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table of contents Average Net Distribution 31 901 CAB Audited as of March 2015

all about ME


how to produce quotes that make money


spotlight on Sydney as Vivid takes over the city


maximise your membership


your top 3 tech questions


industry chatter


year, we’re focusing in

sparking a brighter future


your business.

meet a master electrician


Over the past six months,

the buzz


from sparkies who have

you asked… we delivered


the interview – Peter Rowe




As another financial year comes to a close and we look toward the 2016/17 on strategic planning for

we’ve fielded questions


been wanting to get a leg up in the industry and kick start their electrical contracting business. So we’ve lifted the bar

the Victorian lighting sector’s ‘Kodak Moment’


yet again with a range of

letter of the law


our new offer to members,

your top 3 workplace relations questions 40 social snaps


the last word


unparalleled benefits in


both existing and those looking to become MEA members (page 30). On page 18, we chat to three sparkies from around the country about all things


business, family and finding that perfect work-


GENERAL ENQUIRIES Master Electricians Australia PO Box 2438, Fortitude Valley BC Queensland 4006 PHONE 1300 889 198 FAX 1800 622 914 EMAIL WEB


life balance.

38 Follow us @MasterElectrics on Twitter Become a Fan on Facebook masterelectricians or call 1300 889 198 The Master Electrician is printed on environmentally responsible paper sourced from FSC® certified forestry plantations. The paper is made with Elemental Chlorine Free pulps (ECF).

And on page 34, we chat to Peter Rowe, founder of PolyGenomX, a six-yearold company dedicated to using epigenetics to naturally improve the performance of plants for long-term environmental sustainability. Enjoy.

DISCLAIMER: The statements and opinions expressed in this publication are offered solely in pursuance of the objects of the Electrical Contractors Association and Master Electricians Australia to provide an informative service to contractors in the electrical industry on legal, commercial and other issues and problems related to the industry. The Electrical Contractors Association and Master Electricians Australia are not aware that any person intends to act or rely upon such statements and opinions contained in this publication or the manner in which it might be possible to do so. The Electrical Contractors Association and Master Electricians Australia issues no invitation to any member or other persons to act or rely upon such statements or opinions or any of them and it accepts no responsibility for any of them. It intends by this provision to exclude, to the extent permitted by law, all liability for any such statements and opinions. The Master Electrician Magazine can be viewed online at

The Master Electrician

Winter 2016


all about ME

Championing Women in Contracting At Master Electricians, we respect and value the women who make up our industry and understand that they wear many hats. Women in contracting are the decision makers, sparkies, administration officers, and the ones who often hold the entire business together! That’s why we’ve been working hard to offer a stellar new Women in Contracting (WiC) program that we’ve been rolling out across Australia. The program is a channel for women working in the electrical industry to be heard, recognised and empowered. You may have heard of or attended one of our meet-and-greet launch events that happened throughout April all over Australia. We enjoyed getting to know some of the amazing women who make up our industry – but these events were just the start of what is to come. Through future events, communications, awards and more, we’re transforming the way women are viewed and respected in a maledominated field of work. And we’re shaking up the way we engage with this group of powerful decision makers. As a part of this new program, we’re seeking to ‘create a conversation’ with the women in the industry. There are a few key points that are at the very heart of the WiC program, in that it: • Acknowledges the variety of roles undertaken by women in the contracting environment; • Respects the time pressures faced by women in attending events; • Nurtures a professional bond amongst the cohort; • Enhances their professional skills and networks; • Encourages women to actively pursue development opportunities;

• Provides contemporary, relevant information; • Includes business, social and personal facets at each touch point; and • Recognises the contribution of outstanding women in contracting. The WiC events will provide attendees with valuable lessons across three different areas – personal development and wellness, business-critical skill development, and soft skill development. This means that each event will be structured and substantial, and give attendees tangible lessons to take away to improve on themselves and their business. These events will create a professional bond amongst a wideranging group of likeminded individuals who all seek the same goal – a level playing field for women in a male-dominated industry. Our event speakers will focus on lessons they’ve learnt through their time in the industry, and will even touch on the mistakes they’ve made, and how to avoid them. We understand the time pressures faced by women, that’s why, where possible, events will be filmed and streamed, or loaded in our online portal for delayed viewing, to assist those who are unable to attend. Help us spread the word for all women in the electrical industry, and join us as we #createtheconversation. Get involved with WiC today or encourage the women in your network to join. For more information, visit


