Following is an edited transcript of the Minister's speech introducing the Plumbing and Drainage Bill 2017 to the Queensland Parliament.
Introducing the Bill, the State Minister for Housing and Public Works, Mick de Brenni, said it will deliver a contemporary suite of laws that will meet industry and community expectations over the next decade and provide for the establishment of a mechanical services licence.
"As we move around our cities, going in and out of the buildings found in our urban areas, Queenslanders expect air-conditioning services simply to keep them comfortable and never to pose a threat to their safety. They have that expectation because of professional standards achieved by our air-conditioning industry.
"The bill also amends the Queensland Building and Construction Commission Act 1991 to establish a new mechanical services licence.
"The Palaszczuk government, a consultative government, went to industry and asked them what they wanted—and we listened. We listened when industry told us the laws, regulations and codes that they were using were cumbersome and out of date.
"Most home owners will be able to fast-track their applications and obtain a permit to start work in just two business days, reduced from the current 20 business days. The time frames for more complex projects, such as multi-unit residential and commercial buildings, will be halved from 20 business days down to 10 business days. Faster approvals mean faster construction.
"Over the past 15 years, the act has been amended by 33 separate bills, causing the act to grow increasingly in size and complexity. Therefore, it is little wonder that industry supported taking a good hard look at the current laws. Mechanical
services work includes the construction, installation, replacement, repair, alteration, maintenance, testing or commissioning of a mechanical heating or cooling system in a building. It includes work associated with a medical gas system and incidental design work.
"The licence will regulate mechanical services work in large or public buildings used by the general public and community such as hospitals, shopping centres, office blocks and other commercial buildings, residential apartment blocks and entertainment complexes, including aquaria.
"It will not cover class 1a buildings meaning a single dwelling, for example, a detached house, townhouse or villa or class 10 buildings meaning a non-habitable building or structure, for example, a garage or shed. This includes the installation of a single-head split system, gas work regulated under the Petroleum and Gas (Production and Safety Act) 2004 or the manufacture of pipe or ducting.
"Poorly performed mechanical services work has the potential to cause significant health and safety issues in the community. Members of this place are well aware of the danger posed by legionella in commercial air conditioning systems.
"In addition to dealing with public health risks such as legionnaire’s disease in air conditioning systems, the new mechanical services licence will address the serious risks posed by non-compliant medical gas installations. Members will recall the tragic incidents in 2016 at a New South Wales hospital, where one infant died and another tragically suffered permanent brain damage after being mistakenly administered nitrous oxide.
"It was later discovered that the medical gas system had been incorrectly installed. The loss suffered by those families is unimaginable and unfathomable.
"The changes will introduce formal qualifications and licensing requirements for medical gas work in Queensland to ensure that this work is performed by individuals who are suitability qualified. The new mechanical services licence will be administered by the Queensland Building and Construction Commission as part of its ordinary business as Queensland’s building industry regulator.
"There will be a period of transition before the new mechanical services licence commences."