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Speech on dodgy developers and housing

On Wednesday 14 June 2023, I gave a speech about dodgy property developers and the lack of public housing in Queensland.

You can read my speech below, or find the full transcript and video link in the official Queensland Parliament Record of Proceedings (Hansard)

Mr BERKMAN: This week it is more obvious than ever that the Labor government is in the pocket of the property development industry. Their ‘solution’ to the housing crisis is giving massive tax concessions to property developers for build-to-rent schemes, with no guarantee that they will deliver any long-term affordable housing—no rent caps, nothing to stop no-grounds evictions, nothing to stop land banking of vacant homes and no public housing requirements for new developments. So why not? I guarantee every MP in this place is getting desperate calls from people across the state unable to afford a roof over their head, so why would the government’s housing plan be handouts for private property developers? It is because they care more about those property developers’ bottom line than they do about ordinary Queenslanders.

Those developers do not want to see more public housing. They do not want property prices to fall. They sure as eggs do not want to see a licensing scheme in place to rein in their dodgy activity. So I am sure they were pleased with the minister’s response last week when the Developer Review Panel recommended an accreditation, disclosure and registration scheme for developers. If anyone missed it, Minister di Brenni put out a panicky, four-line statement to assure their developer mates that they had not committed to implementing any of those recommendations. If you read it, he is just about pleading with the Property Council to not be nasty to them for even considering the most basic, bare minimum reforms!

The panel’s report even stresses that the proposed reforms are just for ‘minimum standards’, not a ‘high-water mark’. This report simply said that developers running multimillion dollar projects should meet basic fit and proper standards and education requirements, and comply with a code of conduct; that they should be clearly covered by fairness in contracting provisions in the QBCC Act to stop shifting risks onto builders, accelerating the insolvency crisis that has left people out of pocket and years behind when companies collapse; and that, if developers want to cut corners on building standards, leave workers injured and exploited or subcontractors unpaid, that should be on a public register.

Why is that so contentious? Tradies, contractors and subbies all have to be licensed, yet any random business can just declare themselves to be a developer and start putting up a 20-storey high-rise without basic checks and balances and leave behind a trail of destruction with no recourse for workers and buyers. We need to stop cowboy developers from exploiting a complex, unstable market and running off with all of the profits and none of the consequences.

Today I joined hundreds of CFMEU members, students and renters outside parliament to call-out Labor’s failures on housing. The Greens have also been standing alongside the CFMEU as they call to rein in dodgy developers. I hope you are paying attention, Labor, because the more you put private developer profits ahead of workers and ordinary Queenslanders, the more you will have to hide from the crowds outside the gates, just like the Minister for Public Works and the Minister for Housing did today.

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