Policy in the lead up to the federal election At MEA, we have identified a number of issues facing the electrical industry that we are bringing to the attention of decision makers as we head into a federal election. Electrical safety has always been our number one priority with our continued campaign for an extension to safety switch laws. And with a proposed upgrade to the Australian Standard (and New Zealand Standard) AS/NZS 3000 that would mandate the fitting of safety switches on all circuits in homes and commercial buildings, we’re calling on both sides of politics to stand up and legislate these standards.

new strategies to curb the influx of noncompliant overseas products. These strategies include an information sharing arrangement between Customs and state electrical safety regulators that would stop these products entering Australia at the border, as well as the introduction of a register of electrical products at point of sale, mandatory recall insurance for manufacturers, importers and suppliers and product tracking systems.

Following the devastating house fire in Melbourne’s north west in December 2015, sparked by a self-balancing scooter (commonly known as a hoverboard), we’ve seen noncompliant products thrown under the spotlight as another critical electrical safety issue. And we are advocating to government for

It has long been identified by industry that the current occupational licensing arrangements in Australia present a significant administrative and financial burden for contractors working across state lines. Given national occupational licensing is no longer being pursued by government, an alternative streamlined

licensing regime that makes no compromises on electrical safety standards must be put in place. With the Australian economy transitioning from the mining boom, there is a growing demand for skilled labour in new and developing technologies. However, declining apprentice completion rates in the electrotechnology industry could compromise Australia’s capacity to compete in the new economy. And lastly, a fair and equitable workplace relations system is of critical importance to the Australian economy. A system that does not equally address the rights of both employers and employees can cripple productivity and have flow on social consequences for the wider community.

The Master Electrician

Winter 2016


Industry Benchmark Survey Each year, we ask our members to complete the Industry Benchmark Survey. We’d like to thank every single member who took part in our most recent survey. The survey allowed us to look at charge out rates, service fees, and travelling costs across the board, and provided vital insight into trends that help calculate charge out rates in the future. We developed the survey to ensure that, as an electrical contractor, you could benchmark your business against your peers to remain competitive in the marketplace and keep one step ahead. The findings are invaluable for planning for your business over the next financial year and assessing your performance from the last.

charge out rates. This is a significant change and shows the move towards a more business savvy electrical industry.

The most interesting finding of the Industry Benchmark Survey was that the way contractors calculate charge out rates has significantly changed over the two years since the survey was last run. In 2013, rates were calculated primarily based on industry averages and customer expectations. In 2015, we found that most respondents have used additional areas such as the cost of overheads and profit margins to calculate

• The importance of refresher training has grown across the board whilst apprentice and post-apprentice training has dropped slightly in its level of priority.

Specific findings include: • Commercial and domestic work held relatively stable in rates, with new domestic work showing some reductions relative to the market pressures in that state.

• There has been very little change in the way charges are identified to customers, when service fees are charged or if travel time is applied. This shows a consistency of approach in business methodology regardless of the economic environment.

• Across the country, there have been some fluctuations in charge out rates with the most notable being reductions in rates across air conditioning and refrigeration, data and communications, and appliance work. The Electrical Contracting Industry Benchmark and Charge Out Rate Survey is provided as a free resource to Master Electricians Members. It should be noted that individual circumstances should be taken into account when setting charge out rates and making business decisions. The MEA Technical and Workplace Relations team has a suite of additional resources to assist you in calculating appropriate service rates. Contact the team on 1300 889 198 for assistance.

