Mutual Recognition (Victoria) Amendment Bill 2021 - Legislation

22 June 2021

I too join my colleagues to rise to speak on the Mutual Recognition (Victoria) Amendment Bill 2021. This is a really important bill. Essentially it is going to adopt into Victorian law amendments to the Mutual Recognition Act 1992 of the commonwealth that are being proposed by the Mutual Recognition Amendment Bill 2021. It is a commonwealth bill to introduce a scheme of automatic mutual recognition of occupational registrations. That is a really long way of saying this bill is about a mutual recognition scheme that is going to recognise the differences in labour laws and licensing requirements in different states, and most importantly it is going to make it easier for workers who are licensed under one state to go ahead and cross the border and work in another.

As our wonderful Treasurer said in his second-reading speech on this bill, this is a small bill. It is a small bill that makes few changes but changes that are absolutely important for Victorian workers, particularly those who work interstate. This is a bill that is going to make it easier for people to move to Victoria and take up a job, and this will come into effect in other states and territories as well. It will also help Victorians looking to move and work temporarily interstate—and I say temporarily because we always like to have our Victorians come back here to our mighty state if they have been working away. Most importantly this bill is also going to support jobs, and not just the direct job of someone benefiting from mutual recognition; most importantly it is the jobs alongside of them and it is the people that they are going to buy from.

We talk about jobs a lot in this place. Job creation is I would say of paramount importance to our government. As the Treasurer has said in this place many, many times, job creation needs to be at the heart of our economic recovery, and that is why we are delivering on the jobs plan. We have set an incredibly ambitious target of 400 000 new jobs by 2025. I think it is really important to highlight that point of being ambitious: this is a time when we need to be ambitious when it comes to job creation. There are more Victorians than there were in the pandemic that are out of work and are looking for a job. Every single one of us needs it, and we need that jobs target to be ambitious: 400 000 new jobs by 2025. Now, most importantly, half of those 400 000 jobs will be created by 2022. The really good news that all Victorians, particularly those looking for work, need to hear is that we have already exceeded our interim target a year early.

Before COVID I do not think there was one colleague that had not stood in this house and talked about Victoria being the economic powerhouse of this nation. We led the nation in jobs growth, with almost 525 000—that is over half a million—new jobs since we were elected in November 2014. That is a massive, massive effort. If there is one person the people of Victoria can count on for jobs creation, it is the Treasurer of this state—and the great Andrews Labor government—to create those jobs. That was the fastest rate of any state or any territory in this nation. Victoria is once again leading the nation on jobs growth as we continue to bounce back from this pandemic. Since September 2020 Victoria has added more than 252 000 jobs, and that is more than in any other state. Most importantly, Victorians should feel proud—I certainly feel proud—that that is more than New South Wales and Queensland combined.

I have found these sorts of stats interesting. Over 124 000 people work in registered occupations that rely on mutual recognition. In Victoria alone up to one-fifth of Victorian workers—600 000 of us—hold occupational licences. What happens under the current arrangement is that when a worker moves around this country for work, whether they are starting a new job or chasing a new business opportunity, they will not have to go about obtaining a second licence. This way you can be licensed, for example, as a real estate agent or a teacher in Victoria, you can move to New South Wales or go further north, and you are not going to need to go over the hurdle of obtaining a second licence. But under the current arrangements workers who currently do this need to be issued with a second licence by the interstate regulator, which usually takes around 30 days. Now, this means that workers under this scheme often face registration fees and ongoing annual fees, depending on how long they work in that state. So this effectively means that interstate workers may be looking at paying double the fees for doing their job, and I know that this can seriously hinder their mobility or desire to do that type of work interstate or across borders. This is exactly what this bill is going to be changing.

The bill is going to introduce an automatic mutual recognition system. This will reduce costs, and it is going to make it easier for workers to take up the jobs they are looking for. I know that in particular this is going to benefit the thousands of Victorian workers who currently live along the state borders, particularly border cities like Albury-Wodonga, just to name one of them. I think back to my childhood and where I grew up, and I know how this can impact workers because I also grew up in a border town right up there—it is currently in a bubble at the moment with Queensland—on the border of Queensland and New South Wales, Kingscliff. It was not uncommon for people to cross the border, which might be 10 or 20 minutes from my home town at Tweed Heads, to go to Coolangatta for work. For example, if your dad was a licensed milkman—like my dad is, although he is very soon to retire, in the next couple of weeks—he could be delivering milk across borders. Sometimes, back in the day, they would do the house run and people’s houses were separated merely by streets—so your neighbour was living in Queensland or New South Wales. That could cause problems with their registration and their licences. It is quite interesting talking about Kingscliff because the member for Ripon mentioned a wonderful senator in Canberra, Jenny McAllister. I have to say Jenny McAllister’s parents also live in Kingscliff. Don and Alma McAllister are very good friends of my parents, so I give them a very big shout-out. Hello to Don and Alma.

Under these changes interstate workers cannot be charged with additional registration fees, although they still might incur fees for things such as public protection requirements and character tests. But the biggest hurdle that we identified—and I am sure the commonwealth also identified it—was that these duplicated registration fees were costing workers a lot of money, which is why we are going to get rid of them with this bill. So it is not just good for workers, it is also good for our economy. The estimated benefit from automatic mutual recognition is approximately $2.38 billion to our GDP and about $1.1 billion in additional consumption by households over 10 years, so it is certainly good news for workers and very good news for our economy.

I quickly just want to say that it was good to hear that the commonwealth is also focusing on developing a national education campaign. A national education campaign is going to be really important to assist messaging around automatic mutual recognition. A communications program to assist workers and most certainly consumers to understand the AMR—that is going to be really important for ensuring workers understand they must first check interstate requirements before commencing work, such as whether they need to first notify the local regulator. I am looking forward to seeing that national education campaign rolled out.

As the Treasurer has said, this bill makes some small changes but really important ones. This mutual recognition scheme is great news for workers and it is great for our economy. Implementing an automatic mutual agreement system will give Victorian workers greater flexibility and mobility, importantly, to go where they want and will provide them with greater opportunities for work around the country. This is not only going to benefit our economy but it is also another really fair outcome for workers, and fairness is certainly at the heart of this government, the Andrews Labor government. It is for that very reason that I commend this bill to the house.