Reforms strengthen high standards of Queensland’s building and construction industry

The Palaszczuk Government has today passed new laws for plumbing and gasfitting, delivering a safer Queensland.

Minister for Housing and Public Works Mick de Brenni said the Plumbing and Drainage Bill 2018, delivers on the Government’s election commitments to the plumbing industry and the community.

“Most people don’t think about how valuable plumbers are until they need one in a hurry,” Mr de Brenni said.

“Plumbing and gasfitting are good jobs, but the laws governing their trade – the Plumbing and Drainage Act 2002 – had been amended by more than 30 separate Bills during the past 15 years, making it hard to work with.

“This caused it to grow in size and complexity to the point that if a plumber wants to check on the technical requirements for a particular job, they have to look at the Act, and the Regulations, and the codes, making it hard for plumbers to just get on and do their job.

“Plumbing and gasfitting are industries that protect the health and safety of Queenslanders, especially our most vulnerable Queenslanders like infants and the elderly.”

The new legislations includes the creation of a new licence requirement for mechanical services to address the dangers posed by incorrectly installed medical gas systems, as well as legionella in commercial air-conditioning systems like those in large office buildings or hospitals.

“In 2016, parents across Australia were horrified at the tragedy that occurred in a Sydney hospital, when a baby died and another was left with brain damage due to a medical gas fitting that was connected incorrectly,” Mr de Brenni said.

“We haven’t seen that kind of mistake made in Queensland, and I hope we never do.

“To make sure we don’t, our new occupational licence requirement ensures these types of installations can only be performed by individuals who are suitably qualified to perform them.”

Queensland Plumbers Union State Secretary Gary O’Halloran commended the Palaszczuk Government for legislating this new licence class.

“Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and Mick de Brenni should be commended for their hard work, dedication and support for creating a new licence, which will be fundamental to quality plumbing all across Queensland and ensuring safety to the Queensland public.”

Mr de Brenni said the new Plumbing and Drainage Act delivered a contemporary, streamlined and flexible legislative framework for plumbing and drainage that is clear and simple for the end user, and a revised Queensland Plumbing and Wastewater Code.

“Last year, after three years of collaborative effort with industry and community stakeholders, we committed to revitalising decade-old plumbing laws and replacing them with a modern, stronger and user-friendly legislative framework,” Mr de Brenni said.

“Today we have followed through on that commitment, and I want to thank the Master Plumbers Association of Queensland and the Plumbers Union for their consistent support and input into the development of this new legislation for Queensland’s plumbing industry.”

Master Plumbers’ Association of Queensland (MPAQ) Executive Director Penny Cornah applauded the Government for passing important, much-needed legislation today.

“Plumbers and gas fitters across Queensland are very supportive of these new reforms that will make work associated with medical gas licensed work,” Ms Cornah said.

“These new laws will ensure Queensland is a safer place.”

Mr de Brenni said the new laws also took the first step necessary to address a legacy issue resulting from failures of the previous LNP government.

“When Tim Mander was Public Works Minister in the previous LNP government, he promised Queensland plumbers they would not need to hold and pay for both an occupational and a contractor licence – but he failed to legislate to make that true,” Mr de Brenni said.

“As a result, many Queensland plumbers acting in good faith have held only a contractor licence and have unwittingly been breaking the law.

“The Palaszczuk Government committed at the last election that we would fix this.

“Today’s legislation ensures those contractors who’ve acted in good faith cannot be prosecuted for acting unlicensed or be subject to disciplinary action for failing to hold an occupational license.

“The next step will be to eliminate the need to pay for two licences, and the work has now commenced to deliver that.”

The new legislation introduces tougher penalties for plumbers and gasfitters who endanger the health and safety of Queenslanders.

“Queenslanders can be confident that we live in the state with the most stringently regulated building and construction industry, and it’s important that we continue to uphold high standards and ensure that tradespeople are appropriately qualified and licensed for the work they perform,” Mr de Brenni said.

“For those rogue operators that don’t, repeat offenders now face fines of close to $46,000 or 12 months in jail if they perform work that is likely to put people’s lives at risk.”

Mr de Brenni said a key benefit of the new system is that most homeowners will now be able to fast-track their applications and obtain a permit to start work in two days, reduced from the previous 20 days.

“Standard application timeframes for developers and owners of more complex buildings, such as multi-unit residential and commercial buildings, will also halve from 20 to 10 business days,” he said.

Mr de Brenni said the Bill ensures consumers will no longer be placed in the position of buying a plumbing product from a retailer, only to find their plumber can’t install it because it doesn’t have the required WaterMark certification.

“Suppliers will now be prevented from selling plumbing products to consumers unless those products are appropriately certified,” he said.

“And if any WaterMarked products are found to be defective or pose a public health risk, the Government will be able to act swiftly to ban them.”

The Bill includes amendments to the BIF Act, clarifying the legal requirements for industry when implementing project bank accounts on building projects.

The amendments also clarify the timeframe for providing a payment schedule in response to a payment claim to improve the payment process, give more certainty of cashflow to subcontractors and reduce the administrative burden on those paying progress claims in full.

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