Cut trans-Tasman red tape: report

Tradies and professionals could get easier access to cross-Tasman work and be recognised across Australian states under a new proposal.


The Productivity Commission has published a draft report looking at problems with “mutual recognition” schemes affecting Australian states and New Zealand.

The draft report – which will go to the two governments in final form in September – says that separate practices across states and NZ regarding the sale of goods and registration of occupations has harmed economic performance.

Mutual recognition can cut costs for business, create efficiencies, improve product choice and move the two national economies closer together.

The commission recommends automatic mutual recognition as a “flexible, low cost way of facilitating trade and labour mobility while minimising the regulatory burden”, which also takes into account health and safety considerations and qualifications.

“A staged implementation, starting with those professions where the degree of harmonisation in standards is high and the profession is large and mobile, such as electricians and plumbers is preferred,” the report says.

The problems with traded goods are not as acute, the report says.

The current rules relating to Australia and NZ cover about 85 per cent of traded goods, but there are exemptions such as road vehicles, therapeutic goods and gas appliances.

“Most of the permanent exemptions relate to goods where there are wide and seemingly irreconcilable differences of view on what regulators should achieve,” the report says.

However the commission said it was hard to justify the road vehicle exemption.

Australia doesn’t accept road vehicles from NZ that don’t meet Australian standards, but NZ is happy to take imported second-hand cars from Australia based on Australian and other nations’ standards.

“It would be more efficient for Australia to remove the road vehicle exemption together with broader reforms that allow direct imports of vehicles meeting international standards,” the report says.

“This includes allowing parallel imports of new vehicles – new vehicles imported by parties other than a local distributor authorised by the manufacturer – and imports of used vehicles.”

The report also backs harmonising risk-assessment processes for quarantine and biosecurity.

Two roundtable discussions on the report will be held in Wellington and Melbourne next month.