Axing national licensing wrong, says NOLA

The decision to axe national licensing for the property industry has been criticised by the body involved in its implementation.

“The COAG [Council of Australian Governments] decision to not pursue national licensing is not only disappointing but a blow to industry and the economy,” said Elizabeth Crouch, chair of the National Occupational Licensing Board, in a statement published on the NOLA website.

“A mature and developed economy like Australia can no longer afford a myriad of licensing systems across all states and territories, and yet the decision was taken to pursue some form of automatic mutual recognition (AMR) ahead of national licensing.”

Ms Crouch said the decision to disband NOLA was at odds with the Productivity Commission's recent report on labour mobility, recommending that national licensing proceed.

“With this decision, the $200 million in deregulation savings that would have flowed under national licensing have been foregone,” she said. 

“Instead, the states and territories will now work via the Council for the Australian Federation to develop alternative options for minimising licensing impediments to labour mobility. The challenge for any AMR model will be to maintain consumer protection while allowing for industry to work seamlessly across state borders.”

Barbara El-Gamal, NOLA’s deputy CEO, added that work on national licensing “will now be transferred to a council that meets annually with limited secretariat support and resources”. 

“As NOLA winds down, we hope the knowledge gained and the resources developed over the last 18 months will contribute to an efficient and workable model moving forward,” she added.

Ms Crouch said NOLA had taken big strides towards national licensing over an 18-month period.

“Detailed policy work had been completed, providing solutions to many of the complex issues surrounding occupational licensing,” she said. “Sound governance structures including a range of consultative committees had been formed, allowing industry and other stakeholders to fully engage in the development of the national licensing model.

“NOLA had worked with the industry to resolve many of the concerns evident in the Decision RIS and proposed alternatives to the Standing Council on Federal Financial Relations. These alternatives reflected industry consensus on outstanding issues.”

The decision to scrap NOLA in December was applauded by numerous real estate industry stakeholders, and ended months of industry angst over what national licensing might entail.

State governments were also unhappy with how national licensing was being handled.

“COAG noted that, following the outcome of extensive state-based consultation, a majority of states decided not to pursue the proposed National Occupational Licensing Scheme reform,” the body said in a communique on 13 December 2013. "Most jurisdictions identified a number of concerns with the proposed NOLS model and potential costs.”

Real Estate Institute of Australia (REIA) deputy president Morgan Shearer said on Thursday this week that COAG had correctly identified that the scheme, that was devised by the soon to be disestablished National Occupation Licensing Authority (NOLA), simply failed to recognise the structure of the Australian property industry.

“REIA is already working with the Council for the Australian Federation so as to mimimise impediments to regulations that impede labour mobility," Mr Shearer said. "In that way, a licensing scheme that is efficient, whilst protecting the interests of consumers, will continue to evolve."

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