Looking forward to the year ahead, Australian Constructors Association’s Chief Executive Officer Jon Davies shares the organisation’s ambitious goals, with the help of government and key stakeholders, to help transform the construction industry in 2023.
By Jon Davies, CEO, Australian Constructors Association.
‘Woman’, ‘teal’, ‘gaslighting’… these were some of the words that dictionary publishers say captured the spirit of 2022. For the construction industry, undoubtedly, the word for 2022 was ‘productivity’. The industry concluded the year with the realisation that improving industry productivity was an imperative.
The productivity performance of Australia’s construction industry is lower today than it was 30 years ago, and the opportunity presented by just bringing the industry’s performance in line with other industries is significant. Aside from the enormous $47 billion in savings it would contribute back to the economy, improving the industry’s productivity would help correct the growing trend of industry insolvencies, address the capacity shortfall, and help shape a new positive industry culture that would attract the next generation of workers. Literally, improving industry productivity will help to save Australia’s ailing construction industry.
Countless reports and inquiries produced throughout 2022 such as the House of Representatives Inquiry into procurement of government-funded infrastructure, the Productivity Commission’s interim five yearly review of productivity performance, the review of Australia’s migration system, the national Employment White Paper, Infrastructure Australia’s updated Market Capacity Report and more, all point to productivity and have the support of government and industry.
The window of opportunity is open. But the ambition for 2023 needs to be much bigger than just improving productivity. The ambition must be to fundamentally transform Australia’s construction industry. This starts with driving reforms that are nationwide and industry reciprocating by committing to working differently.
Every stakeholder needs to commit to change – to doing things differently – but ultimately the Federal Government is the lynchpin for reform. States and territories all recognise the challenges and are working to improve the sector, but incremental change is not enough. The only way to achieve transformational change is for the Federal Government to lead the charge and for the states to support the movement. No longer can the Federal Government act as a passive buyer of infrastructure. It is time for an informed buyer – a model client.
Whether through implementation of the Australian Constructors Association’s proposed Future Australian Infrastructure Rating (FAIR), pre-conditions added to the updated National Partnership Agreement or development of national procurement principles, the Federal Government needs to start using its buying power to fast-track reform.
2023 is a go
The Federal Government is in the driver’s seat. Now is the time to strap in the passengers, start the engine and floor the accelerator.
To kickstart the process, this year membership of the Construction Industry Leadership Forum will be expanding to other jurisdictions, including the Federal Government, and procurement reform will be top of the agenda.
The new National Construction Industry Forum led by the Federal Government is likely to focus on other aspects of the transformation agenda such as workplace relations, culture, skills and training, gender equity and productivity. This is in addition to the important work of the Construction Industry Culture Taskforce underway with progressing trials of the new industry Culture Standard.
The Australian Constructors Association is proud to partner with government and other industry stakeholders in these collaborative forums and while much of the ask is of government, we accept that contractors are also part of the problem. We will be working on unilateral change initiatives that will not require anything in return from government or other stakeholders.
A transformed industry
2023 will indeed be a year to remember. Yes, the focus is on productivity, but the ambition is to transform the construction industry.
If successful, the construction industry will become a flexible industry where both projects and workers are able to productively work the hours that best suit them. The industry will provide equal opportunity for all genders, nationalities and ages. It will construct resilient infrastructure while nurturing the environment. It will be at the forefront of technological advancement. It will be a profitable industry that rewards collaboration over conflict and innovation over status quo. Construction will be Australia’s most sought-after industry for the next generation of workers.
Let 2023 be a transformational marker – the stake is in the ground.