Master Builders CEO says delaying light rail will cost much-needed local jobs

Michael Hopkins 15 July 2020 13
Light rail

Delays in Stage 2A light rail are bad news for Canberra’s economy, says the MBA. Photo: File.

The recent announcement that the ACT Government will delay signing contracts for Stage 2A of the Canberra Light Rail will come as bad news to the region’s civil contractors, engineers, landscapers, suppliers and apprentices.

The ACT Government has made a strong commitment to building a light rail network throughout Canberra. In the lead up to the 2016 ACT election, it staked its re-election on the Canberra community’s support for light rail – and support it they did.

Even though Stage 1 of light rail hardly maximised local employment or training opportunities, according to the ACT Government Stage 1 has been a public transport success. The Canberra community now has an expectation that construction of light rail will continue, next to Woden, but ultimately throughout the city.

Due to the expectations set by the ACT Government, its announcement that Stage 2A will be delayed will hit the local construction industry hard. It will cost jobs. It will cost opportunities for local businesses. It will cost traineeships and apprenticeships.

Local contractors had worked closely with Canberra Metro throughout the bid phase and had high expectations that the next stage of construction would provide valuable economic stimulus for the local construction sector. Furthermore, the ACT Government had already budgeted for light rail Stage 2, and it would leave the Canberra community a public transport legacy which would provide benefits for decades.

The delay in signing contracts, and therefore delaying construction, comes at a time when the ACT Government has already delayed the release of its annual budget, and as a consequence has delayed the release of its four-year capital works program, leaving local contractors in the dark about their future pipeline of work.

This delay will cost jobs.

Already the ACT construction industry has contracted 6.1 per cent since peak employment in February 2020. This equates to around 1,200 jobs, including apprentices.

The ACT economy now depends highly on the private sector. The building and construction industry is the second-largest private sector employer in Canberra. The ACT Government’s delay awarding major contracts and delays releasing the four-year capital works program is costing jobs.

Our local companies deserve better support and are depending on support from the ACT Government like never before. A fully funded four-year capital works program directed towards awarding contracts to local companies is urgently needed before more jobs are lost.

Michael Hopkins is the CEO of Master Builders ACT.


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13 Responses to Master Builders CEO says delaying light rail will cost much-needed local jobs
HiddenDragon HiddenDragon 5:46 pm 17 Jul 20

Even if not quite a “bubble” (of the non-political variety) the levels of building activity around this town prior to the virus were probably not sustainable in the longer term, but – as others have already noted – government spending to ease the transition to a likely new normal should focus on projects of more immediate need.

Given what is happening economically across the country, and around the world, the idea that all the highly-skilled people required to extend the network (if/when that should happen) will have disappeared, never ever to return to Canberra, is a little hard to believe.

michael quirk michael quirk 3:10 pm 17 Jul 20

The MBA is speaking nonsense. Greater economic,social and environmental benefit to the community could be delivered by the construction of social housing,health infrastructure and improving the bus network.

Maria Greene Maria Greene 8:15 pm 16 Jul 20

Why am I reminded of the Grand old Duke of York? Building white elephants with extorted ratepayer money and cancelling good buses and abolishing bus stops ALL OVER CANBERRA is useful only to idiot politicians and tram nuts.

Rob Thomas Rob Thomas 5:48 pm 16 Jul 20

what about trees??

Fiona Carrick Fiona Carrick 4:56 pm 16 Jul 20

Having a Master Plan to rebuild the Canberra Hospital properly would also be a good idea to keep construction workers going.

Brian Woodbridge Brian Woodbridge 4:17 pm 16 Jul 20

How about social housing construction (like in the 50's and 60's ), not high rise rubbish.

    Lynn Stape Lynn Stape 4:42 pm 16 Jul 20

    you might wish to read the story above about rentals and whats available and what is in demand..

Geoffrey John Randal Geoffrey John Randal 3:18 pm 16 Jul 20

Rebuilding the public transport system is a long term effort. Best not to stop and start for every crisis that comes along or we’ll miss the bus when the network becomes vitally necessary.

Bill Gemmell Bill Gemmell 2:43 pm 16 Jul 20

Well they could get on with building the Gough Whitlam crossing of Molonglo to connect Whitlam if there are problems delaying this one. It is also delayed. After all, industry needs an ongoing construction pipeline.

Patrick Harrington Patrick Harrington 2:18 pm 16 Jul 20

The first stage of the light rail was built largely by workers from Sydney and the apprentices were all used as cheap labour and were only set back in their learning by the whole experience. They are kidding themselves if they expect the second stage to be any different.😂

Jason Newham Jason Newham 2:04 pm 16 Jul 20

Loss of job ! The local government is broke ! Use the buses we have. Can’t afford the loss we have on the light rail, buses and Covid. Stage 1 bled this small city dry and still is ! Commercial rates are still trying to pay for this city. Enough !

Chris Cross Chris Cross 12:52 pm 16 Jul 20

Only half the story. "Due to the expectations set by the ACT Government, its announcement that Stage 2A will be delayed..." Yes? What expectations? I'm sure there's a reason for the delay of Stage 2A- and I don't think it's to "let voters down". This story is simply an anti-government opinion piece by the MBA. How about some actual journalism- and publish a news story that has both an accusation AND a reply? I get that the construction industry is struggling right now, but trying to pin it all on Stage 2A delays is pure desperation. What mud can we sling on the evil ACT Government today?

Capital Retro Capital Retro 10:33 am 16 Jul 20

Well he would say that, wouldn’t he?

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