Page 193 - Week 01 - Thursday, 16 February 2006

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Since the introduction of the construction occupations licensing regime through the Construction Occupations (Licensing) Act and its associated regulations the ACT Planning and Land Authority has been able to exercise a greater degree of flexibility in handling breaches of building and constructions laws and regulations. The new regime allows the authority to use a variety of compliance and disciplinary measures in enforcing the new regime.

Prior to the commencement of the COLA legislation in September 2004, the authority had few options available to it when dealing with breaches of this nature, other than the suspension of licences and denying licensees their livelihood. The authority is now able to employ a range of enforcement mechanisms such as the issue of reprimands, imposition of demerit points, fines, temporary suspension of licences and, ultimately, cancellation of licences and issuing of rectification orders. These methods allow the authority to encourage compliance without needing to resort to heavy-handed sanctions when these are unwarranted.

The Construction Occupations Legislation Amendment Bill will make minor amendments to further finetune this regime. The amendments will clarify when the registrar may issue disciplinary notices and clarify the rights of licensees in being able to request that inquiries be held in relation to alleged offences. The bill will also introduce defences in instances where an offence is being committed by a partnership and where a partner was not involved in committing the offence.

In line with these amendments, the bill also clarifies terminology in provisions relating to entities, as opposed to the regions that relate to individuals. The bill will also recognise certain repealed laws that were in place before the commencement of the Construction Occupations (Licensing) Act and its associated regulations. These provisions will allow the registrar to take disciplinary action for offences under the old laws as if they were still in effect under the new licensing regime. This measure is important in order to ensure that substandard work undertaken prior to September 2004 can be dealt with by the rectification and compliance provisions in the new laws.

Finally, the bill makes several other minor amendments. It clarifies the meaning of sanitary drains and water services under the Water and Sewerage Act. It changes the way the act defines prescribed electrical articles, as the current definition is reliant on the laws of another state. It updates old references under the Gas Safety Regulations 2000 that refer to the chief executive, rather than the planning authority.

This bill will improve the functioning of the construction occupations compliance regime. It will provide greater clarity to the application of the provisions in the legislation and will implement new initiatives to provide greater certainty and convenience to building designers, the operators of sporting fields and those associated with the building and construction industries in the ACT. I commend the bill to the Assembly.

Debate (on motion by Mr Seselja) adjourned to the next sitting.

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