Public Interest

Welcome to the Summer edition of Australian Plumbing

Master Plumbers has been at the forefront of advocacy in the past year, and in this edition, we take stock of the seismic shifts, their impacts and the outlook going forward.

Master Plumbers has expressed its concerns widely and we have strongly condemned this in the media. Notwithstanding this development, Master Plumbers continues to take a balanced view of future energy sources.

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Welcome to the Summer edition of Australian Plumbing

Today, more decisions that impact our industry are made at a national level and even an international level. Decisions about workforce development, training requirements, technical standards, workplace relations, occupational health and safety, and labour laws, to name a few, are not made in Victoria, but rather by the Australian Government; by national agreement between the Federal, State and Territory governments; or even as obligations under treaties and trade agreements between countries.

This is why Master Plumbers provides thought leadership and undertakes advocacy at the national and international levels as well as in Victoria, because by the time changes to laws, regulations or standards hit any state or territory, it’s often too late to change them.

The National Construction Code, Australian Standards, plumbing training requirements, workplace laws and regulations on small business are all examples of this.

Unfortunately, surprises also happen locally such as Victoria’s poorly thought-out gas ban. In late July, the Victorian Government changed the trajectory of their agreed Gas Transition Roadmap by announcing a ban on issuing planning permits for all gas connections in new domestic builds from 1 January 2024. The announcement was lacking in detail and made without any consultation with industry, which sent shockwaves across the trade.

Master Plumbers has expressed its concerns widely and we have strongly condemned this in the media. Notwithstanding this development, Master Plumbers continues to take a balanced view of future energy sources. We have supported the transition of the economy to lower emission energy sources but do not agree with views that natural gas has had its day - it has a critical role to play for many years as we build infrastructure to deliver electrification from completely renewable sources (as opposed to burning coal). We are also strongly advocating at a national level the critical role that green biofuels and hydrogen can play in our economy and communities, as it does overseas.

The role that electrification will play in HVAC will become increasingly important as the adoption of heat-pump technology for domestic and commercial application increases, fuelled in some markets by government incentives, which risk driving the wrong outcomes for consumers. Rapid adoption of emerging technology also brings its own set of challenges with significant variability in the quality and efficiency of units on the market and a need for the industry to improve its skillsets in design, installation and maintenance. We are working closely with Solar Victoria to enable the plumbing industry to address these issues, ensure consumers are protected and position us as part of a sustainable future.

To develop an industry-led roadmap for heat-pump hot water systems for the Australian market we are also collaborating with the Energy Efficiency Council.

Another key push was ‘calling up’ AS 4575 in the Victorian plumbing regulations to set a minimum standard for gas appliance servicing, because of the benefits accruing to the community, consumers and our industry. But as many members will know, the government’s implementation created an onerous, unnecessary and unfair reporting burden on gasfitters.

We subsequently put the Victorian Government on notice about the way it introduced these changes and had numerous discussions with government and government departments at the most senior levels.

Our work on behalf of members, in fact all gasfitters, has paid off with the Victorian Government accepting the need to change the regulations. What this means in practice is that the Gas Safety (Gas Installation) Regulations 2018 will be amended in early 2024 to remove the requirement to submit to VBA a completed version of the Appendix E checklist, but rather to submit this to the VBA on request. This will drastically cut down the reporting burden and cost and bring the reporting in line with other reporting requirements.

We do this advocacy on behalf of members. Much of it is necessarily done behind closed doors to ensure results but we do it with the strength of our membership.

There are many other important issues on which we are voicing member concerns and providing thought leadership and action. These cover big-picture issues such as re-writing the Ministerial Order which defines the plumbing regulatory framework in Victoria; a fit for purpose insurance system; complex plumbing needs; protecting the safety and integrity of our industry; protecting the viability and success of plumbing businesses; and future-proofing our industry.

As we inch closer to the end of the year, we would like to thank all our esteemed members in Victoria and Master Plumbers associations’ members across the country for the incredible contribution you continue to make to the industry and your associations.

Stay safe and look after each other. See you next year!

Norm Anderson
President, Master Plumbers and Mechanical Services Association of Australia

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Master Plumbers has expressed its concerns widely and we have strongly condemned this in the media. Notwithstanding this development, Master Plumbers continues to take a balanced view of future energy sources.

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WIOA Ad – Until end of Feb24

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