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Select Committee on Red Tape
Effect of red tape on occupational licensing

CAMPITELLI, Mrs Sandra, Chief Executive Officer, The Hairdressing and Beauty Industry Association

CUNNINGTON, Mr Matthew, Member, Australian Tattooists Guild

EDWARDS, Ms Tashi Melissa, Vice President, Australian Tattooists Guild

GORDON, Mr Rhys, Member, Australian Tattooists Guild


CHAIR: Welcome. Thank you for appearing before the committee today. I invite you each to make a brief opening statement should you wish to do so. Do you have an opening statement?

Mrs Campitelli : Yes, I do. Thank you for inviting me to present this morning. I've been involved with the hairdressing and beauty industry for over 40 years and for about the last 20 years in the role of CEO of the Hairdressing and Beauty Industry Association. During my time at the association I have often taken many calls from consumers and salons themselves with regards to things that have gone wrong in a salon environment. They're becoming all too frequent, the stories I'm hearing about chemical burns and permanent damage done to scalps, or burns to faces and bodies from various hair and beauty treatments from people who have not been skilled or trained. The frequency of these is spiralling and the association receives complaints on a weekly basis. What do we do with those complaints? In a deregulated environment it's very difficult. We work with the local agencies, and quite often these have escalated before they even come to me and quite often they're very serious.

I will just clarify the status around Australia at the moment. In New South Wales and South Australia the industry is governed under the Hairdressers Act, which states a person working in a salon should be qualified. However, it doesn't seem to be monitored or checked to see that this is the case. It seems to be, for all intents and purposes, operating in a deregulated environment. In Victoria, Queensland, Tasmania and WA it is complete deregulation where you can be a butcher and decide you would like to open a salon and start cutting and colouring hair, and you are quite permitted to do so. The only time it stipulates that a qualification is required is if you are responsible for training an apprentice, but, again, no-one appears to monitor this. I receive a regular stream of complaints from consumers, apprentices themselves and parents of apprentices regarding the absurd situation of apprentices being left completely unsupervised in a salon and of working on clients unsupervised.

Salons across Australia are offering complex colour treatments with potentially dangerous chemicals but that's just the start. Over recent times the beauty industry has experienced significant growth and many salons now provide laser hair removal and microdermabrasion skin peels. Popular new services that are currently deemed fashionable include needling and vampire facial treatments, involving puncturing the skin that results in bleeding. I've been informed of a case recently in WA that offered this vampire facial treatment and a young woman came with her partner for the service. The procedure is to remove blood from oneself and then re-inject it into that person in the lines or crevices that they wish to have plumped up. In this case, they removed blood from her partner and injected into her. It gets worse. Salons are venturing deeper into medical space with some even offering breast enhancement, vaginal tightening and teeth whitening to name a few. Should these even be done in a salon environment? And, if they are, shouldn't it be regulated and shouldn't someone be checking that these people are properly qualified?

I have presented some images that have been previously published and those show to you scalp burns and laser burns. Even yesterday, whilst I was preparing this, I took a call from a mother whose daughters have been partaking in one of these new treatments called needling. She was gravely concerned when her daughters came home and was concerned about whether this salon had any qualifications. It's pretty difficult to say, 'You actually don't need to be qualified'.

CHAIR: Mrs Campitelli, you have given the secretariat some photos. You're seeking to table those photos?

Mrs Campitelli : Yes.

CHAIR: Does the committee accept the photos? Okay, thank you.

Mrs Campitelli : I will just finish off by saying that our industry has excellently trained and qualified people, and industry is crying out for regulation because, unfortunately, we're being tarnished by people who come into our industry, open up and operate unqualified. Our industry is crying out for it, and consumers, when I speak to them about it, are absolutely horrified. What's interesting is most consumers don't realise that you don't need to be qualified to be a hairdresser or a beauty therapist, and they're horrified when I tell them that. I think consumers expect, when they go to a hairdressing or beauty salon, that the person who's going to be doing their hair is properly trained and qualified. They have no way of identifying that unless they ask for qualifications.

Recently I was interviewed by a South Australian current affairs program about a particular operator who had 45 consumer complaints made against them about eye infections. This was as a result of her not using the correct products and using unsanitised equipment when doing eyelash extensions. Some of these infections were extremely serious and could have resulted in a loss of sight. Her comment was, 'I'm only doing this as a hobby.' Those customers who went to her had no idea. We're in an industry that would actually like to see licensing reinstated; we feel that it is a consumer safety issue, it's a desperate issue. In the absence of something being done, this is only going to deteriorate further. We want to allow our people who are properly trained and qualified to be able to operate and do these services, and not be marred by those working in the industry who don't have any qualifications. Thank you.

