I rise to speak to this bill today. At the outset of my contribution let me say there is no problem, as far as Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party is concerned, with the stated aim of this bill. Broadly we agree with the government that finding a means of providing the general public with confidence and peace of mind about the capacities and qualifications of professional engineers is perfectly sensible in itself, especially in the midst of a period of significant infrastructure spending and activity in Victoria. Therefore, if this bill required us merely to make a decision on that basic principle, free of other serious consequences and implications, then our party would have no problem with the idea of legislating for a genuinely improved registration or accreditation scheme for engineers, especially when one takes into account various cases around the world of engineering projects ending in ruins, literally and metaphorically, because they were undertaken by people who were not appropriately qualified and/or made very poor engineering decisions. However, the bill asks us to pass judgement on far more than that fundamental question. Accordingly, and in the final analysis, our party therefore ultimately came to share the concerns of an extraordinarily large number of people who contacted us about this legislation. There were many critical assessments that clearly had to be made about the bill in relation to its content as distinct from its conception. Indeed I should take this opportunity to thank all those people who reached out to us on both sides of the argument; collectively they helped us to better understand the diversity of issues and implications associated with this legislation. Among those people I include the member for Oakleigh in the Legislative Assembly and his staff, who very generously offered their time and the benefit of their expertise on the bill to Mr Grimley and me. All of that said, and notwithstanding that it has had a long genesis to reach this point, it is unfortunately very clear that there still remains much disagreement within the industry about this legislation. The more we have consulted with interested parties the more apparent it has become that there are many thousands of engineers who not only are opposed to the bill but feel that very few people in government and in professional associations have listened to, let alone recognised or addressed, their concerns about it. Just as a quick extension to that—I do not propose to dwell at length on a point that has been raised with us very regularly—there are only two industry organisations of any substantive size that are in favour of this legislation. Moreover, those two organisations both have a substantial commercial interest in seeing it passed. It is, nevertheless, important to acknowledge that general issue; it has featured in a significant number of our discussions with a vast range of interested parties about the legislation. It has also been cited frequently when people have talked about what they believe is the real motivation behind it. To return specifically to the content of the bill, the devil, as far as we are concerned, is in the detail. I will work my way through some of that detail over the next few minutes, but the bottom line is that there are unfortunately simply too many flawed elements in this bill for us to agree to allow it to pass. At the core of our concerns is the rather obvious and unfortunate problem that it is simply not clear to us, indeed we do not think the case has sufficiently been made at all, that the bill will necessarily do anything to foster what it is supposedly meant to achieve—that is, to guarantee higher safety or quality within Victorian engineering. In turn it should be stressed that there are already many relevant forms of regulation in place to help fulfil these aims. Early on in the process of considering this bill we were drawn to the idea of making a series of amendments. We thought that might be a good middle way of moderating the most concerning aspects, and indeed we are glad to see others doing so. However, I will add that the idea of moving amendments and then passing a hopefully revised bill appealed to us only until we began to realise just how many problems there were, that not all of them were going to be corrected by heading down that path and that it would therefore be better to oppose the bill outright. We believe there should also be very regular monitoring of the area covered by clause 4. While we acknowledge the wide scope of the wording of subclause (1)(f), the four prescribed areas of engineering listed in paragraphs (a) to (d) of subclause (1) are simply not expansive enough in and of themselves to capture correctly the myriad and specialist facets of engineering that are undertaken in contemporary Victoria. As a quite perverse extension to that point, the new regime would also create a bias against those engineers with decades of day-to-day experience—that is, highly accomplished engineers with qualifications gained before 1989 and/or pre the Washington Accord will apparently be among those most urgently in need of assessment and scrutiny and whose suitability for employment will be most in question in the eyes of the new registration scheme. On a separate but other very important front, we have a number of concerns about the likely cost impact of the bill. We are extremely grateful to Mr Limbrick and the Parliamentary Budget Office for now quantifying these costs. As we and others suspected, they are indeed monumental. They extend into the hundreds of millions of dollars for regular engineers. Yet another concern for us is how the various clauses relating to the