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HIA says shortage of skilled trades remains acute, despite return of skilled migration

HIA senior economist Tom Devitt said the HIA Trades Report for the March quarter 2023 reveals Australia is "still enduring one of its most acute shortages of skilled tradespeople on record".

The HIA Trades Report released this week provides a quarterly review of the availability of skilled trades and any demand pressures on trades operating in the residential building industry.

“The report’s Trades Availability Index registered -0.75 for the March quarter 2023, compared with 0.90 a year earlier,” Mr Devitt said.

“This still represents one of the most acute shortages of skilled tradespeople since HIA started this report in 2003. The shortages are particularly acute in Australia’s regions and in trades like bricklaying, carpentry and roofing.

“As more workers arrive from overseas, home building and renovations timelines that have blown out during the pandemic will shrink. The demand for and the supply of skilled tradespeople will approach equilibrium again," he said.

“The rate of increase in the price of trades already appears to be moderating.

“The rates paid for skilled trades were increasing at 7.5 percent per year during the pandemic, compared with just 2 percent per year before the pandemic. The last three quarters have seen this rate moderate, with the price of trades even declining by 0.03 percent in the most recent quarter.

“As the volume of work currently underway remains large, the effects of consecutive rate hikes by the RBA have yet to reach the Index.

“It is anticipated that the RBA’s actions to date will result in a more significant easing of the shortage of trades later this year, as well as some more declines in the prices of trades," Mr Devitt said.

“The current pipeline is progressively being completed, with an increasing number of projects being cancelled. The number of new projects commencing construction is also set to fall to its lowest level in over a decade.

“This will see the volume of homes under construction shrink and demand for skilled trades fall,” Mr Devitt said.



Master Builders welcomes national approach to housing crisis

THE building community welcomes the National Cabinet’s announcement this week for a national approach to reforms to address the housing crisis, according to Master Builders Australia.

Master Builders Australia CEO Denita Wawn said the decision to tackle infrastructure investment, planning reforms to increase housing supply and affordability alongside sustainable growth across states and territories was an important signal for the industry.

“Industry will work closely with the planning Ministers and National Cabinet to ensure all options are on the table and there are no unintended consequences of other reforms that may dampen this effort,” Ms Wawn said

The Federal Government also announced a series of other measures to boost investment for increasing housing supply including: increasing the depreciation rate for eligible new build-to-rent projects, and reducing the withholding tax rate for eligible fund payments for managed investment trusts to foreign residents on income from newly constructed residential build-to-rent properties.

“We are seeing rental inflation accelerate to its fastest pace since 2012 brought on by shortages in land supply and exacerbated by rising interest rates," Ms Wawn said.

“For many builders and developers, initiating large-scale home building projects in the current environment is simply too risky as medium to high density is most sensitive to interest rate fluctuations.

“Measures to make the housing industry a more attractive place to invest is welcome at a time when communities are crying out for more supply.

“This is only one piece of the jigsaw, and we urge the Opposition and crossbench to not delay the passing of the Housing Australia Future Fund which is another piece to attract investment in social and affordable housing.

“More needs to be done to speed up the delivery of new housing in the medium and high-density part of the market over the short term. Government efforts to expand the stock of build-to-rent will provide welcome support," Ms Wawn said.

“The challenge will be to make sure that we put downward pressure on building and construction costs to increase output.

“Builders continue to face regulatory burdens and prolonged delays in approvals for building applications, occupation certificates and land titles. Additionally, land shortages in the wrong places, high developer charges and inflexible planning laws are restricting opportunities to meet demand, speed up project timelines, and minimise costs to both builders and their clients,” Ms Wawn said.

Master Builders’ Delivering the housing needs for all Australians recommends policies around housing supply, workforce, supply chain risk and cost pressures, simplifying regulatory settings that support investment in housing and business productivity.



National approach to increase housing supply a good step: HIA

THE Housing Industry Association (HIA) has welcomed National Cabinet’s agreement this week to support a range of reforms to address housing supply.

