Timber Shortage in AustraliaSpeech
Roof truss suppliers across my region are declaring Australia’s severe timber shortage a ‘national crisis’ that is having significant knock-on effects, not only for the building industry but for jobs and the economy.
And it’s not going to end any time soon, according to one of the nation’s leading prefab manufacturers, Timber Truss, based in my region in Geelong.
Business Manager, Steve Collier, says the shortage will have long lasting implications for the cost of housing and jobs in the industry.
Steve says timber from overseas is costing between 85 to 125 per cent more and this is inevitably being passed on to the client, and leading to a concerning increase in the cost of housing.
And the flow on impact for apprentices, local carpenters, electricians, roofer and plumbers, and the related retail sector are being felt.
“It’s crushing for builders. I feel particularly for the smaller construction firms and family building businesses who can’t even get a quote for a job.”
Ultimately this means, building jobs are being pushing back by about three months on average.
So, what is the Morrison Government doing about this? Very little, it appears.
Not only has the Morrison-Joyce Government failed to anticipate and develop a plan to manage the nation’s timber shortage, it has contributed to the crisis.
The Government’s lack of a substantive policy, combined with failure to act on its own tree planting targets, has once again shown that it’s incapable of real vision, planning and implementation.
And it’s not like the Government wasn’t warned this crisis was coming.
Back in late June, CFMEU National Secretary Michael O'Connor wrote to Housing Minister Michael Sukkar, then Industry Minister Christian Porter and Assistant Minister for Forestry Jonathon Duniam requesting an urgent meeting to discuss support for the forestry sector.
And now, more than six months into the crisis, there’s still no coherent plan from the Morrison-Joyce Government.
Victoria’s Master Builders Association CEO Rebecca Casson says builders are being so badly squeezed it’s sending some broke. It’s law that builders who have entered contracts must absorb the cost of delays, such as from timber shortages.
It’s true Australia is caught up in a world-wide shortage of timber. The US is paying as much as 400% higher than normal for timber.
And, the devastating 2019-20 ‘Black Summer’ bush fires on the eastern Australian seaboard have also contributed to the current shortage.
However, Australia might not have been in such a dire position had the Government had its eyes on the ball.
In normal circumstances only about 20% of Australia’s construction timber is imported. So, this crisis is more about domestic management than international supply issues.
More homes than ever are being built around the nation. Some figures suggest 20 % more houses in 2021 than any previous year.
The current building surge has been spurred on by various factors, some very much within the Government’s direct control.
The Government’s own HomeBuilder program for instance,which has seen 135,000 applications. The program is placing additional pressure on limited supplies and driving up prices.
However, fixing the building timber supply issue needs a longer-term solution.
A recent joint report by Master Builders Australia and the Australian Forest Products Association says Australia timber shortage will escalate.
By 2035 the nation will be short 250,000 house frames – that’s the equivalent of the housing stock in the cities of Greater Geelong and Newcastle combined.
An urgent national plan is needed to address the timber shortage. But, what the Morrison-Joyce Government has provided so far is a policy vacuum.
In the short-term, to alleviate the current problem, there must be support for sawmills. They must be given extra processing opportunities.
In the longer-term, we must ensure there is timber plantation stock to meet future housing demand.
Currently there is only 2,750 hectares of new plantations of softwood nationally.
Yet, we need 400,000 new hectares of plantations by 2030 just to meet future demand.
The Morrison-Joyce Government promised to meet a one-billion plantation trees target in 2018. As usual, Mr Morrison has failed to do anything.
So, his own target has not been meet. In fact, a concessional loan program set up to help meet the one-billion trees target is yet to even open.
Importantly, we must not let the Government’s failure be used by it to justify increased logging of our native forests.
Deputy Speaker, the construction industry is key to our economic growth, and in my region of high growth, it is vital.
Sadly, the Morrison-Joyce Government is failing our timber industry. They’re failed the construction industry. They’re failing local builders and apprentices. They’re failing our housing consumers.
They will continue to fail all of them, well into the future, if they don’t act now.
Delivered in Parliament on 25 Oct 2021Share Tweet