The Rudd Government has told the business regulation working group of the Council of Australian Governments that it wants to see a national licensing system for tradespeople to make it easier for workers to move interstate and meet skills shortages.
The push for a national licensing system is part of a sweeping reform agenda being led by Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner and Small Business and Deregulation Minister Craig Emerson.
While the push for a national licensing system is not new – Malcolm Richards, chief executive of the Electrical and Communications Association says his organisation has been working with the COAG working group for a number of years on the rules surrounding electricians – trade groups hope that a Federal Labor Government should be able to force the Labor states into speeding up the process. “Rudd has been very forceful with the states, so I do expect an easier coming together,” Richards says.
While most fully-qualified electricians are free to work in any state or in New Zealand without the need for re-training, some sub-sectors of the electrical trades – such as refrigeration mechanics, electrical linespersons, electrical fitters and underground joiners – face different laws from state to state. “It’s a very messy subject. Every state believes they are right and every other state thinks they are wrong,” Richards says.
But he says any move towards harmonisation between the states and territories needs to ensure safety standards in any one state is not lowered. “I don’t think we need to race to a solution that lowers safety or quality standards.”