Queensland Judgments


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Institution of Engineering & Mining Surveyors and Anor v Surveyors Board of Queensland  
Unreported Citation: [2014] QSC 190

Applegarth J

12 August 2014

In this recent application, Applegarth J was tasked with reviewing a decision of the Surveyors Board of Queensland holding that the possession of a tertiary qualification was a pre-requisite to registration as a surveyor. Pursuant to s 39(1) of the Surveyors Act 2003 the Surveyors Board of Queensland (the “Board”) is empowered to establish the competency frameworks “appropriate for the qualifications, skills, knowledge and experience” needed for registration as a surveyor. [12]. Exercising this power, the Board, in April 2013, published the competency framework for surveyors, providing that, in addition to other requirements, in order to obtain registration applicants must possess a tertiary qualification in surveying – “applicants need to demonstrate that they have completed a course of study of at least three years full time duration acceptable to the Board or have previously been registered as a surveyor by the Board.” [2]. The Institution of Engineering & Mining Surveyors (the “Institution”) challenged the validity of this framework, arguing that the board did not possess the necessary power to require a person possess a relevant tertiary qualification in order to obtain registration.

In making this application the Institution argued that though a tertiary or academic qualification was within the “natural and ordinary meaning of the phrase ‘qualifications, skills, knowledge and experience’”, the Board’s interpretation was ultimately too restrictive, see [3(a)-(f)]. The Court, however, was ultimately unpersuaded by the Institution’s submissions and concluded that the Board’s framework was valid. In reaching this conclusion the Court initially directed its attention to the language of the s 37(1) of the Act and, upon concluding that it was unambiguous, confined itself to an analysis of the natural and ordinary meaning of the phrase, “qualifications, skills, knowledge and experience,” within the context of the Act. [24], see [22]–[23].

A “composite expression”, the phrase “qualifications, skills, knowledge and experience,” requires that applicants possess all four of the listed qualities, however, the exact “selection and blending” of these requirements was left by the legislature to the discretion of the Board. Id. Focusing upon the term “qualification” the Court concluded that its “plain-meaning” permitted, though did not require, the imposition of a tertiary qualification, again, the nature of which was left for the Board to determine, “subject to the implied conditions upon the exercise of power” and the other requirements of the Act. [24]. Further, that the term “qualification” was expressly included in the Act suggested that the “type of qualification [comprehended] . . . [was one that was] attained not simply by the possession of skills, knowledge and experience,”– to hold otherwise would be to render the term unnecessary, [26] (holding that “[w]ere it otherwise, the word “qualifications” would be unnecessary.”). Given the plain-meaning of the term and the context in which it appeared in the Act, the Court held that the Act left it to the discretion of the Board to determine whether or not an academic qualification should be included in the requirements for registration, and thus denied the Institution’s application.