Building Contracts Licences

07 Jun 2011 questionsarchive

I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking the Minister for Consumer Affairs a question on the subject of building contracts licences.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: Last week I was contacted by a constituent who I understand has had contact with the minister's office. He runs a business requiring a building licence to undertake aspects of his operations, which he has been running for approximately 40 years. When changing post office box locations, he admits that he neglected to advise OCBA and, as a result, the renewal notification was not received and his license lapsed. However, he has been advised by OCBA that to re-establish his license he needs to pay approximately $500 and, in addition, undertake a training course in establishing a business, which he has been advised will cost $500 and 32 hours of his time.

I note from the guidelines on the OCBA website that this constituent is likely to follow the document guidelines to apply for a building work contractor's licence and/or building work supervisor's registration. It states on that page that if the licence holder is simply renewing their licence there is no requirement to undertake further study. My questions for the minister are:

1. How many building licences lapsed in the 2009-10 financial year?

2. What process is undertaken by OCBA when renewal notification letters are returned to it marked 'return to sender'?

3. When were these course components to re-establish a licence made a requirement?

4. Why is there not the flexibility in the system for OCBA to consider an individual's professional experience when re-establishing such a licence, which was, in effect, a renewal?

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, Minister for Gambling) (14:30): I thank the honourable member for her questions. Indeed, if we remind ourselves of the whole purpose behind the requirement to register and licence certain trades, such as builders, we do this to ensure that consumers are protected and to ensure them of fair and transparent market behaviours in particular areas and occupations, particularly those areas that could pose significant safety and health risks to consumers if certain standards were not assured. That is the purpose behind licensing.

We know that the building trade is an area that has potential risks, high risks. If our building structures do not maintain the integrity that they are required to and the standards that are required, we can see the potential for accidents to occur that could cause significant injuries, even fatalities. That is the underlying reason that we licence and register these particular groups.

In terms of the specifics that the honourable member has asked me about, these are operational matters. Obviously, I do not have the details of how many lapsed building applications there have been. It might surprise you that I do not carry that information around in my head. These are operational matters. I am more than happy to obtain that level of detail for the honourable member and bring that back to this place.

If the honourable member was actually genuine about assisting this particular individual, if she was really genuine about that what she would have done was approach my office. She has done this before, and so too have other members in this chamber. When they have had individual issues they have approached my office, raised the individual matters and given me the details. Honourable members have acknowledged in this place my office's willingness to cooperate, not just with MP inquiries but inquiries from the general public.

We are only too willing to assist. The honourable member could have quite easily approached me, either in writing or in person, as members have done in this place from time to time, given me those details and I would have been happy to follow those matters up and deal with them as expeditiously as possible, as I have done on many occasions in this place. As I have said, the record actually acknowledges the efforts of myself and my office in terms of responding to individual inquiries.

However, that is not the case here today. So be it. As I said, I am happy to take those detailed questions on notice and bring back a response. Obviously, Consumer Affairs tends, wherever possible, to accommodate the individual needs of applicants. It works very hard to be as fair and balanced as possible. Clearly, there are certain parameters that have to be worked within, and most of them are, in fact, industry standards that have been established by industry to ensure that they remain in place and that our structures and buildings remain safe. The office does, wherever possible, attempt to consider the individual case and individual circumstances of personal applicants. In this particular case, as I said, I would need to take it on notice and to bring a response.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (14:35): I have a supplementary question arising from the answer. As the minister is taking the question on notice, could she also bring back a response to advise us precisely what risk is mitigated by forcing people to undertake additional training?

Answered on 15th May, 2012

In reply to the Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (7 June 2011) (First Session).

The Hon. G.E. GAGO (Minister for Agriculture, Food and Fisheries, Minister for Forests, Minister for Regional Development, Minister for Tourism, Minister for the Status of Women): The Minister for Business Services and Consumers has been advised:

1.  644 licenses were cancelled/lapsed in the 2009-10 financial year.

2.  Should any correspondence or notice be returned to Consumer and Business Services (CBS) (formerly known as OCBA), specifically Business and Occupational Services (BOS) as 'Return to Sender' (RTS);
The licensee's details are checked firstly on the Occupational Licensing System (OLS) database and secondly on any other documentation at hand (e.g. assisted application, data entry) for a secondary address. If a secondary address is located, a note is entered on OLS recording the RTS and the type of documentation involved. The documentation is then forwarded to the secondary address.
If no secondary address is found, a note is entered on OLS recording the RTS and the type of documentation involved and the documentation is destroyed. Should the documentation be original documentation such as a qualification or licence/registration card, it is not destroyed but filed appropriately and recorded on OLS.
Note: An address will not be changed on OLS until such information is advised in writing by the licensees.

3.  In 2003 OCBA developed a policy outlining the requirements applicants must meet in order to show 'sufficient business knowledge and experience' (Building Work Contractors Act 1995), this has been adapted to reflect current national training standards. CBS's current Business Qualifications were last updated 1 October 2010. 
It is important to note that CBS has a '12 month' policy that allows a person that held an equivalent licence or registration within 12 months, to re-apply without the need to meet the latest qualification requirements. 
I am advised that other than this '12 month' policy, the Building Work Contractors Act 1995 does not provide an avenue to re-establish a licence/registration once it has been cancelled/surrendered. This must be achieved by making a new application.
 If CBS re-instated a licence/registration when the cancellation/surrender was completed in error, there would be no requirement for training. CBS will re-instate a licence/registration when the cancellation/surrender was completed in error.

4.  CBS has an approved qualification where licences cancelled for less than twelve months can be re-applied for without providing evidence of meeting the Business Qualification test, if applying for the same conditions. 
The Commissioner has the authority to be flexible with approved qualifications. However, the applicant's circumstances must be considered extraordinary or outside what is allowed by legislation.

In reply to the Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (7 June 2011) (First Session).

The Hon. G.E. GAGO (Minister for Agriculture, Food and Fisheries, Minister for Forests, Minister for Regional Development, Minister for Tourism, Minister for the Status of Women): The Minister for Business Services and Consumers has been advised:

The Commissioners focus is primarily consumer protection, ensuring that applicants are aware of current business standards is a way to ensure this. It is important to note that the Business Qualifications are not additional training, however, they have been updated to meet current business standards and if an applicant is reapplying for a Building Contractors licence they must satisfy the Commissioners current criteria.