HIA deputy managing director for industry and policy, Jocelyn Martin said the decision to tackle planning reforms to increase housing supply and affordability would ultimately lead to more affordable rental accommodation and provides the capacity to deliver social housing without impacting housing supply more broadly.“The HIA has always agreed more needs to be done at the Federal, state, and local level of government, to achieve a sustainable level of supply where both the cost of buying or renting a house is in the grasp of the average Australian,” Ms Martin said.“Today’s announcements recognise the extent of the housing crisis is a shared challenge. The Housing Australia Future Fund will provide the crucial base for these reforms to occur. It is important the opposition and cross bench do not delay in passing these Bills.“HIA is ready to work closely with industry and with all levels of government to ensure that these reforms come to fruition. Without changes such as these, the housing problem will only worsen, governments on all levels have a role to play and todays proposals are a good step forward to easing the problem” concluded Ms Martin.



Independent international education sector responds to migration system reforms

THE outcomes arising from the Australian Government's review of the migration system have been broadly welcomed by the Independent Tertiary Education Council Australia (ITECA), the peak body representing independent providers in the skills training and higher education sectors.

Given that independent skills training and higher education providers support more than half of the onshore international student enrolments, the Australian Government’s announcements are critical for ITECA members, an internal report found.

“ITECA members agree with the Australian Government that students need simple pathways to stay in Australia if they have the skills and capabilities that businesses need," ITECA chief executive Troy Williams said.

"In that context, ITECA looks forward to working with both the Minister for Education and the Minister for Skills and Training to ensure that independent tertiary education providers committed to quality can continue supporting international students wanting to come to Australia,” Mr Williams said.

The linkages between international education and addressing Australia’s skills needs are critical areas of reform, according to ITECA.

“From the perspective of the international education sector, it’s great to see a commitment to closer alignment of the nation’s skills needs and international education.  The Minister is correct to say that the migration system will never be a substitute for adequately skilling Australian workers, but there are also benefits in leveraging the skills of international students in Australia with the education and skills our economy needs,” Mr Williams said.

ITECA has welcomed a more appropriate architecture for international student visa processing.

“International students and Australia’s international education sector are baffled by too many visa categories and lengthy processing arrangements that produce inconsistent outcomes.  ITECA members welcome a more transparent and less complicated system,” Mr Williams said.

Of interest to ITECA members is a commitment to ensure that a whole-of-government approach is taken to migration matters.

“Jobs and Skills Australia will have a lead role, and ITECA is pleased to see an acknowledgement that the state and territory governments have a role to play.  At the end of the day, all job needs are local, as to are the housing shortages that impact international students.  The state and territory governments are critical to this conversation,” Mr Williams said.

ITECA will work with the Australian Government as issues associated with implementing the recommendations are considered, he said.



Formed in 1992, ITECA is the peak body representing Australia's independent providers in the skills training, higher education, and international education sectors.



Latrobe Valley workers meet to call for a federal Energy Transition Authority

WORKERS and their unions from Victoria’s Latrobe Valley are calling on the Federal Government to urgently support a federal Energy Transition Authority.

Gippsland Trades and Labor Council (GTLC) secretary Steve Dodd said the Latrobe Valley was a living example of a community suffering from power station closures with no alternative plan in place.

“We are still feeling the effects of Hazelwood’s closure in 2017, with just five months notice," Mr Dodd said.

“Coal power and coal mining have been the economic lifeblood of this region.

"We have powered the state and nation for a century but with the timeline for closure for our remaining power stations accelerating – we need federal co-ordination and support," Mr Dodd said.

Mr Dodd and supporters of the proposed body said a federal statutory authority would be responsible for: Co-ordinating the orderly closure of power stations; overseeing industry diversification in energy regions, like the Latrobe Valley; and supporting workers with redeployment, retraining and early retirement where appropriate.

The support for a federal Energy Transition Authority was demonstrated in a public meeting on April 20 at the GTLC Building at Morwell, where the call was amplified through media channels.



Migration Committee to hold hearings in Melbourne and regional Victoria

THE Joint Standing Committee on Migration will kick off the hearing schedule for its Migration, Pathway to Nation Building inquiry with public hearings in Melbourne and Robinvale in regional Victoria.

On Wednesday April 26, the committee will hear from manufacturers, policy think tanks, academics, migrant advocacy groups, and settlement service providers at a public hearing in Melbourne. The following day, the committee will head to northwest Victoria to speak with local government and fruit and vegetable growers on how migration policy can better support regional economies and communities.

