Registration of engineers: the time is now - South Australia

In August, Engineers Australia successfully supported the passage of the Professional Engineers Registration Bill through the Victorian Parliament. What does this mean for our Victorian colleagues, and what are we doing to secure better recognition for the value of engineering services across the country?
News Image
Registration of engineers: the time is now - South Australia

In August, Engineers Australia successfully supported the passage of the Professional Engineers Registration Bill through the Victorian Parliament. This was a significant milestone in the profession’s long-standing efforts to have statutory registration to ensure high standards across-the-board, and secure better recognition for the value of engineering services.

Now, attention has turned to NSW and you may be aware of the Engineers Australia campaign to encourage the NSW Government to follow suit. Registration is vital to the state’s building sector reforms and now is the time to make registration the norm for all industries across the country. Visit the campaign webpage for more information.

The story so far in NSW

On 26 June 2019, the NSW Government stated that it will require “all building practitioners, including building designers, architects and engineers, be registered to ensure they have the appropriate skills and insurance, and can be held accountable for their actions”. Read the media release.

It’s about time because, amongst the big states of the east coast, it is only NSW that sits uncomfortably in the middle without a statutory mechanism to ensure quality professional standards. QLD has had a registration scheme in place since 1929, and Victoria passed legislation in August this year to do the same.

It is unacceptable that virtually anyone in NSW can call themselves an engineer even if they have no relevant education or experience, and no commitment to maintain competency. This contrasts with other professionals like architects, doctors and lawyers, who all have to be registered before legally providing services.

The public agrees. In a national poll conducted in July by Engineers Australia to explore this issue, 88% of people answered that “Yes, engineers should have to be registered”. Just 4% opposed it, and 8% responded that they couldn’t say. The combined result for SA/NT was 82% in support.

Engineers Australia is at the forefront of advocacy. We focus on ensuring that a scheme will provide meaningful benefits and operates seamlessly with those in QLD and Victoria. We are also urging Ministers to broaden the scope of their work to require engineers across all disciplines and industries to be registered.

But draft legislation released by the NSW Government last week does not go far enough. Engineers Australia will reinforce our long-standing advice about the need for comprehensive registration, and the public can make a submission to Government by 16 October.

Advocacy for, and informed by, the profession

On behalf of the profession, Engineers Australia has performed its recent advocacy in NSW in a variety of ways:

 Members have been involved along the way. In July, we asked all NSW-based member for views on registration and your emails and letters were fantastic for informing the organisation’s submission to Government. The next opportunity for members to inform Engineers Australia’s work will be on 22 October in Newcastle, and is available via webinar.

Beyond NSW

At the national level, the discussion always starts with the building sector and the Building Ministers Forum (BMF) (a collective of the relevant Minister from the Commonwealth Government and each state and territory Government). The BMF members have committed to implement recommendation 1 of the now-famous ‘Building Confidence’ report by Peter Shergold and Bronwyn Weir, which is to require engineers (amongst others) to be registered to practice in the building sector.

The BMF has in turn tasked the Australian Building Codes Board (ABCB) to coordinate implementation of all 24 recommendations of the Building Confidence report. Expect to hear more from the ABCB on timeframes for this work soon.

Importantly for business owners, with each new state or territory that introduces registration, the Mutual Recognition Act 1992 kicks in to ensure seamless recognition of registered status across borders.

Registration of engineers is certainly not a silver bullet. Engineers Australia and its members are therefore very active across a wide range of issues in the building sector reform process. Learn more from a recent create digital article that explore it in more detail.

The changes on the eastern seaboard are also welcomed in South Australia, mainly as they show a pathway to achieving an outcome that sets quality standards for engineering. The South Australian registration context has a number of challenges at the moment, and Engineers Australia is working through those in conjunction with the national effort, with the aim of delivering a consistent regulatory environment across the country.