Ms Edwards : Good afternoon to the chair, Senator Leyonhjelm, and the broader committee. We would like to thank you for inviting us to contribute to this important review on behalf of the Australian Tattooists Guild and our professional members. I'm a senior tattooer and owner of the Green Lotus Tattoo Studio in Melbourne. I'm also appearing before you today in my capacity as vice-president of the Australian Tattooists Guild. I'm honoured to stand here today with two of Australia's most respected and prominent tattoo artists, Mr Matt Cunnington of Westside Tattoo studio in Brisbane and Mr Rhys Gordon of Little Tokyo tattoo studio in Sydney. Together we represent a sum of 68 years of working within the profession.

As the committee are aware, the ATG have submitted an intensive submission to this inquiry. Before providing testimony to the points raised within our submission, we would like to present a short dialogue regarding the current landscape of our art form. Perceptions of tattooing have changed dramatically since the 1960s. Wearing tattoos was once regarded as a deviant activity, characteristic of marginalised and sanctioned groups. However, today permanent body decoration is becoming common among individuals who fail to fit traditional stereotypes. Coinciding with this trend is the emergence of a postmodern society in which near-constant communication and immersion in multifarious social groups has eroded the capacity for many to develop stable conceptions of self. Much of the population would now say tattooing constitutes a legitimate form of self-expression.

The art of tattooing has endured a long and varied history in the context of Western culture. Those who wear tattoos have experienced long periods of social stigmatisation, tempered by bursts of acceptance. Recent times have brought with them a change in the collective attitudes towards tattooing. Between the 1960s and 1980s alone, the number of tattoo studios in Australia increased from an estimated 300 to more than 2,000. It is now estimated by researchers that one in five Australians has at least one tattoo. Clearly the role of tattooing in Western society has shifted through the decades. Tattooing is now branching out of the subculture and into the mainstream. As a small group of artisans who work extremely hard to produce images to clients' specifications whilst upholding a high level of practice, we also are witnessing a period of transition in which previous social conceptions of who professional tattooists are continue to be transformed.

The introduction of the New South Wales and Queensland state governments' licensing regimes, which maintain a policy directive on organised crime, came as a shock to our community—a shock that has left legitimate professionals and small business owners united in questioning why the attitudes and awareness of those entrusted to make decisions around the safety of both the public and our profession have not progressed and evolved when the art form and those within the professional industry truly have done so. Collection of finger and palm prints, full criminal history reports, the use of secret criminal intelligence, fit-and-proper tests, the use of drug and explosive detection dogs, enforcement provisions, entry without warrant, restrictions on out-of-state artists, record-keeping obligations, fines, fees to operate, fees to renew, fees to hold an event, fees for permits, and waiting periods on applications of up to five years: this is the sort of legislation typically employed for use in counterterrorism. It is far beyond the sort of regulation necessary for licensing legitimate professional artists for a license that has no apparent value to those within our profession.

Beyond the damage to small business and restrictions on trade, a new problem has now emerged, one created directly by the regimes in question; one that many within the profession perceive has created a far more dangerous and alarming problem than the ongoing existence of a small number of rogue operators within the industry who participate in organised crime. What governments did not consider, and did not know due to a gross lack of industry consultation during the drafting of either bill, was that the profession has been self-regulated for the last 20 years. Within this model of self-regulation, the profession and the general public were protected from backyard amateur operators due to their inability to gain any form of legitimacy within the trade. The licensing regimes have undermined the existing structure of the profession and, through the licensing of amateurs, have created a public health risk that is now being borne out through the evidence of medical practitioners, professional industry participants and the clients themselves.

Regulators are bound by the limitations of the legislation, unable to prevent amateurs from gaining licensure due to a lack of appropriate pathways that evidence professional practice for industry. Our industry and those within our profession acknowledge we have work to do. It is not the government's role to develop a structure for professionals within our industry and those who would pursue an occupation as a tattoo artist. We are unified and clear in the undertaking that we do not want to see the technical aspects of tattooing taught as an accredited unit in mainstream institutions, nor do we endorse privately run tattoo schools. Tattooing is an art form which must be taught within the realms of an organic relationship between master and student. If a structure is to be developed, it must be spearheaded by industry. This conversation, and many others concerning the changing landscape we now face, is evolving within the profession itself. Tattoo artists, though varied in our methodologies and perspectives towards the art form, nonetheless identify ourselves as members of a legitimate profession, collectively sharing and conferencing our knowledge to advance the art form and contribute to the culture of our times, both locally and internationally.

If the integrity of our profession is to be preserved, both government and industry must work together to ensure that the unique qualities of the Australian tattoo industry are maintained as a genuine folk art form with a distinct history and culture worth preserving. It is our hope that, through presenting this information to the committee today, an awareness and understanding of the issues being experienced can be considered, and that governments, both state and federal, will engage in dialogue with our profession to ensure positive change into the future. Thank you.

CHAIR: I will start off with you, Mrs Campitelli. I understand your concerns in relation to the beauty issue and the periphery to the beauty issue, and your argument that the industry is 'crying out for regulation', to quote you. What makes you think licensing is the most appropriate regulatory option, considering there is quite a range of possibilities?

