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In the last edition, we updated members on several government reviews underway. The Victorian Government’s reform agenda has continued over recent months with the announcement of the Building System Review.
A Building Reform Expert Panel has been formed to drive this wide-ranging inquiry, led by Ana Cronin, Victoria’s Commissioner for Regulation. The Expert Panel has been tasked to advise on the changes necessary to ensure that Victoria’s building regulatory system can underpin the foundations of a modern, robust and growing construction sector at this critical time in economic recovery. It is scheduled to run over two years and has the potential to reshape the plumbing and the broader building and construction industries.
Master Plumbers has met with the Panel on several occasions already to highlight the challenges and opportunities for plumbing and to ensure that our industry’s own issues are not overlooked or underemphasized in this sweeping review. Whilst perhaps not as visible publicly as the recent cladding disasters, there are a number of structural problems with how our self-certification regime operates which have a similar potential to cause harm.
We have argued that the Victorian regulatory framework has become unbalanced. Insurance, for example, is carrying a greater share of the regulatory load than was intended, and audit and inspection are playing virtually no role at all. We also need to consider what level of knowledge, skills and experience is appropriate for complex and performance-based plumbing design and installation. The current regulatory framework is operating in a sub-optimal way, exposing practitioners, consumers, and the broader community to preventable risk.
Our members tell us they have a strong appetite for meaningful changes which will address what they consider to be significant issues. The challenges around finding affordable and adequate insurance coverage, for example, is an issue which could determine whether practitioners remain in the industry. Our members are growing impatient with a system which they consider to be riddled with anomalies, inconsistencies, and gaps. There is frustration with a regulatory system in which the compliance certificate for an 80-storey building – ensuring compliance for hydraulic, mechanical (HVAC), roofing and fire (hydrants and hose reels) – and one for renovating a backyard bungalow cost the same amount, and carry the same level of responsibility, despite the quite different levels of risk and/or control over the outcome.
Our members want to see a regulatory system which incentiviszes their entrepreneurship at the same time as protecting consumers from risk. They want clarification on the regulatory status of emerging market trends, like off-site constructed bathroom ‘pods’; they want an audit and inspection regime which is statistically meaningful (currently below three per cent), risk- based, and informed by plumbing expertise. They want to know why they are responsible, through their licence, for works they have installed but not designed; and they want to understand better their insurance liabilities, especially given the disconnect between the timeframes for insurance coverage for plumbers (six years) and builders (10 years). This and more we are putting to the Expert Panel in detailed submissions together with our industry partners.
Master Plumbers was saddened by the recent loss of Life Member Barry Cooper and Rochester legend Geoff Moroney. Both members have made significant and varied contributions to Master Plumbers and we pay tribute to them in this edition. May they both rest in peace.