Victoria’s Cross Border Commissioner Luke Wilson was in Mildura this week, something he has been unable to do for sometime due to COVID-19 restrictions.

The Commissioner met with a variety of stakeholders including SuniTAFE who his office assists facilitate people from interstate being able to access TAFE programs.

Mr Wilson commenced as Victoria’s Cross Border Commissioner in October 2018, and since then a representative office has been opened in Mildura.

Prior to taking on the role, the highly credentialed Mr Wilson previously led the Agriculture, Resources, Energy and Corporate Services portfolios in the Victorian Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources.

He has headed similar teams in the former Department of Primary Industries and the Department of Environment and Primary Industries. In each of these roles, he has led policy development on many of the key issues facing Victoria’s rural and regional industries, including productivity growth, land use planning, drought, urban water, social licence and other drivers of value and adjustment.

Mr Wilson has also worked as an energy and transport access regulator in South Australia, in economic consulting with PricewaterhouseCoopers and in policy analysis with the Federal Government.

Mr Wilson said it was good to be able to visit Mildura again to reconnect with people in the region to hear first-hand about any issues concerning them.

“We are again dealing with the border anomalies that existed pre-COVID and also some post COVID matters,” he said.

Mr Wilson said headway is being made on a number of cross border issues.

“We have had some changes in regard to commercial and passenger vehicles licensing and liquor licensing,” he said.

“People raise questions about their ability to access TAFE programs which is not an issue with the TAFEs, but rather it’s about some of the policies with State subsidies and we are working to try and open them up.
“Depending on the issue, both my New South Wales counterpart (NSW Cross Border Commissioner, James McTavish) and I will talk to the affected people and then we will go back to our Melbourne and Sydney offices and deal with the policy agencies.
“Unfortunately due to the issues of last year we couldn’t bring those agency representatives to the border region to sit and meet directly with the people affected by the policies.
“In 2019 we did that here in relation to some of the vocational training rules, we did that in Moama in relation to liquor licensing and we did it in Wodonga in relation to commercial passenger vehicles.
“It is quite powerful, because you bring those people out of the city and they are meeting and speaking with the people directly affected and it really resonates.”

Another vexing issue for tradespeople in the Sunraysia region is the need for tri-state compliance which varies in each jurisdiction.

“With the occupational licensing there is change in regulations going through the Federal Parliament which will see automatic mutual recognition,” Mr Wilson said.

“We already have mutual recognition which is a system whereby if you are registered in one state you can apply to the other state to get it recognised.
“The idea with automatic recognition is it is a bit more like a driver’s licence – once you’ve have it you can use it in every state, and so it is that a tradesperson can automatically work in the other jurisdictions.
“That’s the premise of the legislation and because it is a national scheme it must go through the Federal Parliament and that is meant to occur in the first half of this year and that is a good development.
“However on the back of that it’s not just your operating licence, it’s also the insurance, matters in relation to other state’s assessment, trust funds and other areas. James and I are working with the relevant agencies to say if the automatic scheme gets through, what are the components that we need to make sure are included.”

Mr Wilson said: “The reality is that each state will have differences, you’ll never really get away from that.”

“And so our role is not just to have a go at every difference, but to work out which ones have the most impact and therefore can we work on changing them.”

To contact the Commissioner: Email enquiries@crossborder.vic.gov.au or write to PO Box 1332, Wodonga Victoria 3689 or Phone: 0436 642 436.