Mrs Campitelli : The industry was regulated some 20-odd years ago, and since the removal of that regulation, certainly in Victoria and some of the other states, the decline in standards has been monumental. There is no clear way of consumers knowing if somebody is qualified. If somebody gains a qualification and needs to have a licence, that is a clear way of consumers knowing when they walk into a salon. Right now nobody puts their certificates on the wall or their qualifications up because they're meaningless. We've seen students enter into hairdressing, for example. In 2017 we had something like 14,600 enter the industry, into training, and only 2½ thousand completed it. The rest dropped out. Industry feels that a lot of those have either gone to backyard operations where they're working from home or they're working in salons unqualified. Nobody asks for anyone's qualifications. I think if somebody gets a qualification and then must be licensed, surely that must assist some way in the situation that we're faced with right now.

CHAIR: Do you have any evidence to argue that those who are qualified, in your terms, are any safer for consumers than those who aren't qualified?

Mrs Campitelli : Only from my experience, and my knowledge in the industry, and from talking to industry and other associations around Australia. Even membership of the associations is fairly low. It tends to be those salons that are qualified and continually upskilled and trained that are members of the industry associations. It's very hard to get accurate figures in a deregulated environment. We believe there's somewhere between 22,000 and 30,000 shopfronts around Australia, yet we have 110,000 live ABNs. The industry has the worst reputation, in regard to compliance.

CHAIR: Compliance with—

Mrs Campitelli : ATO regulations. When you have what would appear to be large numbers—there appear to be, at the moment, more operators working from their homes than in a salon environment. That's even less regulation. How can you monitor and know what's going on? I believe those that are qualified in the industry operate ethically and professionally. Sometimes there might be an issue where somebody gets it wrong, but it's not as serious as what we're saying at the moment with salons believing they can do breast enhancements or other medical procedures in a salon environment.

CHAIR: The question of breast enhancements, and vaginal and various other body modifications, would seem to me to come under regulations other than licensing. They are bordering on medical procedures. I must admit I was quite unaware, until you mentioned it, that people in these, purportedly, beauty parlours or hairdressers are venturing into that area. Isn't there existing regulation that says you're not allowed to do that sort of thing unless you're medically qualified?

Mrs Campitelli : No, there's not. Not to my knowledge.

CHAIR: So can you administer a local anaesthetic without—

Mrs Campitelli : No, you cannot. You cannot administer a local anaesthetic. They may have worked under nurses or doctors but it's all very loose and nobody is monitoring what's going on. It isn't the majority of salons that would be doing this. This is a limited number. But what I am saying is, in the absence of any regulation and licensing, this is what some operators believe. It's open slather. They can do what they want. Going back five years you would never have heard of that, but now we are seeing it.

CHAIR: Drawing blood and injecting it somewhere else in the body or into somebody else would strike me as being a medical procedure. It would certainly come under the Medical Practice Act in each state, wouldn't it?

Mrs Campitelli : I'm saying there are salons out there that are doing it. Even some of the needling, where they're not necessarily drawing blood but it results in the face being completely covered in blood—I have concerns about whether that should be done in a salon, and I represent the industry. Nobody is monitoring that it being done, is what I'm saying.

CHAIR: Are you also referring to the botox type injections and that sort of thing?

Mrs Campitelli : I have a personal view about that. I don't believe botox should be done in a salon without a doctor. I strongly believe that. I believe laser is something different. We have many highly experienced people who operate laser. I believe it should be regulated under the qualifications that they gain and the experience they have and then licensing. That's how I believe it should be regulated. But what I'm saying is, in the absence of that, we have people that just can go and open a salon and start operating. They can go and buy a laser machine very easily without any qualifications, and use it, and it gives our people a bad name.

CHAIR: In terms of doing people's hair, though, the fact is, from a consumer point of view, there is more choice and lower prices now than there's ever been, in my recollection. Is there anything wrong with that, apart from the fact that if you're a hairdresser it's harder to make a buck?

Mrs Campitelli : I think consumers have to be aware that if they're getting a cheap-as-chips service it doesn't necessarily mean they're getting a good service.

CHAIR: Yes, but they're capable of deciding that for themselves, aren't they?

Mrs Campitelli : They certainly are. But then things can go wrong. And somebody has to be mindful in looking after the consumer. Who's responsibility is that? I get consumer complaints weekly, regarding scalp burns and bald patches where hair won't grow back.

CHAIR: So the question is whether regulation would change any of that. I think the judgement was made, at the time the hairdressing industry was deregulated, that consumers were protected by other means—there are quite a lot of consumer protections in place, as I'm sure you're well aware—and that the licensing wasn't adding anything additional to that sort of protection.

Mrs Campitelli : It's my view that those other mechanisms don't work. And it's my view that getting rid of licensing was the worst thing we ever did. As I said to you, most consumers are unaware, which surprises me. When they go to a salon they don't know if the person doing their hair is qualified or not. It's the same when they go to a beauty salon.