Committee Chair, Maria Vamvakinou MP, said the hearings would provide the committee with the valuable opportunity to question witnesses on the details of their submissions made to the inquiry "and to see firsthand how Australia’s migration policy settings impact industry sectors, such as primary producers, who rely heavily on migrant labour and regional Australian communities".

"The committee looks forward to speaking with experts on migration issues and those directly impacted by our migration policy settings," Ms Vamvakinou said.

The full hearing programs are available on the Committee website.

Hearing details

Wednesday, 26 April 2023 – 9am to 4.30pm – Balmoral Room, Stamford Plaza Melbourne Hotel, 111 Collins St, Melbourne Vic. 3000Thursday, 27 April 2023 – 1pm to 3.20pm – Foyer/Meeting Room, Robinvale Community Arts Centre, 37 Robin St, Robinvale Vic. 3549.



Voice Referendum Committee commences public hearings

THE Joint Select Committee on the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice Referendum began its program of public hearings on Friday in Canberra.

At its first hearing the committee heard evidence from representatives of the Uluru Statement from the Heart and the Indigenous Voice Co-design Process, Thomas Mayor and Kerry O’Brien, Robert French AC, and panels of eminent legal witnesses.

The committee is inquiring into the provisions of the Constitution Alteration (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice) 2023 (Bill), introduced to the House by Mark Dreyfus MP, Attorney-General on March 30, 2023.

Committee Chair Senator Nita Green said, "The committee will be interested to focus its discussion on the question of whether the legislative provisions achieve what is intended and give effect to the government’s stated objectives before it moves to a referendum."

"The committee looks forward to the contributions received from witnesses as it moves to regional centres and back to Canberra for its hearings."

Programs for public hearings will be published on the Committees website as they are confirmed. The dates and locations are:

  1. Date: Friday, 14 April 2023Location: Committee Room 2S1, Parliament House, Canberra
  2. Date: Monday, 17 April 2023Location: Council Chambers, Orange
  3. Date: Wednesday, 19 April 2023Location: Cairns Performing Arts Centre, Cairns
  4. Date: Friday, 28 April 2023Location: Venue TBC, Perth
  5. Date: Monday, 1 May 2023Location: Committee Room 2R1, Parliament House, Canberra

Submissions are requested by COB Friday 21, April 2023. Further information about making a submission to a committee inquiry can be found at the following link.

The committee intends to hold public hearings. The dates and locations of hearings will be decided shortly and published as soon as possible.

Further information on the inquiry can be obtained from the committee’s website.



Medicine shortage to worsen under federal budget?

THE Pharmacy Guild of Australia has claimed the Federal Government’s intention to introduce 60-day dispensing -- which doubles the number of medicines patients can receive at once, regardless of need -- in this year’s Budget will "significantly worsen the medicines shortage crisis".

According to the Guild, "this will lead to millions of patients being worse off".
A Guild spokesperson said, "This proposal will mean that already stretched supply chains of crucial and everyday prescription medicine will be made much worse. Shortages already exist for medications to treat a range of conditions, including blood pressure, diabetes, cholesterol, depression, anxiety, osteoporosis, Parkinson’s Disease."
The Guild said by providing some patients with twice as much medication as they need, many more Australians will be forced to go without.

"The policy will also lead to panic buying, hoarding of medicines and increased overdoses."
National President of the Pharmacy Guild of Australia, Trent Twomey said, “We have very real concerns around the impact of this policy on patient safety.
“If the Federal Government puts this proposal in the Budget, I am very concerned for millions of Australian patients who need regular access to critical medicine. 
“There are already some 400 medicines in short supply in Australia and around 70 more at risk of becoming short,” Professor Twomey said.
“Australians may not be able to access medicines equally, with one patient having double the amount and another missing out. 
“Local Labor MPs will need to explain to their communities why their community pharmacist cannot supply critical medicine to patients when they need it.”
The Pharmacy Guild is calling on the Federal Government to further reduce the general PBS patient co-payment to $19, supporting 19 million Australians in this cost-of-living crisis.



Audit Committee examines findings of the Watt procurement review and NDIA issues in the Commonwealth Financial Statements

THE Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit (JCPAA) held a public hearing on Friday, April 14, to examine the findings of the Independent Review of Services Australia and NDIA Procurement and Contracting, led by Ian Watt AC (the Watt review), as part of its ongoing inquiry into Commonwealth procurement.

