Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 3 Hansard (13 March) . . Page.. 996..
I will now draw your attention to the important reforms in the bill. The licensing and registration of agents will now be undertaken by the Commissioner for Fair Trading, instead of the Agents Board, as the commissioner already carries out this role for other service industries in the ACT.
The bill simplifies the licence and registration process by creating a one-step process for licensed agents, replacing the old registration process. At the same time, however, the scope of the regulatory scheme has been extended to embrace salespeople who conduct the majority of real estate, stock and station and business transactions in the territory.
The bill repeals the Auctioneers Act 1959. Auctioneers of real property will no longer hold a separate class of licence but will now be regulated as licensed real estate or stock and station agents. This reform has the full support of the industry in removing a layer of bureaucracy and expense from the licensing process.
The granting of a licence to principals and a certificate of registration for real estate, stock and station and business salespeople will now hinge upon entry level competence, good character and continuing professional development. This innovation will lead to a significant upgrading of the general vocational skills of both principals and employees in these industries and at the same time improve the level of industry expertise, which will benefit ACT consumers.
The bill provides for an adequate lead time for existing employees to obtain the new competency standards and introduce flexibility in meeting the new competency levels. For example, an applicant may attain competence by undertaking a course of study or learning on the job and being assessed by a registered assessor. New applicants wishing to enter the industry will be required to attain the competency standards prior to the issue of a licence, after the proposed act has commenced.
Transitional arrangements are included for licensed and registered agents under the repealed act, existing employees and former auctioneers. Further consultation with industry and consumers will be carried out to develop the requirements for continuing professional development.
In a related bill I have tabled legislation establishing the Consumer and Trader Tribunal. This tribunal will include the existing Agents Board's disciplinary jurisdiction and membership. In addition, for the first time consumers will have their grievances with agents dealt with by the Consumer and Trader Tribunal on referral by the commissioner. Empowering the tribunal to deal with consumer grievances acknowledges the significance of property transactions in people's lives.
Grounds for commencing disciplinary proceedings are set out in the bill, together with disciplinary action the tribunal can take. The tribunal will have a number of disciplinary options available to it, which are: