Building, construction and infrastructure industry leaders call for urgent reform

Photo by Dakota Roos on Unsplash
Photo by Dakota Roos on Unsplash

Key industry groups involved in delivering the majority of the Australian Government’s record $110 billion investment in infrastructure projects are calling for urgent reforms to address the industry crisis.

In a joint letter to the parliamentary inquiry examining procurement practices for government-funded infrastructure, the Federal Government is being urged to lead reform of how major projects are procured nationwide.

Signatories to the letter, which include 14 bodies representing the building, construction and infrastructure industries, are calling for urgent action on productivity-enhancing policies from the Federal Government that they claim could deliver more jobs and an extra $15 billion of infrastructure every year for the same expenditure.

According to the signatories, the construction industry is wracked with insolvencies, poor mental health, woeful productivity, low levels of employment of women and acute skills shortages, which the pandemic has exacerbated.

Australian Constructors Association Chief Executive Officer Jon Davies said government procurement processes are a major contributor to the crisis.

“The building and construction industry has the highest rates of insolvencies in Australia and productivity growth over the last 30 years trails that of other significant industries by 25 per cent,” Mr Davies said.

“Women make up only 12 per cent of the industry’s workforce and our workers are six times more likely to die from suicide than a workplace incident.

“For these, and other reasons, the industry is struggling to attract and retain sufficient people to undertake the pipeline of work ahead of us.

“The government is essentially relying on a broken industry to rebuild the economy.”

Consult Australia Chief Executive Officer Nicola Grayson said the joint letter demonstrates the seriousness of the situation and that industry is aligned in recognising the need to address the challenges.

“We all agree on the urgent need for reforms that drive an improved industry culture, create increased capacity and capability, and ensure that project commercial frameworks are equitable and align the interests of all parties,” said Ms Grayson.

“Reform of the magnitude required will only happen through greater collaboration across all levels of government and in consultation with industry.

“In particular, the Federal Government, as a direct procurer of major projects and as a significant source of funding for jurisdictionally led projects, can play a major role in resolving these issues and supporting the sustainability of the sector and its supply chain.”

The parliamentary inquiry to investigate the procurement practices for government-funded infrastructure was announced by the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Infrastructure, Transport and Cities on June 1, calling for submissions from stakeholders and interested parties before a deadline of Friday July 16.

The Australian Constructors Association and Consult Australia, along with several of the groups, have submitted detailed responses to the inquiry.

The Federal Government is being encouraged to quickly follow the inquiry with meaningful actions that create a more sustainable infrastructure industry for the benefit of all Australians.

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