CHAIR: All right. Let me ask the tattoo folks some questions. I've read your submission with a great deal of interest. We weren't expecting a submission from you, so you've attracted more than average attention. I think at the core of your—well, there are several concerns that you have. One of them that I have some sympathy for is that the state governments have assumed your industry is infested with organized crime and has introduced regulatory measures based on that assumption. Those of you—the vast majority—who are legitimate business people and artists and so forth are now subject to those measures. They're quite out of whack with the risk and the nature of any other industry. Would that be a fair summary of it?

Ms Edwards : Correct, yes.

CHAIR: Just run through with me what you have to do that other businesses don't have to do, to be in the tattoo business. You mentioned them in your opening statement.

Ms Edwards : Would you like me to answer that?

CHAIR: Whoever wishes to answer it. Any one of the three of you can talk about these questions.

Ms Edwards : The requirement to entry, in licensed states—let's keep in mind that this regulation has affected artists nationally. I work in Victoria and it's directly affected me. Requirements for entry are, as we've outlined, fingerprinting and palm printing. That's for people within the state to gain licensure. I have to gain a full licence in order to work in this state, which doesn't reflect the culture. Artists travel in and out of these states. We have a very transitory nature, guesting from both international and out of state. I have to fly into the state for a full criminal history check, fingerprinting and palm printing. Then I have to return to my state. For these gentlemen, here, they have to apply for the criminal history check, fingerprinting and palm printing. They also have to give extensive documentation—particularly in New South Wales where we've seen a recent amendment by Minister Grant that has extended those requirements—to give information about close associates, business partners, financial partners and all that sort of thing. That's the requirement for entry to industry. We have an extensive waiting time.

We have three gentlemen who just last week contacted our organisation. They had applied for their licences in 2012 and were denied last week. That's 5½ years. The impact that has—and its cross-agency interference. You've got SLED or police. Obviously the traditional regulator is taking the application. It's then going to the police and there's scrutiny on that and the building of criminal profiles. They've been quite open in speaking about that. The prints and palms and criminal information are held in Crimtech, and they're building these family trees of criminology around the industry. That level of criminality, however, has been non-existent within the tattooing profession for quite a long time. That's not to suggest it's not there. I think the perspective of our organisation is that there's other legislation which could deal with that, rather than placing this enormous burden on industry. It has been a burden, and I'm hoping you'll invite these two gentlemen here to speak to you about that. It's crippled us. It's really crippled small business.

CHAIR: In terms of operating your businesses, once you've got your licence and you have a business operating, what measures are you subject to that other businesses are not subject to?

Mr Gordon : Say you apply for an operator's licence to set up a business, you go through the traditional entry of getting a lease, doing a DA. There's no time frame for an operator's license to be processed, so you can put down your lease and have everything in order, and you can be waiting up to five, six, seven or eight months while you're paying rent with no certainty of even being approved. This is stifling small business in its own right. That's just one minor issue.

CHAIR: In that situation would you be better off getting your operator's license and then getting your premises, or can't you do that?

Mr Gordon : I don't believe that is possible.

CHAIR: You have to have premises?

Mr Gordon : To my knowledge, yes.

Ms Edwards : In Queensland you can do that. The Labor government in Queensland had a big task force because in Queensland the bill was under the VLAD sweep of legislation. We saw this fantastic review. We did see a number of requirements there removed. Matt, perhaps you'd like to speak about record keeping obligations and police visitations and all the rest?

Mr Cunnington : The legislation that came in originally made two big changes within the industry. One of them was that any organised crime that was associated with tattooing very quickly left the industry. It was a change that I believe did need to happen, but it bought with it this raft of other changes which changed the framework in which we do business and which in no way reflected the culture of tattooing. One of the things that made tattooing grow so much in the last few decades is that information is being shared and people move from place to place. I run a business where I've got 10 people working for me. Most weeks I have two or three of them travelling and I would have two or three travelling artists come and work for me.

CHAIR: What do you mean by travelling? Moving between your shops?

Mr Cunnington : They would go and guest in another shop. So they would go down to Melbourne, say, and work for a week for somebody else. That empty chair I would fill with somebody from Sydney or Perth or New Zealand.

CHAIR: What's the logic for that? Are there customers who just want a certain artist?

Mr Cunnington : Yes. There are collectors who don't want two tattoos from the same person.

Ms Edwards : We also do conventions. It's the conferencing of knowledge and information. Prior to the licensing regime it was a privilege to go and work in that gentlemen's studio. If you got invited to guest, as we call it, at West Side, that was something. You were doing really well. Since the introduction of the licensing regime Matt is in a position where he can't get people to come and guest. Because we have no formal accreditation, that's really important in the evolution. We send out our young artists, they guest with our industry leaders and they learn and develop their skill set and bring that information home.

CHAIR: Why can't you accept guests anymore?

Mr Cunnington : In order for somebody from Melbourne, say, to come to Queensland, as Tashi mentioned earlier, they need to put in an application. They then need to travel to Queensland go into a police station, be fingerprinted and have a criminal check. They need to go home and then two weeks or five years later—there's no notion of when they will find out that they can come to Queensland. Then they have to pay a licence for each state that has licensing.

