Property Council chief executive Ken Morrison was busy on Thursday with his yearly staff pow-wow to map out the action plan for the year ahead, but he broke off to give us a quick heads up on what he can see taking shape inside the crystal ball and how he’s restructured the team in preparation.
This we know will be a big and potentially very “interesting” year (in the Chinese sense) in terms of politics, sustainability and property. There’s the federal election in Oz, another big election in the US that could reverberate right around the world including Oz (US political extremism being what it is), and then there’s “The World After COP21” that will affect us all.
On the first part of the triumvirate a very useful addition to the PCA team will be new head of media and comms Paul Ritchie, who hails from Tony Abbott’s former office and according to scuttlebutt in some rag or other was apparently a serious contender for a $350,000 a year job as NSW Liberal Director, replacing Tony Nutt before Morrison either jumped in quick or topped the offer.
Ritchie, who signs off his LinkedIn with “working by day and writing by night” (which we’re a bit miffed to think is just an ever so slight dig at those of us who think writing is work), will be a very useful recruit indeed as he will be sure to know what went on down the rabbit hole and probably still does. (We can’t wait to see what the next episode of the Ex Prime Minister’s Club might bring up. Wait… We can wait… A long time…)
What? A susty manager for me?
To prove how seriously Morrison is taking the last leg of this triumvirate on the “World After COP”, as we like to put it, or WAC, which is also obviously connected to the first two, Morrison is on the lookout for a sustainability policy manager. Not by way of part time interest amidst the other policy roles as in the past, but a fully focused job.
The reasons are many.
“Sustainability is very important for the property industry,” he said. “The Australian property industry is one of the greenest in the world and the Property Council has a very important role to around policy development, communicating what the industry does for the public the public and for the industry itself with its innovation.”
On the Paris climate agreement and WAC Morrison said it was important to understand what the agreement means for government and for the property industry.
Clearly emissions from buildings are the cheapest, fastest ways for Australia to meet its commitment, Morrison said.
He needed no prompting to mention the failure of the ERF (emissions reduction fund) in reducing emissions, nor on its failure to engage the property industry.
“The ERF doesn’t work for property. Clearly it’s a missed opportunity for policy makers looking to achieve emissions reduction in a very large sector of the economy and a part that has a track record of delivering here.”
Morrison is looking forward to releasing early this year the “big piece of work” he’s been leading through the Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council on energy efficiency. He resisted providing any spoilers except to confirm it will focus on the big tranche of building owners outside of the premium end, who “still don’t get it”.
Looking forward to that one. And hopefully someone in Canberra and around the states will actually read it and respond. (Speaking of states, where is that Greener Government Buildings Program you promised to bring back, VicGov?)
It’s after all a kind of dissonant insanity to ignore energy efficiency. (And there are many in the industry still nursing their wounds from the past six years, psychological and otherwise).
But to continue to do so now that we have a supposedly benign new PM (if “they” let him be so, that is) would be just plain silly.
Now that we’re waning on the mining front, happily waving good bye to the fossil fuel industry, and looking around for the next economic boom, then what’s wrong with picking a few golden green apples hanging on those low lying branches?
It would not be a bad way to kick start things.
WWF’s Monica Richter has offered a thoughtful piece this week on how the Paris agreement can kick start much deeper and more meaningful economic activity in sustainability, pretty much everywhere we look. Think of all the work, jobs, investment, innovation and technology that we will need to turn around this good ship Earth.
It’s exactly this post-COP mood that Morrison is keenly aware of and he also knows it’s spreading in places that it previously feared to tread.
The residential sector for instance.
And the states and territories.
Victoria might be still taking its time on the sustainability initiatives it promised but at the Council of Australian Governments late last year, the green genie was afoot and firmly out of the box. COAG’s agreement to push forward on mandatory disclosure on energy for housing is welcome and sane and sensible but Morrison is eyeing this development with customary wariness and protectiveness of his members (who seem to always need some soothing words and warm milk so they can face the harsh reality of meeting basic consumer standards, or delay them for another day. Speaking of which, how come car manufacturers and manufacturers of most other industries have no problem dealing with minimum performance standards? They just get on with it.)
So on mandatory disclosure in resi, don’t expect the earth to move in a hurry. The Property Council is probably the least of our worries. There are still those masters of irrational building concerns and fears, the Master Builders Association and their pals at the Housing Industry Association, to deal with and they are NOT members of ASBEC. (Can someone please bring those policy stragglies in from the cold? For goodness sake, we just reached out and held hands with Iran, and its president Hassan Rouhani has just enjoyed a smoking ceremony with the Pope – surely we can bring a few tradies to the table and whack them into line.)
Earlier in the week we caught up with Victoria deputy executive director of the Property Council Asher Judah who voiced even stronger concerns on MD than Morrison. The notion was good in theory in terms of pre-sales, he said, but “there are two million houses in Melbourne that don’t have ratings”.
“So how do you find out their ratings? If it was mandatory to include in a Section 32 certificate (of sale) we have no capacity to do that.”
Ahh, we used to have the capacity. In fact we do seem to recall a whole industry of people who went and skilled up to be assessors for resi and then – believe it or not – the policy changed.
Anyway to tackle this part of the looming agenda, Morrison has promoted Glenn Byers from executive director of the NSW branch to chief of policy and housing. So there’s another job vacancy looking for a candidate: a new NSW ED.