CONGRATULATING MILESTONE MEMBERS Master Electricians Australia would like to thank a number of members for their loyalty to the association and commitment to the industry. Congratulations to this quarter’s 25-year members: • AMH Electrical Pty Ltd • Ross Greenwood Electrical Pty Ltd • R T Brown Electrical Contractor

Congratulations to this quarter’s 15-year members: • Online Electrical Services Northern Tableland • Hudnott Electrical


feature business

How to produce quotes that make you money Despite dire predictions earlier in the year about the economy, electrical contractors all around the country have been kept super busy. However, being busy is not a valid reason for letting the quality of your quotes slip. It’s now more important than ever to focus on producing high quality quotes that will win you the jobs you want and generate profitable work for your business. Robert Mark, Head of Growth at Tradify, explores the five top tips for making sure you win only the quotes that will make you money. 1. Use a template Nothing screams amateur like a shoddy looking quote, so make sure you’re using a professional looking template that includes the basics like company name, logo, ABN number, address and contact details and payment or quote acceptance terms. The template should also outline specific quote related details such as service and installation guarantees and leave plenty of room for sections outlining exactly what the quote includes or excludes.

The template should be easy to use and customised for different types of quotes such as those for service or installation work and commercial or residential jobs. Most importantly, the quote template should include plenty of information on why a prospective customer should choose you instead of the next guy. If you pride yourself on your workmanship or your professionalism, friendliness or flexibility, then you should make this abundantly clear. The Master Electrician

Winter 2016


“... it’s imperative that quotes are based on insights validated with data. To test and prove your assumptions you’ll need a good job tracking and reporting process, systems or tools.” This is the stuff that elevates you from a price-based conversation to a value-based one, so you should spend a significant amount of time crafting this section. 2. Be fast but be accurate Time is money right, so you should set yourself a target of turning around every quote within 24 hours (obviously you’ll need a template and a good system to make this happen). Being able to generate and distribute professional looking quotes in 24 hours or less further demonstrates your professionalism, time management and prioritisation skills. While it’s important to be able to turn quotes around quickly, it’s doubly important to be able to generate accurate quotes quickly. To do this you’ll need a few things. • Up-to-date supplier price lists – You’ll need accurate pricing information on hand so you don’t have to chase it or guess the cost of the materials and then wear the cost when you find out you guessed wrong.

• Variances – Outline how you will deal with job creep i.e. how will you price additional work during the job. This is a good opportunity to design a process that works for you and your business rather than the customer’s busy life. 3. Use insights not guesswork Generating quotes that allow you to win jobs that make you money should be a science rather than an art. Essentially a quote is an accurate estimate of the labour, materials and overhead costs required to deliver a particular outcome. However, without the proper data the estimate will be based on a guess or instinct rather than hard facts. For that reason, it’s imperative that quotes are based on insights validated with data. To test and prove your assumptions you’ll need a good job tracking and reporting process, systems or tools. With the right tools in place it’s easy to track, measure and report on job profitability. With the benefit of hindsight, and thanks to your tools, you can now compare historic estimates, to actual profit and apply those learnings to new quotes. For example, you may have been grossly underestimating labour or overheads and overstating materials. This information will allow you to make important adjustments to your quotes moving forward to ensure you stay competitive and actually make money.

• Kits – If you regularly price for similar jobs i.e. House rewiring, then you need to create customised “kits” that include all the elements (materials, labour and overheads plus margin) required, allowing you to quickly generate quotes for these types of jobs.

4. Follow up but don’t stalk Always always always follow up with a phone call three days after the quote was submitted. Three days gives customers enough time to have gone through the quote, compared you to others and have compiled any questions they might have. But it’s not so long ago that they’ve forgotten about you nor is it so soon that you look like a stalker or someone who’s desperate for work.

• Clarity – Your quote must make it abundantly clear what you are quoting on and what you are not. There should be no room for confusion, as confusion often leads to the contractor wearing the costs or additional activity.

