A lack of mandatory registration of tradespeople throughout Victoria is placing consumers at risk and costing the building industry dearly, the leader of a key construction industry lobby group in that state says.

In a statement, Master Builders Association of Victoria CEO Radley de Silva said nearly one-third of all consumers throughout Victoria experience problems when building or renovating a home (many because of poor workmanship), and that a lack of requirements for tradespeople to be registered was a significant part of the problem.

Whereas Victoria has only around 2,000 tradespeople, he says, New South Wales and Queensland (with mandatory registration requirements) have around 40,000 and 50,000 respectively.

“The fact that Victoria does not require tradespeople to be registered, as long as they are working for a registered builder, presents a serious problem not just for builders, but for the communities they serve,” de Silva said in a statement.

“Master Builders has long advocated for trades registration as critical to providing a service and product that delivers skilled craftsmanship, safety and an adherence to standards for quality.”

Apart from consumers, de Silva says Victoria’s low level of trade registration is also impacting productivity and the industry.

He says volume builders who operate across boundaries have experienced higher costs in Victoria relative to other states.

de Silva’s call comes as Victoria has seen considerable levels of criticism surrounding the building control regime and consumer outcomes in recent years.

A Governor General's report earlier this year in that state found that the framework for consumer protection within the construction sector was failing and was overly complex.

Some within the industry agree with de Silva’s comments.

One builder described the current situation he faced as ‘pot luck’ in terms of ascertaining whether or not tradespeople had the skills and experience necessary to perform the work safely and properly – with considerable reputational damage to himself where those whom he hired were found not to be up to scratch.

Still, not all support the call for more registration.

Pointing to previous reports from the Governor General and the Victorian Ombudsman which heavily criticised the registration process, housing consumer advocate Anne Paten said the building practitioner registration process within that state was a shambles to the extent that the question of registration or otherwise was largely meaningless.

Indeed, Paten feels such calls are largely an attempt to shift blame in terms of poor consumer outcomes.

“What does it matter whether everyone is registered or no-one’s registered (in building)?” Paten asked. “(Registration) doesn’t mean anything.”

  • Anne Paten is 100% correct, registration doesn't mean a thing. Builders licenses are handed out almost as easily as library cards and the VBA refuse to enforce compliance. I am all for registering other trades, but not until there is a major overhaul and complete rethink of the current situation. Otherwise what is the point?

  • I agree with Anne. Registration is meaningless without enforcement

    As important and as necessary as registration is it's a red herring. The real problem is lack of building control and enforcement.

    Whilst there could be valid arguments that our building control is inadequate the real issue is that even what we have is not enforced:

    1 When was the last time CAV imposed infringements for breaches of DBCA1995?
    2 When was the last time builders were penalised for breaches of Building Act 1993

    No wonder builders systematically breach legislation with impunity.

    What we need is highly efficient and quick application of penalties (+ random site inspections and spot fines) and a points system where builder's registration is automatically suspended together with insurance and permit freeze.

    It's only pocket hit that will bring builders into line and this would do it in record time.

  • Hi Andrew,
    We have our own business in the HVAC industry in Perth (Vortech) & have been highlighting this point for years,
    On a typical construction site involved with the installation of the HVAC there is at least 50 to 60% not qualified as the government & training institutions don't feel it is necessary!!! there is a Air/Con plumbing apprenticeship over East but there is approximately only 10 to 15% of the course dedicated to the AC Installation which is ridiculous
    Our Industry needs more training to lift the standards & improve on the safety aspects throughout the industry its as simple as that…

  • Its not the lack of registration that produces tradespeople with lower skill levels, but the poor apprenticeship system. Australia spends billions of dollars for alot of useless trainning for often ephemeral things but cannot find the money to train tradespeople.
    We have a vast cultural problem that means mothers break out in tears when a son says he wants to become a carpenter instead of going to University. We need to develop a culture of respect for all skills a society needs to function.
    Compulsory registration does not improve skills, or, attract people who have pride in their work.

    Have seen people who would make excellent builders not get past the first post in the present registration set up.
    When I see someone wanting compulsory registration to protect the consumer, I know its about stopping competition or taking away civil rights from someone.
    We have heard the same story for decades.
    Society has to recognise that if they pay for a $5 job, they can not expect a $50 job to be delivered. I have seen people complain about the quality of a project; and, the first thing I ask is how much did they paid. Most times I tell them they have received more than they have paid.

  • Under the NSW Home Building Act there are requirements for registration of building trades class licences. However, just as in Victoria apparently, a licensed builder can elect to use a non-licensed 'trades person' to perform building work under the proviso that the licensed builder supervises the work and assumes all responsibility for that work which is par for the course anyway – the builder owns responsibility for the completed job regardless of what subbies they use.
    The exception to this is within specialist categories of electrical, plumbing, gas fitting, refrigeration services etc where work must be performed by a person holding the particular licence category. Persons with a trade licence can contract directly to do their own work but it is supposedly limited to work within their specific trade category. This legislated restriction is abused every day of the week, predominantly by licensed carpenters, who universally will advertise themselves as 'builders'. Under the Act, they are supposed to only perform carpentry work, however the majority will also have a go at laying bricks, concreting, fixing tiles, roofing, drainage, waterproofing, painting you name it, without benefit of any formal training, just based on what they have seen other trades do. Even when the work gets a bit complicated and they get a licensed trade in to perform that part of the work, they do not have the same authority as a licensed builder to supervise that work. This of course is rarely prosecuted by our OFT as it is far too difficult. And hence, the tribunal (NCAT) is full of home owner consumers wondering how they got ripped off by their 'licensed builder' who seemed to know what they were doing but then things just went wrong!