Introduction

The objects of the Queensland Building Services Act 1991 (the Act) are, among other things, to regulate the building industry to ensure the maintenance of proper standards in the industry and provide remedies for defective building work. In order to assist in achieving those objectives, the Building Services Authority(BSA) was established by the Act in 1992 as a ‘one stop shop’ entity to carry out licensing, dispute resolution and Qld Home Warranty Scheme functions.1

Just on 20 years later, on 30 November 2012, the Transport, Housing and Local Government Committee (Committee) tabled in Queensland Parliament its report on the operation and performance of the BSA in regulating and maintaining proper standards in the building industry. The Report came as a result of a motion agreed by the Legislative Assembly on 2 August 2012 for an inquiry into the performance of the BSA. Among other things, the Report addresses the concern of many stakeholders that the current licensing regime is ‘too onerous, wasteful and inefficient’.2

The Queensland Government’s response to the Report was published in May 2013 and proposed a number of key improvements to the current system to be implemented through a ‘Ten Point Action Plan’. Ultimately, the Government plans to undertake a wholesale reform of the BSA, replacing it with a new independent Queensland Building & Construction Commission (QBCC).

The Ten Point Action Plan

The Government’s Ten Point Action Plan outlines a number of critical actions to be progressed as a matter of priority:3

  1. Replace the BSA with the QBCC.
  2. Install a professional governing board with appropriate committees and establish an appropriate Commission structure with functional business units headed by their own general managers.
  3. Establish appropriate mechanisms for review.
  4. Develop an improved suite of domestic building contracts.
  5. Reviewing licensing and compliance.
  6. Develop improved education and training processes for home owners and consumers.
  7. In conjunction with the review into the Building and Construction Industry Payments Act 2004 (submissions and comments on the relevant discussion paper were due on 22 February 2013), consider the development and implementation of a rapid domestic adjudication model to fast track domestic building disputes with mandated response timelines.
  8. Retain the Queensland Home Warranty Scheme under government ownership and review the current Queensland Home Warranty Scheme to provide greater definition and clarity.
  9. Review the role of private certifiers with emphasis on probity, conflicts of interest, quality and an appropriate penalty regime for failure to perform.
  10. Expand the licensing role of the new QBCC.

Licensing Review

While a complete summary of the proposed changes is beyond the scope of this paper, it is interesting to note the actions that will be undertaken in relation to licensing and compliance.

The Government proposes to review the current licensing system to ensure it is meeting stated objectives. An independent review of all existing licences to test for fitness for purpose, eligibility requirements and costs and benefits will be undertaken and its findings referred to the Minister for Housing and Public Works for consideration.4

Importantly, the Government will review and amend section 42 of the Act to provide clarity in relation to the requirement to be licensed. Section 42 makes it an offence for a person to ‘carry out’ or ‘undertake to carry out’ building work unless that person holds the appropriate licence.

However, this section has often led to confusion in relation to whether developers and other procurers of building work are themselves required to be licensed. It is hoped that the review will clarify that a procurer of building work is not breaching section 42 of the Act where the procurer carries out no physical building work (or building work services) itself.5

Implementation

Actions 1 and 2 of the Ten Point Action Plan will be progressed immediately by the Government. Actions 3 to 6 will be progressed as soon as possible with oversight by the Implementation Committee. Finally, actions 7 to 10 will be considered by the Implementation Committee before recommendations are made to Government on implementation.6

Ultimately, it is expected that the transition from the BSA to the QBCC and the appointment of the governing board and commissioner will take place before the end of 2013. The other proposed changes are expected to be implemented before the end of 2014.

While a majority of the changes will not be immediate, and the implications of the changes are yet to be known, it is important for stakeholders to be aware of the proposed changes and consider in what ways they may impact on any future arrangements.