The follow up call is an opportunity for you to get clarity on the status, answer any questions the customer might have and to keep your quote front of mind. If the customer has already made a decision and it wasn’t you, then it’s also a good time to find out


“Nothing screams amateur like a shoddy looking quote, so make sure you’re using a professional looking template.” why you didn’t win the business. If you did win the business, then it’s a fantastic time to ask for a deposit and to confirm start dates. 5. Learn and evolve It’s important to find out why you lost a quote and who you’ve lost quotes to, as this provides valuable competitor and pricing insights. Obviously you don’t always want to be the cheapest and you don’t always want to be the most expensive so getting feedback on where you priced is important. Look for patterns i.e. are you consistently too expensive? Feed this information back into step three. Often price won’t have been the deciding factor i.e. the other guy was a friend of my brother in law’s cousin, but you should still try to elicit feedback on the quality of your quote template, where you were in relation to price, clarity, look and feel and the terms and conditions. Again, any info gathered here needs to flow back into steps one, two, and three. Following these five steps should help your business move forward by consistently winning new profitable business. To successfully implement these steps, I would recommend spending 30 minutes of your time trialling Tradify. Our best-inclass job management software will help you implement the five steps outlined above while also improving your time tracking, scheduling and invoicing capability. Find out more at

Robert Mark, Head of Growth at Tradify.





The PD3N Acoustic & PIR Sensor

The cutting edge acoustic technology of BEG’s PD3N-Microphone sensor makes lighting control even more accessible for those ‘hard to reach’ areas. As well as motion detection, the PD3N-1C-Microphone sensor is receptive to the slightest of sounds, making it ideal for private areas like toilet cubicles, showers and many other spaces where motion may be hard to detect. Available in recessed (92184) & surface mount (92219) models. 1800 225 063 The Master Electrician

Winter 2016


feature impressive project

Spotlight on Sydney as Vivid takes over the city Featuring large-scale light installations and projections, music performances and collaborations; and creative ideas, discussion and lively debate, Vivid Sydney is a smorgasbord for the senses. Technical Direction Company (TDC) chats with us about the behind-thescenes technical elements that make this marathon event such a success.


TDC has worked alongside Destination NSW for five years in delivering technical work for Vivid Sydney – a spectacular 23 day event that combines light, music and ideas and is considered the largest event of its kind. After 11 months of planning and research into new technology and trends, TDC, the company behind the projection of amazing visual illuminations and interactive technology, has deployed city-wide multimedia across all aspects of the festival. Pulling the visual and technical aspects of an event of this magnitude is no easy feat, and TDC has had to work around with clock with Vivid Sydney with careful, highly-detailed planning by skilled staff – including full mappings and design

of the buildings to enable artists and designers to properly plan their animations. For this year’s event, TDC had 35 staff working full-time to produce a massive 11,500-square meters of video projection, in excess of 120 million pixels, and to deploy more than 70 projectors in custom-made projection towers around Sydney. TDC’s work was projected across some of Sydney’s most iconic buildings and locations including the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, Customs House, Cadmans Cottage, Sydney Harbour Bridge Pylon for Bangarra Dance Theatre, Taronga Zoo Centenary Celebrations, Central Park precinct, AMP Building for the McGrath Foundation, The Royal Botanic Garden Sydney precinct and the Darling Harbour precinct. The Master Electrician

Winter 2016


“‘All technical elements have been meticulously planned prior to the event.’ Mr Hassett said. ‘Only in Sydney will you be able to experience an event on this scale, size and technical complexity.’”

TDC CEO Michael Hassett said even the tiniest details had to be carefully planned out, and well in advance. “All technical elements have been meticulously planned prior to the event.” Mr Hassett said. “Only in Sydney will you be able to experience an event on this scale, size and technical complexity.” At this year’s exhibition, TDC delivered several Vivid Sydney technical firsts including: • The world’s first multi-viewer augmented reality activation, combining tablet technology, developed by Huawei and Spinifex, adding a greater wow-factor to the large-format video projection by TDC at Customs House. • Giant multimedia projections at the Garden of Light at Royal Botanic Garden Sydney, with Ample Projects.

