Cement Concrete and Aggregates Australia  and the Institute of Quarrying Australia jointly hosted the Construction Materials Industry Conference (CMIC) held in Melbourne recently.
Threats to Australia’s investment pipeline, the outlook for residential construction and the broader challenges facing the construction industry were among the key topics discussed at the CMIC12, which also brought together over 600 local and overseas delegates.
CMIC is a biennial conference that provides a vital platform for policy debate on issues affecting Australia’s $7 billion per annum heavy construction materials industry. This year’s conference theme was Essential Industry for Australia’s Future, with speakers discussing the opportunities and threats to growth, both for the industry as well as the broader economy.
In his keynote address, CCAA Chairman Kevin Gluskie focussed on four key industry challenges, namely resources depletion, sustainability, community engagement and the aging workforce, and said that the industry needed to recognise the finiteness of resources.
Mr Gluskie urged the industry to work hard to connect with its neighbours and be professional and transparent in its operations while also simultaneously educating and reminding government and the community of its broader economic importance. He also wanted the industry to be much more proactive in educating young jobseekers about workplace opportunities that existed within the construction materials segment.
Business Council of Australia (BCA) Chief Executive, Jennifer Westacott told delegates that high project costs and workplace productivity issues were putting the future investment pipeline, estimated as high as $900 billion, at risk. She also pointed out other challenges facing the industry including a lack of political leadership, capacity constraints, an unwieldy planning approval process, and financing and funding constraints.
She called for action to give states greater authority to assess and approve projects under Commonwealth environmental legislation and to streamline major development approvals and licensing arrangements, for amendments to the Fair Work Act to include employer-only agreements on greenfield projects, and comprehensive tax reform including a lower company tax rate over time.
Bank of America Merrill Lynch Australia Chief Economist, Saul Eslake painted a mixed outlook for the Australian residential property market. Though he does not expect a US-style housing market collapse, pointing to Australia’s relatively low housing stock levels and the recent fall in new dwelling completions, as well as the distribution and structure of Australian household debt, Australia’s relatively high house prices continues to impact on housing affordability and home ownership rates.
Other speakers at this year’s CMIC included VicRoads Chief Executive, Gary Liddle who spoke about the need to unlock productivity on Australia’s current and future road systems, and Australian Industry Group Chief Executive, Innes Willox on the measures required to kick-start the construction sector.