The Coalition has scraped in to form government by the narrowest of margins. Whether they’ll hold a majority or rely on independents in the House of Representatives is yet to be determined, and the makeup of the Senate is still largely unknown, though a large and potentially demanding crossbench is expected.
Still, this hasn’t stopped built environment industry and academic commentators weighing in on what this means for the sector, and what needs to change.
Speaking on The Conversation, political science professor Robyn Eckersley said Malcolm Turnbull would unlikely have enough political capital to override the climate sceptics in his party, meaning the continuation of the Direct Action policy, even though reform was urgently needed to meet Paris commitments.
Energetics Associate Dr Gordon Weiss, however, said climate policy “may not be the source of political angst it once was” following the election, and that minor changes could have big effects.
Dr Weiss said under the Abbott Government, a range of policy measures were proposed to deliver the national climate reduction target, which laid the foundation “for long-term bipartisan support for a suite of policies”.
“The key feature of the current policies is the Safeguard Mechanism which acts to put a price on greenhouse gas emissions from covered facilities that exceed the baseline for the facility. The Safeguard Mechanism could deepen the market for Australian Carbon Credit Units beyond what is currently provided by the Emissions Reduction Fund,” he said.
Dr Weiss said the policy framework could stay the same, but that targets and settings may need to be increased – including an increase to the Renewable Energy Target and lowering the baseline for the Safeguard Mechanism.
Also on The Conversation, urban and regional planning professor Nicole Gurran said housing affordability was another area where little would change despite desperate need, calling the government “out of touch”. Negative gearing and capital gains tax concessions will be retained, while there will be little assistance for renters and aspiring home owners.
The Property Council agreed housing affordability was a key issue, though said the election had seen “a tax debate masquerading as a housing affordability debate”, referring to negative gearing.
“The reality is neither side made a substantive effort to address this issue,” PCA chief executive Ken Morrison said.
“There has been no shortage of policy reviews on this issue and the need for supply side solutions is clear.”
The trigger for the double dissolution election – legislation to bring back the Australian Building and Construction Commission – could face difficulty passing.
Bob Katter, who the government may still need to rely upon in the lower house, has stated he will not support the resurrection of the building industry watchdog.
The Nick Xenophon team, which has a seat in the House of Representative and is expected to have strong crossbench representation in the Senate, has stated it would support the ABCC but only if changes were made to the legislation.
“I think it’s important, relevant, to have an independent watchdog to deal with serious issues related to the construction industry,” Mr Xenophon said.
The Property Council said it was crucial for the economy to get the legislation passed.
“It has been the property and construction sector that has largely filled the hole left by the end of the mining investment boom. However, the Government must understand that a number of leading indicators are softening in this sector,” Mr Morrison said.
“The need to re-establish the Australian Building and Construction Commission is very real and we urge the government to find a legislative pathway to deliver this important reform.”
The Coalition commitment to the Smart Cities Plan has been cause for optimism regarding a renewed cities agenda.
Director of the Centre for Urban Research at RMIT Jago Dodson said the campaign was significant as it was the first to have detailed cities policies from the major parties.
He said the Coalition’s City Deals promise, however, had many elements yet to be clarified, including the extent of government funding.
While there were many strong funding commitments – including the Gold Coast light rail and Sydney and Melbourne metro tunnels – he labelled funding for toll road WestConnex as “misguided” and said it would divert funds needed for public transport infrastructure.
The Grattan Institute’s Marion Terrill said many commitments to infrastructure could be seen as pork-barrelling because, as has been the case with previous elections, Queensland was over-represented in money promised, receiving a disproportionate share of Commonwealth investment, both per-head and compared to relative need.
Projects for which business cases had not been submitted and assessed by Infrastructure Australia also had funds committed.
The Australian Institute of Architects said the government needed to build on the Smart Cities Plan and focus on raising the productivity and resilience of cities.
“The government must build on its previous commitments in the Smart Cities Plan to deal with the key challenges facing Australia’s built environment, including climate change, housing affordability, and the need for more social and economic infrastructure,” AIA national president Ken Maher said.
“The Institute of Architects is looking for long-term strategies, policies and processes in place to create a sustainable built environment that can turn our cities into globally competitive, productive, sustainable and socially inclusive places to live and work.”