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Launch of the Australasian Procurement and Construction Council’s Guide on Procurement of Construction Products

Parkes ACT

1 September 2014

[Check against delivery]

Thank you for the opportunity to be here this evening to launch the Australasian Procurement and Construction Council’s Guide on Procurement of Construction Products.

As the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Industry and as someone who has worked extensively in the building industry, I am very pleased to be here with members of the building and construction industry.  My thanks to Teresa Scott, Jane Montgomery-Hribar and those from the Australasian Procurement and Construction Council (APCC), for inviting me to come along tonight.

I’d like to start by saying, we should not under-estimate the importance of this guide in terms of keeping people safe and instilling confidence in the building and construction industry. I’d like to highlight the recent recall of defective electrical wire that is installed in up to 40,000 homes across Australia.

The ACCC found Infinity cables product failed electrical safety standards due to poor quality plastic insulation coating, leading to the recall as a measure to protect consumers. And that’s what's critical ladies and gentlemen, the protection of consumers. I meet regularly with industry representatives and consult widely.

As a Parliamentary Secretary in a Government that is determined to work with the business community to get the economic settings right to encourage more investment and jobs growth in this particular field, this is par for the course. I welcome the decision from the ACCC because it addresses some of the concerns that industry representatives had been raising with me in the past 12 months. Let me assure you, my door is always open to hear about the full range of issues and feedback that you in the industry provide.

This government recognises the building and construction industry is a very important part of our Australian economy, it generates jobs, investment and many other social and economic benefits.

As I said previously, I have a personal appreciation for this sector, I was a licensed builder in NSW and prior to moving into politics in 1996, I worked as a building investigations officer and acted as an advocate for the Crown for the old NSW Building Services Corporation, now Fair Trading NSW. My sons are a part of the industry and this guide is a part of their secure future.  I’ve seen my share of poor practices and materials not up to standard in my time. I witnessed personally the devastation to owners when it’s not built right. Defects in the materials are discovered outside of the defects period or beyond the major structural damage periods of insurance. I am personally and professionally pleased this guide has come to fruition.

I recently saw figures from the Australian Industry Group/Housing Industry Association’s Australian Performance of Construction Index, showing an expansion in July 2014 to 52.6, taking it above the critical 50-point level that separates expansion from contraction.

Pleasingly, commercial construction also recovered strongly in July to reach its highest level in six and a half years.

I have had a good opportunity to look through the APCC’s guide. It is a great industry-driven initiative that will provide practical advice to people working in the building and construction industry. I believe the working group that contributed to this represented the sector well because of the broad range of industry experts that provided feedback.  We are talking about architects, engineers, builders, contractors, project managers, building surveyors, certifiers, and building owners amongst many Australians who will get a great deal of useful information from this guide.

This guide aims to provide greater clarity for the building and construction industry when it comes to procuring building and construction products, so products used are fit for purpose.

The guide explains in clear terms what factors to consider in the procurement process in order to ensure building products meet an acceptable level of quality and compliance.  It covers legislation, standards, and conformance assessment mechanisms, including a wide range of industry-developed and supported schemes.

It is useful because it simply sets out what to look for in procuring building and construction products. It removes the complexity of understanding what is required, and if further questions are raised, it’s easy to find someone to talk with.

This guide is a great example of industry mapping out the issues and demystifying the pathways to better building and construction product procurement.

The guide has been a collaborative effort by around thirty key building and construction industry stakeholders and the APCC.   It is great to see industry taking the lead in providing practical assistance to building and construction professionals.

Protecting builders and consumers

It is also, of course, very important that all products used in the Australian building industry are safe, secure and are fit for purpose. Builders and contractors need to have confidence that the products they use are compliant and meet specified requirements. Australian consumers need the assurance that they are getting what they expected, that is, that installed building products meet minimum acceptable levels of quality and that they are also compliant with our standards. The benefits of this guide go directly to our construction and building industry and therefore are accrued by Australia and for Australians.

While the standards for the performance of products used in building work across Australia are the responsibility of the states and territories, this is an issue of concern that has been brought up in the Building Ministers' Forum , where all ministers agreed the issue needed to be tackled.

At the Building Ministers' Forum in May this year, which I chaired, we discussed the current conformance framework for building products. I advised that I would seek further advice on how to address this issue from a Federal view point and I can say that we will be holding a roundtable with stakeholders and senior ministers before the end of the year to investigate this issue further.  The building ministers endorsed a number of significant building regulation reforms that have the potential to unlock an additional $1.1 billion in economic benefits per year to business and consumers.

The forum agreed in principle to make the 2015 National Construction Code (NCC) and future editions freely available and online. This commitment will be finalised by December 2014.

The reforms will eliminate the NCC’s purchase price (almost $400), improving small business’ access to the NCC , and increasing the number of building and plumbing practitioners able to access using the NCC from 12,000 to around 200,000 across Australia.

I want to reassure you the states and territories are working together with the Federal government constructively to the benefit of your sector and for the safety of all Australians.

In conclusion, the Australian Government wants to see the continuation of our viable, competitive and successful building and construction industry in Australia. We recognise the key role that the industry itself plays in this commitment.  That key role is captured perfectly in the form of this very useful procurement guide and I thank those involved for putting it together and making it available to all Australians, for the good of Australia. Once again, thank you to the APCC for this opportunity to be here to celebrate the launch of this Guide on Procurement of Construction Products.

Media contacts: Parliamentary Secretary's office 02 6277 4200