Efforts to restore power after Black Saturday were delayed because manpower from other states had to wait for revised licences before they could pick up their tools, the federal government says.
Energy Minister MartinFerguson said the situation was common across Australia because red tape and “different rules and regulations” have stalled a nationally agreed approach to labour sharing between jurisdictions and network providers.
“During recent bushfires and wind storms in Victoria, the energy sector was in desperate need for line workers to repair damaged infrastructure, however, inconsistencies in training hampered the ability of workers from other states to assist in Victoria,” Mr Ferguson said.
Addressing this issue was a top priority for state, commonwealth and territory energy ministers at the 20th meeting of theMinisterial Council on Energy in Darwin.
“This is about creating a seamless capacity to move trades people and associated skills across state boundaries to fix crisis situations,” Mr Ferguson said.
“In the past there have been delays because of the need to actually adjust the licences and do some short-term training.”
As of next bushfire season, Mr Ferguson said arrangements would be in place to ensure cross jurisdictional and cross network labour mobility and skills recognition in emergency situations.
The electricity industry’s skills council has been tasked with identifying the minimum refresher training competencies essential to facilitate the safety of line workers on any network in Australia.
“That is an important breakthrough because not only will it be important in a crisis situation such as a flood or cyclone or bushfire, it also will contribute to a growing capacity to actually move construction workers from the east coast to the west coast to assist in the major construction work,” Mr Ferguson said.
Mr Ferguson said the ministers also discussed health and safety in the oil and gas sector, regulatory issues and the carbon pollution reduction scheme.