The Association of Consulting Architects Australia (ACA) has welcomed the automatic mutual recognition scheme, which will create national harmonisation across the architectural labour force, however, it states that several issues need to be addressed.
In August 2020, the Australian Government announced it would introduce a uniform scheme for the automatic mutual recognition of occupational registrations (AMR). Following this, National Cabinet established an Intergovernmental Agreement which was signed by all jurisdictions, with the exception of the ACT, at an 11 December 2020 meeting.
The AMR will allow a person who is a registered architect in one jurisdiction to be considered registered to perform the same activities in another jurisdiction, without the need for further application processes or additional registration fees .
The AMR scheme will apply to registrations currently covered by existing mutual recognition arrangements. The Australian Institute of Architects (AIA) outlines that the scheme will make it simpler, quicker and less expensive for people to work across jurisdictions, while maintaining high standards of consumer protection and worker and public health and safety .
Draft legislation was released in December 2020 and the ACA submitted a response to the Deregulation Taskforce of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet on 12 February 2021.
While the ACA welcomes the automatic mutual recognition scheme, which serves as a sound framework to create national harmonisation across the architectural labour force, the state-based regulation and disciplinary system has been an important consumer protection mechanism to ensure high professional standards across Australia.
The ACA has raised aspects that are currently unclear in the proposed model and believes likely to present as challenges in its implementation. The issues needed to be addressed include:
- Continuing Professional Development (CPD) – The high level of disparity between states and territories will need to be addressed and managed carefully.
- Professional indemnity insurance and level of cover that it imposes.
- Recognition of Architectural Companies – States have different requirements for registrations of architectural companies and partnerships and some states do not recognise these separately. Unless all states have uniform treatment of such organisations, mutual recognition of companies could not occur.
- Cost implications – As architectural companies are not captured in this model and whilst costs would be reduced for individuals seeking registration across multiple states, there is a risk that this financial burden is shifted towards firms. Unless alternative funding arrangements are envisaged, it is assumed the cost running each State Board, which is funded by registration fees, would not reduce significantly.
- Lowest common denominator and jurisdiction shopping – Stringent rules will need to be imposed to ensure that the risk of lowering standards is avoided at all costs.
- Registration ‘plus’ – The task of aligning state legislation is likely to be onerous and lengthy. One way to address the issues noted above could be to maintain the states’ individual standards covered by each legislative framework and have a common higher standard, certified by the Boards, which triggered automatic mutual recognition across all states.
- Building Confidence Report (BCR) – The report on problems within the construction industry, authored by Shergold and Weir in 2018, addresses many of the issues around common registration standards. There is a lack of clarity on how the proposed model interacts with the broader regulatory activity generated by the BCR recommendations.
- Timing on implementation – A more realistic and phased approach in the roll-out of the model will need to be considered. The current 1 July 2021 date does not appear to be reasonable.