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Mutual Recognition (Tasmania) Amendment Bill 2021

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Tuesday, 12 October 2021

Tags: Legislation

Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens) - Mr Deputy Speaker, the Greens will be supporting the bill but we too have some concerns about how this would be given effect across all those licensed professions. Given that we are a complex federation of states and territories, there are going to be issues with how we automatically recognise and incorporate other licensed professionals and trades into the Tasmanian economy and society.

I listened with a lot of interest to Ms Butler's contribution. I was initially frustrated. This House is the House of Government. If we have amendments to propose or an issue with a bill, we should do it here and not abrogate our responsibility as legislators to the other place because that just feeds into - on the Government benches from time to time - a lack of respect for the scrutiny and accountability mechanisms in the House of Assembly and a desire sometimes for this place simply to be a rubber stamp, where the Government uses its numbers and then sends it to the other place. We need to be very mindful of the importance of defending our right to scrutinise and amend where necessary legislation that comes before this place and not simply punt it upstairs for fixing. That is insulting to ourselves.

I put aside that frustration with what Ms Butler said initially and had to agree with a lot of the matters that were raised about how ultimately, even though this is only a three page bill, what we are dealing with is enormous complexity in the movement of labour across jurisdictions in this country. I remember the Hawke and Keating reform days because I am old enough to have been there. Our job in the Attorney-General and Justice minister's office as part of that national harmonisation was to try to harmonise criminal laws across the country, which became incredibly complex and fraught. It ultimately was an unsuccessful ambition on the part of the then attorney-general, Michael Lavarch, and justice minister, Duncan Kerr, in that government.

The principle is that we live in one country. We are Australians to the greatest extent possible and we should be subject to the same legal framework. That includes whether we are trained to be a teacher in Queensland and if we want to move to Tasmania we should have the capacity to bring our skills and our licence recognition or our registration down to Tasmania to work. We are a federation and that brings its own strengths to us as a nation. The finest example of that that I can think of in recent times is how the states and territories have responded to the pandemic in contrast to how the federal government has responded to and politicised the pandemic.

We had state and territory premiers at various levels of success and commitment taking public health measures to keep people safe, or not in the instance of New South Wales, while the Commonwealth sought to abrogate its responsibility to protect people in aged care, staff of aged care, people with disability and staff who work in the disability and caring sector.

There are some real benefits to being in a federation, but for licensed workers and people who want to move state and work in other states and territories, there have also been enormous frustrations.

I agree that there is a risk here that we will end up with lowest common denominator standards. It is just a human tendency to go for what is easy rather than take on the harder job of lifting all standards to the highest common denominator. That is a real risk here. I am very interested to hear what the minister has to say about that risk and I am sure licensing bodies and licensed professionals in Tasmania will be interested to hear his response so they can feel reassured that there is not going to be a diminution of licensing standards.

I note that the Minister for Finance will be able to put some safeguards in place, by either temporarily exempting an occupation from automatic mutual recognition until 30 June 2022 and exempting an occupation on a longer-term basis for up to five years because of a significant risk to consumer protection, the environment, animal welfare, or the health or safety of workers or the public.

My question in relation to those safeguards is - and taking on board what Ms Butler said around electricians, for example - what type of occupation does the minister foresee there is possibly a need to provide an exception to under automatic mutual recognition? Is there planning underway already, given that this legislation comes into effect - is it 1 July next year? 1 July this year. Are there licensed occupations that the minister is currently considering either providing a temporary exemption to or a longer term exemption for up to five years? If there is no clear answer to that question today, it is an issue where the House would benefit if the minister came back and updated us on what occupations he might want to exempt.

Mr Ferguson - Do you mean leading up to 30 June 2022?

Ms O'CONNOR - Yes.

Mr Ferguson - Okay.

Ms O'CONNOR - That would be helpful, not just to the House but also to affected occupations/professions. We do not have that much more to say about this amendment bill. I note that there are no associated amendments to any other regulations or legislation attached to this, so I am presuming there is no requirement to make any changes to regulations around licensing standards, for example, in the building industry or anything like that; that this bill does the job from the Government's point of view.

I cannot see a need for us to go into Committee, Mr Deputy Speaker. It seems pretty straightforward but it is certainly an area of law reform all members of the House should pay close attention to.