Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 5 Hansard (6 May) . . Page.. 1558 ..
MR SMYTH (continuing):
We are satisfied that this is not a foot-in-the-door tactic to enable the reintroduction of a full government certification scheme, which we would strongly oppose. However, in this case, we see no real danger of that-neither in the bill itself nor in the spirit of its creation. The opposition is also satisfied that the relevant sectors of the building industry support this measure and that any concerns they had have been addressed in the consultation process.
The criteria for the use of a government certifier means that they will primarily be confined to an inspection and certification role. They will not issue an initial building approval, but they will be able to certify any required amendments. The government certifier will be subject to the same audit and disciplinary provisions as private certifiers. These provisions are enshrined in the Construction Practitioners Registration Act of 1998.
Mr Speaker, as an extra precaution and measure of protection, this bill provides that, where the certifier is a public servant, as he or she may be under this scheme, the usual disciplinary measures contained in the Public Sector Management Act 1994 are applicable. This is a sound measure. It addresses a fundamental flaw in the current system of building certification in the ACT, which can potentially leave people high and dry, through no fault of their own.
The integrity of the process is vital if public trust is to be maintained. People embark on such projects and undertakings in good faith. If they have taken the required steps to have their buildings certified, it is important that they are in no way penalised because of certifiers, for whatever reason, being unable to complete their work.
The opposition did have an issue and we considered moving an amendment to clarify questions of who pays. One concern was that the user of the last resort system of certification might find himself or herself in a position of being billed by both the certifier-if appointed from the private sector-and the government, as part of the recovery costs. We were subsequently assured that normal contractual provisions-in this case between the government and client-will apply, and that double billing will not happen. Should this ever eventuate, it may well be that we will have to look at this matter again. Mr Speaker, the opposition supports the bill.
MS DUNDAS (11.09): The ACT Democrats will also be supporting this bill, which allows the government to become building certifiers of last resort. It will allow consumers the ability to get their buildings certified in the event of private certifiers being unable to complete the job.
As I understand it, the need for the government to step into the private market has been brought to the fore by three unrelated events-that of the disciplinary matters against private certifiers; the bushfires, meaning an increase in building, which will require an increase in building certifiers; and, thirdly, the insurance crisis, which has forced a couple of certifiers out of the market.
I am also aware that PALM does not intend to put on any new staff to cover these jobs, but rather to use existing expertise in the department and, if required in the future, may in