Queensland should abandon intentions to move toward a national licensing scheme for electrical contractors, the association representing electricians in Australia says.
Launching a stinging criticism of proposed reforms for the national licensing of electrical occupations released earlier this month, Master Electricians Australia chief executive Malcolm Richards warned the scheme was ‘flawed’ and would compromise professional standards – potentially putting lives at risk.
Richards says Queensland has strong safety standards in place, and that the scheme should be dumped following deaths which resulted from the home insulation scheme.
“If this scheme is implemented, the bar for businesses looking to move into the electrical contracting space in Queensland is greatly lowered,” Richards says, adding that the scheme "dumps long-standing safety and quality protections" and increases the risks of accidents in homes and workplaces.
“This [the national scheme] will reduce safety levels for electrical contractors and workers in Queensland, and create a concerning safety risk for home owners and the general public,” he says.
Electrical contracting is one of four ‘Wave 1’ occupations which are the subject of proposals to move to a national licencing scheme, along with refrigeration and air-conditioning, plumbing and gas fitting and property. A number of ‘Wave 2’ occupations, covering other construction trades, are set to follow.
Under the preferred option outlined in a discussion paper released by the National Occupational Licensing Authority (NOLA) earlier this month, a single licensing regime would create a national licensing register and allow contractors in the above occupations to work freely anywhere around the country while a single policy approach would apply to licensing categories, scopes of regulated work and eligibility requirements to obtain licenses.
NOLA says at the moment, different approaches to licensing across states creates unnecessary compliance for tradespeople working across multiple states and companies who operate beyond state boundaries.
In electrical occupations alone, NOLA reckons national licensing would create annual economic benefits of $61.69 million through simplified compliance and greater labour mobility.
The MEA, however, is not alone in its concerns about the new system.
Master Plumbers and Mechanical Contractor Services Association of Australia CEO Ken Gardner warns of a potential watering down of standards and cautions the nation could end up with "the lowest common denominator" in terms of licensing requirements.
Richards says although much work has been done, the proposed model for the national scheme is now broken beyond repair.
He says preventable electrical accidents kill around 15 people and seriously injure 300 throughout the nation each year.
“We can no longer continue to support this scheme and urge the State Government to abandon the national licensing proposal altogether,” he says.