right of entry to engineers’ premises and personal records may be implemented in practice. Indeed this issue gives rise to a number of additional questions, foremost among them how is that might well infringe on the very legitimate and indeed separate legal rights and claims of engineers in many cases to confidentiality and privacy and what should be safeguarded intellectual property in their own work. We also have difficulty with the new direct supervision requirement on a number of levels, especially in the sense that such a concept does not fit easily with the nature of the division and organisation of labour on most engineering projects. In turn people are quite rightly exercised by the thought of an extensive new penalty regime for non-compliance with this legislation. There is a genuine fear amongst many about the prospect of what they regard as heavy-handed new investigation and disciplinary processes that they feel will invariably result in dubiously enforced punishments, especially when it seems quite possible that non-engineers will be handing down some of those decisions. Our party has also been left very disappointed on those occasions when we have asked questions of supporters of the bill as to what its potential passage through Parliament might mean for engineers in rural and regional Victoria. Typically the response to us has, sadly, been along the lines of, ‘We’re not really sure’ or, ‘We don’t think it really has any consequences beyond Melbourne’. There is indeed a large concentration of Victorian engineers in and around Melbourne. This quite clearly does not mean that it will not cause serious adverse ramifications in rural and regional Victoria. In fact we have heard story after story from engineers who live away from our major population centres of their concerns about what this legislation will do to their lives and livelihoods. Indeed in a number of cases we heard some very disturbing and sad tales from people who said that if this legislation passes, they will ultimately regard themselves as having little choice other than to leave the engineering profession. Anyone seriously interested in engineering activity in regional Victoria should know almost immediately that an attempt to mandate registration in the way this bill does will clearly escalate costs and further impinge on the availability of engineers in those areas. Undoubtedly it will seriously inhibit the recruitment and retention of engineers in regional areas, especially those with broad engineering skills across a number of disciplines. It is also worth noting that it will be local government that will bear the worst brunt of this. To us another very telling point in our deliberations on this bill was the example of Queensland, more specifically what I mean by that is that we had supporters of the bill continually telling us that the Queensland legislation—that is, the legislation in the only other state to have established a compulsory registration regime for engineers—has been a great success. This always seemed to be one of their key arguments, yet even after several months we have still not once been presented with practical, detailed proof that supports this view. In fact there was essentially silence on each of the multiple occasions when we asked supporters of the bill for clear, verifiable evidence behind their claim that the Queensland legislation has been effective or even necessary. When it came down to it, no-one appeared to be able to actually make either case, not only in terms of its effect in improving safety but indeed for any other reason at all. Ironically one thing it is possible to glean from the Queensland experience is further confirmation that the cost of engineering will rise substantially in Victoria if this bill is passed. The combination of the increase in regulatory costs and the decrease in the supply of engineers alone in Queensland has clearly led to greater expense and time delays for engineering projects throughout the state. Acting President, I could go further, and indeed I may well do so in the committee of the whole stage, but I am sure you get my drift by now. So to summarise and to return to where I began, Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party genuinely approached its examination of this bill with a very open mind right from the beginning. However, we have ended up being concerned about a number of the legislation’s potential consequences. One of the key responsibilities of anyone in an upper house is to properly scrutinise legislation and in this process to ensure that it does no harm. Mr Grimley and I take that task very seriously and we have become increasingly worried that this bill has the potential to do harm. The two of us have been elected to this Parliament specifically to represent the best interests of constituents in western and northern Victoria respectively and we represent those people proudly and passionately. On balance we do not think they will benefit from this bill at all, irrespective of whether they are engineers or not. On this occasion we obviously stand for and seek to give at least some form of a voice to many engineers right across the state who feel completely disenfranchised by this legislation. Moreover, we would like to express our gratitude to the thousands of highly competent and brilliantly skilled engineers in Victoria who are already performing their work, and indeed have always done and hopefully always will do, to the highest possible standards of safety and quality. Out of our considerable respect for all of those people, we know that morally, ethically and practically voting against the passage of this legislation is entirely the right thing for us to do.