The Watt review examined 95 procurements undertaken by Services Australia and NDIA from 2015–16 to the present, and found that 19 procurements with an approximate value of $374 million showed inconsistencies with the Commonwealth Procurement Rules or did not show good practice.

Julian Hill MP, the Chair of the Committee, noted that Dr Watt’s findings closely mirrored the issues that had been raised by the Australian National Audit Office during the committee’s procurement inquiry.

“The Watt review flagged five of the 95 procurements as being of lower standard than comparable procurements undertaken by the agencies,” Mr Hill said. “The committee is keen to question the key parties involved in the procurement process to gain an understanding of where the issues lie and how they have been addressed.”

The committee heard from Dr Watt AC, followed by the two agencies subject of the review, as well as representatives from a number of companies who were awarded contracts identified as being of particular concern in the Watt review including Infosys Pty Ltd, Portland, Synergy 360 / Milo Consulting and Australian Property Reserve Pty Ltd.

Following the session on procurement, the JCPAA will continue its program of public hearings for its inquiry into Commonwealth Financial Statements hearing from the NDIA.

Friday's hearings were held in Canberra.

Further information about the inquiries is available on the Committee website.



Sick and tired: Long COVID inquiry report released

A NATIONAL long COVID and COVID-19 database is among the key recommendations of a unanimous report released today by a Parliamentary Committee for its inquiry into long COVID and repeated COVID infections.

The House of Representative’s Standing Committee on Health, Aged Care and Sport’s report aims to improve Australia’s response to long COVID, an often-debilitating condition possibly affecting hundreds of thousands of Australians.

Chair of the Committee, Mike Freelander MP said, "It is clear that the emergence of long COVID has created challenges for patients and health care professionals alike. People with long COVID suffer from a lack of information and treatment options. Health care professionals, who worked tirelessly over the acute phase of the pandemic, are now in a difficult situation trying to support patients with this new and poorly understood condition."

Deputy Chair of the Committee, Melissa McIntosh MP said, "Throughout the inquiry, the Committee heard from hundreds of Australians about what it is like to live with long COVID and how the condition impacts their daily lives. The Committee was particularly concerned to hear that long COVID is associated with poor mental health. The Committee heard that many individuals with long COVID feel isolated, disbelieved, anxious or depressed."

The Committee made nine unanimous recommendations aimed at strengthening the Australian Government’s management of long COVID, including regarding:

  • A definition of long COVID for use in Australia
  • Evidence-based living guidelines for long COVID, co-designed with patients with lived experience
  • A nationally coordinated research program for long COVID and COVID-19
  • The COVID-19 vaccination communication strategy
  • Access to antiviral treatments for COVID-19
  • Support for primary healthcare providers
  • Indoor air quality and ventilation.

Over the course of the inquiry, the Committee held four public hearings and received almost 600 submissions from individuals, organisations and government bodies.

The Committee wishes to sincerely thank everyone who provided written submissions and gave evidence at public hearings. The Committee is particularly appreciative of the time taken by many people who, despite being personally impacted by long COVID, have gone to considerable effort to contribute to this inquiry.

The report and further information about the Committee can be found on its website.





Deeper dive into Australia’s international education sector

THE Trade Subcommittee of the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade will hold public hearings for its Inquiry into Australia’s tourism and international education sectors on April 18 and 19, 2023.

The subcommittee will hear evidence from university and vocational and education training (VET) peak bodies, student accommodation, education agents and sector professional bodies about sector recovery and future growth.

Trade Subcommittee Chair, Senator Deborah O’Neill said, "The Melbourne public hearings will progress the inquiry’s focus into the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead for international education.

"These hearings are a chance for the committee to engage with sector leaders on the lessons from COVID-19 and how to apply those to Australia’s international education continued recovery and growth."

Further information about the inquiry and program, are available on the inquiry webpage.

Public hearings details


Day One

Date: Tuesday, 18 April 2023Venue: Davui Room, G1, 55 St Andrews Place, East MelbourneTime: 8:30am – 5:15pm (AEST)

Day Two

Date: Wednesday, 19 April 2023Venue: Davui Room, G1, 55 St Andrews Place, East MelbourneTime: 8:30am – 12:30pm (AEST)

The hearing will also be live streamed on the APH website:



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