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Wednesday, 23 June 2021
Page: 87


Mr MORTON (TangneyAssistant Minister to the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Assistant Minister for Electoral Matters and Assistant Minister to the Minister for the Public Service) (17:22): I move:

That the amendments be agreed to.

The passing of the Mutual Recognition Amendment Bill 2021 today is a significant economic reform that will benefit businesses, workers and consumers across the country. With these reforms a licensed worker will no longer need to apply and pay for another licence to work across state borders. It will be faster, less expensive and require less paperwork for a person to take up a job opportunity in another state and for a business to bid for work on an interstate project. Minor and technical amendments to the bill were moved by the government in the Senate to ensure that the scheme will work as intended and to provide greater clarity to workers, businesses and regulators for a smooth transition. I thank the crossbench members in that place for their support to pass those amendments and this bill. This bill delivers on a request from state and territory treasurers in 2019 to better support the movement of skilled labour between the states and territories. From the outset this was a very ambitious reform. It was urgency driven at the time because of the bushfires that devastated Australia and the need for skilled workers to respond quickly to those communities that were recovering. The COVID-19 crisis heightened the need for governments to work together to enable workers and businesses to more easily navigate Australia's economic recovery.

The Mutual Recognition Amendment Bill 2021 is the result of a collaborative effort between the Commonwealth government and all state and territory governments. I'd like to particularly acknowledge the Treasurer for his work with his state and territory counterparts and the Deregulation Taskforce, which worked on the development of this reform. The Deregulation Taskforce is located within the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. I would like to thank Anna Heaney, Jason McDonald and Simon Duggan for the role they played in these reforms. I would also like to thank the crossbench members in this place, who supported the passage of this bill, and in particular thank the member for Mayo and the member for Indi who understood the importance this would have for tradies in communities being able to move across state borders and, in the member for Indi's case, the importance of this for a border community that she represents. This bill builds on reforms that were introduced by the Keating government in 1992 to recognise occupational licences that are granted by other states. It was pursued by Craig Emerson when he was the minister responsible for these matters. I appreciate the advice and support that Craig has given me as we progressed these reforms together in recent months.

These reforms will grow the Australian economy. PricewaterhouseCoopers has estimated that $2.4 billion will be added to the economy over the next 10 years. This is pragmatic action to reduce red tape and to generate benefits without undermining the important safeguards that these regulations provide to the community. The implementation of automatic mutual recognition lies with the states and territories. The bill provides flexibility for states to tailor arrangements to suit their circumstances, and I urge them to do so in a way that ensures that those benefits are realised.

I am disappointed that a very sensible economic reform, which builds on the work of the Keating government in 1992, which has been supported by national cabinet—and we will see the Victorian government introduce legislation in their parliament tomorrow—did not get the support of the Australian Labor Party in this House and in the Senate, where they chose instead to vote with the Australian Greens against a practical economic reform that is very important to the Australian economic recovery.

Question agreed to.