The Building Australia party was, if I recall correctly, a brand new party at the 2010 election, and was formed by members of the building industry and building design profession. Their website proudly informs me that they support housing affordability, sustainable development, cutting unnecessary red tape, protecting the building infustry, and better health infrastructure.
And then it asks me whether I do, too.
Well, I’m not 100% sure, to be honest. It all depends how you plan to achieve it, and I have to say, preferencing Rise Up Australia third on your senate ticket doesn’t entirely fill me with confidence. High preferences also go to the Bullet Train party, the Australian Voice (hooray, more opera singers!), the Motoring Enthusiasts, Bank Reform and, surprisingly, Animal Justice. After a lengthy tour of largely one-issue parties, we get to the Democrats, Family First and – oh dear – One Nation. Like many of the other small parties, the big parties are at the foot of the ticket, ordered Liberal, Nationals, Labor and Greens, but they did save room at the very foot of the ticket for the Socialist Equality Party.
Something tells me that these particular builders may not be especially keen on unions, but I could be doing them an injustice.
Building Australia is here to build ‘a better future for all Australians’, or so we are told. They want ‘accountable government’ with ‘mandatory basic skills for politicians’, which I find kind of hilarious, because I have this image of politicians painstakingly being taught how to cook basic meals, catch public transport, and balance their weekly budget. Actually, the last part probably is what they want. It’s still an amusing image.
I am informed that the founders of the party all have a small business background, and they are very big on ‘commonsense, respect and business acumen’ – they use this phrase about three times on the front page, so I think we can assume that these values are very important to them. I’m a horrible over-educated leftie nitpicker, so I can’t help noting that spelling and grammar are not among the basic skills valued by the Building Australia Party.
I think the general air being projected here is one of a party full of down-to earth, practical, no-nonsense individuals. Whether this leads to interesting policies remains to be seen.
Their policy page is divided into six sections: Building, Environment, Lifestyle (which is mostly about health), Planning, Regulation, and Traffic and Transport. As you will see, the majority of these sections relate back to building, infrastructure and town planning in one way or another.
Let’s start with the Building stuff, because this is clearly where the heart of the Building Australia Party lies. Essentially, they want to make new houses more affordable, and their plan to do this is first to make more building blocks available, and secondly to delay infrastructure costs, having them paid up through rates and user charges rather than up-front. I can see advantages and disadvantages to this approach; on the one hand, I am absolutely in favour of making that initial outlay to buy a house a bit more affordable, but speaking as a payer of bills and rates, the idea of increasing these over a long period of time is decidedly unappealing – the ongoing burden of home-ownership would be greater, and it’s harder to get a loan for ongoing expenses than for the up-front kind. I imagine how appealing this would be would depend on one’s income stream.
Building Australia would like to create a new Independent Building Commission to evaluate “all legislation and regulations that affect the Building, Construction and Planning Industries to ensure relevance and consistency”. This will apparently streamline things and save money. Probably true, but at what cost, and who will be on this commission exactly? How independent will this commission be?They want to review the Home Owners Warranty Insurance Scheme, and here we have a problem, because I’m honestly not sure, given the way they’ve been laying out their bullet points on this site, whether they are saying that claims can currently only be made as a last resort and that this needs to be changed, or whether they want to make this the case in future. I think they mean the former, but will nonetheless quote this section in full, for you to decide.
Building Australia Party will:
- Review the new Home Owners Warranty Insurance scheme.
- Claims under the current system can only be made as a ‘last resort’.
There are only four instances in which an owner can claim:
– Death of builder.
– Insolvency of builder.
– Disappearance of builder.
– Cancellation of licence in response to failure to comply with court orders.
Building Australia wants to ensure Home Owners are paying a fair premium for the service they are receiving.
Sounds as though it’s probably OK, but without knowing what the scheme currently says, it’s a bit hard to tell.
Building Australia favours “sustainable and environmentally sound development, by incorporating in new dwellings the latest cost-efficient technologies in energy and water saving”, and will make decisions to reduce the impact on the environment “However, it is not the intent of the Building Australia Party to be totally green at all cost.”.
This sounds to me like they don’t quite know what they want; I get the impression that they are torn between a genuine concern for the environment and an even more pressing horror of excessive red tape and increased costs in making new houses sustainable.
They want to be more water efficient and to improve irrigation, and are concerned about the record low inflows into the Murray Darling basin.
In terms of planning, Building Australia unsurprisingly wants to reduce costs and planning delays for new homes and alterations. They also want to review the Workers Compensation Act and “establish an industry-based fund to cover costs associated with injury or illness of building and construction industry workers”. I’m a bit confused about where this will come from – apparently the premiums are to be collected at the Approval stage, and they mention that this will remedy the existing situation where “the bulk of Workers Compensation Insurance premiums are collected from a small percentage of employers”. I suspect this all feeds into the next section where they talk a lot about changing definitions of what constitutes a contractor or a sub-contractor, as opposed to an employee, since workers comp tends to be something that is automatically included as an on-cost when calculating employee salary expenses. I honestly don’t think I can comment usefully on this, as it clearly relates to rules within the building industry with which I am unfamiliar.
On to more fun things, the Building Australia Party really, really likes its infrastructure! Their transport policy, therefore, strikes joy into my little pedestrian heart, because, according to their website “A well-managed public transport system can be the barometer of a well-run and managed state”. This does rather beg a joke about Mussolini, but since I understand that he did not, in fact, manage to make the trains run particularly on time, we shall move on to the actual policy.
Building Australia wants to make “public transport workable and the number one choice of transport mode”. This involves both more infrastructure (building the North West Rail link is on their agenda, and you will note their preference flow to the Bullet Train party) and reducing charges for public transport use “in order to encourage people out of their cars”. Building Australia would like to create transport hubs in regional centres, and improve interstate rail links and integrate them with existing State and Territory Systems. Honestly, this sounds fabulous to me. There is also an acknowledgment that public transport isn’t accessible or appropriate for all situations, and a promise to improve roads, but I get the impression that they find public transport much more exciting!
Under the banner of ‘lifestyle’, Building Australia is basically all about improving the public health system, the nurse to patient ratio and supporting carers. They also want to build more regional Centres of Excellence in specialist medical care.And that, my friends, is apparently how you build Australia! No Lego required…