Builders plea for home renovations to be included in financial support packages during Covid lockdowns

·3-min read
<span>Photograph: Dan Peled/AAP</span>
Photograph: Dan Peled/AAP

The Victorian government is considering a plea from builders to include home renovations in financial support packages the next time the state locks down as the national construction industry reels from Covid-19 restrictions in Melbourne and Sydney.

While large Melbourne sites, which typically have dedicated workforces, have kept operating throughout the city’s five lockdowns, smaller builders were banned from working on renovations inside people’s homes during the most recent lockdown, which lifted at midnight on Tuesday.

Master Builders Victoria says builders were also excluded from the state’s business support schemes during the two most recent lockdowns, despite being eligible previously due to loss of revenue.

Related: Lockdown support for Australian businesses and workers: how much is it, who can get it and when is it available?

It has written to the premier, Daniel Andrews, asking for the policy to be reversed in any future lockdowns – a request the government says it is looking into.

“We continue to consider all elements of our support for business and will have more to say soon,” a government spokesperson said.

Meanwhile, greater Sydney’s entire building industry, which is estimated to employ more than 300,000 people, is completely shut down, with a two-week freeze on construction reportedly set to end on Saturday.

Wayne Hinton, a sole trader from Mornington, on the peninsula south of Melbourne, said he had lost between $15,000 and $20,000 during the most recent lockdown because he was unable to do internal renovations.

Some customers had also stopped jobs because they had been affected by the lockdown, he said.

He said during earlier lockdowns he received two $10,000 payments from the state government, as well as jobkeeper, but this time he received only two $600 disaster relief payments from the federal government.

“It would just be good to get something coming through to cover the bills,” he said.

“Even the bank, they offer a delay in payments on the mortgage – but it’s a delay, one day you’ve got to resume the payments.”

He said that as a result he had stopped paying himself a wage.

“Luckily I’ve got a little bit of savings, it’s not a lot but I’m probably doing a lot better than a lot of people,” he said.

Master Builders Victoria chief executive Rebecca Casson said it was not clear why construction was excluded from help in the latest lockdowns.

“Numerous small building and construction businesses have been severely impacted by the lockdowns and they continue to incur ongoing costs,” she said.

“It is important to note that of the 110,000 Victorian businesses in our industry, 98.8% are small businesses, many of whom do not have the resources to continue absorbing additional costs without support.

“These businesses are subjected to as much financial pain and distress as many other small businesses, and it is disappointing that they continue to be excluded.”

In NSW, a two-week ban on all construction across greater Sydney is due to come to an end on Saturday, with the premier Gladys Berejiklian under intense pressure from the industry to allow them to work.

Berejiklian is expected to make an announcement on restrictions post 30 July on Wednesday.

“Please know any decision will be based on the health advice, based on safe practice and based on very stringent Covid safety plans,” she said on Tuesday.

“It’s always a balance. We want to stay safe, but we want to allow those who can undertake activities at locations in a safe way.

“We also need to ensure that the settings we have in place a reasonable and based on health advice, but we keep things going as much as we can, where and when it’s safe to do so.”

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