The construction industry has a major influence on every Australian. It provides the homes in which we live, the places in which most of us work and play, our schools and hospitals, and the infrastructure such as roads, water and electricity supply, and telecommunications, essential for our day-to-day living. A number of other parts of the Australian economy are also closely linked to the construction industry and its activities. These include in particular, parts of the manufacturing, wholesale and retail trade, and finance industries, in supplying components, fittings and furnishings, and in financing construction. Parts of the professional services industry - such as the architectural and engineering professions - are also closely linked to the construction industry.
In 2000-01, the construction industry contributed 4.6% to the gross product of all industries, as measured by production-based gross domestic product (GDP) (chain volume measures). This was significantly lower than its contribution in recent years (5.6% in 1998-99, 5.7% in 1999-2000), and reflects the downturn that occurred in the industry after the introduction of The New Tax System in July 2000. Following its introduction, the construction industry contracted sharply, contributing significantly to a negative GDP result for the December quarter 2000.
In May 2001 the industry employed 668,000 people, either as employees or as self-employed contractors. This represented 7.0% of the employment in all industries.
As an integral component of the Australian economy, being directly affected by most macroeconomic decisions, the Australian construction industry is of significant importance to policy makers. The industry's relationship with interest rates and tax reform, combined with its sizeable contribution to GDP, ensures that issues within the sector are given significant attention by financial markets, policy makers and planners at all levels. This importance is illustrated by the Commonwealth Government's implementation of the extended First Home Owners Grant (FHOG) in February 2001 in response to the significant downturn in the industry.
The construction industry engages in three broad areas of activity: residential building (houses, flats, etc.), non-residential building (offices, shops, hotels, etc.), and engineering construction (roads, bridges, water and sewerage, etc.). Construction activity is undertaken by both the private and public sectors in Australia. The private sector is engaged in all three categories of construction, and plays the major role in residential and other building activity. The public sector plays a key role in initiating and undertaking engineering construction activity, and building activity relating to health and education.