The New South Wales Government has proposed reforms to the building and construction industry in a bill put before Parliament, which it says will include sectors that experts had warned were overlooked by initial proposals.
Although the initial intent of the Design and Building Practitioners Bill is to only require registration for engineers who work on apartments, the Government has told Parliament that it will broaden the scope of the legislation to other building types through legislation.
Engineers Australia’s National Manager of Public Affairs Jonathan Russell said Engineers Australia was proud to have influenced positive changes to the Government’s plans.
“Obviously, ideally, we’d put everything in the act, in the head legislation,” he said in an interview with Sky News.
“That’s not happening, but they have committed to Parliament that they will expand it out.”
It would be important, however, Russell said, to ensure that the Government followed through on this commitment.
“The key changes to the bill that we wanted to see was a commitment from Government to not just focus on apartment buildings,” he said.
“The building sector is obviously much broader — there are schools and hospitals, shops and cafés.”
One opportunity for the Government, Russell said, comes in the form of a complementary bill put forward this past Thursday by the Labor Party opposition, which would require registration for a much broader set of engineers.
“This is a great opportunity, I think, for Parliament to come together, work together, for the community,” Russell said, expressing hope that the two bills could be passed together to get the benefits of each.
“Most of the stakeholders that I’m talking with can see that they’re moving in the right direction, but there’s too much left to regulation.”
A recent stakeholder engagement session was conducted when engineers from the Hunter region met for an Engineers Australia consultation and information session on the proposed reforms last week.
The session covered the changes Engineers Australia is calling on the Government to make and the case for compulsory registration of engineers, and included an open forum for questions and feedback. Overall, feedback on the proposed reforms was positive.
The Design and Building Practitioners Bill will still need to attract support from the NSW Legislative Council to pass, where the Government needs support from Labor or the crossbench to pass legislation. This offers opportunity for amendments to be introduced.
Russell said the legislation was centred on maintaining public trust.
“The engineering profession is built on trust, the community trusts engineers,” he said.
“What we’re hoping to do is introduce a statutory mechanism to ensure that there’s a floor in standards. I think, when it comes to the work engineers do, broadly speaking, we can continue to have this system of trust, but we need more.”