2 December 2022

New laws to tighten engineering standards across ACT

| Lottie Twyford
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Dickson wall collapse

A wall collapsed at a construction site on Northbourne Avenue, Dickson in October. Photo: Shayna Siakimotu.

Engineers in the Territory will soon need to be registered after new laws were introduced in the ACT Legislative Assembly.

The government has been under pressure to act on the tighter rules, first promised almost a decade ago, amid concerns about poor-quality engineers taking up work in the Territory.

Similar moves are being adopted by other jurisdictions around the country to ensure engineers have the necessary qualifications and experience to provide professional services.

Once the laws are passed – expected by late next year – the registration scheme will be administered by a professional engineering registrar, an ACT public servant within Access Canberra.

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The registrar will be charged with determining applications for registration and renewal, and issuing certificates of registration.

The position will also:

  • monitor legislation compliance;
  • investigate and prosecute alleged contraventions of the legislation;
  • refer registered professional engineers to the ACT Civil & Administrative Tribunal (ACAT) for regulatory action;
  • respond to complaints made about registered professional engineers; and
  • keep and maintain a public register of professional engineers.
Rebecca Vassarotti

Construction Minister Rebecca Vassarotti introduced the new laws to the ACT Legislative Assembly earlier this year. Photo: Ian Bushnell.

Minister for Sustainable Building and Construction Rebecca Vassarotti said it was vital everyone involved in significant construction works were suitably qualified.

“[This is so] the community has confidence that such large works meet safety and building quality standards,” she said.

“Initially, the scheme will only apply to five areas of engineering but may later be expanded. The areas proposed in the current scheme are civil, structural, mechanical, electrical and fire safety engineering.

“I acknowledge the key role that industry and professional engineer associations have played in getting the bill to this stage and look forward to continuing to work closely with them on the implementation of the scheme.”

It’s already been welcomed by the union which represents professional services employees across engineering, science and IT Professionals Australia.

The union noted that engineering remained one of the last professions to receive a scheme of professional registration and would bring it into line with architects, electricians and builders.

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Acting ACT Director Daniel Griffin said the reform would recognise the experience and expertise of Canberra’s engineers and ensure those who provided an engineering service were adequately skilled to do so.

“Engineering registration is something our members have advocated for some time now in the ACT,” he said.

“We welcome the major step the ACT Government has taken today toward legislating this reform.

“The ACT has joined Queensland and Victoria at the forefront of building a national professional
registration framework for engineers and we hope will act as a guide for other jurisdictions contemplating their own schemes.”

The construction union has also been heaping pressure on the government to move along with its promise to implement an engineering registration scheme.

Following the collapse of a wall in Dickson in October, CFMEU ACT Secretary Zach Smith said the ACT needed to step up industry regulation, including the registration of engineers and licensing of developers.

“The simple fact is accidents like this one are more likely to happen in Canberra than elsewhere in Australia because of our lax regulatory environment,” Mr Smith said at the time.

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This will just end up with union interference. Unions will give their list of those that will end up with registration and those of whom get ‘delayed’.

There is already the professional body of Engineers Australia.

Unions are calling for this, and they also want tradies to be professionally registered. It’ll be harder to be an independent and force more union membership, ultimately increasing prices for everyone.

Amanda Kiley8:11 pm 04 Dec 22

So they can get this through quickly but – voluntary assisted dying laws need to wait until after the next election …

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