MUTUAL RECOGNITION (VICTORIA) AMENDMENT BILL 2021

MR FREGON (Mount Waverley) (14:54): I also rise to speak on the Mutual Recognition (Victoria) Amendment Bill 2021. It is great to hear about the aspects of this bill that will benefit the people of Tarneit from my colleague over there. Over on the eastern side of town we have tradies who will definitely benefit, just like in the west. The Treasurer, as others have said, has brought to us a small bill but a very important one, and it is also very encouraging to hear the bipartisanship in the room on this bill and that the opposition will be supporting it, or not opposing it, depending on how they have worded it today. But either way, that sounds very encouraging.

It is interesting—I had a plumber at my place on Saturday to do things that I cannot do, because I am not very skilled with hardware, and we got chatting about this bill. I was always a software person; there are others who do hardware better than me. We had a bit of a leaky tap, and he came to fix that for us. We had a chat about this bill, and he was very interested. We had a discussion about the benefits for tradies like himself. He also was quite proud of the fact that Victoria has some of the highest plumbing standards in the country. Not only was that very pleasing for me to hear, but it was also, I think, in the vein of bipartisanship, good to hear the member for Ripon talk about this bill. When people come here, obviously the standards that they meet will be the standards that we have in this state.

Nonetheless, this is an important bill. The duplication of registrations and licences for potentially crossing a river does not make a lot of sense. I think if we all had to go and get a licence for New South Wales in order to drive in New South Wales, we would be not very happy about that, or likewise a registration for our car, if we took it to a different state. So we can all agree that removing barriers, red tape and bureaucracy is crucial to Australia’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, and automatic mutual recognition will support this economic recovery by not only reducing barriers to licensed workers employed in multiple states but also eliminating the need to pay multiple registration fees, as I said, therefore reducing costs for workers, consumers and businesses and encouraging workers, I would argue, by making it easier for them to come to this state.

With our Big Build, with the amount of work that is going on in this state for our tradies Victoria is a very attractive place to work. The mutual recognition bill is an important step to enabling that flexibility for the sector’s highly skilled and somewhat mobile workforce. Not only can it reduce duplication and administrative costs through the development of national standards, but importantly mutual recognition can introduce more productive competition amongst jurisdictions, resulting in an enhanced and more efficient regulatory environment in the long term. Economic analysis which was commissioned by the commonwealth government indicated this reform is expected to directly benefit over 168 000 Australian workers each year and add more than $2.4 billion to the economy over the next 10 years. It does that obviously by removing unnecessary red tape, and it will support more jobs and ensure our economies continue to rebound faster and stronger. The report also notes that in Victoria nearly 20 per cent of our workers, around 600 000 workers, hold an occupational licence and could benefit from automatic mutual recognition.

Under the proposed agreed model of this recognition the local regulator will no longer issue a Victorian registration to an interstate worker operating in Victoria, but instead interstate workers that are licensed in their home state will automatically be deemed to hold a licence in Victoria. We had a gentleman come to my office last year who was a plumber and got his ticket in WA. He was accredited at multiple levels, but he had difficulty in getting that same registration over in Victoria, so there is one person that we directly had some contact with who will presumably benefit from this law.

The government’s number one priority in this work has been to ensure the ongoing integrity of the Victorian licensing schemes and protections, and with this at the forefront of discussions we have worked with other jurisdictions through the national cabinet process to ensure we get the right balance, including safeguards to allow Victoria to maintain its important consumer safety, public safety and other community protections in our existing schemes.

Now, I just want to quickly go to something that I think is quite relevant to the discussion we are having today, in that we have people who learn trades in other jurisdictions and then obviously with the passing of this bill—and let us hope it passes speedily—they can come here, and they will be able to work here. But there is a segment of the community that I would argue probably does not get touched by this bill, and there is still more work to do.

Now, our ADF personnel undertake a range of training during their service, and many choose to pursue formal qualifications. The transition to civilian life also provides an opportunity for veterans to develop new skills through tertiary or vocational education. However, despite the vast training and hands-on expense gained by our defence force personnel, many leave without the ability to utilise these skills. I mean, you would think that if somebody gets taught by our defence force to be a chippy or a sparky or a plumber that at the end of their service—when they have given up part of their life to serve our country—they would have something to show for it, for their skills, in their ongoing life. But unfortunately this is not necessarily the case.

Now, research into former ADF peacekeepers has found a strong association between employment status and several mental health conditions, including PTSD, generalised anxiety disorder, depression, alcohol abuse and alcohol dependency. So being able to leave the services with a career or a vocation that you continue from the skills that you have learned is very important, and it is something that we are not doing enough of yet.

Now, a study identified that 44 per cent of recently transitioned personnel have experienced a period of unemployment of three months or more since leaving the ADF. Now I just want to reference Minister Leane from the other place, our Minister for Veterans, because in Public Accounts and Estimates Committee he said the Andrews government are committed to supporting—

… veterans’ wellbeing—

and initiatives and aim to facilitate—

… their successful transition to and participation in civilian life.

And I know that Minister Leane is very active in our discussions with the federal government to try and get this hole filled. I obviously back Minister Leane 100 per cent in this. We should have a situation in this country where young men and women who give their time and service to the country leave with a vocation.

Now, there may be concerns, I would guess, from our people in the defence force that people might come just for the degree and then leave. I would argue you still get people for three or four years for that, and you are going to have some very qualified people. I mean, as a person who used to employ people, if I was an employer and I was looking at two resumes and they both have the same licences and registrations, and one of those people had been in the services for three years, I would hazard a guess that that person would be punctual, would understand authority, would turn up on time and would know their stuff. I would see this as a big ticket for anyone, for any young person. And although in our state we have free TAFE, so it is a lot easier for people to go and get their TAFE degrees, that is not always the case in other states. So something like this at a national level, I think, would not only help our young people, it would also help our armed services.

So I think it is fantastic to know that Minister Leane and the Andrews Labor government are not only working on mutual recognition for every tradie in Victoria but also pushing our commonwealth closer and closer to recognising the valuable skills that our young men and women develop while they are serving our country. Not only do I commend the work that has been done on that cause, I commend this bill to the house.