The road to regulation.
The development and rollout of the Australian Arborist Industry Licence has been an ongoing process in recent years amid a collective push from those within industry to drive forward greater regulation.
It is a road to regulation intended to not only create a safer industry, but to also promote national recognition of the industry by government agencies and the general public, and to ultimately bring about government regulation of industry.
Good progress has been made, however, as noted by ENSPEC Managing Director Craig Hallam, who has played a key role at Arboriculture Australia in getting the initiative off the ground, there is still a lot of work to be done in ensuring only professional and credentialed people are providing services.
“By achieving a regulated industry, it will allow our industry to have a set minimum wage structure, increased safety and compliance, and will provide the general public with confidence that the industry is a professional and recognised trade,” Craig told AA.
“It would be rewarding that, at the completion of a project, the arborist provides their client a certificate to state the works have been completed to a standard, no different than an electrician or plumber.”
Craig advised that the licence, administered by Arboriculture Australia in close partnership with state and territory organisations, has largely been driven by industry demand.
“We wanted our industry to be like the plumbers and the electricians, where you have an industry licence to work in the industry,” he explained. “An industry working group, which included all state and territory associations, decided that we would align licence levels to the Australian Qualifications Framework, and from there we formatted guidelines into an industry licence.”
Seeking Government Regulation
The origins of the licence stretch back to 2012, at which point Arboriculture Australia had begun canvassing different options, with Craig advising that discussions with the federal government in 2015 had clarified what industry needed to be doing to promote a regulated industry seen as educated, ethical and professional.
“What we’re trying to achieve out of this is to protect the small businesses out there, because our industry is predominately made up of companies under 15 employees.”
“At the meeting at Parliament House, we spoke to ministers and their advisers about how we could regulate the industry to become more compliant and improve safety,” he told AA. “The guidance provided was to use a voluntary industry licence system to demonstrate that the industry wants to be regulated.
“They clearly stated they wouldn’t regulate the industry unless it demonstrated it wanted to be regulated under a voluntary uptake – and, for this to happen, the industry must take the lead on all fronts.”
Arboriculture Australia, with the support of state and territory associations, subsequently launched the licence, which has initially been introduced on a voluntary basis and is valid in all states and territories, in 2017.
“The process we have to go through is to demonstrate to the federal government that there is enough voluntary uptake of the licences to then move forward and regulate the industry,” Craig explained.
“The federal government told us that we had to have a minimum of 5,000 voluntary licences out in the industry before they would even consider talking again about further regulation.”
For Businesses Large And Small
Craig pointed to the important role of regulation in ensuring workers are properly qualified, with work and advice adhering to Australian standards and other minimum standards set by industry, stating that “this is not just about the practicing arborist, consultants and tree managers would also need to be part of this movement”.
While the majority of industry is behind the initiative, Craig told AA there remain some who are opposed, with some smaller companies and sole traders worried that regulation will see larger operators become more dominant and push SMEs out.
“What we’re trying to achieve out of this is to protect the small businesses out there, because our industry is predominately made up of companies under 15 employees,” he explained.
“Small businesses may not have all the flash systems and everything else that larger companies have, but if they have an industry licence, at least they can demonstrate they have something to work in the industry that is equal.”
As it currently stands, Craig estimates that around 3,500 licences have been, or are in the process of being, issued, and with this platform in place Arboriculture Australia is firmly focused on driving further uptake in 2020 and beyond.
In the second part of AA’S focus on the Australian Arborist Industry Licence we’ll take a look at the structure of the licence, the benefits it provides, the progress that has been made since its launch, and what the future holds when it comes to both the licence and industry regulation.