Premier Mark McGowan and the Labor Party surprised everyone with the magnitude of their resounding victory in the State Election on 11 March 2017. Master Builders WA Director, Michael McLean reports on what the new McGowan Government means for WA's building industry.

The outcome of the State Election reflected it was time for a change and a fresh approach. As Opposition Leader the Premier campaigned long and hard in pursuit of a long list of policies that Labor intended to pursue if they won the election. Now that they have (convincingly), the Premier and his team have a clear mandate to implement their reform agenda.

Master Builders believes the building industry will play an important role in assisting the McGowan Government to get our economy moving again. Many of Labor’s promises will rely on our industry for their ultimate success.

It’s pleasing that Labor support the $5,000 boost in the First Home Owners Grant (FHOG) to $15,000 for the duration of the 2017 calendar year. Likewise, we’re pleased that Labor supports the extension to Keystart’s income eligibility criteria which will assist hundreds more West Australians to fast track deposits to buy their own homes.

An obstacle in getting homes built quicker, however, is the planning approvals process. It’s encouraging that having met with the Premier and some of his team prior to the election that they recognize the importance of streamlining this process with a view to eventually implementing a workable private certification regime. In addition, there needs to be greater accountability for local Councils in respect to their decision making, and further measures for the Department of Planning to have greater involvement in providing direction on planning matters.

Other policy announcements from Labor that have pleased builders include capping fees for TAFE students, more reasonable bushfire regulations, an Infrastructure Advisory body to government and doubling the Buy Local incentives to retain local skilled labour in regional towns.

Other policy announcements from Labor that have pleased builders include capping fees for TAFE students, more reasonable bushfire regulations, an Infrastructure Advisory body to government and doubling the Buy Local incentives to retain local skilled labour in regional towns.

However, like other industry groups, we have concerns about the impact that imposing a 4% additional stamp duty tax on foreign investors would have on the building and property industries. With WA not having such a surcharge, it provides us with a healthy competitive advantage over other states, and if implemented would erode such an advantage.

On subcontractors not being paid their lawful entitlements, Master Builders understands Labor’s concerns. However, we’re alarmed that the Labor Party is contemplating project bank accounts for the housing industry. This would be a disastrous policy and completely unworkable in the housing industry. There must be a focus on improving housing affordability, not increasing red tape.

WA Labor Party has announced a range of major infrastructure and public works construction projects, the biggest one being Metronet. Each of these will be well received by builders who are currently operating well below capacity.

A review of our housing indemnity insurance regime should be one of Labor’s high priorities if they are serious about housing affordability and curtailing debt.

The transition from an outgoing to a new government also provides challenges and surprises. Master Builders will be providing as much feedback as possible to the new Labor government as it settles into office and rolls out its policies.

We are particularly interested in how the McGowan Government tackles the recently introduced Code of Practice which was introduced to deal with unlawful industrial relations practices and security of payment issues. Occupational health and safety will also be an important issue to monitor.

Congratulations Mark McGowan on your election as WA’s 30th Premier and to the Labor Party in forming government. Master Builder WA looks forward to working with you and your team and hope the next four years will be an enjoyable ride with many mutually successful outcomes for the betterment of our languishing economy.

Michael McLean's opinion piece was originally published in Perth's Sunday Times, HOME  section on 2 April 2017

Michael McLean

Executive Director, Master Builders Western Australia

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