Legislation Updates

Modest start for red-tape-reducing licence system

On July 1, the Automatic Mutual Recognition (AMR) scheme took effect. The new system has been hailed as a way of cutting red tape and allowing Australians to work across borders without having to apply and pay for additional occupational licences, if they are already licenced for the work in their home state or territory. As well as benefiting 168,000 workers, the initiative is expected to boost the economy by $2.4 billion dollars.

The opening of the scheme, however, has demonstrated the difficulty the federal government faces in harmonising rules across states and territories. Envisaged as a national scheme, at this stage it only covers New South Wales, Victoria, the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory.

Moreover, those jurisdictions have filed lists of occupations that are exempt from AMR, at least to begin the process. The lists are extensive, and cover many occupations, including refrigeration and air conditioning technicians, as well as electricians, plumbers, teachers and real estate agents.

In its announcement, the government has indicated that “to allow for a smooth implementation, [AMR] is being progressively rolled out across Australia, starting in NSW, Vic, the ACT and the NT for a limited number of occupations”. But there are indications that the minimal reach of the scheme is a compromise rather than an intentionally soft launch.

When the bill was read in parliament, concerns were raised about the lack of consistency in occupational licensing and the safety issues this might cause, especially in the building and construction industries. The Queensland government also recently flagged that it would not adopt the reforms until it was “fully ready”. It has committed to work with the federal government to address any issues, and similar efforts will be required in other jurisdictions if AMR is to have its intended effect.

For details about Automatic Mutual Recognition, click here.

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