The Greens stated they want WorkSafe to properly enforce the protections and statements that are in place for workers, including SWMS.
 Victoria in Future 2016: Population and household projections to 2051, Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, 2016