Ms Edwards : It's created an enormous amount of fear within the profession. We've got people who are coming from a diverse set of backgrounds within the profession itself. A lot of people, when the licensing was introduced, had no affiliations with organised crime. They just simply went underground. So it's created another risk there. We've also seen industry leaders denied licensing because they had perhaps some doings with a club several years ago. They've had to go to the tribunal. Some people just feel so defeated by the whole thing and so afraid that they just don't apply.

CHAIR: Tell me about police entry to your premises and your records.

Mr Cunnington : We have to fill out a form 9 for every tattoo that's done.

Ms Edwards : I have copies of form 9 here.

Mr Cunnington : You have to write down the date that the tattoo was done, the licence number of the person that did the tattoo, how much money changed hands and how it how it was paid.

CHAIR: Do you have to record the name of the customer as well?

Mr Cunnington : No. This is the problem. We had a meeting with the head of licensing. If I had money that I was trying to launder, I could just write that we had somebody walk through the door, I did a tattoo for $1,000, and that money is laundered. This form in no way links back to any other any other record keeping. It's paperwork for the sake of paperwork. When I asked the head of licensing what he was looking for on this piece of paper, he said, 'We want you to do that piece of paper so that we know that you're filling out your form 9.'

Ms Edwards : And yet we still have the same obligations under the Public Health Act. There are numbers of obligations and regulations in place already. Under the Public Health Act, artists in each state are required to keep client information, to record that information and hold it for seven years, generally speaking.

CHAIR: That's a tax obligation.

Ms Edwards : No, that's an obligation under state health by-laws, that we need to keep client information. We call it a consent form, but it's not really a legal waiver, it's simply recording the information. And we ask them certain things: HIV, information about any illnesses and all that sort of thing. We also collect on that sheet our batch numbers, our sterilization, our individual needle batch numbers, that sort of thing. It's an obligation to do so. We then have other obligations under tax law. This record keeping is building up and building up. We've got medical waste. There's a whole array of things, and yet this one sheet that is printed off the DFT website in Queensland requires you, the artist, to write your name 18 times on the one sheet. It requires you to write your license number 18 times. It also requires you, let's say 19 times, to write your name at the top. I have yet to speak to a single artist who's licensed who's had these sheets looked at. It begs the question, why are these obligations even there? Rhys, maybe you'd like to give some input in regard to your obligations.

Mr Gordon : New South Wales is quite similar. We have all the same style of record keeping and whatnot. A problem with it is that a lot of the times the licensing police that come and inspect you are generally the liquor licensing police. They actually don't have a lot of information on it. There's no handbook for them. As the licensing gets updated there are no updates. I've personally spoken with a sergeant who's told me that I'm tattooing illegally in my own studio because I have an operator's licence but that doesn't allow me to tattoo because I don't have a tattoo licence, when in fact I do. So there's a breakdown of understanding of what's actually going on here.

On another level is insurance. Quite a lot of New South Wales tattoo artists have been affected where their insurance has been raised by insurance companies. Even though this licensing system has been brought in to regulate and clean up the industry and to remove organised crime from it, I personally had to move my studio. I had 30 days notice. It's just happened to another gentleman recently. It's not uncommon to hear of price hikes of $20,000, $30,000 or $40,000 a year in insurance premiums. We are being held to ransom.

CHAIR: What risk are the insurers covering in the premiums in that way?

Mr Gordon : For myself, I was considered an unsavoury business or a high-risk business.

CHAIR: What was the nature of the risk?

Ms Edwards : It's been an overflow. I have a studio in Melbourne. Two years ago my body corporate came to me and said that the insurance policy basically had been dumped. They'd have to go offshore to Lloyds of London. The premium actually fell slightly. But then I had to sign a waiver to the tune of $25,000 in the event of fire bombing. I was the one tenant, because there was a tattoo business in the complex, who had to do that. We've got operators today who've lost their businesses, who can't secure insurance. We've done a lot of work as an organisation trying to negotiate that, and there are indications that potentially new policies will come onto the market. It's been a direct impact of the criminalising of our profession by state governments.

CHAIR: Presumably the insurer response is that they're taking into account this organised crime association that prompted the regulation in the first place.

Ms Edwards : That's correct. It's very frustrating. The level of organised crime that was perceived to be there is not there.

CHAIR: In a competitive insurance environment that would soon sort itself out. Do you think that that's occurring, or not yet?

Mr Cunnington : My insurance went from $2½ thousand a year to $15,000 a year. That happened the year that licensing came in. The two things came together. For a few months you could not get insurance. Then Lloyds of London introduced a policy. Another company has now come on the market.

Ms Edwards : A broker.

Mr Cunnington : You may still be getting the same policy, but you're not paying for these other parts. Lloyds was saying that you must have these other sections. So my insurance this year has gone back down to about $8,000, which is which is affordable.

