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Automatic cross-border trades licensing recognition finally on the horizon for Australia

The Australian Federal Government has announced plans that will enable tradespeople with a state government occupational licence could have their licence automatically recognised in all states and territories from 1 January 2021.

It is proposed that individual tradespeople with an occupational licence in one Australian jurisdiction will automatically be able to take equivalent work in another jurisdiction under the same licence.

The relatively short timeframe for implementing this change is thought to be part of a broader plan to help ease recovery from the economic impacts of COVID-19.

Significantly, the initiative will be run by the Council of Federal Financial Relations, which administers the GST and therefore has sufficient clout to ensure each state is on board with the plan.

Australian Refrigeration Council CEO Glenn Evans welcomed the proposal, saying it “should make it easier and less expensive for businesses and tradespeople to operate across borders”.

“It also aligns with actions we are taking to identify opportunities for advancing recognition of the refrigeration and air conditioning industry, and national competency-based licensing,” added Mr Evans.

Josh Frydenberg
Josh Frydenberg

Announcing the proposal, Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said automatic cross-jurisdiction recognition of occupational licenses was “vital to ensuring Australians, including displaced workers, can take up new job opportunities wherever they arise as the economy recovers and restrictions on movement are eased from COVID-19”.

“A uniform scheme will make it easier and less expensive for businesses, professionals and workers to move or operate within jurisdictions and across Australia, thereby creating jobs, increasing output, competition and innovation, and resulting in lower prices for consumers and businesses.”

If successful, the proposed licensing reform will finally bring to fruition the kind of easy skills portability that would have existed under the National Occupational Licence Scheme (NOLS), had it not been abandoned in 2014.

Following the failure of NOLS, the Productivity Commission of 2015 coined the idea of automatic mutual recognition of occupational licenses. Little was it known then that a global health crisis would see the idea move closer to reality.

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