Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
The Australian housing industry: getting on with the job: speaking notes for address to the Housing Industry Association National Convention



Download PDFDownload PDF

33

SENATOR FRED CHANEY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION IN THE SENATE SH ADO W MINISTER FOR INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS

: . A L T :-I

A .T LiuRARY L . I. S.

33/88

EMBARGO: NOT FOR USE BEFORE 1.15 pm EST

THE AUSTRALIAN HOUSING INDUSTRY: GETTING ON WITH THE JOB

SPEAKING NOTES FOR ADDRESS TO THE HOUSING INDUSTRY ASSOCIATION NATIONAL CONVENTION. SURFERS PARADISE

Moves by building unions to impose compulsory unionism on sub-contractors and to bring them within the net of the industrial relations system must be fought.

This is in the interests of independent builders and sub-contractors as well as the interests of all Australians who have come to expect a home of their own at an affordable price.

One of the main reasons why the Australian home building industry has been so successful is that it has been mercifully free of the thuggery and destructive tactics which have dogged the commercial construction industry. A prime example of the latter is the

seven-week union defiance of Arbitration Commission orders to lift bans on the Quadrant building site in Canberra.

When I raised that in the Senate this week, the government agreed to refer allegations of criminal behaviour to the police but pathetically tried to apportion equal blame to unions and employers in a case where the union side had been unequivocally

condemned by an Arbitration Commissioner.

The last thing that must be allowed to happen is for home building to be caught up in the anarchistic situation which prevails on the Quadrant site and in so many other places and which exposes the impotence of the enforcement provisions of the

Conciliation and Arbitration Act.

The Australian home building industry epitomises the sort of industry Australia needs.

It is competitive, efficient and delivers good quality housing at the best-possible prices to Australian home-buyers. These are the positive characteristics which all Coalition policies aim squarely to extend to the rest of the Australian economy.

Statistics show that Australia's home builders are probably the most efficient in the world. It is estimated that between 5.5 and 9.5 man-hours are required to build one square metre of housing in Australia. The corresponding figures for the United

Kingdom are 14 to 20 man-hours, and in Sweden, 11 to 12 man-hours. Only the USA comes close, with a range of 6.5 to 9.0 man-hours.

2 i " ยท '

Perhaps the most important reason for the industry's success is that it remains largely unhindered by excessive industrial and business regulations which impede the rest of the economy.

This means that the sector is extremely competitive, with many small operators working hard to give the home buyer the best house for the lowest possible price.

Independent small builders and sub-contractors produce more than half of all the new dwellings built in Australia, and the flexibility of the sub-contracting system contributes enormously to the efficiency of home-building.

There is clear evidence to support this proposition. A fairly recent study by the CSIRO which monitored a number of small building teams concluded that 95% of time spent on-site was productive time. This is an extremely high ratio. It compares with a figure of around 70% for the construction industry as a whole, suggesting that the proportion of productive time in the non-dwelling sector is much lower.

The point is that the commercial, non-dwelling construction sector is beleaguered by industrial strife caused to a significant degree by de facto compulsory unionism, demarcation disputes and general industrial over-regulation.

The Government espouses the need for greater competitiveness, and even the union movement has begun to acknowledge this unavoidable fact of life.

There has even been a belated and tentative recognition that the focus of industrial relations needs to be at the workplace, with employers and employees dealing directly with each other. But it is also apparent that the Government does not really understand the lessons to be learnt from the housing industry. The Government has turned a blind eye to unions trampling on the rights of independent contractors and has itself presided over

imposition of more regulations.

The Government is moving in completely the wrong direction and impeding one of the most dynamic sectors in the economy. Demand may have been boosted by a lowering of record home interest rates but this must not camouflage actions which increase costs.

The Opposition's approach is to extend the desirable characteristics of the housing industry to all sectors of the Australian economy. This will be done principally by protecting and restoring the rights and freedom of choice of individuals. We will introduce genuine voluntary unionism and ensure preservation of the rights of independent contractors. We will also give employers and their employees the choice to opt out of

the conciliation and arbitration system through our proposed system of Voluntary Agreements. These, and other initiatives, will promote much greater choice and let people get on with the job.

3

/'

Too often employees and employers are frustrated by rules which prevent them acting to their mutual benefit. This is patently absurd. The industrial relations reforms we propose will give people back that freedom of choice which is vital both for individual liberty and a vital, dynamic and efficient economy.

The housing industry has demonstrated that this country can be the best in the world. For once we have exploited our natural advantages and abilities and we are envied world-wide for the quality and availability of our housing. There is no reason why

the rest of the Australian economy cannot perform as well and the simplest way to achieve this is to let people get on with it.

SURFERS PARADISE 23 April 1988

Contact: Keith Kessell (09) 385 9430