Increased cost fears with no delay in stone ban

Savannah Meacham |

Unions campaigned hard for a national ban on engineered stone in the building industry.
Unions campaigned hard for a national ban on engineered stone in the building industry.

Construction costs may increase and be passed on to customers after the Queensland government ruled out a transition period ahead of a ban on engineered stone.

The state government announced on Monday the national ban on the stone, dubbed modern-day asbestos, would come into effect from July 1 with no transition arrangements.

This means all manufacturing, supply and processing of engineered stone must cease even if workers or stores have entered contracts before then.

Some other states and territories have allowed a transition period while Victoria has introduced the same scheme as Queensland.

Master Builders Queensland chief executive Paul Bidwell said some builders and suppliers had planned on a transition period until December 31 – on the advice of the government – and would now be left in the lurch.

“We don’t know how many businesses are going to be caught short,” Mr Bidwell told AAP.

“We’ve got stone masons who have excess stock that will have to be disposed of and builders who have contracts and were working towards installing those benchtops.”

It remains unclear how excess stone will be disposed of or how many businesses will have unfinished contracts or extra stock.

Mr Bidwell said many builders would now have to change existing contracts made before December last year to offer more expensive alternatives like porcelain.

Ultimately, those additional costs will be passed onto customers amid already high construction costs and a cost of living crisis.

The building industry supports the ban but has criticised the government for taking six months to rule on a transition period.

Depending on how many small businesses were impacted, Mr Bidwell said the government should be prepared to provide financial support.

“We hope the government watches this closely and in the event there are businesses and consumers financially impacted, there would be some support,” he said.

The government argues the decision to scrap the transitionary period was to get the dangerous product out of the industry as soon as possible.

“This dangerous product is known to cause the potentially fatal disease silicosis,” Industrial Relations Minister Grace Grace said.

“Workers sell their labour, not their lives, so we want people out of harm’s way as soon as possible.”

The nationwide ban was announced in December after an agreement between federal, state and territory workplace ministers.