CCN, Mar. 2014: Australia’s national licensing scheme (NOLS) for refrigeration and air conditioning technicians has been dumped.
Despite decades of discussion and more recently industry consultation, the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) issued a Communique confirming that the National Occupational Licensing Scheme (NOLS) will not go ahead.
Instead of NOLS, the states agreed to work together via the Council of Australian Federation (CAF) to develop “alternative options for minimising licensing impediments to improving labour mobility” and to manage the “orderly disestablishment” of the National Occupational Licensing Authority (NOLA) from early 2014.
A passionate supporter of national licensing, NOLA board chair Elizabeth Crouch said the decision not to go ahead with NOLS is “not only disappointing but a blow to industry and the economy.”
“A mature and developed economy like Australia can no longer afford a myriad of licensing systems across the states and territories and yet the decision was taken to pursue some form of automatic mutual recognition (AMR) ahead of national licensing,” she said pointing out that the Productivity Commission recommended the introduction of licensing.
“With this decision the $200 million in deregulation savings that would have flowed under national licensing have been foregone.”
Crouch said the challenge for any AMR model is maintaining consumer protection while allowing industry to work seamlessly across state borders.
In less than 18 months, she said NOLA had made significant progress.
A lot of detailed policy work had been completed as well as extensive industry consultation with final sign off for national licensing expected in November 2013 for implementation this year.
It was the final step, the last formality for NOLS to begin.
Crouch said the National Licensing Register which was to provide easy access for consumers and regulators to details of licensees, was at the testing stage.
“We would have comfortably met the Go Live date with an independent KPMG report stating that the project was well managed and comprehensively documented,” she said.
The previous government estimated national licensing would benefit the Australian economy by more than $86 million per year.
The decision not to introduce national licensing was made at the first COAG meeting under Prime Minister Tony Abbott. COAG will meet again in Canberra on May 2, 2014.
This time last year in the March 2013 edition of CCN, industry groups outlined their NOLS submissions in a special licensing feature in the magazine.
Less than six months later in August 2013 Crouch delivered a special presentation on how licensing will be implemented at the CCN Live Conference in Sydney.
At the event she said national licensing was a “no brainer” reform and called on conference participants to grab this opportunity with both hands.
“If we don’t do it now another 20 years could pass, we need to pull together and make this happen,” Crouch said.
She said that once Treasury signed off on the reforms in November 2013 licensing would be operational in 2014.
Instead of announcing its introduction in November, COAG dumped the scheme.
Maybe the warning made by Crouch at CCN Live was spot on and it will be another 20 years before national licensing is back on the reform agenda.