MEA to continue to push for clarity around Free Trade Agreement

Master Electricians Australia RSS Feed

2 July 2015

On June 17 2015 Australia signed a Free Trade Agreement with China. This agreement still needs to be ratified by both Australian and Chinese Governments. In Australia this includes review by the Australian Parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Treaties, the Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence, and Trade References Committee.

Over the past 48 hours it has been revealed that the Hon Andrew Robb Minister for Trade and Investment and a Chinese Official have agreed in written correspondence the following:

The Parties undertake to cooperate to streamline relevant skills assessment processes for temporary skilled labour visas, including through reducing the number of occupations currently subject to mandatory skills assessment for Chinese applicants for an Australian Temporary Work (Skilled) visa (subclass 457). Australia will remove the requirement for mandatory skills assessment for the following 10 occupations on the date of entry into force of the Agreement.

  • ...
  • Electrician (General) [341111]
  • Electrician (Special Class) [341112]  
  • ...

Obviously on first reading this is very concerning for all sectors of the Electrical Industry across the country. Over the past six months Master Electricians Australia (MEA) has raised with various politicians our concern over the Free Trade Agreement in particular for the affects that non-conforming product may have. It is with surprise that this current issue has now arisen. Obviously the secrecy and lack of transparency of the negotiations has been concerning a number of sectors for some months now.

We have been in contact with the Ministers Office and are awaiting further information. MEA understands that the changes as suggested in the Ministers correspondence relate to the processing requirements of the 457 Visa. However they do not disturb the individual licensing requirements that are set by each state regulator.

MEA has reviewed the current recognition of overseas licences and can point to a number of key areas that currently exist that we see that the Free Trade Agreement will not be able to change without the support of State Regulators and Governments.

  1. That State electrical regulators require that applicants applying for an electrical license from overseas undertake an Offshore Technical Skills Report from Trade Recognition Australia (TRA).
  2. None of the regulators from our research make special concessions for any visa type including 457 and as such their requirements must be met regardless of visa being applied for.
  3. Once TRA receive the application the applicant is to apply to an approved RTO sanctioned by the TRA to develop a training plan to cover off the gaps between current and required skill competence and knowledge.
  4. Upon receiving the approved plan from the RTO the applicant can apply for a type of provisional electrical license as determined by the State Regulator but only work under a licensed electrician until the training plan is complete and signed off by the RTO and Employer.
  5. Once the training is complete and signed off the applicant may then apply to the relevant State regulator for an electrical license.

We understand from inquiries to the TRA that this 'usually' takes 12 months to complete and sometimes longer.

Obviously we are working hard at the moment to access to the relevant Federal Minister and Advisors to gain clarity about this issue to ensure that the Electrical Industry and any change being undertaken does not have unintended consequences.

We realise that this issue has been met with high emotion by some parties who have jumped to conclusions in the last few days without all the facts. Be assured that once MEA has obtained the relevant information we will hold the Government to account if we believe the changes suggested in anyway lead to a compromise in contractor, worker or general public safety. We worked constructively to defeat the previous governments National Occupational Licensing and we will again work in the best interests of our members and the industry at large to ensure safety and competence are to our required standard.