• An unprecedented interactive installation where the audience controlled the video including Cadmans Cottage at IMPOSSIBLE VOYAGE, created by Propaganda Mill. • The Laser-Dragon Water-Theatre in Darling Harbour which saw TDC project onto a water screen mounted on a 13-meter robotic arm floating high above 56 fountains and 22 flame jets, deployed by Oracle Liquid. At Eyes on the Harbour, visitors’ faces were captured and projected onto a water-theatre using Intel RealSense technology. • At Central Park, TDC projected Ample Project’s X-Factory onto the Heritage-listed Carlton & United Brewery building, telling a story about the shift to computational technologies, and sustainability. Ignatius Jones, Creative Director of Vivid Sydney, said the team at Destination NSW worked alongside TDC to wow attendees. “We work closely with TDC to constantly break new boundaries in technology and to develop immersive experiences each year in the festival’s delivery of creativity and innovation,” Mr Jones said. “Vivid Sydney inspires, entertains and exemplifies the emerging technologies that are changing our world. It is a celebration that will blow away all who behold it.”


The Master Electrician

Winter 2016


maximise your membership

Is your business protected against the worst? When preparing a risk management plan, many businesses often overlook the financial impact a serious critical illness such as a heart attack or cancer diagnosis, permanent disability or the death of a key staff member or business partner can have on the business. Often the solution to these risks is implementing key person and buy/sell insurance cover. Concept Benefit Planning Senior Advisor Hamish Rankin explores. Keyperson insurance – revenue purpose Many growing and established businesses depend heavily on the skills and intellectual property provided by the owners and other key people, such as a company director, sales manager, financial controller, or IT manager or developer. Where this is the case, the temporary or permanent loss of a key person could have a detrimental impact on revenue and profits. Also, if another suitable person isn’t available within the business, considerable

costs can be incurred recruiting and training a replacement. A cost-effective solution is to insure the key people in the business in the event of death, total and permanent disability (TPD) and critical illness (CI). If any of these events should occur, the insurance payment can provide a muchneeded injection of cash to: • Stabilise and protect the business; • Offset a reduction in revenue; and

• Cover the costs associated with finding and training a suitable replacement. Key person insurance – capital purpose There are a number of ways a business can use debt to start-up or grow its operations. A commonly used approach is to borrow from a lending institution, where the loan is secured by: • The principal’s personal assets, such as the family home, or






Income Protection

Income Protection will pay up to 75% of your income as a monthly benefit if you are unable to work because of illness or injury.

Insured suffers a shoulder injury, a heart attack, or another sickness or injury and is unable to return to work for an extended period.

To pay your everyday living expenses.

Business Expenses

Business Expenses will reimburse certain fixed ongoing business expenses as a monthly benefit if you are unable to work because of illness or injury.

Insured suffers a shoulder injury, a heart attack, or another sickness or injury and is unable to return to work for an extended period.

To cover your ongoing business expenses, so your income protection benefits aren’t used up to cover these costs.

Life Insurance

Life Insurance will pay a lump sum if you die or suffer from a terminal condition.

The life insured is killed in an accident, or dies from cancer or another illness.

To fund income for your dependants. To eliminate debt. To pay medical expenses. To pay funeral and other final expenses.

Total & Permanent Disability (TPD)

Total & Permanent Disability will pay a lump sum if you suffer from an illness or injury that leaves you totally and permanently disabled and unable to work in your own/any occupation again.

The life insured suffers a serious injury or sickness and can no longer work in any occupation which they are educated, trained or experienced or in their own occupation again.

To provide funds for investment to top up income protection benefits. To eliminate your debts. To pay medical expenses. To fund modifications to your home. To fund option costs such as vacations, or reduced working hours for your partner.

Trauma/Critical illness

Trauma Insurance will pay a lump sum if you suffer from a specified medical condition and survive such as heart attack, cancer or stroke.

Insured suffers cancer, a heart attack, stroke or another specified trauma event.

To top up income protection benefits. To eliminate your debts. To pay medical expenses. To fund option costs such as vacations, reduced working hours for you or your partner.

Key Person

A combination of Life/TPD/ Trauma Insurance to provide funds to a business to replace a Keyperson.

