The Queensland Government has recently released a ten point action plan in response to the 41 recommendations made by last year’s Parliamentary inquiry into the Queensland Building Services Authority (QBSA). These QBSA reforms will be implemented progressively and are aimed at improving the balance between consumers and contractors1.
The most significant change to be introduced by the QBSA reforms is the replacement of the QBSA with a new independent regulatory body, the Queensland Building and Construction Commission (QBCC), by the end of 2013.
For the past 22 years, the QBSA (established under the Queensland Building Services Authority Act 1991 (Qld)), has been the key regulator of the Queensland building industry. It was established for the purposes of ensuring the maintenance of proper standards and certification requirements, advising consumers on building work, providing remedies for defective building work and administering the Queensland home warranty scheme.
The QBSA, as part of its dispute resolution role, is also responsible for administering the Building and Construction Industry Payments Act 2004 (BCIP Act). The BCIP Act is currently under review by the government in response the Ministerial discussion paper titled ‘Payment dispute resolution in the Queensland Building and Construction Industry’ (Discussion Paper). The Discussion Paper, and submissions received in response to it, raise important issues relating to the jurisdiction of, and statutory rights and remedies currently provided by, the BCIP Act.
Some of the QBCC’s roles and functions will be similar to the QBSA. It will, for example, continue to be responsible for administering the Queensland home warranty scheme. However, some of its roles and functions will be different. It will, for example, have a stronger focus on licensing and works certification, to try and reduce the volume of disputes referred to the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal. A regulated penalty system will also be developed and implemented where illegal or defective works have been approved outside the required standards.
The QBCC will have a new Commissioner and professional governing board. The composition of the board is not yet known, however it is expected to be appointed by the end of 2013 and it will report directly to the Minister for Housing and Public Works.
The QBCC will also have a dispute resolution function. However, we do not yet know how similar this function will be to that of the QBSA. The government is, in conjunction with the BCIP review, currently considering introducing a rapid domestic adjudication model to fast track domestic building disputes with mandated response timelines.
The QBSA reforms do not expressly deal with the issues relating to security of payment (although this issue was raised during consultation). Further industry consultation is to be expected. These issues will be addressed in conjunction with the BCIP review.
When the government releases its report on the BCIP review, the Queensland building and construction industry will no doubt scrutinise it, together with any proposed reforms, very closely.