It is well known that the diploma in paramedical science issued by NSW Ambulance will be a qualification for registration as a paramedic. But what of equivalent diplomas issued by other registered training organisations? They will not be accepted so, asks today’s correspondent ‘… how can they recognise a diploma through NSW Ambulance when under the national training framework they have the same qualification as someone from another state?’
I infer that the ‘they’ in that question refers to the Paramedicine Board.
The answer is that ‘they’ have no choice.
To provide for paramedic registration amendments were required to the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law that has been adopted in every state and territory. The Act says at s. 312 says:
(1) This section applies to an individual who holds a Diploma of Paramedical Science issued by the Ambulance Service of New South Wales.
(2) The individual is qualified for general registration in paramedicine for the purposes of section 52(1)(a).
(3) This section applies despite section 53.
(4) Nothing in this section makes a Diploma of Paramedical Science issued by the Ambulance Service of New South Wales an approved qualification for section 53(b).
(5) In this section–
“Diploma of Paramedical Science” means any of the following–
(a) a Diploma of Paramedical Science;
(b) a Diploma of Paramedical Science (Ambulance) or an Advanced Diploma of Paramedical Science (Ambulance);
(c) a Diploma in Paramedical Science (Pre-Hospital Care) or an Advanced Diploma Paramedical Sciences (Pre-Hospital Care);
(d) a qualification–
(i) that has replaced the diploma mentioned in paragraph (a) and is prescribed by regulation; and
(ii) issued by the Ambulance Service of New South Wales.
The role of the Paramedicine Board is to manage paramedic registration in accordance with the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law and the law says that the NSW Ambulance Diploma is a qualification for general registration. Compare this to other qualifications.
Section 53 says that a person is eligible for general registration if they hold
(a) … an approved qualification for the health profession; or
(b) the individual holds a qualification the National Board established for the health profession considers to be substantially equivalent, or based on similar competencies, to an approved qualification…
If the Paramedicine Board had approved the NSW Diploma that a person with a Diploma from another RTO could argue that their diploma was an equivalent qualification and therefore qualifies them for registration under s 53(b). As noted however, the NSW Diploma is not an ‘approved qualification’ and s 53 does not apply (see s 312(3) and (4)). The intention is clear, the Paramedicine Board must accept the NSW Ambulance Diploma, it is not required to accept any other Diploma no matter how closely it matches the NSW Ambulance qualification.
The Standards for VET Accredited Courses 2012 made under the National Vocational Education and Training Regulator Act 2011 (Cth) says (at [7.5]) that ‘ VET accredited courses confirm recognition to be given to the course by licensing, regulatory, professional or industry bodies where applicable.’ One could make the argument that s 312 is inconsistent with the regulation of the Vocational Education and Training (VET) sector as regulated by the Commonwealth. Section 109 of the Australian Constitution provides that where a state law is inconsistent with a Commonwealth law, the Commonwealth law prevails.
That’s an attractive argument until we realise that the Commonwealth of Australia has no specific authority to regulate the VET sector. It does that in cooperation with the states. The Australian Constitution says that the Commonwealth has the power to make laws with respect to ‘matters referred to the Parliament of the Commonwealth by the Parliament or Parliaments of any State or States…’ (s 51(xxxvii))).
The States including NSW have referred their powers to the Commonwealth but with some restrictions. The Vocational Education and Training (Commonwealth Powers) Act 2010 (NSW) s 5 says that the power to makes laws with respect to ‘accreditation or other recognition of vocational education and training courses or programs’ is referred to the Commonwealth but not if the Commonwealth ‘excludes or limits the operation of a State law to the extent that the State law makes provision with respect to:… (d) the qualifications or other requirements to undertake or carry out any business, occupation or other work (other than that of a vocational education and training organisation)…’ Without checking each state and territory one can infer that a similar provision applies there too.
The Health Practitioner Regulation National Law as adopted in each state and territory is a state and territory, not Commonwealth, law. To the extent that the National Vocational Education and Training Regulator Act 2011 (Cth) might compel acceptance of an equivalent diploma to the it would limit the operation of a state law (eg the Health Practitioner Regulation (Adoption of National Law) Act 2009 (NSW)) and is outside or beyond the power given to the Commonwealth and s 109 won’t help.
A person who has a qualification that purports to be ‘equivalent’ to the NSW Ambulance Diploma may want to explore this in more detail but they may find that engaging a QC (or two) to take the matter to the High Court of Australia may be prohibitively expensive.
The question was how can ‘they’ – the Paramedicine Board of Australia – recognise a diploma through NSW Ambulance when under the national training framework they have the same qualification as someone from another state?
The answer is that the Board has not recognised or approved the NSW Ambulance Diploma. The legislatures in each State and Territory have decided to accept that Diploma and have directed the Board accordingly. The Board has no choice in the matter. The legislatures have also said that this is not an approved qualification and therefore the Board is not required to consider whether other Diplomas are ‘equivalent’. The Board must accept that those that hold the NSW Ambulance Diploma are qualified for registration; they are not required to accept that any other qualification is a qualification for registration. For every other qualification – degree, diploma or certificate – it is a matter for the Board.