The cost of building material has risen sharply over the past year or so.
In January, for example, the price of two-inch-thick cardboard boxes rose more than 50 per cent, while a two-metre-long strip of polyethylene plastic had risen from $2.89 to $3.59.
The latest price increases come amid a surge in the number of construction sites where the costs of materials have doubled or tripled since the end of the financial crisis in 2008.
The trend is seen across a wide range of industries, including hotels, retail, real estate, hospitality and transport.
The cost increases come despite the fact that governments and industry groups are trying to cut costs.
A new government report says that, over the last 12 months, the cost per tonne of building materials has fallen by $15 billion and the price per ton of plastic has risen by $5 billion, compared with a year earlier.
That is partly because of the introduction of the global carbon price in January, which reduced the carbon footprint of all goods produced by Australia.
The report also says the number and quality of the building materials used by Australian companies have improved since the introduction.
But while prices have been rising, many Australian companies continue to pay a premium.
Some of the biggest buyers of building and construction materials are multinational companies.
Some are in the building industry, and others are not.
There are three types of companies: multinationals with subsidiaries in Australia, multinationals based in the country, and small companies, which make up the majority of the market.
The big four, Glencore, AGL and Westpac, make up about 70 per cent of all Australian building and building materials.
Glencore and AGL dominate the domestic building market.
AGL is the biggest buyer of Australian building materials, with $1.5 billion of sales in the last year, according to the Australian Business Traveller, which compiles a global inventory of building supplies.
That represents more than 70 per day of the annual average.
A Glencore spokeswoman said that the company’s customers included builders, designers, architects, engineering firms and architects.
“We sell to the construction industry, construction contractors and other suppliers of building supply products and services,” she said.
“Glencore is committed to ensuring that all of our customers are receiving a high quality product in a timely manner.”
A Glencote spokeswoman said its customers included contractors, architects and architects, and it sells to builders, architects as well as builders, contractors and construction firms.
“AGL also provides services to the wider construction and design industry, including design, installation and engineering services,” the spokeswoman said.
A GLENCLOKE spokeswoman said the company sold about 80 per cent to contractors, designers and architects last year.
“GLENCLOE also sells to construction firms, designers as well, and to the broader construction and construction services industry,” she added.
Glencores spokeswoman said it was the only company that sold to the international construction market.
It sold about 60 per cent last year to contractors.
“There is an increase in international supply in the domestic market and we are pleased to see this growing,” she told the ABC.
Glenco, the second largest seller of building products, has a market share of less than 10 per cent.
Glencloze’s spokeswoman said Glencore was the largest buyer of building product overseas and it sold to foreign construction companies.
The Australian Construction Council (ACTC), which represents the construction and building industry and has the power to stop companies from selling to foreign suppliers, said the rising cost of materials and the increase in the carbon price were among the factors contributing to the rise in prices.
“The cost of construction material in Australia is currently driven by the carbon tax, which increases the cost, and the increased cost of energy and other infrastructure projects are another driver of the cost,” ACTC chief executive officer Mark McInnes said in a statement.
“Construction and building firms must adapt to the changing costs of the materials they produce and supply.”
The ACTC said the carbon pricing change had increased the cost for building material by nearly 10 per year since the beginning of the year.
Construction companies were also concerned about the impact of the carbon market on their business.
“Given the increased price volatility, we need to be able to provide our customers with a stable price for the materials we use in our work,” a Glencore spokesman said.
The ACCC also said that while the carbon prices have not affected the way Australians use building materials and that the construction sector was benefiting from the increase, the rise was being felt across the country.
“It is difficult to measure the impact on construction and industry from a carbon price point of view, but the effect on other sectors is being felt in other industries,” the ACCC said.
Construction sector leader and CEO, Joe O’Reilly, said it wasn’t good for business.
He said he was concerned that the price volatility could have an impact on the competitiveness of the industry.
“Any time we