Dris proposal for national licensing of the plumbing and gasfitting occupations

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The three tier, sub-option 2 is the preferred option in this Decision RIS. This option follows, to a very large extent, the proposals for categories, scopes of regulated work, eligibility requirements and other licence elements developed by the Plumbing and Gasfitting IAC. Some modifications to the original proposal have been made based on additional information received from industry and the submissions process more broadly. These include the addition of a restricted licence for urban irrigation and the restricted fire protection (inspection/ testing) licence.

The three tier, sub-option 2 provides a harmonised model which addresses COAG’s goal of improving labour mobility through national licensing. It provides a rationalised system which reduces some aspects of regulation identified as unnecessary while continuing to preserve existing safeguards for consumers and workers. It provides more appropriate mechanisms for addressing consumer and worker safety risks than the two tier option and does not increase the existing regulatory burden, as would have occurred with the higher qualification requirements proposed in three tier, sub-option 1.

The three tier, sub-option 2 represents the highest net benefit to the community, taking all impacts into account, when compared against the other options considered and it has industry support.

General policy context

The Council of Australian Governments (COAG), in July 2008, agreed to wide-ranging regulatory reform to increase Australia’s productivity and provide the environment for a seamless national economy.

Many of the challenges facing the Australian economy can only be addressed through more coordinated regulatory arrangements. The COAG reforms aim to provide a more streamlined, consistent and targeted regulatory environment, reducing inefficiencies and duplication, removing red tape and facilitating flexible and productive operating conditions for businesses and workers across Australia. These reforms have the potential to make life simpler for businesses and consumers, while continuing to provide the necessary protections and access for consumers and the community. National licensing forms one of 27 key areas for regulatory reform agreed in 2008, the majority of which have now been implemented. Implementation of the remaining reforms, including national licensing, is being overseen by the Business Advisory Forum Taskforce, which is composed of senior state and territory officials.

There is no consistent national licensing approach in Australia. Each state and territory uses a separate licensing approach, with different licence categories, scope of regulated work and eligibility requirements. This hinders labour mobility across Australia and increases the regulatory burden for licensees and government.

COAG agreed to develop a national licensing system with the following characteristics:

cooperative national legislation

national governance arrangements to handle standard-setting and policy issues and to ensure consistent administrative and compliance practices

all current holders of state and territory licences deemed across to the new licence system at its commencement

the establishment of a publicly available limited national register of licensees

no legislative role for the Commonwealth in the establishment of the new system.

National licensing is initially being considered for four occupational areas, which were chosen based on the following selection criteria:

at least one critical area of the occupation licensed across all jurisdictions

all have been subject to the work on achieving full and effective mutual recognition

the importance of the occupation to the economy in terms of level of demand, intrinsic mobility and number of licensees

the volume and nature of mutual recognition difficulties.

The four occupational areas are:

plumbing and gasfitting occupations

electrical occupations

property occupations

refrigeration and air-conditioning occupations.

The development of a national licensing system was endorsed by the states and territories in April 2009 by the signing of the Intergovernmental Agreement for a National Licensing System for Specified Occupations (the Intergovernmental Agreement).

The implementation strategy of the 2009 decision foreshadowed further research and consultation to inform more detailed arrangements regarding the implementation of national licensing for each of the occupations identified. Policy development work was undertaken from 2009–11 and culminated in a number of options for national licensing, which were included in the Consultation RIS for each of the occupations identified and released for public comment between July and August 2012.

The objective of this Decision RIS is to consider feedback received on the options proposed in the Consultation RIS and any further information that has come to light, and to recommend a preferred national licensing option, which provides the highest net benefit to the community, taking into account all the impacts.

National licensing is a threshold reform. It sets in place national licensing eligibility requirements and the related disciplinary framework, as the first step in developing a comprehensive national licensing scheme that could, once fully developed, encompass the requirements for both obtaining a licence and the behaviour and standards (conduct) required to maintain a licence.

Details on the policy development process undertaken, together with the objectives and principles which underpinned the work and the advisory mechanisms used, is provided at Attachment C.

The behaviours and standards (conduct) to be met by licensees are not currently part of the proposed national occupational licensing reform. A separate reform to potentially harmonise conduct requirements, commencing with property occupations, is being considered by the Legislative and Governance Forum on Consumer Affairs (formerly the Ministerial Council for Consumer Affairs). The full benefits of a proposed national licensing system would be realised if this further reform were undertaken.

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