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Infrastructure and Transport - High-Vis Army

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Tuesday, 7 September 2021

Tags: Housing, State Budget

Ms O'CONNOR - Minister, your Government's election policy on establishing a High-Vis Army, which frankly doesn't speak much to women, included funding for the Civil Contractors Federation and Master Builders Tasmania. It didn't fund the Housing Industry Association.

Mr FERGUSON - Yes, it does.

Ms O'CONNOR - Does it? Where in the papers?

Mr FERGUSON - In the policy. I think it's $9 million: $4 million for the CCF, $4 million for the MBA and $1 million for the HIA.

Ms O'CONNOR - Okay. Are you able to tell the committee what exactly this money is for and why it's included under election commitments?

Mr FERGUSON - It was promised at the election and the Budget papers reflect election commitments in the key deliverables statement.

Ms O'CONNOR - What's it for?

Mr FERGUSON - I draw your attention to page 328 of Budget Paper No. 2, which does show three line items for the High-Vis Army initiative, which clearly shows CCF on a separate line to HIA and a separate line to Master Builders. It's there. We shouldn't be arguing about whether it is a real thing or not. It's real.

Ms O'CONNOR - What is it for, exactly? What are they going to do?

Mr FERGUSON - These organisations are charged under the MOU we signed with them in June - it's about growing capacity of their organisations because, as I am sure you are aware, all the members of those industry associations are running at full capacity. We want to build more homes and more infrastructure, including roads, bridges and cycleways, which you missed when you were out of the room, which I talked about at length. To do more work, we need to grow the workforce. The estimates on this would be in the range of a 25 per cent increase in the workforce, so there's a large training piece but importantly, as well, a promotion piece.

You mentioned women. Women are a big part of our vision for infrastructure and we are very proud of that. We intend to put our best foot forward and to promote the industry to men and women. Women are underrepresented in this sector, at less than 10 per cent overall in civils. We can do better and we want to do better, and we feel that we are missing some talent while those numbers are so disparate.

Those organisations, over four years, will grow their own promotional activities and, importantly, their pathway activities, encouraging people into training programs so that they can be equipped to join the High Vis Army and get well-paid jobs and a satisfying career.

Ms O'CONNOR - Okay. I might, as a woman, explain to you that a term like 'High Vis Army' really doesn't speak much to women and doesn't have a huge amount of appeal.

Can you explain in practical terms how that is going to work for a young person, male or female, should they come before the Civil Contractors Association or the Master Builders' Association or the HIA, and how it will work to get more of those young people into the trades and other related industries? What's the mechanism? It's not just promotion, is it?

Mr FERGUSON - As I said, it is promotion and skilled pathway development, and encouraging even skills programs. This output sits with Ms Courtney in the Education and Skills portfolio. I believe Skills Tas, in the Department of State Growth, are supporting her on this. I encourage you to explore that further with her but I am aware, because we speak often, that the three organisations that are part of this initiative are at an early stage of developing their plans and submitting those to Government.

They are all very committed, as we are, and there is a great shared vision for this. I invite you to go and have a chat to the young lady, Chloe, who works for St Joseph's Affordable Homes. She is greatly in favour of this and told me so.

Ms O'CONNOR - Don't patronise me. I have met many women in construction.

Mr FERGUSON - I am allowed to respond as well, so that is my response to you, and it was great to welcome her to the industry.

Ms O'CONNOR - Minister, to correct your previous answer. It's only a minor point so that you know that we're not misleading you. It was true when I said that your election policy on establishing a High Vis Army included $1 million a year for the Civil Contractors Federation and the Master Builders Association. It did not include funding for the Housing Industry Association. I have a copy of your election policy here.

Mr FERGUSON - Thank you.

Ms O'CONNOR - Just in case the record is wrong, I need you to understand that there's no mention of the Housing Industry Association in your High Vis Army policy.

Mr FERGUSON - That may be the case. However, those funds were committed during the election campaign, Ms O'Connor, so I'll concede the point about the document - no problem at all. I hope that you'll concede the point that the funding wasn't in the Budget.

Ms O'CONNOR - I didn't say it wasn't in the Budget. I said the election policy did not include funding for the Housing Industry Association.

Mr FERGUSON - The funds were committed during the campaign.