New CTH Bill to Improve the Recognition of Professional Registration Across Jurisdictions
On 25 March 2021, the Mutual Recognition Amendment Bill 2021 (‘the Bill’) was passed by the House of Representatives and will now be introduced to the Senate. It was initially introduced to the House by Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister and Cabinet Mr Ben Morton (‘the Assistant Minister’) on 18 March 2021.
The Bill seeks to amend the Mutual Recognition Act 1992 (‘the MRA’) to reform the framework for mutual recognition of occupational registrations across Australian jurisdictions. In his second reading speech, the Assistant Minister described the Bill as being part of the government’s economic recovery plan, with the goal of making it easier for tradespersons and other professionals to move across borders for work, therefore enabling professionals to respond to demand.
Should it be assented, the Bill will provide that registered professionals “will not be required to pay additional application, registration or renewal fees”, when seeking to work in another state or territory.
The current Bill seeks to amend the MRA, which was originally designed to “reduce regulatory impediments to a national market in goods and services”. Mr Morton highlighted that the MRA’s main goal was to provide a mechanism to enforce the principle that “once a person was assessed as good enough to practise in a trade or profession in one state or territory then they should be able to perform the same work anywhere in Australia”. Therefore, the Act enabled professionals to have their registration or licence recognised in all Australian jurisdictions.
However, while Mr Morton acknowledged that the MRA “helped to reduce barriers to occupational mobility across borders for a range of occupations”, he noted that the regulatory burden still exists in that these individuals are required to “apply and pay for an additional registration even though they have already paid for their current registration in another state or territory”. Mr Morton said that this is the burden the Bill hopes to reduce.
The Proposed Bill
The proposed Bill introduces a uniform scheme for automatic mutual recognition of occupational registrations (‘AMR’), "to streamline processes where individuals seek to work in other states and territories”. In his second reading speech, Mr Morton said that this will involve registrations from one state or territory being valid for work in other states or territories, without the need for re-registration.
Mr Morton gave the following example:
“Under AMR, a builder holding a licence may assist with bushfire recovery in South Australia under his or her registration from Tasmania”.
According to Mr Morton, the scheme proposed by the Bill will have the following benefits:
- The scheme would “increase the strength and resilience of the Australian economy”, in that Australians would be able to accept job opportunities “wherever they arise”
- The scheme would strengthen the ability of communities to respond to national emergencies and disasters by enabling faster and simpler relocation of workers
- The scheme would save individuals “around $700 annually in registration fees and time in completing additional applications”
Mr Morton recognised that there are risks associated with implementing an automatic mutual recognition scheme, and therefore the Bill would also implement several safeguards “to protect consumers, the environment, animal welfare and the health and safety of workers and the public”.
Support for the Bill
As outlined in the Bill’s explanatory memorandum, several stakeholders have expressed support for the Bill. PricewaterhouseCoopers estimated that the proposed scheme could lead to “additional economic activity of around $2.4 billion over 10 years as a result of savings to workers and businesses, productivity improvements and extra surge capacity in response to natural disasters”.
Mr Morton closed his second reading speech by arguing that the Bill will ultimately:
“… make it simpler, quicker and less expensive for businesses and registered workers to operate across Australia and to help better use the skills of the Australian labour force … reduce the burden of unnecessary regulation, while maintaining the standards of protection for consumers, the environment, animal welfare, and the safety of workers and the public”.
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Mutual Recognition Amendment Bill 2021, explanatory memorandum, second reading speech and other explanatory materials available from TimeBase's LawOne service