Architects Amendment Bill (No 6) of 2020

Second reading speech


[4.53 p.m.]

Ms ARMITAGE (Launceston) - Mr President, I welcome any legislation that brings Tasmanian building designs, surveying and regulatory laws in line with other jurisdictions and makes things easier and safer to get done.

Legislation that governs topics like building and design is by its very nature quite complicated, as it has to be a balancing of a multitude of interests. Of course, safety of people should be of the utmost priority and this is amplified when talking about building and construction. Worldwide we have seen too many instances of corner-cutting or negligence that have resulted in injury or death.

The Building Confidence or Shergold-Weir report has in its comprehensive inquiry into Australian building laws and codes across all jurisdictions much to say about the varying standards they meet. I have become quite intimately acquainted with this report, in the context of registration requirements for building surveyors and the standards they are expected to meet in Tasmania, compared to the standards in other states. While that is a work in progress, I am encouraged the Government has taken this report seriously and is applying some of these recommendations to the Tasmanian architecture industry.

Pertinent to this point is recommendation 13 of the Shergold-Weir report, which emphasises the importance of architects' role and expertise in ensuring construction and designs look good and function well while complying with national safety and construction standards.

As the report points out and I quote -

Schemes regulating architects do not expressly require architects to prepare documentation which demonstrates that the proposed building will comply with the NNC [National Construction Code].

Poor quality documentation leads to builders improvising or making decisions which may not be compliant with the NCC ... Inadequate documentation can also result in hidden costs or allow builders to cut corners without owners being aware of it.

This addresses two of the major issues which this bill contends. The first is to ensure that the architecture profession has greater guidance to adhere to the vital safety standards that already govern the vast majority of the building and construction sector.

The second issue addresses the array of expectations that consumers and clients of architects can expect their project to be held up to. To this end, mandating compulsory, ongoing professional development and the purchase of professional indemnity insurance go a long way to protecting consumers, clients, owners and the architects themselves. It is not unreasonable to ask this of architects, given that we ask this of those working in many other industries and it brings Tasmania in lock step with other jurisdictions.

As mentioned in the Government's second reading speech, most architects would already be meeting these development requirements through normal work activities or through their membership of the Australian Institute of Architects. As a slight caveat, feedback I have received on this indicates this provision might also be met through completing professional development activities with other organisations, such as the Association of Consulting Architects. I therefore wonder how widely the Government consulted with bodies that can conduct CPD and what is deemed to be sufficient learning for the purposes of meeting ongoing CPD requirements.

It seems to me that by allowing multiple industry organisations to provide CPD programs, competition is generated and quality of learning is increased and more tailored. I gather certain criteria would have to be met, but on that point, how will this be monitored? I know these questions have been asked in some capacity or other, but some clarification would be appreciated.

Moreover, empowering the Board of Architects Tasmania to receive and investigate consumer complaints against an architect brings a greater level of confidence to the industry and those who engage with it. This is very much a step in the right direction. Could the Deputy Leader give an indication about how this would be funded and monitored on an ongoing basis, given the expanded role the board will now be taking on?

While I have every faith that the Board of Architects has the expertise and experience to implement these new functions, I wonder if there are certain key performance indicators or similar that the board will need to meet to ensure that the bill is being implemented as intended. It is excellent to see that Government is taking the Shergold-Weir report's recommendations seriously and is looking to make appropriate legislative steps.

Architects I have spoken to agree that this bill is good in substance but they have raised questions about the practicalities of its implementation and review. I support this bill and hope to see further government consideration of the other recommendations contained in the Shergold-Weir report, particularly as they apply to building surveyors and the Tasmanian Building Act.

This is a step in the right direction but as far as good governance and regulation of the building and design industry more generally, there is much more work to be done in Tasmania. I am pleased to see Mr Graham sitting there and perhaps I will send you another email regarding that meeting we might have with some in the industry to further it?

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