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Mutual recognition schemes

Research report

Released 25 / 09 / 2015

This report assesses the coverage, efficiency and effectiveness of the Mutual Recognition Agreement (MRA) and Trans-Tasman Mutual Recognition Arrangement (TTMRA).

It also recommends ways to further improve interjurisdictional movement of goods and skilled workers, and reduce red tape, including examining the scope for establishing automatic mutual recognition for registered occupations.

It addresses matters identified by the Cross-Jurisdictional Review Forum (CJRF), including requirements for the use of goods and business registration (the CJRF is an interjurisdictional committee of officials that oversees the MRA and TTMRA).

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  • Key points
  • Media release
  • Contents
  • The Mutual Recognition Agreement (MRA) and Trans-Tasman Mutual Recognition Arrangement (TTMRA) are generally working well. However, the benefit of the schemes risks slowly being eroded due to regulators not always implementing mutual recognition as required, weak oversight, and an increase in the number of goods and related laws permanently kept outside the scope of the schemes.
  • There are specific concerns with the operation of mutual recognition of occupations, such as 'shopping and hopping' and background checks. These issues have the potential to weaken the community's and regulators' trust in the schemes and undermine their legitimacy.
  • This review has therefore focused on improving governance arrangements, potentially expanding coverage, and addressing irritants to the smooth operation of the schemes.
  • The Commission proposes to reform the governance arrangements by:
    • strengthening the cross-jurisdictional group of officials that oversees the schemes, including by giving it more specific outputs, timeframes and reporting requirements
    • improving the accountability of regulators in individual jurisdictions and their coordination with policy makers responsible for mutual recognition.
  • The Commission proposes the following to improve the operation of the schemes.
    • Where there are legitimate concerns about shopping and hopping, governments should make better use of existing mechanisms to address them, such as referring a jurisdiction's registration requirements to a COAG Ministerial Council for consideration.
    • Governments should reduce ambiguity about the schemes, including by clearly stating that continuing professional development can be required for all persons renewing their occupational registration, including those originally registered under mutual recognition.
    • For occupations where background checks are necessary and are routinely required of local applicants, registration bodies should be able to conduct their own checks on people seeking registration under mutual recognition.
    • Governments should update all Ministerial Declarations which prescribe the equivalence of occupations across Australia, and consider extending them to New Zealand.
  • The Commission proposes to maintain the coverage of the schemes - including the exemption of laws on the use of goods, manner of carrying on an occupation, and business registration - except in two instances.
    • The Australian Government should accelerate work on the harmonisation of Australian Design Rules with international (UN) vehicle standards and then remove the TTMRA exemption for road vehicles no later than the end of 2018.
    • Governments should strengthen their collaborative efforts to streamline regulation of hazardous substances, industrial chemicals and dangerous goods. The TTMRA permanent exemption should then be removed by the end of 2018, in line with the timing of foreshadowed regulatory reforms.
  • Automatic mutual recognition (AMR) is more cost effective than the mutual recognition schemes for professionals providing services across borders on a temporary basis. The WA, ACT and NT Governments should fulfil their commitment to adopt AMR for veterinarians. All Australian jurisdictions should adopt a proposed AMR scheme for architects.
  • The period between formal reviews of the schemes should be increased to ten years.

Mutual Recognition Report

Australia's and New Zealand's mutual recognition schemes are unique in the world by their extensive scope and coverage. They make it easier to do business across borders and give consumers a wider and more competitive range of goods and services.

Nevertheless, some benefits risk slowly being eroded due to regulators not always implementing them as intended, weak oversight by a virtually defunct COAG group and a growing number of exemptions.

'Unless addressed, these issues have the potential to weaken the community's and regulators' trust in the schemes and undermine their legitimacy,' said Commissioner Jonathan Coppel.

The report makes recommendations aimed at improving the operation of the schemes, slightly expanding their coverage and improving governance arrangements.

  • Preliminaries
    • Cover, Copyright and publication detail, Foreword, Terms of reference, Contents, Abbreviations and Glossary
  • Overview
  • Findings and recommendations
  • Chapter 1 About the review
    • 1.1 What the Commission has been asked to do
    • 1.2 Previous reviews of the MRA and TTMRA
    • 1.3 Mutual recognition in the wider context
    • 1.4 Conduct of the review
    • 1.5 Structure of the report
  • Chapter 2 Rationale for the schemes and approaches to their assessment
    • 2.1 Regulatory cooperation as a tool to promote economic integration
    • 2.2 Rationale for mutual recognition in Australia and New Zealand
    • 2.3 Benefits and costs of the schemes
    • 2.4 The Commission's framework for assessing the schemes
    • 2.5 Evidence used to support recommendations
  • Chapter 3 Overview of the mutual recognition schemes
    • 3.1 Origins of the mutual recognition schemes
    • 3.2 Legislative underpinnings
    • 3.3 Mutual recognition principles and processes
    • 3.4 Scope and coverage of the schemes
    • 3.5 Review mechanisms
    • 3.6 Governance arrangements
  • Chapter 4 Mutual recognition of goods
    • 4.1 Operation of mutual recognition
    • 4.2 The number of permanent exemptions has increased
    • 4.3 Some permanent exemptions should be removed
    • 4.4 Some permanent exemptions should be retained
    • 4.5 Converting from special to permanent exemptions
    • 4.6 Other limits on the coverage of mutual recognition
    • 4.7 Use-of-goods requirements
  • Chapter 5 Mutual recognition of occupational registration
    • 5.1 Rationale for occupational registration
    • 5.2 Forms of occupational registration covered by the schemes
    • 5.3 Use of mutual recognition
    • 5.4 Concerns about shopping and hopping
    • 5.5 Improving the operation of mutual recognition
  • Chapter 6 Facilitating cross-border service provision
    • 6.1 The case for automatic mutual recognition
    • 6.2 Automatic mutual recognition in Australia
    • 6.3 Challenges to expanding automatic mutual recognition within Australia
    • 6.4 Extending automatic mutual recognition to trans-Tasman service provision
    • 6.5 Manner-of-carrying-on requirements
    • 6.6 Mutual recognition and business registration
  • Chapter 7 Governance arrangements
    • 7.1 Evidence of limited oversight and coordination
    • 7.2 Resulting erosion of benefits from the schemes
    • 7.3 Strengthening collective oversight and coordination by governments
    • 7.4 Improving regulator implementation of mutual recognition
    • 7.5 Mutual recognition in new policy proposals
    • 7.6 The role of individual jurisdictions in legislating reforms
    • 7.7 The frequency of independent reviews
  • Appendix A Public consultation
  • Appendix B Overseas models of mutual recognition
  • Appendix C Survey of occupation-registration authorities
  • References

Printed copies

Printed copies of this report can be purchased from Canprint Communications.

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