5 Apr 2013

Committee fails to back plumbers' levy law change

7:26 pm on 5 April 2013

A Parliamentary select committee has failed to endorse a proposed law change that would legalise the collection of hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees from tradespeople.

The legislation would retrospectively allow the industry regulator, the Plumbers Gasfitters and Drainlayers Board, to collect levies to chase and prosecute 'cowboy' operators.

Building and Construction Minister Maurice Williamson says the legislation will fix inconsistencies between the board's functions and funding provisions in existing legislation.

He says the board thought that it was legal to collect money from licensed tradespeople to fund legal action against cowboys, and has used money for that purpose.

Mr Williamson says everybody believed that's what the law said, but there is a loophole in the wording of the legislation that needs to be fixed.

The chair of the Government administration committee, Labour MP Ruth Dyson, says the committee could not agree on the restrospective nature of the bill.

Ms Dyson says plumbers, gasfitters and drainlayers who have paid the fees over the past few years believe they're owed more than $600,000.

"The way the Government has decided to fix it is not to address the primary concern of the complaint which was to find a fairer method of funding the fee and the levy which is the dispute but to retropectively validate the setting of the fee and the levy."

Mr Williamson says despite the committee being unable to reach an agreement on the bill, it will have its second reading in Parliament.

Warning hourly rates could rise

Plumbers on Friday warned their hourly rates could go up if the bill enables the continued collection of fees to prosecute unlicenced plumbers.

The chairperson of the Plumbers, Gasfitters and Drainlayers Federation says they were hoping that the levy would have been ditched when it was found to be illegal and their monies returned to them.

Wal Gordon says in future, the fee would have to be passed on to customers by way of a higher hourly rate.

"I think it will have to go up about $2.77 per hour - minimum.

"A lot of people think that plumbers, gassers and drainlayers are rich - well, we're not because our overheads and the money that we're paying in compliance costs is just absolutely ridiculous."