Ms Edwards : It's still a huge amount.

Senator ANNING: I might have missed this in your opening statement, but are there any particular tattoos that you have to report, like FTPs or swastikas or anything like that, and the person who has that tattoo?

Ms Edwards : Are you talking about one per cent tattoos or something like that?

Senator ANNING: That sort of thing. I heard that you had to make these reports.

Ms Edwards : No. That was definitely a suggestion a couple of years ago, and that suggestion was definitely rejected. Personally, as individuals, I would suggest that there are definitely individuals who we do not want to tattoo, and there are definitely tattoos that you don't want to do. You try to use what's called integrity. When a young woman comes in and says, 'I want a Playboy bunny on my neck,' you say, 'Why don't you go and buy a car seat cover?' There is a higher level of professionalism and integrity. That is, however, being damaged and directly undermined now, due to what we're talking about in our opening statement and in the submission. We have an issue along similar lines to the whole thing of amateurs gaining entry into the industry and being given a licence to do so. In the mind of the public, they see the licence and they think, 'You did something to get that.' Now we've got a very alarming new landscape, where we've got health departments engaging with our organisation, clients coming out of the woodwork with things. When you've worked your entire professional career and you know that within your profession there is a very high level and a high standard, and then you're seeing this and your licence—this gentleman's licence—is the same as an amateur, it really is appalling and it's damaging the integrity of the profession.

Senator ANNING: I take your point. That was just one of the things that I'd heard, and it wouldn't have surprised me that they would have put that on you to report people and their names.

Ms Edwards : It was definitely debated.

Senator ANNING: Yes. That is infringing somebody's individual rights. It doesn't matter what they have on them; I could never agree with that. Having said that, I note that there are a lot of people on a thing called CrimTrac, which I guess is where they'd eventually end up—me for one, because I shoot a pistol and so now I'm in amongst all the other criminals, apparently, who do other things. Just for a sport that I happen to participate in, I get to be on a thing called CrimTrac, which, as I've said, would be where these people would end up.

Ms Edwards : If I may, I will just quickly say there that something that we've had a problem with within the profession is the very loose nature of the 'fit and proper' test. Certainly a much better and more sensible idea would be to have mandatory disqualifying offences. For example, I know of one particular individual who was denied a tattoo licence, yet he'd held a gun licence for nearly 15 years. So one must say there's a disparity here with what seems to be logical. We've had cases—and I'm sure anyone can access the case law and look at what's going on there—where individuals have been denied for a pattern of criminality, but none of that had anything to do with being violent or what I suppose we could frame as being heinous crime; it's simply driving offences. I've seen juvenile records brought up. What on earth has this got to do with the ability to tattoo?

CHAIR: Would you think you would be likely to be denied an operator's license if you rode a Harley-Davidson motorbike?

Ms Edwards : No, but you might if you're a member of a club. This is a problem that we have. We've got individuals who have no personal criminal history record, but they have been members of clubs from before the clubs were listed as criminals and proscribed persons, and now they're being held accountable for that and being denied a licence for something that they've done for 20 years. This is just abhorrent.

CHAIR: I've just got a formal matter: would you like to table the form 9 for the committee?

Ms Edwards : Yes, I can table that.

CHAIR: You also asked us to look at your little books.

Ms Edwards : I don't necessarily want to table those. I just wanted to give you an indication, because I don't know how many tattoos you fine gentlemen have been exposed to, so I thought I would give you a little indication.

CHAIR: Not a lot.

Ms Edwards : The work of these gentlemen is in those portfolios.

CHAIR: Would you like to leave them with us?

Ms Edwards : Would you like to keep them? You may get some ideas for the future.

CHAIR: Thank you, yes. We'll accept them.

Senator WATT: I will start with Mrs Campitelli. Earlier today we had some evidence from the Institute of Public Affairs, who obviously have a pretty deregulatory approach to life. In fact, beauticians were one example of a profession that I think they described as low-hanging fruit. There were a number of professions, including beauticians, that they thought could easily be deregulated, removing the need for licences without any risk of harm to the public. You've obviously presented a very different view and some photographic evidence to back up what you're saying. Is there anything more you'd like to say as to why that view that we heard earlier is wrong?

Mrs Campitelli : I just don't think they understand the complexities of the industry and how the industry has grown and the new services and technologies that they're now engaging with. It's fine for those that are properly trained and qualified to do so—although I have a personal opinion about some of those treatments that I've previously mentioned. I can't understand why any salon environment would want to provide those services, and I don't believe it's safe to do so. But many of the vast number of other new technologies, in the hands of somebody properly trained and qualified in a salon environment, are fine. The issue we have is the people who aren't qualified and aren't trained. You only have to look at the number of complaints that come through. I'm sure that even Consumer Affairs or the like would be receiving as many complaints about certain services as I am.

