Queensland Occupational and Professional Disciplinary Update

19 October 2022
Daniel Maroske, Partner, Brisbane

The end of September saw the tabling of a series of Annual Reports to the Queensland Parliament. Within these reports were details from the various regulators operating in the occupational and professional disciplinary space that plays out across the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT), the Magistrates Court of Queensland and related jurisdictions.

We have set out below a snapshot of some of the more active regulators, including details on complaints and disciplinary proceedings over the course of 2021-2022.

Office of the Health Ombudsman (OHO)

In 2021-2022, the OHO received 9,619 complaints, with less than 1% being investigated. This constituted a 2% rise in complaints from the previous year. Complaints were largely related to professional performance (31%), professional conduct (12%) and poor communication (11%), which mirrors previous years. The greatest percentage of complaints was related to medical practitioners (57%), followed by nurses (12%) and psychologists (6%).

For complaints relating to health service organisations, public hospitals (33%), correctional facilities (18%) and medical centres (14%) accounted for most of the complaints received.

In 2021-2022, the OHO commenced 207 investigations and finalised 158 investigations, which is comparable to the 2020-2021 financial year. The OHO also issued 14 permanent prohibition orders, and no practitioners filed applications in QCAT for review.

Board of Professional Engineers of Queensland (BPEQ)

In 2021-2022, the BPEQ received 34 disciplinary complaints, 20 of which were dismissed without investigation. During this period, 12 investigations were commenced and 10 were completed. Notably, BPEQ commenced just one disciplinary proceeding in QCAT and two prosecutions for non-compliance in the Magistrates Court.

Of the 10 disciplinary matters which were investigated and finalised, conditions were imposed on an individual’s registration where they were the subject of two investigations. Further, one reprimand was issued as well as one caution.

Surveyors Board of Queensland (SBQ)

During 2021-2022, the SBQ received only nine complaints. Of the complaints received, six were ‘of note,’ two were ‘of concern’ and one was deemed ‘serious.’ Three complaints were finalised and six remain open and are being investigated.

Queensland Building and Construction Commission (QBCC)

In 2021-2022, the QBCC received 6,010 complaints. Notably, 193 non-conforming building products enquiries and complaints were received. 222 certifier compliance complaints were received, with 37 complaints carrying over from the previous period. Of these complaints, 217 were finalised.

Further, 115 plumbing complaints were received with one resulting in a disciplinary order being issued to a licensee amounting to $8,679. In addition, 91 penalty infringements notices were issued. This is a significantly higher amount than in 2020 and 2021 where 25 and 78 notices were issued, respectively.

30 pool safety complaints were received with 20 investigations establishing grounds for disciplinary action. Finally, 5,450 building complaints (after construction completed) were received. There has been a steady increase in these types of complaints since 2018/2019.

Of the 95 conduct cases received, suspected corrupt conduct was identified in 16 cases and nine have been subsequently closed. These 16 cases were referred to the CCC for independent assessment. There were also 19 cases that involved an employee making a public interest disclosure.

Valuers Registration Board of Queensland (VRBQ)

During 2021-2022, the VRBQ considered 17 new complaints and notifications. Six matters were carried forward from the previous years, two of which remain subject to ongoing proceedings in QCAT.

Of the five complaints carried into 2021-2022, one has been referred back to QCAT after a successful appeal outcome in the Appeals Court. Further, one is scheduled for a directions hearing in QCAT, and three have been referred to the board’s legal representatives to progress alleged 63 matters to a conclusion.

In 2021-2022, the VRBQ also opened nine new disciplinary actions and closed five.

Board of Architects of Queensland (BOAQ)

During 2021-2022, the BOAQ received 16 complaints. Four of these complaints were carried forward from 2020-2021, six complaints against architects were made by the public and the BOAQ initiated a further six complaints against architects.

Of these 16 complaints, the BOAQ undertook disciplinary action against six architects. One architect the subject of a complaint entered into a Deed of Undertaking, underwent an audit at their own cost, and reimbursed the BOAQ’s investigation costs. In relation to the complaints made by the public, the BOAQ commenced disciplinary action against one architect who agreed to a Deed of Undertaking relating to conduct that was subject of the complaint.

Finally, the BOAQ initiated six proceedings against architects for suspected unsatisfactory professional conduct. As a result, two architects changed their registration status to non-practising. A further disciplinary hearing filed in QCAT remains ongoing.

Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC)

Working alongside the QPS Ethical Standards Command, the CCC assisting in bringing criminal proceedings against seven defendants involving 71 charges relating to computer hacking, drug supply, drug possession and related offences. In addition, disciplinary proceedings were taken or recommended against seven officers. Two of these matters are outstanding, however disciplinary outcomes so far include one dismissal and one other sanction.

Food for thought

Queensland has always had strong professional regulatory bodies. With mutual recognition legislation at both Federal and State level continuing to be a subject of conjecture amongst regulators, it remains to be seen whether the scope and appetite for regulators to commence proceedings against unregistered professionals (where that professional is registered elsewhere) will remain.

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Authored by:

Daniel Maroske, Director

This update does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. It is intended only to provide a summary and general overview on matters of interest and it is not intended to be comprehensive. You should seek legal or other professional advice before acting or relying on any of the content.

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