08/10/2008 - 22:00

COAG licensing push concerns

08/10/2008 - 22:00

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THE federal government's push towards mutual recognition of trades between states has raised concerns from peak professional body, the Australian Institute of Conveyancers WA Division.

THE federal government's push towards mutual recognition of trades between states has raised concerns from peak professional body, the Australian Institute of Conveyancers WA Division.

Trade licensing has been on the agenda of the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) for some time, but the latest proposal is to bring in a single national licence for seven trade groups, one of which is 'property agent occupations'.

This group includes real estate agents, settlement agents and real estate salespersons.

The Australian Institute of Conveyancers WA Division believes the move could jeopardise existing consumer protection and disadvantage WA settlement agents in other states, outlined in a paper submitted to COAG's steering committee.

The organisation's president, Judith Pinczuk, said both the proposal to incorporate settlement agents into the national recognition system, and the push by COAG to bring in electronic conveyancing (lodgement and financial settlement), were of concern to the industry.

Ms Pinczuk, whose organisation represents 220 licensed conveyancers, said that in reducing the barriers to working between states, particularly through online lodgement, there was a concern that conveyancers could set up in any state or territory without having to comply with local licensing regulations.

"At the moment, there's strong protection through the fidelity guarantee account and the professional indemnity fund, but that's for conveyancers operating in WA, for projects in WA," she said.

"If you've got someone in New South Wales who is conveyancing in WA, who is going to [protect the consumer]?"

WA industry regulator Settlement Agents Supervisory Board (SASB) has been involved in discussions with COAG since the national licensing issue was revived.

SASB assistant director Tim Banfield said the agency had presented several papers on the issue to COAG's steering committee, although he would not discuss their contents.

"There's nothing in the detail that I've seen so far [that is of great concern]. It's a very broad proposal at present," Mr Banfield said.

Real Estate Institute of WA president Rob Druitt said mutual recognition was generally viewed as a positive step, provided industry standards were not compromised.

"WA has some of the highest [licensing and education] standards in the country in relation to the real estate industry," he said.

"About 80 per cent of real estate transactions and practice is ostensibly the same. It's good from an employment perspective - WA is short of quality people [in the industry] and as the economy worsens over east, more are likely to come here.

"However, it's about finding the balance. We need to make sure it's not too easy for people to get a licence, and that we protect the consumer."

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