Over recent months we’ve heard a range of concerns from members that inform all our talks with Ministers and key government officials. As restrictions have eased in metropolitan Melbourne, many of those concerns remain for small scale construction - including renovations and outdoor work - and the inability to do any of this work on dwellings where people are living in Melbourne.

We understand that many of our member’s businesses are solely focussed on smaller construction including renovation work, or similarly treated work such as major landscaping, decks or pools, and the current circumstances are very challenging for many of you in metropolitan Melbourne.

In addition, we understand that the current limit of 5 workers plus a supervisor on small scale construction sites continues to be challenging and frustrating.

We know that some residential builders feel forgotten by the government at the moment.  Therefore, while we have referred to our representations to government in our daily bulletins, we thought it would be good to go through some of our advocacy that is specific to small scale construction, renovations and outdoor work. This sector of our industry makes up a very large an important part of our membership, and we want you to know that you remain at the front of our minds and our efforts every day.

Advocacy wins

  • MBV collaborated with other employer associations and unions to advocate for the whole building and construction industry to be kept open since March 2020, where many other industries have been completely shut down since then
  • That same advocacy has kept most businesses in the building and construction industry in regional areas open at almost full capacity throughout this period, where many other businesses in other industries have been completely shut down
  • While implementing the COVID-19 industry guidelines may have affected productivity, our advocacy has kept numbers on building and construction sites in regional Victoria at normal worker levels, a contrast with other industries that have had much heavier restrictions placed on them.   
  • The tireless advocacy of our team in Albury/Wodonga towards the NSW Government has resulted in significant relaxing of border crossing after the borders were initially closed to workers.
  • At the start of stage 4 restrictions, MBV advocated for the Chief Health Officer’s (CHO) “1 site movement only” rule to be increased to three small scale construction sites per week and – more recently – successfully advocated to increase that to five sites
  • MBV successfully advocated for all specialists who provide safety services to be exempt from the restrictions. This included those who install critical OHS equipment such as scaffolding, safety rails and traffic controllers.
  • MBV worked with other employer associations to gain concessions from the CHO for pre-base and post fixing stage worker limits
  • MBV advocated for changes to the government’s specialist contractor list to include more trades
  • MBV worked with the UDIA and Property Council to successfully advocate for the re-opening of display homes, sales suites and land sales offices under the Restricted stage, that was included for September 28 after initially not being permitted in the roadmap
  • In his most recent letter, the Treasurer thanked MBV for its ongoing support and advice that we have provided to the Victorian Government during this time of great uncertainty and change. The Treasurer indicated that the government welcomes our continued advocacy towards shared goals of safety, jobs and a strong, active and viable industry.

Ongoing advocacy

In our discussions with senior government Ministers, we continually advocate for changes to small scale construction, and for renovations and outdoor work to be permitted. These discussions have been at the highest levels with the Premier’s Private Office, together with the following Ministers and their offices:

  • Treasurer Tim Pallas (Treasurer, Minister for Economic Development, Minister for Industrial Relations, Minister for the Coordination of Treasury and Finance: COVID-19)
  • Jacinta Allan (Minister for Transport Infrastructure, Minister for Coordination of Transport: COVID-19, Minister for the Suburban Rail Loop)
  • Martin Pakula (Minister for Racing, Minister for Tourism, Sport and Major Events, Minister for the Coordination of Jobs, Precincts and Regions: COVID-19, Minister for Industry Support and Recovery, Minister for Trade and Minister for Business Precincts)
  • Richard Wynne (Minister for Housing and Minister for Planning)
  • Lilly D’Ambrosio (Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change
    Minister for Solar Homes)

We recently wrote to Minister Pakula highlighting the urgent need to include building and construction businesses who are unable to work, such as renovations, in the Business Support Fund grants – as currently they are not eligible.

Further to this, we have been in direct discussions with senior government officials, to keep small scale construction, renovations and outdoor work at front of the government’s mind – these include:

  • Deputy Secretary Jobs, Innovation and Business Engagement), Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions
  • Deputy Secretary - Delivery and Recovery (COVID-19), Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions
  • Deputy Secretary, Corporate Services, DHHS
  • We have advocated for individual cases of urgent exemption for our members, especially those working in critical areas such as installing Dependant Persons Units (DPU). However, due to the epidemiological data, the CHO is not willing to give these concessions at this stage.
  • In our discussions with the government on the COVID-19 Roadmap, we advocated for an increase to more than 5 workers on small scale construction sites and for renovations and outdoor work to be permitted. However, due to the epidemiological data, the CHO is not willing to accept this change at this stage.
  • We have made continued representations to the CHO around the inconsistency for renovations and outdoor activities, especially where workers don’t enter the home. We have provided suggestions on how renovations and outdoor activities can go ahead , and we continue to engage with renovation businesses to develop further suggestions that can be put to government to allow for these restrictions to ease.. We have continued to elevate these discussions at the highest level of government, including  the Premier’s Private Office.

In addition, we have made our concerns on small scale construction and renovations known in several media spaces over the last month.  For example, I made specific reference to renovations in a live TV interview with Channel 7 on September 28, 2020.

The discussions with government about small scale construction, renovations and outdoor work are daily and ongoing, particularly the conversation about access to grants. However, with two weeks to go until the next potential milestone for easing of restrictions (October 19), the expectation is that further changes are unlikely until that date.  In addition, during this public health crisis, any further changes for our industry may also be limited by the epidemiological data.  Nevertheless, our team’s focus over the next fortnight will be trying to ensure there are ways for small scale construction, renovations and outdoor work to operate in the next stage. The advocacy referred to above is all part of this long-term goal.

Are you really small scale?

Please remember that our team is here to help you navigate the COVID-19 changes.  Through discussions with our members, it has become clear that some parts of our sector may be operating under small scale construction COVID-19 restrictions, when they are in fact eligible to operate under the large scale restrictions.  If you are not sure about which criteria your business fits into – or if you believe that you are operating in a niche area of the building and construction industry - please contact our team to discuss. 

Your questions and feedback are as valuable as ever, especially as they help us make cases to government. This work will be ongoing, as we will need government assistance to get our industry and the economy moving again and the basis of what we propose will come from what will work best for our members.

Please feel free to email me on [email protected] or call Assist on 03 9411 4555 at any time.  

Stay well and safe.

Best wishes, Rebecca