Senator WATT: Essentially, their main point was that the consumer protection that would ordinarily be gained via licensing is really able to be done these days through the use of technology. There's lots of information available to people about good and bad practitioners and we don't need to get in the way of individuals making their own choices. I don't think I'm misrepresenting their position. I think that's essentially what it was. What do you say to that? Do you think that having access to that information for consumers is enough?

Mrs Campitelli : The average consumer is unaware of what to look for. In recent times—I've done a number of media stories about various treatments and things that have gone wrong—I have very openly said, 'Consumer beware.' When you go to a hairdressing or beauty salon, you need to ask, 'Are you trained and are you qualified?' Most of them have no idea, and I would have to say that most consumers would not ask that question. That's why I'm saying that, if there were licensing and it were valued and people were happy to display their qualifications again, consumers could go in with confidence. Most consumers do not have any idea and they are at risk, and we hear about it when it's too late.

Senator WATT: Thanks for that. From listening to what you're saying, it doesn't sound like you're arguing that we should eliminate licensing altogether in your profession but you feel that what's been imposed is overly onerous. Is that correct?

Mr Cunnington : Yes.

Senator WATT: What would you put forward as a more appropriate way to regulate the profession? It sounds like, from what you've said, Mr Cunnington, that some of the problems that existed around organised crime infiltrating the industry have largely been dealt with. I think that is what you were saying.

Mr Cunnington : Yes.

Senator WATT: What would you put forward, then, as a better way to regulate, whether it be from a crime perspective or a public health perspective or any of the other issues that might arise?

Mr Cunnington : The first thing I need to say on that point is that in the last review in Queensland they removed the close associates part of the legislation and the secret evidence part of the legislation. That's taken the teeth out of the legislation and we now have organised crime moving back into the industry. There are shops opening up that just have an unaffiliated person as the licence holder, but then you have a group behind them, which has left us with this legislation that no longer achieves anything other than giving us all of this red tape and changing the framework in which we work. In my business, my takings are down about 30 per cent since the legislation came in, because I can't fill chairs and I'm not prepared to say to my employees or the people who work with me, 'You're not allowed to travel.' If I have to have that plus deal with organised crime—and as a business owner for 20 years, just about every five years something would come up. For a year I had cameras in my living room and on every door of my house, microphones on my front counter and my wife wouldn't sleep naked anymore; she was ready to run. I lived like that for a couple of years.

CHAIR: Was that done with a warrant?

Mr Cunnington : That was me going to the police.

Ms Edwards : It's the experience we've had in the profession with organised crime.

Mr Cunnington : Yes.

Senator WATT: You were concerned for your own safety?

Mr Cunnington : Yes.

Ms Edwards : It's very real.

Mr Cunnington : One of the problems with the legislation was that the police, from outside of the industry, couldn't look in and tell the difference between a good guy and a bad guy. Within the industry, we can tell straightaway, within our culture. Leading up to this, I was one of the only people in Queensland who had ever actually made a complaint to the police, because the last thing you were told to do was to call the police: 'No, you'll just piss them off and you'll be burnt down.' But I went to the police and I had a good outcome. It took a long time, but the problem went away. So moving forward we now have this legislation that no longer serves the industry whatsoever. I would like you people to look at our industry without having to look at it as a hotbed of criminality, because it's not.

CHAIR: You listened to Mrs Campitelli talk about her industry and complain about a lack of regulation. At the other end of the spectrum you are suffering from an abundance of regulation. When you're thinking about what you would like the situation to be what do you see as being necessary legislation, if you like? Bear in mind I don't have much sympathy for this idea that somebody can't be trained in tattooing and that you guys have to control that. That's like controlling poetry. You can't do that; that's art and art will have its way. In terms of government regulation, where would you like it to land?

Ms Edwards : Speaking on behalf of members of the organisation, I think there is overwhelming consensus that we would like to see first and foremost health and safety regulation around the industry—that there is a national requirement for the industry standard cross-contam certification. The industry is growing very quickly. There are a lot of new entrants to the industry. There are very few appropriate parameters. It's really important for the safety of the public that we have some type of framework there.

In regard to a framework for the profession, this is something we are now looking at and developing dialogue around. The profession is going to continue to grow—and that's fantastic. We welcome new entrants, but at the moment we as a profession need to have a discussion about the development of a guideline or a framework. We would like to see some support from government in the development of that, rather than having government come in and making decisions without even talking to us or putting an act through in the middle of the night, as Premier Newman did. We would like them to have a conversation with us and engage with us and look at the broad scope of regulatory tools available for regulators and make sure we get it so that the culture is protected and we have people coming into the profession who are educated and informed, so we can move forward and secure the industry in that way.

One of the biggest concerns every professional has is losing the integrity of the profession. That's currently being damaged by excessive and inappropriate legislation. But we need to come up with that. I think there is a general consensus for some regulation there, but we want a national blanket scheme that is informed by the profession. We've taken responsibility for that. Prior to the rollout of the bill here in New South Wales in 2012 we didn't really have a cohesive active voice, so the guild was formed by professional tattooists to create that voice. Here we are, so please speak to us. That's what we want to do.

