Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 8 Hansard (29 October) . . Page.. 2510 ..
MR HARGREAVES (continuing):
However, Mr Speaker, I must at this point again congratulate departmental officers on the consultation process. However, there was always a predetermined outcome. Some staff in BEPCON were offered packages, and the remaining staff were offered new career directions. They were to become the auditors. This would complete the picture and the Government could not be blamed for not looking after its staff. After all, Mr Speaker, they had bought some off and the rest were reprofiled, to quote the Police Commissioner when he was reducing police numbers. We are just seeing a clever way of privatising what is essentially core business. Let there be no mistake about it. This is core business and should be retained as part of public service.
Let me turn my attention to the positive parts of the legislation. I would not wish to be accused of not being fair. Mr Speaker, this legislation actually provides another bureaucratic layer on the certification of work performed. How it works is like this: First the designer, say an engineer, designs the work, and the plans are approved by a registered certifier. That is fine. The work is performed by a builder or similar tradesperson and checked by a registered certifier. Fine again. So far, this is much the same as before, when BEPCON inspectors did the checking. Once a building is in a state for occupancy, the Building Controller issues a certificate of occupancy based on the certificates he has received. Same again. But here is the extra layer. The auditors can, and will, check the certifiers. That adds an extra layer of protection.
Self-certification can be quicker and certainly less expensive. Private certification can be almost as quick. With more private certifiers available, and also available on the weekend, it should be quicker to have the certificates issued. Thus we could hope they would be less costly. The legislation also talks about codes of ethics and preclusions from acting as certifiers where conflicts of interest may be seen to apply. All good stuff, also most appropriate. The disciplinary action is pretty sound as well.
So, apart from the philosophical opposition to privatisation and self-certification, why would anyone want to oppose the Bills when they make it tighter, cost less and make things quicker? The march towards self-certification must be stopped. The consumer is entitled to protection from those elements in the industry who, through greed, incompetence, inefficiency or cost-saving imperatives, would provide a dangerously constructed building. It is just not good enough to say, "We are professionals. Leave it up to us". It was an archconservative who said, "Don't you worry about that!". We do worry about that.
Do we leave the regulation of the health industry to the AMA or other health industry peak bodies? Do we leave the regulation of the food industry to the industry peak bodies? Do we leave the administration of explosive materials to the industry? No, of course not. The reason we do not do this - and it applies in many other industries as well - is that they are providing services which affect our wellbeing. We have health industry registration boards, health inspectors and dangerous goods inspectors to represent the community. Government has a role to play in ensuring the quality of the product inspection and implementing sanctions when the services are below par. To be below par is to court serious injury or worse.