The Australian Contractors Association has released a statement in response to the Australian Federal Review (AFR) Infrastructure Summit, encouraging industry leaders to create a strategy that can support Australia’s future infrastructure needs at an economically affordable price.

The statement outlined that events such as the Australian Financial Review Infrastructure Summit are important opportunities to discuss how important it is for Australia to keep building new infrastructure and make existing infrastructure more resilient. 

“It’s easy to get swept up in the discussions of what could be and become deterred by obstacles in our path, but reality demands a more pragmatic approach. If the coming years are indeed destined to be ‘the defining decade’, as declared by Treasurer Jim Chalmers, Australia needs more than just rhetoric; it needs a strategic, coordinated effort to lift its game, and there is no better place to focus than the construction industry, “ the statement explained. 

“The industry being relied upon to deliver the economic enabling infrastructure that will lift Australia’s game accounts for 33 per cent of all insolvencies.

“As it currently stands, Australia’s construction industry operates under the federal jurisdiction of multiple Ministers. There are different Ministers responsible for housing, new energy, defence and transport. There is the Minister for Workplace Relations that sets the rules around how construction workers can be employed and the rights of unions to represent them, and a Minister for Industry keen to improve Australia’s sovereign construction capability.

“Australia is set to welcome over 500,000 migrants this year, so we can’t afford to cut back on building schools, hospitals and transport infrastructure. 

“There’s also a housing crisis, so we’re being asked to build many more. On top of that, geopolitical risk is increasing so we can’t reduce spending on defence infrastructure. We’re also falling behind on our goals to reduce carbon emissions, so we need to rapidly increase our delivery of transmission lines and new energy projects.”

The statement continued to explain that instead of “kicking the can down the road” the country should be debating how to reduce the cost of procuring, delivering and maintaining infrastructure assets. 

“We should be discussing how we can deliver these projects without the need for additional workers and how we can improve the culture of the industry so that worker mental health is improved and women are more equally represented,” the statement continued. 

“So, after the Summit panel discussions and presentations have concluded, the focus needs to switch towards creating a National Construction Strategy. A’ Defining Decade’ needs an industry 10-year strategy that defines and addresses the industry’s problems. 

“A strategy developed by government, industry and unions, spanning sectors and political boundaries. A strategy aimed at delivering the infrastructure Australia needs for a price that it can afford and maximising the value that it creates.”

“And so, the question remains: who will pull it all together?

“A National Strategy, responding to a national problem can only be led nationally. Given the importance of the task at hand to the economy and the focus of the Treasurer on achieving a defining decade, the Treasury Department would appear to be an obvious home for such an initiative but that can be disputed, discussed and resolved.

“What cannot be disputed is that the time for talking is over. It’s time for action!”

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