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Don't let shonks ruin an industry's reputation

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Three of the country’s biggest regulators are working together to crack down on construction contractors that collapse under a mountain of debt, only to resurface as phoenix companies with the same habits.

The Australian Taxation Office, the Australian Securities and Investments Corporation and the Fair Work Building and Construction inspectorate are focusing on the building and construction industry ahead of potential charges.

This attention around these shoddy practices is welcome but doing little to instil more trust and confidence in a trade that affects all areas of community life, and is a significant driver of the economy.

While there is no shying away from the fact that not all service providers are adhering to regulations and quality standards – as is the case in any industry – there is plenty being done to ensure the sector is operating to the highest levels of service, quality and professionalism.

Industry associations in particular are delivering a variety of programs and initiatives to address the shortcomings of some providers to create a framework of support, training and trust – an outcome likely to benefit both consumers and the broader industry with a higher level of professionalism.

The Master Builders Association of South Australia, for example, has a members’ code of ethics which covers all its 2,500 members in the construction industry. Members agree to render their services honestly and transparently, to adhere to the highest service and quality standards, to employ the highest level of skills and technical knowledge, and, where possible, contribute to the training of the next generation of construction professionals.

Membership organisations are providing essential tools to businesses in the trade to create a reputable, reliable and growing industry that contributes significantly to the South Australian economy. Associations play an advisory role in legal, technical, industrial relations, and workplace health and safety matters, and act as a united voice to the government, through lobbying and advocacy work to improve the industry, productivity, create jobs and use innovation and new technologies.

This kind of framework not only provides consumers with confidence that member tradies coming to do work for them are professionally trained and licenced, reliable, and acting ethically and responsibly, but it also creates a safe and profitable environment for businesses in the construction industry.

The construction sector is the third biggest employer in the state, and the work carried out is affecting the South Australian community on every level – from schools, roads, hospitals and infrastructure through to home extensions, renovations and installing a new air-conditioner in the kids’ bedroom.

While the main responsibility of policing the issues around so-called ‘Cowboy Builders’ lies with the state and federal governments, consumers too can protect themselves from bad workmanship: for example, make sure you use licenced providers and look for accreditation from industry associations.

Industry websites also inform on other mechanisms in place to ensure a high standard of service delivery – from innovation and training programs to referral services and security of payment schemes.

It’s in the best interest of everyone – consumers, providers, associations, the government and the general public – that all building and construction works progress without incidents, and stand the test of time.

And the sector as a whole is working hard to not let some dodgy tradies ruin the reputation of a strong and proud industry.

Ian Markos is director of policy for the Master Builders Association of South Australia.

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