Construction and Engineering

The top three questions real tradies should be asking before voting in the federal election

Keith Moore /

ConX founders

ConX founders Keith Moore, Annie Slattery and David Stenson

In the final run up to the election, it’s your chance to ask the hard questions of your local politicians to back the policies that support the heart and soul of the building and construction Industry. Here are the top three questions you should be asking:

  1. What is your stance on the recent Senate Enquiry into insolvency in the Australian construction industry to help subcontractors?
  2. What policies and initiatives will you introduce to increase the number of apprentices entering the system?
  3. Do you support small businesses and what are you going to do for us?

And here’s why these questions need to be asked:

1. Helping subcontractors: “I just want to be paid”

Have you seen the report from the recent Senate inquiry into insolvency in the Australian construction industry? The report, entitled “I just want to be paid”, came out with 44 recommendations, which, if adopted, would overcome many of the challenges the construction industry faces in dealing with its unacceptably high rate of business insolvency and completely unacceptable culture of non-payment of subcontractors for work completed on construction projects.

It’s well worth a read, and now is the time to find out if your local politicians are aware of the enquiry and where they stand on the 44 recommendations.

My experience with dodgy contractors and the government

At the end of last year, our carpentry subcontracting business took on the biggest job to date. The contract came to us from a large landscaping company. We bought all the materials upfront and paid all of our guys on time. A month after the invoice was due, we got an email from the contractor, with a dodgy fax number as the only point of contact, declaring they had mismanaged their finances and couldn’t pay us.

We very nearly went bust, and have been relentlessly chasing them for the last seven months and we’re still waiting on the final payment. The ironic part of this situation is, the contract was in fact, a government contract, originating at the very top. This has got to stop.

2. Increasing the number of apprentices

Without apprentices coming through, our industry will die. Nationally, the number of apprentices fell 28% from 383,562 to 278,583 between December 2013 and December 2015, according to the National Centre for Vocational Education Research. Approximately $1 billion was stripped from trades support programs and the ‘Tools for Your Trade’ (TFYT) program, which paid $5,500 to apprentices over two years, was abolished.

Why has this happened? We’re all feeling the strain of the skills shortage on site, and this will get continuously worse unless the government recognises and understands the severity of a problem that will negatively impact our industry that contributes to 8% of Gross Domestic Product. We need to encourage and excite the youth of today to enter the trade.

3. Supporting small business

There are 345,000 businesses operating in the building and construction industry, and the majority are SMEs. The political messages have all been positive towards SME’s so far, but extra attention needs to be paid to our industry where insolvency is rampant and the smallest guys get hit the hardest.

Will the proposed tax breaks and benefits positively affect your business at its current stage and size? We published a blog after the last budget that’s worth a read here, and it’s worth noting if a new government comes in, this will all change.

Now is the time to quiz your politicians -your voice really matters!

Keith Moore is co-founder of ConX and co-owner of Ocean Carpentry.

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Keith Moore

Keith Moore is co-founder of ConX and co-owner of Ocean Carpentry.

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