Australian Notes

Australian notes

7 February 2020

10:00 PM

7 February 2020

10:00 PM

Elites thwarting the great Aussie dream

For too many Australians, the great Australian dream of home ownership becomes more elusive every year. Hardly a week goes by where I don’t have to push back against proposals for yet more red and green tape that would add thousands of dollars to the cost of an average house build. It has been estimated that inefficient land release strategies, excessive development levies, taxes and charges and excessive planning and building requirements drive up house prices by about 40 per cent.

The building industry is currently in the firing line again thanks to Australia’s 2016 Paris Agreement commitment to a 26-28 per cent emissions reduction target. The Morrison government is pushing for a pathway towards achieving zero emissions-ready buildings through ongoing increments of change to National Construction Code (NCC) energy efficiency provisions.  Meanwhile, the Trump administration is withdrawing from the Paris Agreement due to the severe impact it would have on jobs and the economy.

Your freedom of choice to build a home to suit your lifestyle is now under attack. How would you like to live in a house that needs to be closed up like an esky, live with consequential condensation and resulting building damage, have double-glazing, small windows, reduced ceiling heights and smaller rooms? Well, if the government gets its way you will, and you will pay more for that privilege.

In July, based on advice from the Australian Building Codes Board (ABCB), and seemingly unconcerned about housing affordability and personal choice, the Building Ministers Forum agreed to the development of increased energy requirements. Specifically, the ABCB pushed ‘to investigate increasing the general stringency of the Nationwide House Energy Rating Scheme (NatHERS) energy rating compliance pathway from a minimum 6 to 7 stars.’ This means that from 2022 all new houses in Australia may have to have a 7-star energy rating.

So, what is an energy rating? NatHERS assessments are the most common way to meet the minimum energy efficiency requirements of the National Construction Code. Energy assessors use the NatHERS rating tools to forecast the amount of heating and cooling an apartment or house needs to stay comfortable all year round. The findings are converted to a rating between 0 and 10 stars.  A 6-Star rating is the minimum standard in most states and territories and in NatHERS’ words indicates ‘good’ thermal performance’.

Too often the building and construction industry is seen as an easy target, something that will always be there, regardless of how much overregulation is thrown at it. More often than not the people that come up with these ideas are public sector bureaucrats and inner-city elites who are well established in their own homes, but have a tin ear when it comes to discussing the ever-rising cost of building for a first homebuyer. They are out of touch.

The justification used by the United Nations and the government for changing how we will live is of course ‘climate change’. The word ‘carbon’ appears like a rash all over the documents and research papers advocating these new requirements. Astonishingly, these same people and many that I speak with don’t know that CO2 is not carbon. What is disturbing is the use of cherry-picked data, the tweaking of statistics and graphs, failed ‘dud’ predictions and references from groups like the Climate Institute to justify their position. Activists are now being quoted as authority and rent-seekers who rely on a scare for more research dollars are rolled out to justify this hot air.

Economic modelling by Master Builders SA showed that increasing to 7- star NatHERS would add up to $20,000 to the cost of an average house build. That’s a lot of money for a first homebuyer and does not include any costs for administration, redraws, processing and assessments, time delays, new energy assessments and so on.

We are losing consumer choice.  People should have the freedom to make their own decisions based on their own budget, priorities and lifestyle. If customers want to pay extra for outstanding thermal performance and seal up their house that’s great, good on them, but it shouldn’t be compulsory for everyone. By NatHERS’ own definition, the existing requirement for 6-star indicates ‘good thermal performance’. Therefore ‘good’ is sufficient for a minimum standard. Excessive building requirements hurt affordability and that means less work for Australian tradies, apprentices, suppliers and builders. That in turn obviously flows through the economy causing more damage. Something that Trump realised even before he became President, by stating if elected he would pull out of Paris.

We are now at a stage where the way you live and what you can build are being determined by signed international agreements, written by elites that you can’t vote in or vote out.  These elites couldn’t care less if their policies create a scorched earth for jobs and the economy in this great country. The reality is Australian housing will always be in a state of change but that change must allow us to live how we want to live. A house built in Hobart will be different to a house built in Darwin and what’s the point of paying thousands of extra dollars for double glazing when you run an evaporative air conditioner and need to keep your windows open!

If you want to live in a home with fresh air, open your large windows, choose evaporative air conditioning or build a home to your budget and lifestyle, you should be free to do so. The adults amongst us need to push back and say ‘no’ to this environmentalist, bureaucratic and globalist stupidity.

Enough said, I’m now going to open a cold beer take a drink and let that beautiful CO2 escape into the atmosphere.

Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.

Ian Markos is the CEO of Master Builders, South Australia

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