A statement released last week from Jocelyn Martin, the Managing Director of the Housing Industry Association (HIA), expressed concerns about the “Closing Loopholes Bill” introduced in the Federal Parliament. According to Ms. Martin, the bill may have negative consequences for businesses, particularly small businesses in the residential building industry. Here are the key points made in her statement:
Impact on Small Businesses: The statement highlights that the majority of businesses in the residential building industry are small businesses, which are considered crucial for the Australian economy. The bill’s provisions are seen as potentially discouraging small businesses from operating in the industry. Increased Penalties: The bill proposes a significant increase in penalties for non-serious breaches of workplace laws, raising them from $187,800 to nearly $1 million. Ms. Martin believes these penalties are excessive and could add to the regulatory burden on businesses.
Union Rights: The bill grants new rights to unions, allowing them to engage with their members and potential members on industrial relations (IR) issues and to access workplaces for these discussions. This is viewed as a concern, as it appears to expand the existing powers of employee representatives.
Interference in Business Operations: Ms. Martin argues that the bill’s intent to close loopholes should not result in unwarranted interference in business operations. The focus should be on holding intentional rule breakers accountable while supporting businesses to thrive and grow.
Challenges in the Residential Building Industry: The residential building industry is already facing challenges such as delays, price increases, and skill shortages. Ms. Martin contends that government action should facilitate business operations rather than adding to the industry’s existing risks.
Gig Economy and Housing Sector: The statement clarifies that the bill’s provisions aimed at the gig economy will not directly impact independent contractors in the residential building industry. However, it emphasizes the need for an attractive, flexible, and robust housing sector to meet the government’s goal of building 1.2 million homes over the next five years.
In summary, Jocelyn Martin’s statement reflects concerns from the perspective of the residential building industry, particularly small businesses, regarding the potential impact of the Closing Loopholes Bill on their operations, regulatory burden, and the role of unions in workplaces. The statement calls for a balance between addressing rule violations and supporting business growth in a challenging environment.