A keyperson suffers a heart attack and is unable to return to work for an extended period. Funds provided to business to cover increased business expenses such as the cost to source a replacement.

To relieve financial pressure on business by providing funds to cover increased business expenses (revenue purpose), or to reduce business debt/ clear capital guarantees (capital purpose).


A combination of Life/ TPD/Trauma Insurance to provide funds to business/ shareholders to buy out exiting partners shareholding.

A business partner passes away. Funding is provided to transfer the departing owners’ shareholding from his estate to the remaining business partners as per their Buy/Sell agreement.

Provides access to a cheap funding mechanism for share purchase on the unexpected departure of a business partner.

The Master Electrician

Winter 2016


• Business assets, such as business real property.

protection often ranks highest in the hierarchy of business insurance needs.

When taking out (and reviewing) these loans, the business should consider what could happen if a key person dies, becomes totally and permanently disabled or suffers a critical illness.

It’s generally recognised that life insurance has an important role to play in clearing business debts if a principal dies. However, a common misconception is that total and permanent disability and critical illness are an either or option. While this may be the case for some clients, it won’t apply in all situations.

If these events occur, the business could have difficulty meeting its loan commitments. The lending institution could have concerns regarding the business’ cash flow and credit position and may require the outstanding loan to be repaid immediately. The lending institution may even have to sell the personal or business assets used as security so the debt can be cleared. Again, a cost-effective way to provide an injection of cash to address these risks is to arrange for the principals and/or key persons to take out sufficient death, total and permanent disability (TPD) and critical illness insurance. In the event of a claim, the insurance proceeds could be used to:

For example, a principal may have a heart attack and return to work several months later. In this case, a critical illness (but not a total and permanent disability) claim would be paid. Conversely, if a principal was to suffer a nervous breakdown, they would usually not be able to claim a CI benefit, but may be able to claim a total and permanent disability benefit instead. In other words, depending on the client’s individual circumstances, taking out insurance to cover all three trigger events may be appropriate.

• Improve the credit standing of the business.

Alternatives to insurance There are various alternatives that could be used if a person who is directly responsible for generating revenue, or who has provided capital guarantees is lost to the business. However, each of these options has some significant shortcomings. For example:

This is particularly important for highly geared businesses where asset (debt)

• The business could absorb the reduction in revenue into the current

• Pay off or reduce the debts; • Release any loan guarantee or security; and

year profits. But this would generally reduce the income the principals could receive and may result in the business running at a loss. Significant drops in revenue may lead to a lending institution recalling credit it has extended to the business, in part or in full, as a deterioration of revenue may cause the business to breach a loan covenant. • Alternatively, the business could accumulate a reserve. However, it could take many years to build up enough funds and, because the money needs to be readily available, it would need to be invested conservatively in liquid assets that typically yield a lower return. Most businesses generally prefer to put capital to a more efficient use, earning higher returns and generating greater value for stakeholders. Business succession planning is a complex area and business owners/ directors should seek individual, legal and taxation advice before implementing any strategies. If you would like to discuss your needs, contact our office on 1800 630 322. This information has been prepared without taking into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. Before making a decision based on this material, you should consider its appropriateness in regards to your objectives, financial situation & needs. A financial adviser can help you determine what’s appropriate before you make a decision, and provide you with a Product Disclosure Statement.


your top 3 tech questions

Our hardworking technical team at Master Electricians Australia HQ help our members navigate issues they face in their day-to-day work life. From interpreting standards, regulations or legislation to advice with technical, safety or compliance matters, our guys know it all! Here are our answers to some of your most frequently asked questions. Q: Does a plastic flexible shower curtain provide the same protection as a shower door when determining the classified zones of a bathroom? A: Yes, clause 6.2.1. identifies that a shower curtain which effectively contains the water within the specific shower cubical can be classed as a suitable barrier. Q: If an existing switchboard is being completely replaced with a new unit, do we have to install additional RCD protection on applicable final sub circuits?

