A Year in Advocacy: How Engineers Australia engaged with government in 2018 Monday, 17 December 2018

Looking back at 2018, it’s easy to point out how Australian politics was once again dominated by political showdowns, leadership spills, election landslides and big promises.

But what we often forget are the stories in policy and government that have generated real change.

For the past year, Engineers Australia has played a role in highlighting the real need for engineers to be in decision making positions while navigating the shifting and volatile political landscape of recent years.

Engineers Australia continued to do what we do best: help position engineers as leaders, communicate the importance of STEM, and continue to offer technical expertise across a wide range of issues.

This included producing more than 25 submissions to government inquiries and policy reviews, hosting government ministers at Engineers Australia events, and taking part in a range of stakeholder forums.

Engineers Australia has also been involved in policy and decision-making at the highest level of government by being invited to brief politicians and asked to give evidence to Parliamentary inquiries.

This included giving evidence in February 2018 to a Commonwealth House of Representatives inquiry into the Australian Government’s role in the development of cities.

Federal and state ministers were also invited to many Engineers Australia events, including Minister for Defence Industry, Steven Ciobo, who held a briefing for members in South Australia to share the government’s naval ship-building plan.

The Minister for State Growth in Tasmania, Michael Ferguson, launched our Engineering Workforce Development Plan, leading to an MOU to provide strategic community-sector advice to the Tasmanian Government.

Engineers Australia’s National Policy Manager Jonathan Russell said these achievements reflect a major commitment from staff and volunteers.

“There isn’t one submission we submit that doesn’t have the appropriate technical input from our volunteers and committee members across Engineers Australia colleges and technical societies,” he said.

“A submission is never done in a vacuum. It really is a team effort that involves almost all levels of Engineers Australia.”

Visit our Government page for the full list of policy submissions.

Here are some of the big highlights that have helped make 2018 an eventful year for Engineers Australia advocacy efforts.

Engineering Registration: Victoria and the future

Throughout 2018, registration was a major focus for various teams and divisions across Engineers Australia.

We’ve been working closely with the Victorian Government on a legislative framework that provides assurance to the public, government and industry that engineers working in Victoria meet the professional standards through a registration scheme.

Early in 2018, the Andrews Labor Government in Victoria introduced a new Bill that would have required engineers working in Victoria to undergo mandatory registration while also providing the framework to regulate the profession in Victoria.

While the draft legislation was passed by the Lower House, a busy parliamentary schedule meant that the Bill didn’t proceeded to a vote in the Upper House and eventually lapsed.

But work didn’t stop there. With the Victorian Election set to kick off in October, we had another opportunity to present our position to the Victorian people and also political parties.

During the election campaign, Engineers Australia CEO Peter McIntyre met with Victorian Treasurer Tim Pallas to discuss registration and the upcoming state election.

Out of the discussion, Mr Pallas said a Labor government will reconfirm their commitment to delivering on a registration scheme in Victoria and make it a priority.

Mr McIntyre asked the Treasurer to consider another round of review on the implementation of the legislation to ensure it aligns with the needs of the broad community and the engineering profession.

Engineers Australia will continue to work towards our stated policy position: that the National Engineering Register is a suitable pathway to registration for any scheme adopted in Victoria, as it is in Queensland.

You can also read about the history of engineers registration from our previous edition of Membership Matters.

Continued campaign for Chief Engineers

While registration remained a focus for many jurisdictions, our push for having engineers represented within high levels of government decision making was also ramping up.

For a long time, Engineers Australia has advocated for the creation of chief engineer roles in all state, territory and national governments.

Our vision of Chief Engineers is a role that would provide impartial advice across a range of areas in government, foster collaboration and innovation, and champion engineering excellence.

Earlier this year, the Australian Capital Territory appointed its first Chief Engineer, the culmination of a long campaign led by Engineers Australia with the support of the consulting sector industry association and union for engineers.

Engineers Australia ACT manager Keely Quinn was quoted in The Canberra Times welcoming the appointment of senior public servant George Tomlins to the role on an interim basis.

“We are glad to see there’s movement on this. George has a long history with the ACT and broad experience within government,” she said.

The ACT joins Victoria now as having a dedicated Chief Engineer, with NSW holding a Chief Scientist & Engineer role.

Federally we do not yet have a Chief Engineer, however we are pleased that the current Chief Scientist, Dr Alan Finkel, is an engineer.

Gearing-up for the Federal election

The upcoming federal election will provide Engineers Australia with another opportunity to position our policies to not only government and industry, but also the public.

Next year, we’ll outline a number of key areas we are calling on political parties and elected government to commit to ahead of the election. These include:

Infrastructure: Short-term political cycles are bad for long-term infrastructure planning and the economy suffers as a consequence.

Technology and Industry: Technology, industry and innovation are how Australia will secure its future. But a key factor is holding us back: jobs for engineering graduates.

Energy: Australia cannot give up on creating policy for the electricity market that achieves reliability, while also meeting emission reduction targets, delivered at least-cost to the consumer.

Keep an eye on our website, email and social media channels for the latest on our campaign in the lead-up to the election.

Engineers Australia looks forward to another year of active government engagement that will lead to outcomes to benefit engineers and members.