The Australian Council of Professions endorses the proposal by the NSW Government that the limitations of liability on time and money provided under the legislation be available to the defendants of an action in which the “Professional of Record” in the matter is listed on an approved register.
The NSW Government has defined a “Professional of Record” as the professional who authorised the documents or actions related to the matter in contention in an action within the ambit of the legislation. The Australian Council of Professions endorses the incorporation of this definition in the legislative framework, in which an “Approved Register” is defined as one in which membership is voluntary and is limited to professionals who:
- have defined minimum qualifications in both tertiary education and experience such that the holders can operate as professionals independently within their field of competence;
- adhere to a Code of Ethics (the NSW Government’s special requirements for risk management and continuing professional development are an inherent part of ethical practice required by the Code); and
- are covered by professional indemnity insurance, either directly or indirectly, to the level required by the legislation.
An “Approved Register” is also defined as one which provides for:
- eligibility competently assessed using established processes against well-defined criteria for tertiary education standards, professional experience and continuing professional development;
- access by the public to a register of current members and ability to lodge complaints;
- disciplinary action for breaches of the Code of Ethics;
- the right of appeal by professionals judged ineligible for entry to the scheme or judged liable for disciplinary action;
- access to a mediator or arbitrator, nominated by the President of the Professional Association, to assist in the resolution of disputes; and
- a scheme to be run by a “Registration Board” administered by the Professional Association and able to draw on the full range of Professional Association experience and expertise.
The Australian Council of Professions further proposes that the following aspects be included in the processes and documentation for a register to be submitted for approval under any legislation:
- the definition of standards of qualification (both academic and experience) for admission to the register;
- processes for accreditation of educational programs (both Australian and overseas) which satisfy the academic qualification requirement;
- processes for assessment of applicants’ conformance to the qualification requirement;
- a process for appeal by applicants who have been judged ineligible for entry to the register;
- a definition of standards to be achieved in continuing professional development;
- processes for assessing conformance of persons on the register to the professional development standards (quality and quantity factors);
- a defined Code of Ethics;
- defined requirements for professional indemnity insurance;
- a process for issuing of annual practising certificates on payment of the annual fee;
- disciplinary processes for breaches of conditions of register;
- a process for appeal by persons subject to disciplinary actions;
- processes for mediation and arbitration in disputes; and
- administrative processes and fee structures for the register.
The Australian Council of Professions expects that, as a result of this practice, registration by the Professions would supersede other registration procedures so that costs on the individual professional would largely be offset.