The Australian Construction Industry Forum (ACIF) has issued a document proposing a number of key recommendations on guiding the construction industry out of the coronavirus disruption period.
In the document entitled Construction’s Bridge to Recovery, the ACIF is calling on the government to assist with the economic recovery of the construction business through a list of proposals that covers stimulus spending, regulatory reform and requirements, government payments, procurement processes and the JobKeeper scheme.
“As the building and construction sector represents almost 10 per cent of the Australian economy, and the industry employs 1.2 million Australians in over 390,000 businesses, it is essential for Australia that we get this right,” says ACIF Executive Director James Cameron.
“We are calling on governments to pull forward and re-commit to spending. These measures could raise building and construction activity by $66 billion over five years, which would have a very beneficial and stimulatory effect.”
In the document, the ACIF recommends that stimulus spending be spread across residential (with an emphasis on quality social housing), non-residential and infrastructure construction, with much of the spending to go to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), and a focus on Australian-made products in construction.
The Forum supports regulatory reform and requirements such as licensing/registration and inspections, proposing that they continue as normal.
“The recommendations of the Building Confidence report should continue to be implemented, and we welcome the most recent Building Ministers’ Forum communiqué stating that this would occur,” says Cameron.
The organisation is calling for other states to consider waiving construction licence fees as implemented in NSW, as part of the state government’s first economic stimulus package.
In the area of payments, the ACIF supports having negotiated settlements to liquidated damages claims due to COVID-19, and fast government payments on projects of one to five days.
“ACIF requests consideration that for the duration of the COVID-19 crisis that liquidated damages do not include COVID-19 related delays. Failure to amend these provisions would have negative consequences across the construction industry,” says the document.
“This includes projects still under operation, but have suffered productivity drops due to measures such onsite distancing and supply chain disruption. While government may say they should not intervene in private contracts, the ACIF notes that the Prime Minister has stated that leases between landlords and tenants should be negotiated during the coronavirus period.”
Calling for changes to government procurement processes that support Australian businesses, the ACIF says that it endorses the recent announcement by the Minister for Industry, Science and Technology in this regard.
“To support this ‘Australian Made’ approach, we recommend that specifiers and procurers favour products and materials derived from industry associations with certification schemes and authorities that comply with ISO/IEC 17065:2013,” the document says.
With regards to the JobKeeper scheme, the ACIF highlighted that the confusing application processes, timing issues of payment and the way that many construction professionals and tradespeople invoice for their work have all proved problematic.
The Forum also calls for the expansion of the 20-person limit in a business to receive the apprentice subsidy.
“Vocational and apprenticeship courses should be further supported, with incentives for apprentices to be retained and more hired. Further, incentives for employers to take on new or out of work apprentices, and bring candidates from outside the industry into entry level roles would all be nation-building,“ says Cameron.
“Australia’s epidemiological and fiscal response to the coronavirus pandemic has been world class, and the liaison between industry and government outstanding. We can also have a very positive economic story coming out of this pandemic with the right policy settings.”
You may read the ACIF document here.