Michelle Lensink

Plumbing Industry Regulation

I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking the Minister for Consumer Affairs a question on the subject of plumbing industry regulation.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: On 23 June this year, I asked a question about regulation, largely in relation to the various responsibilities between OCBA, SA Water and the Office of the Technical Regulator (OTR). In her response, the minister advised:

OCBA seeks advice from SA Water and the OTR on the competencies required to carry out specific types of plumbing, gasfitting work…
Further, she stated:

SA Water and the OTR refer instances of unlicensed and unregistered plumbing and gasfitting work detected by them to OCBA in their role as technical regulators.

She also said:

…SA water and the OTR participate in OCBA's regular consultation meetings with industry stakeholders.

My questions to the minister are:

1. How often do those meetings with industry take place? Is it on a quarterly basis or some regular basis?
2. Can she advise the number of referrals made from SA Water to OCBA in the last five years in relation to breaches of plumbing licences?
3. What were the outcomes of investigations by OCBA, such as warnings, court action, prosecutions and so forth?
4. Is it correct that SA Water, as part of the regulatory system, has no powers to examine a plumber's record of Certificates of Compliance in the same way that the Office of the Technical Regulator is empowered?

The Hon. G.E. GAGO (Minister for State/Local Government Relations, Minister for the Status of Women, Minister for Consumer Affairs, Minister for Government Enterprises, Minister for the City of Adelaide) (14:25): I thank the honourable member for her important questions. Just by way of background, SA Water is the technical regulator for sanitary plumbing, drainage and water plumbing connected to SA Water infrastructure in South Australia, and has the responsibility to ensure that appropriate standards are met. The OTR is the technical regulator for gasfitting and has responsibility under the Gas Act to establish and enforce proper safety and technical standards for gas installation and appliances.

In terms of the liaison between OCBA, SA Water and OTR, it is my understanding that OCBA seeks advice from SA Water and the OTR on the competencies required to carry out specific types of plumbing or gasfitting work or proposals to issue licences for certain aspects of plumbing and gasfitting work. SA Water and the OTR then refer instances of unlicensed and unregistered plumbing and gasfitting work detected by them to OCBA as part of their roles as technical regulators. Substandard plumbing or gasfitting work detected by OCBA through the investigation of consumer complaints, or alleged unlicensing, as I have said previously, is referred to SA Water or the OTR. I do not have with me the specific details that the honourable member has asked me for, but I am happy to take those questions on notice and bring back those details at another time.

(Answered 9 March 2011)

In reply to the Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (22 July 2010).

The Hon. G.E. GAGO (Minister for Regional Development, Minister for Public Sector Management, Minister for the Status of Women, Minister for Consumer Affairs, Minister for Government Enterprises): I am advised that:

1. OCBA seeks to hold Industry Consultation Meetings every six months, with provision for additional meetings to be held as is necessary. In addition to Industry Consultation Meetings, OCBA continually liaises with industry stakeholders on an ad-hoc basis about regulatory matters and other relevant issues.

2. 33 matters were reported to OCBA by SA Water over the past five years.

3. OCBA has used a range of enforcement sanctions in relation to the matters referred to it by SA Water which includes taking court action against three offenders who were prosecuted. In addition, three persons have entered into legally enforceable assurances under the Fair Trading Act 1987 with the Commissioner for Consumer Affairs that they will refrain from engaging in unlawful conduct. 19 persons were issued with written warnings and a further five persons have given written undertakings that they will not re-offend. One person provided a verbal undertaking not to re-offend. Two recent referrals are currently under investigation.

4. The Minister for Water has been advised that:

The Waterworks Act 1932 and the Waterworks Regulations 1995 do not empower the Corporation as the technical regulator for plumbing, to examine books or papers including a plumber's record of certificates of compliance. The Government has committed to repeal the Waterworks Act 1932 as part of a wide-ranging reform of water industry legislation. The key instrument of these reforms will be new water industry legislation that is currently being developed. Included in the reforms will be a comprehensive modernisation of the enforcement powers for the technical regulator for plumbing.

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