Plumbing Industry Regulation

23 Jun 2010 questionsarchive

I seek leave to make an explanation before asking the Minister for Consumer Affairs a question about plumbing industry regulation.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: The Plumbing Industry Association issued before the election a manifesto called 'Change for Good'. In reading the manifesto, it is fairly evident that they are quite frustrated with the current system of registration. In the manifesto, they state that they do not believe that the splitting of regulatory and licensing responsibilities between SA Water and OCBA has been effective. The association's document states:

The licensor has little or no practical understanding of plumbing regulation and plumbing practice. They are not in a good position to determine who should or should not be licensed.

In a recent meeting with them, they expressed to me that they had concerns with a number of areas, in particular, that shoddy work is going on in South Australia at the moment that is directly related to the regulatory system. I note that there is discussion to move to a national licensing model, but the PIA would prefer that reforms were put in posthaste. My questions are:

1. Is the minister aware of the PIA's concerns and has she responded to them? 2. Does the minister have any intention to reform the current system?

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) (14:33): I thank the honourable member for her most important questions. My understanding is that, in terms of the role of the Commissioner for Consumer Affairs, all plumbing and gasfitting contractors and workers are required to be licensed and registered under the Plumbers, Gas Fitters and Electricians Act 1995. The distinction between licensed and registered is that plumbing and gasfitting contractors (those who carry out the business of performing the work) are licensed as well, I understand. Plumbing and gasfitting workers are obviously registered. The act is designed to ensure that people are licensed and/or registered and trade fairly.

I understand that the Commissioner for Consumer Affairs relies on the technical expertise of SA Water and the OTR, which are responsible for the monitoring of compliance with plumbing and gasfitting standards respectively. The commissioner may take action against a plumbing or gasfitting contractor's licence or worker's registration, relying on outcomes of SA Water or the OTR's investigations of substandard plumbing work, or where SA Water, the OTR or others provide technical evidence in relation to substandard plumbing or gasfitting.

SA Water is the technical regulator for things like sanitary plumbing, drainage and water plumbing connected to SA Water infrastructure.

The Office of the Technical Regulator is the technical regulator for gasfitting and has responsibility under the Gas Act to establish and enforce proper safety and technical standards for gas installations and also appliances. There is ongoing liaison between OCBA, SA Water and the OTR.

I am aware that these are issues that reflect slightly different points of view on a number of matters. OCBA seeks advice from SA Water and the OTR on the competencies required to carry out specific types of plumbing, gasfitting work or proposals to issue licences for certain aspects of plumbing or gasfitting work. 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.

I am advised that SA Water and the OTR participate in OCBA's regular consultation meetings with industry stakeholders, and we continue to work together to resolve those points of view and to ensure that the industry maintains good standards of practice and good competency levels and that the completed work can be monitored, checked and addressed wherever a problem is identified.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (14:36): I have a supplementary question arising from the minister's answer. Do I take it then that there are no plans currently to merge those two roles?

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) (14:36): I would need to seek advice on that. I am happy to take that question on notice and bring back a response.

Thursday 16 September 2010

In reply to the Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (23 June 2010).

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): I am advised that:

In response to your supplementary question, the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) agreed to establish a central national licensing system for selected occupations. COAG has agreed that national licensing initially be applied to building, electrical, plumbing and gas fitting, air conditioning and refrigeration mechanics, transport, maritime and property occupations.

The National Licensing system is due to commence on 1 July 2012 for plumbers. Regulators, industry and other key stakeholders are playing an important role in designing the new system.

The benefits of national licensing for the selected occupations include reducing cost to business, ensuring consistent behaviour, simplifying arrangements for licence holders and maintaining public protection for consumers.

In addition to reforms that are occurring at the COAG level, the Rann Labor Government has committed to enacting new legislation (the Water Industry Act) to better reflect the needs of a modern, more competitive and diverse water industry. The proposed legislation will provide for the appointment of a technical regulator of plumbing activities. This role would be similar to those within the electricity and gas sectors.