I was pleased to hear recent announcements from our state parliament outlining measures to tackle housing affordability, such as the doubling of the first-home owner grant for Victorians living in regional areas.
Several other measures are included in the ‘Homes for Victorians’ plan, but each one addresses only a small part of a major challenge. This calls attention to the fact that we lack an important tool that could make a big difference in the extent to which the building and construction industry builds community and improves our lives.
I believe the time has come for a minister for building and construction. The size and importance of the building and construction industry in Victoria should not be underestimated, but a quick glance at ministerial portfolios might suggest otherwise.
Ours is a hugely important sector for Victoria in terms of what it delivers to the economy and the community. As Victoria grows more rapidly than any other state, the sector provides jobs and a huge amount of taxation revenue, but it also delivers the houses and social infrastructure, like roads, transport, parks, hospitals, schools and aged-care facilities that are required to maintain the high standard of living we expect in one of the world’s most liveable places.
Although people throughout Victoria feel the impact and influence of the tremendous work our sector does, aspects of building and construction are scattered widely across numerous ministerial portfolios such as planning, employment, skills, finance, housing affordability, local government, suburban development and small business, and without singular focus.
They are spread so thin that getting traction for change is extremely difficult, and it often seems responsibility for solving problems and meeting challenges is passed from one minister to another when things get too complicated. Establishing a minister devoted to overseeing the industry to drive strategy and change for the benefit of communities, individuals and businesses makes clear sense.
In the absence of such a minister, we face immense challenges in making progress at a time when change and fast action on critical projects are of the utmost importance to Victorians, such as long-needed planning reforms and trades registration. But if we match the need for reform with the ability to execute those reforms to drive jobs, business viability and growth for the benefits of all of us, it is exciting to think that Victoria could offer an example to other states of how that could be better achieved through the appointment of a minister tasked with making them happen.