11 September 2020

MBA says job creation, economic growth are key ACT election issues

| Michael Hopkins
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Worker on residential building site.

The building and construction industry is central to Canberra’s economic recovery, says the Master Builders Association. Photo: File.

With more than one million Australians out of work – 11,000 Canberrans among them – the central issue in the 2020 ACT election is job creation and economic growth.

Canberra’s second-largest private sector industry, building and construction, has been allowed to continue operating throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and therefore it can lead the ACT’s economic recovery.

Every candidate should back the local building industry by outlining business-friendly policies which create jobs, grow the economy and support local businesses.

The 2020 ACT election is being held after an extraordinary year, which has included damaging bushfires, a destructive hailstorm, the COVID-19 crisis and now a pandemic-induced economic crisis.

The ACT economy has not been immune from the impacts of the recession. Two-thirds of Canberrans worked in the ACT private sector before the COVID-19 pandemic began, and thousands of local small and family businesses have been impacted the most, including the local building industry.

In February, 2020, around 20,000 people worked in the ACT construction industry. Now more than 1000 of them are unemployed.

Without a strong building industry, we don’t have a strong economy. And without a strong economy, the ACT won’t be able to continue the social and environmental progress it has become well known for.

It is critical that candidates in the 2020 ACT election outline their economic credentials and provide hope to the local business community that the next ACT Government will be business-friendly.

For too long ACT Government contracts have been awarded to union-friendly contractors, many of them from Sydney or Melbourne, rather than supporting local businesses. The Secure Local Jobs Code is used by unions to manipulate these outcomes.

Our planning system is no longer fit for purpose, and it costs investors time and money resulting from uncertainty, delays and unworkable planning rules.

Despite having a long-term infrastructure plan, the ACT’s Capital Works Program has been declining, and major projects have been delayed in an attempt to save the ACT Government money at the expense of local jobs.

Funding for apprentices and trainees has come under threat, risking the future careers of many young Canberrans.

There has been no meaningful progress of implementing nationally agreed building reforms, meaning quality builders and tradies continue to be undercut on safety, price and quality by other practitioners handed a building licence by a government which has failed to enforce current building laws.

The Master Builders Association (MBA) would like all candidates to focus on four job-creating policy areas – supporting local businesses; building skilled and secure careers in the construction industry; introducing best-practice building quality reforms; and implementing a best-practice planning system supported by a long-term infrastructure plan.

More information about the MBA’s election priorities can be found on its election webpage.

Michael Hopkins is the CEO of Master Builders ACT.

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