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Automatic Mutual Recognition for Architects

In August 2020, the Australian Government announced that the Commonwealth, and State and Territory governments had agreed to introduce a uniform scheme for the automatic mutual recognition of occupational registrations (AMR). On 13 November 2020, National Cabinet agreed to establish an Intergovernmental Agreement which was signed by all jurisdictions, with the exception of the ACT, at National Cabinet’s 11 December 2020 meeting. 

AMR applies to registered architects and will allow a person who is a registered architect in one jurisdiction to be considered registered to perform the same activities in another jurisdiction, without the need for further application processes or additional registration fees. 

The AMR scheme will apply to registrations currently covered by existing mutual recognition arrangements. The scheme will make it simpler, quicker and less expensive for people to work across jurisdictions, while maintaining high standards of consumer protection and worker and public health and safety. 

Draft legislation was released in December 2020, and the Institute made a submission to the Commonwealth on the consultation draft of the Mutual Recognition Amendment Bill 2020. 
As stated in the Consultation Paper, the amendments covered by the Bill focus on reforms to the existing framework of the MR Act to establish a new Part 3A and to make consequential changes to other parts of the Act. Key elements of the Bill include:

  • Establishing a second mutual recognition principle that a person who is registered for an occupation in their home state is entitled to carry on those activities authorised under their home state registration in a second state.
  • This principle will be operationalised through automatic deemed registration, whereby a person who is registered for an occupation in their home state is taken to be registered in the second state for the purposes of carrying on those activities permitted under their home state registration.
  • A registered person will not be required to pay extra fees or meet any additional requirements for the issue or renewal of a registration to undertake permitted activities in the second state. The person will have to meet requirements relating to insurance, fidelity funds, trust accounts or the like, as well as other requirements such as working with children checks, that that are designed to protect the public, consumers and others. States may also require notification of intent to work in their jurisdiction.
  • A registered person will need to comply with local laws in the second state and is subject to any applicable disciplinary actions. A registered person subject to disciplinary action or who has conditions on their licence as a result of disciplinary, civil or criminal action in relation to the activity will not be eligible for automatic deemed registration.
  • A registered person will need to apply for a new home state registration should their home state change. In this situation, the registered person could apply for a new registration through existing mutual recognition arrangements. A person will continue to have access to automatic deemed registration, relying on their original home state registration until a registration from the new home state is issued.
  • States and local registration authorities will be required to make available to each other relevant information about a registered person and prepare and publish guidance on the operation of automatic deemed registration, consistent with the existing mutual recognition arrangements.
  • The proposed amendments will not prevent a person from seeking mutual recognition under the existing framework in Part 3 of the Act nor will it disrupt existing national registration schemes or existing state-based automatic mutual recognition schemes, such as the NSW scheme for electrical trade work licences.
 
The Institute welcomed the concept of automatic mutual recognition, and we expect the proposed model will be welcomed by members. The model aligns with the current common entry requirements into the architecture profession through accredited courses and national examination systems for registration in all jurisdictions.  There will be a benefit to the architecture professional nationally if the provision of architectural services can flow naturally across jurisdictional boundaries. 
 
There are some issues that will need to be addressed to ensure a smooth transition because of the high level of disparity between states and territories in their existing requirements for architects. These include requirements for: 
  • The need to hold professional indemnity insurance, and level of cover
  • Mandatory continuing professional development (CPD) requirements vs no obligation to undertake CPD
  • The manner in which registration requirements are monitored
  • Differing disciplinary approaches
 
Requirements for registration of architectural companies has not been addressed in this legislation. 
 
The ongoing funding of existing registration authorities such as boards of architecture was also not addressed in the consultation.