Mr Gordon : From the New South Wales point of view, I believe we would just like to see some common ground and some commonsense things implemented—like for the fit and proper person some actual points that any other licensing system has. We'd like to see the insurance thing addressed at some point. As far as value for the licence, nobody has an issue with the cross-contamination certificate. To me this is just common sense whereas at the moment anybody come in and do whatever.

There's also the issue of a lot of people working at home. They are advertising on Facebook Marketplace and Gumtree. All of these people are operating illegally without any fear of prosecution or fine, so we're disadvantaged on another level there. That in itself is a public health risk that nobody seems to be addressing. You can talk to your local police and your licensing police, but they're run off their feet doing other things. They don't have time to do this. This is a far greater risk than what we professionals are doing.

Senator ANNING: Mr Cunnington, what do you think the primary reason organised crime gets into the tattoo business? Is it just for money laundering or are there are the reasons?

Mr Cunnington : It's cool. It's part of the culture and it's something that went with that lifestyle or that subculture. Tattooing was a part of it. When I first got into tattooing, the only place where you could find printed pictures of tattoos was in biker magazines, and that only came about in the seventies. Queensland is a very different environment to New South Wales in the way that the clubs operate and the things that happen. I personally don't believe that it is so much about laundering money.

Senator ANNING: Organised crime would suggest that there has got to be a profit in there somewhere, so where they are making their money out of being involved?

Mr Cunnington : Yes, it's: if somebody stops them and says, 'Where did you get the AMG Mercedes?, you would say, 'I own a tattoo shop.'

Ms Edwards : Money laundering, I would suggest. I mean, there is obfuscation of crime, definitely, but there is an element there that is an historical connection to the art form but, really over the last 10 or 15 years, they have moved into tow trucks and hairdressers and other things, and this is quite common knowledge on the street.

Mr Gordo n : Gyms are the new hotspot. The tow truck industry has been regulated here in New South Wales.

Ms Edwards : Gyms, nightclubs.

Senator ANNING: So the change in regulation that you say is now allowing them to move back in there, what specifically did they change that now overlooks the fact that they be—

Mr Cunnington : It was the close associate form. When I put an application for having a tattoo shop, I have to list every person who works there, every person who could come in to a day's work, all my family members, and that stopped the notion of having a cleanskin person has the front person and a club behind. The fines for lying on your close associate form were in the tens of thousands of dollars so it became not worth it for the clubs.

Senator ANNING: If that form was reintroduced, do you think it would keep them out of that business?

Mr Cunnington : It would help, but we are still dealing with all of this other—

Ms Edwards : Do we have to be burdened by the entire thing just to get that done?

Senator ANNING: I 100 per cent agree with you. There is far too much compliance, which is killing the country anyway.

Mr Cunnington : When we were licensed, somebody stood up in parliament and said 70 per cent of tattooists are in motorcycle gangs. Eleven hundred licences were applied for when licensing came in, and seven were looked at further, which is 0.7 per cent. So this notion that we need—

Senator WATT: You put the decimal point in the wrong place.

Ms Edwards : This is something that we are dealing with and it is a form of stigmatisation. I mean, Minister Grant talks about he knows that tattoo parlours are places heavily frequented by clubs. For professional tattooists, we don't have parlours; we have studios. The professional tattooists are looking that through the lens of: is this actually serious? And does your personal opinion constitute evidence-based legislation? No, it doesn't.

CHAIR: He would be surprised how commonly personal opinion is sufficient. Mrs Campitelli, one of your complaints is also similar to the tattooists—the number of people working from home and the deregulated nature of those services. It is my understanding that hairdressing was one of the occupations used by department of immigration to admit skilled visas for quite a few years. Is that accurate?

Mrs Campitelli : Yes, that's accurate.

CHAIR: Have there been a lot of new entries into the hairdressing market who are immigrants?

Mrs Campitelli : Yes, there have been, and we requested that we get removed from that list because I believe, in a deregulated market, we've also suffered with an underperforming training system that's led to that. We saw the emergence of RTOs operating in our industry, literally overnight, that had never been associated with us to look after the immigration people that we were getting through. These people were being churned out like sausages and could not work in a salon and, to be honest, they didn't want to. They literally came here to get a visa, and that further gave us a bad reputation.

Can I just also add that I'm saying I want licensing and regulation but it has to be monitored. You can't just bring it in and then not monitor it, and I think that's the issue that we have. What we have in place now is not being monitored, and yet we have health departments and health regulations and all the rest of it—but it's not being monitored, and that's a problem, until we get a serious complaint. Then people look into it.

CHAIR: I think the appropriate word is 'enforcement'. The existing regulations are not being enforced, and so the question then is: how will additional regulation make any difference if what's already there is not being enforced? There are quite a lot of regulations, as I understand it, and laws against most of the things you were talking about, such as interference with bodily functions and so forth, but clearly they're not being enforced. Anyway, we are out of time. Thank you very much for your attendance today. It's very much appreciated.