State of the Australian Construction Market: Part I
In the first of our ‘State of the Market’ series, we sit down with leaders in the Australian building industry to glean their insights on how the market has performed over the past 12 months. Our first interview is with Executive Director, James Cameron from the Australian Construction Industry Forum (ACIF), who has focused on three key policy issues.
Words by Annie Reid
Based in Canberra, the Australian Construction Industry Forum (ACIF) brings together the largest leading players in building, engineering, and key industry groups around Australia, with a collective mission to develop a successful, strong, and sustainable construction industry.
James Cameron joined as executive director nearly two years ago, and with his strong background in construction is at the forefront of what’s been a challenging, but altogether positive 12 months for the industry.
“The industry is in a good place,” he reports. “Australia’s growth economy for the last 25 years has helped, and the future looks bright.”
He says this has also been facilitated by the mining boom, strong population growth and better regulatory systems, although there is room for improvement to create stronger conditions across the board.
“Now, residential construction is booming, engineering construction is coming back and even the modern residential construction industry that was a little downturn is set to pick up,” he says.
Over the last 12 months, ACIF has focused on three key policy issues:
Non-conforming building products
The external cladding fire in Melbourne’s Docklands Lacrosse building drew huge public attraction in November 2014, which again came into the spotlight following London’s more recent Grenfell Tower fire tragedy earlier this year.
“We tried to get as much information out to our members as possible, but it’s been a broader issue we’ve been dealing with for many years.”
He commends the Senate inquiry into non-conforming building products including cladding and asbestos and highlights there should be greater understanding around what constitutes ‘compliance’ and ‘conformance’ in order to reduce confusion and create better understanding around the products.
Fairer and more standard contracts
Given that only four contracts make up 70 per cent of all contracts in the construction industry, he says it makes sense to create a streamlined approach so that each party has a fair allocation of risk.
“There might be 50 pages of amendments to shift the risk to the head contractor or sub-contractor, and that’s where many problems lie,” Cameron says.
With numerous onerous conditions and amendments added into each contract, he would like to see a workable regime put in place to mitigate against the unfair balance of risk.
It’s a contentious issue that state and federal government are addressing right now, and ACIF is also meeting with industry partners to make progress.
Dominating headlines around Australia, the issue of housing affordability continues to be divisive. ACIF’s position is that tax reductions and better planning are key to helping the industry reduce costs.
“All players have to be as price competitive as possible, but with some estimates that 40 per cent of building is spent on taxation, there needs to be less tax on all facets of the process,” Cameron says.
ACIF has a policy on housing affordability that has been in place since 2014.
“Land is also a huge issue in the cost of housing, and we need to do more to encourage other types of land release,” he says.
ACIF’s policy supports exploring not only greenfields sites, but also brownfields and grayfields sites, plus former industrial sites in urban areas.
“It doesn’t need to mean high-rise developments; townhouses and medium-density development should also be considered, and not just more urban sprawl,” he says.
James Cameron will be discussing his insights on the construction industry live at DesignBUILD 2018; providing an important space for industry leaders to drive the ever-evolving conversation forward.
We look forward to seeing you there!
About the Author: Annie Reid
Annie Reid is a qualified journalist, professional copywriter and published author with a passion for everything bricks and mortar. For many years, she’s written thousand of stories for newspapers, magazines and clients around the world. Somewhere between the heady buzz of headlines and deadlines, she discovered a niche for creating tailor made content for the property, real estate, architecture and design industries. Annie holds a Bachelor of Arts and is currently studying a Masters in Publishing and Communications, both from the University of Melbourne.