National Regulators Community of Practice gets its 100th member
20 September 2023● News and media
The ANZSOG-auspiced National Regulators Community of Practice (NRCoP), has signed up its 100th member, Wage Inspectorate Victoria, as it continues to bring regulators from all sectors and jurisdictions together to learn from each other.
NRCoP will hold its first in-person conference since 2019 in Melbourne this week, bringing together over 400 regulators from across jurisdictions for debate on the issues facing the profession.
This year has also seen the launch of The Professional Regulator program, a partnership between NRCoP and the Australian National University’s (ANU) School of Regulation and Global Governance (RegNet). The Professional Regulator fills a gap by providing professional development that provides a common foundation of modern regulatory practice and is relevant to regulators from all spheres and jurisdictions. Content has been developed with input from NRCoP members and the first iteration of the program began in July.
Rose Webb, NRCoP Chair, said that it was a great achievement for the NRCoP to get to 100 members.
“We really have relied on the support of members in recent years, not just financially, but their help in spreading the message and in helping us to develop things like The Professional Regulator. Having the backing of ANZSOG and a growing membership in every jurisdiction bodes well for the future.”
She said that while areas such as policy had established professional networks, regulators had not done so to the same extent before the NRCoP.
“People thought of themselves as working in their specialist field, when they were really also doing regulatory work. It’s important to recognise that regulation is a separate professional responsibility with shared challenges, as well as for regulators to have a chance to network.”
Robert Hortle, Commissioner of Wage Inspectorate Victoria, said that as head of a new regulator (established in 2021) he wanted his team to learn and be part of the broader regulators’ community.
“Regulation is a tough gig and, like any group of people doing tough jobs, our work is made easier when there is a community and a collegiate group that can support, encourage and learn from one another,” he said.
“It’s also so dynamic, and that pace of change encourages collegiality because we’re all trying to keep up. We’re all experts in our subject matter, but we have this great commonality in the craft of regulation that brings us together.
‘The regulatory stewardship role being done by the NRCoP is really, really important and I think regulators would be well advised to take advantage of the resources and the collegiality that the NRCoP provides.’
Mr Hortle said while the Wage Inspectorate was in essence a labour regulator, it had an eclectic remit that cut across other regulators and laws, ranging from child labour laws, wage theft, owner drivers and forestry contractors, and potentially issues around the gig economy
“The challenges are around the changing dynamic of each of the markets that we regulate, and advances on the type of criminality that exists. We have to keep pace with community: you have to be effective to be trusted and trusted to be effective.”
Helping regulators adjust to changing expectations
Simon Corden is a Commissioner at Victoria’s Essential Services Commission (ESC), and a former Chair of the NRCoP in 2020 and 2021.
The ESC was the first organisation to join the NRCoP in 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic triggered a change in the NRCoP’s structure to a member-driven organisation, supported by ANZSOG.
Mr Corden said ESC’s decision to join was based on the NRCoP’s value to organisations like the ESC that placed an emphasis on professional development of their regulatory staff.
“I think the success of the NRCoP reflects the fact that many elements of regulatory practice are common across different spheres of regulation, and NRCoP programs are designed to draw out those lessons about what regulators can learn from one another and build connection across different jurisdictions.”
“There are some areas of regulations – such as licensing and permitting, or regulatory communications – where there is little accessible material for professional development.”
“NRCoP has been well supported by ANZSOG, with (former director) Monica Pfeffer shepherding us through the challenges of the pandemic, but it has been driven by committees of practitioners, with those committees having their fingers on the pulse of what regulators need. The state-based committees have done, and are doing, great work,” Mr Corden said.
Post-COVID, regulators are moving to a hybrid world and the NRCoP, under the leadership of NRCoP Director Marion Frere, is using a mix of in-person and online events and programs, such as the new Professional Regulator program, designed to meet regulators current needs.
Mr Corden said that there were a range of issues facing regulators post-COVID, as they balanced rising expectations and their responsibilities to regulated parties and consumers.
“One of these issues is around community expectations and the ability of regulators to hold people to account and enforce regulation – and from the perspective of people who are being regulated make it as easy as possible to comply. From the consumer side, how do you make it easy for consumers to identify effective providers compared to less effective providers?
Ms Webb said the NRCoP would continue working to meet the needs of its members – including expanding the Professional Regulator program – and would continue its advocacy work to help lift understanding of the work of regulation.
“Networking and the opportunity to meet fellow regulators is really valuable, particularly for those who work in agencies where there are only a few regulators. We have established an NT chapter a few months ago, and we now have a presence in every jurisdiction except Tasmania.”
She said that expectations on regulators had increased, and they often faced media and public criticism that they were not doing their jobs effectively.
“There is a whole issue of people’s understanding of what a regulator can and cannot do. Good regulation is proportionate, not putting people in jail for tiny breaches – but if you don’t get heads on sticks the media can be all over you. Royal Commissions and other inquiries have sometimes gone down the track of thinking of it as a binary thing, either you are going for jail terms or a really big fine or you are not doing anything.”