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Occupational Licensing (Automatic Mutual Recognition Consequential Amendments) Bill 2022

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Thursday, 8 September 2022

Tags: Legislation

Dr WOODRUFF (Franklin) - Mr Speaker, the Greens are happy to support this bill. It is an obvious necessary reduction in red tape. It has been appalling and burdensome for people in different professions who come to Tasmania. Some people come as part of a big company and there is a whole practice and support for going through the process of establishing, for example, the architect's licence. For a lot of sole practitioners, this is a pointless layer of burden. There are already professional requirements, for example, the Royal Australian Institute of Architects, for being recognised as an architect. You cannot practise unless you are formally a member of that profession. Having the requirement to get a licence for practice in Tasmania has been just more paperwork, more time. So, in general, we support the bill.

I have some questions about how it will operate.

In clause 6, the notes say that section 11B(5) provides that a person holding deemed registration as an architect under automatic mutual recognition is required to work within the same scope of work as provided by their home state registration. What does scope mean here, what is the scope of work? I am not clear what that would mean.

As I read this, the standards required in the home state will be the standards required in Tasmania. Is it the case that there will be additional standards required in Tasmania? Or are we simply moving people around Australia and where there are differences between states, there will be swings and roundabouts? You will have some states with people from Western Australia or New South Wales that might have slightly different standards or people from Tasmania in Queensland or Victoria, working with Tasmanian standards in those places. Could you explain how that will work in practice?

I am expecting that because people working as architects are required to be registered as an architect by the board of architects, recognised as a member of the profession, that in itself is the effective standard they are required to meet. Could you speak to what that means in the case of this bill?

The second question is about the requirement in proposed section 11C to have professional indemnity insurance before working. Is that now a requirement for all architects in Tasmania?

Ms Archer - Do you mean presently?

Dr WOODRUFF - Yes. I did not know that that was the case. I thought that was the preference of an individual practitioner to make that determination, but I might not be up to date with that. Do other states require that as well? Is that part of the automatic mutual registration legislation federally or is that just what we are putting in here?

That is not a requirement in the bill for conveyancers. Why is there a requirement for professional indemnity insurance for architects but not for the other professions covered by the changes in the bill - motor vehicle traders, building services providers and so on?

I would also like the minister to clarify exactly what building service providers are. I had a look at the Occupational Licensing Act, Schedule 1 of the regulations, because it is not defined in the act but the regulations define it. It is very broad, as I understand from reading Schedule 3, and it includes construction, erection, re erecting, installation, replacement, repair, underpinning, alteration, addition, maintenance, demolition or removal of any premises, building or temporary structure. I presume a building services provider is a company that provides those sorts of services - excavating, filling, incidental activities, certification or entering into contracts for those sorts of things. I am not sure if that is expansive or whether you have a more precise definition. What are the differences between the states, particularly, for building service providers?

Architects and conveyancers are members of professional bodies that are well established over a long period of time and have quite a lot of rules and norms about behaviours, and have a professional standard setting body. The sorts of services I have just read out, by their nature, are much more ephemeral, they are not governed. There is no excavators' professional body. There are many bodies but is there an underpinning replacement, repairs, maintenance and alterations standards body? Who is setting the standards?

Ms Archer - Like professional standards councils?

Dr WOODRUFF - Yes. Who is doing that? Who is overseeing whether they are licensed in other states?

What potential large differences may there be in the conditions and scope of work, or the practice required, or the standards that are set in other jurisdictions compared to Tasmania?

What national bodies are going to be overseeing - or already do oversee - this, so that if we have a concern about a particular state's standards that, as Tasmanians, we do not feel are appropriate in a particular area, how would we regulate and negotiate that?

It is important because you have correctly identified, in your second reading speech, that one of the potential advantages of this is to provide us with extra surge capacity in response to natural disasters. We can, unfortunately, expect natural disasters will be much more frequent and extreme. We have already seen in New South Wales, because of the serious floods there, the rapid movement of people - and the building work, architecture and conveyancing work required is vast. It is huge. It blows out all normal systems and time frames. We need to have some confidence in that space that, when we are importing lots of people into Tasmania, we are very comfortable with the standards elsewhere, and we are not reducing the standards that we have set up here.

Ms Archer - Essentially, what we have in place ensures that we are not diminishing the standards.

Dr WOODRUFF - Yes, exactly. What is our mechanism for not diminishing our standards, but for improving them? Also, what is the mechanism for improving them across boundaries? Is there a move to abolish the state registration of all these bodies and to come up with a national centralised standard? We were a federation; it is unlikely we are going to get there in this century, but is there a conversation at the national level, particularly in light of natural disasters management? The royal commission into natural disasters recommended a whole lot of things about centralising, decision-making and approvals standards bodies, so I do not know if you are aware of that?

Thank you for bringing this on, on behalf of people who have spent time and money that they could have spent otherwise in their business or employment. This is a great move for Tassie.

Ms Archer - Thank you.