The West Australian exclusive

WA border reopening: Builders blast McGowan over decision to delay dismantling of hard border

Headshot of Peter Law
Peter LawThe West Australian
CommentsComments
VideoBuilders blast Premier over WA border delay

The peak body for WA’s building and construction industry has blasted Mark McGowan’s decision to delay the border reopening and warned that “people’s livelihoods and businesses are at stake”.

The Master Builders Association of WA said the sector had prepared for a February 5 reopening, strongly opposed the backflip and had been left disappointed the State Government reneged on its promise.

MBA WA executive director John Gelavis said builders had booked new projects in anticipation of skilled workers relocating to WA next month to help alleviate the crippling labour shortage.

The delay, set to be reviewed by Government in February, meant tradies remained locked out of the State, which restricted the capacity of builders to take on new projects or even complete current work.

MBA WA, which represents builders, subcontractors, suppliers and consultants, said small businesses were struggling to stay afloat and the effects of the travel restrictions would continue to be felt in the long term.

“The State Government has invested heavily in building and construction to accelerate economic recovery from COVID-19. By refusing to reopen the border or communicating a reopening plan, they are undermining the positive economic impacts of their investments in building and construction activity,” Mr Gelavis said.

“The State Government continues to stall the borders from opening and this is extremely disappointing. People’s livelihoods and businesses are at stake. The building and construction industry stands alongside numerous other industries that have been heavily impacted by these border closures.”

He said “countless” unanswered questions remained about how businesses would operate when the border does open, including the definition of a close contact, the use of rapid antigen tests and isolation rules.

The Premier said these issues would be resolved at Friday’s State Disaster Council meeting, but would likely only come into effect once WA recorded higher daily case numbers.

WA is the only State that still requires close contacts to quarantine for 14 days, which left businesses in fear of having to close indefinitely and lose their entire workforce.

“We respect public health guidelines, however, the more the State delays reopening, the more the community loses faith in the government’s competence in handling the pandemic. The building and construction industry needs a fixed deadline for when the borders will be open,” Mr Gelavis added.

Influential property developer Nigel Satterley supported Mr McGowan’s decision given the risk to older West Australians, but wants the State to work with the Commonwealth to get skilled foreign workers into WA.

“If it can be done safely, I think by mid-February (the Premier) could change the rules to seven-days quarantine (for arrivals),” he said.

“We’ve also got to get special visas issued. We’re not going to get people from the Eastern States coming here without inducements, most probably a lot of the skills will have to come from overseas.”

Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails