A registration scheme for engineers will be introduced in Victoria following the safe passage of the Professional Engineers Registration Bill 2019.
The Victorian scheme has been modelled on similar legislation in Queensland and is a step closer to a nationally harmonised registration scheme to be considered by the Building Minister's Forum in July.
Introduced to parliament by the Minister for Small Business, Adem Somyurek, a professional licensing scheme for engineers is strongly supported by trade bodies including Engineers Australia and the Australian Institute of Refrigeration, Air Conditioning and Heating (AIRAH).
Somyurek said once legislation has passed the Upper House later this month work will begin immediately on further consultation including a Regulatory Impact Statement (RIS).
Following the Opal Tower debacle in Sydney, Somyurek said the government was determined to establish the registration scheme which will also support Victoria's infrastructure plans.
The state government has already set up Infrastructure Victoria and appointed a Chief Engineer as part of its plans.
“This investment needs to be supported by suitably qualified and experienced engineers to develop and oversee these projects,” he said.
“This was made clear in the Victorian State of Engineering Report released in October last year which found that engineering-enabled industries are responsible for more than 600,000 jobs.
“Despite the complex nature of their work and their role in ensuring public safety, most engineers are not required to hold any kind of formal registration or licence. This stands in contrast to almost all other professionals including lawyers, doctors, nurses, architects and teachers.”
Currently in Victoria, Somyurek said only engineers engaged in the building industry need to be registered, and even then, coverage is limited.
“Such limited coverage means only a small proportion of engineers have their qualifications and experience scrutinised,” the Minister said.
Under the scheme five areas will be regulated including civil engineer, structural engineer, mechanical engineer, electrical engineer and fire safety engineer.
A separate endorsement will apply to professional engineers engaged in the building industry.
These areas should cover most of the profession as they cover 80 per cent of engineers registered under the Queensland Professional Engineers Act 2002.
“Over time the scheme will expand to cover other areas of engineering,” Somyurek said.
How it will work
The registration scheme is based on a co-regulatory model which will be managed by the Business Licensing Authority (BLA) with support from Consumer Affairs Victoria (CAV) and the Victorian Building Authority (VBA).
The Register of Professional Engineers will allow consumers to check details of the registered engineer including details of disciplinary matters up to five years old.
Registration will be valid for a period of three years and the BLA may impose conditions on the registration.
After three years, an engineer may renew their registration by applying to the BLA and paying a registration fee.
It is expected that a condition for renewal is completion of continuous professional development of 150 hours over the last three years. Moreover assessment entities will have to conduct regular audits.
If a registration renewal is refused by the BLA, or a condition is imposed, the applicant can have the decision reviewed by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT).
The Bill also sets up a disciplinary system that will see CAV or the VBA taking the lead. This dual regulator approach has been proposed to ensure that the VBA can continue to carry out 'end to end' investigations of non-compliant building work.