Automatic Mutual Recognition

28 February 2021

The ACA welcomes the automatic mutual recognition scheme, which serves as a sound framework to create national harmonisation across the architectural labour force. However, several issues need to be addressed.

The following response to the Automatic Mutual Recognition of Occupational Registrations: Exposure Draft Legislation was sent to the Deregulation Taskforce of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet on 12 February 2021.

The ACA welcomes the automatic mutual recognition scheme, which serves as a sound framework to create national harmonisation across the architectural labour force. The proposed scheme allows the movement of architectural services across jurisdictional boundaries and reflects the national consistency of tertiary accreditation models that enable architect registration, including other pathways to registration as an architect in Australia.

Architects are the most consistent profession in the industry in terms of qualifications and registrations across Australia, with over 50 years of experience in mutual recognition of registration standards between states. As such, the ACA is keen to ensure that the integrity of this consistency of practice is not compromised. The state-based regulation and disciplinary system has been an important consumer protection mechanism to ensure high professional standards across Australia.

However, we would like to raise aspects that are currently unclear in the proposed model and likely to present as challenges in its implementation. The Architects Accreditation Council of Australia (AACA) has undertaken a detailed study of the different requirements of each registration, which shows simple mutual recognition would need to address a number of issues.

  1. Continuing Professional Development (CPD) – The high level of disparity between states and territories will need to be addressed and managed carefully.
  2. Professional indemnity insurance and level of cover that it imposes.
  3. Recognition of Architectural Companies – States have different requirements for registrations of architectural companies and partnerships and some states do not recognise these separately. Unless all states have uniform treatment of such organisations, mutual recognition of companies could not occur.
  4. Cost implications – As architectural companies are not captured in this model and whilst costs would be reduced for individuals seeking registration across multiple states, there is a risk that this financial burden is shifted towards firms. Unless alternative funding arrangements are envisaged, it is assumed the cost running each State Board, which is funded by registration fees, would not reduce significantly.
  5. Lowest common denominator and jurisdiction shopping – Stringent rules will need to be imposed to ensure that the risk of lowering standards is avoided at all costs.
  6. Registration ‘plus’ – The task of aligning state legislation is likely to be onerous and lengthy. One way to address the issues noted above could be to maintain the states’ individual standards covered by each legislative framework and have a common higher standard, certified by the Boards, which triggered automatic mutual recognition across all states.
  7. Building Confidence Report (BCR) – The report on problems within the construction industry, authored by Shergold and Weir in 2018, addresses many of the issues around common registration standards. There is a lack of clarity on how the proposed model interacts with the broader regulatory activity generated by the BCR recommendations.
  8. Timing on implementation – A more realistic and phased approach in the roll-out of the model will need to be considered. The current 1 July 2021 date does not appear to be reasonable.

The ACA looks forward to your consideration on this feedback.

The Association of Consulting Architects (ACA) represents architectural practices in business and employment matters. As the national peak body representing the interests of employers in industrial matters, the ACA also advocates on behalf of the “business of architecture” more broadly.

Through this leadership, support and advocacy, the ACA helps to ensure the long-term health and viability of the profession, and thereby supports the important contribution that architecture makes to our cities, environments, communities and cultures. The ACA’s primary concerns have been issues of building quality, procurement and certification, and ensuring that a pipeline of talented architecture graduates exists to support this agenda.