A: Yes, all final sub circuits requiring RCD protection under clause 2.6 will need to be installed. This direction is located in clause under alteration, additions and repairs. Q: Can a switchboard be mounted above a cooking appliance?. A: No, under clause restricted locations (c), a switchboard is not permitted to be installed in the immediate area. An exception does exist to mount the switchboard in a suitable enclosure or

cupboard that will ensure no moisture will affect the switchboard and its components. Consideration should also be given to ensure the switchboard enclosure will meet the manufacturers requirements for ventilation and acceptable access for future works. The information above is specific to each question and may not apply to all such instances. If the application is different or has some similarities then please consult our Technical Hotline for further advice on 1300 889 198. The Master Electrician

Winter 2016


industry chatter Welcome to Industry Chatter where we ask three members from across the country about everything from their business beginnings to their favourite gadgets and their top business tips.




Owner of Baney Electrical

Owner of Michael Turton Electrical

Owner of ATD Electrical

Alice Springs, Northern Territory

Gold Coast, Queensland

Wollongong, NSW

Servicing the Northern Territory and northern South Australia, Matt is on time all the time and believes no job is too big or too small.

Having recently launched into electrical contracting, Michael is enjoying the freedom and flexibility that comes with choosing his own hours!

With nearly 20 years of electrical contracting under his belt, Guy has seen the industry undergo many changes, and has embraced the latest technology to keep his business on the right track.

LET’S GET INTO IT When did you start the business, and what prompted you to become an electrical contractor? Matt: We started our business in 2012, initially as a sole trader, then eventually formed a pty ltd company on January 1, 2015. I was prompted to become an electrical contractor after wanting to get

more from my career as an electrician. I wanted more of a challenge, and was limited to more challenging positions in companies I worked for. I also wanted more reward, and flexibility in my life. Michael: I became an electrical contractor because I had a baby girl and wanted to

spend more time with her. And this allows me to be very flexible! Guy: I’ve been an electrical contractor in one form or another since I finished my electrical apprenticeship in Sydney in early 1998. Exceeding expectations and solving people’s problems keeps


“As most jobs are after hours, it (being an electrical contractor) really frees me up during most days to spend with my new baby and also hang with friends and family, which I never could do before.” Michael Turton me motivated and interested along with the variation I’ve experienced from residential and commercial through to underground mining. How do you find that magic worklife/family balance? Matt: It is extremely difficult. I constantly find myself working on quotes after hours, or doing over time – well beyond what I would have done as an employee. But the reward is that I get time during the day to do things with my family that I would otherwise not have been able to, such as taking my daughter to appointments, school etc. We can also make decisions on when and where we can go as a family and not be restricted to specific holiday periods. We can even take an entire day off if we please. Michael: After doing huge hours in my other job, this is a lot easier for me. As most jobs are after hours, it (being an electrical contractor) really frees me up during most days to spend with my new baby and also hang with friends and family, which I never could do before.

Guy: I’ve had to think about this one for a while and can only conclude that I could definitely do better in this area. What’s your strategy for managing all of the different aspects of your business – from the accounting side, to job management, to the practical work, to business development? Matt: Our strategy is to eventually have a smooth running system. We use Xero in combination with ServiceM8 to run our bookkeeping, and job schedules. At the moment we are trying to develop an efficient process, then eventually employ more staff, and introduce them to an easy established system. We hope this will assist us in our long-term goals. Michael: I’m really lucky as it’s a family business and my mum does all of the book work and invoicing. I also have a great network of sub-contracting sparkies to help me when needed. Plus, this is another reason why being with Master Electricians is beneficial – they can help you with all this stuff as well, because they have been there and done it and know what works.

Guy: At ATD Electrical, we’re focused on implementing systems while we’re relatively small, in the theory that this will later allow us to grow without the chaos often experienced by firms who grow quickly and without such systems in place. We currently implement a range of cloud-based software including simPRO Enterprise, Xero, an additional CRM system and are working on API functions for increased automation. We also value the technical support offered by the Master Electricians Technical Hotline and various other services available to us through our subscription. What do you think are some of the most important issues facing the electrical industry? Matt: Health and safety are the most important issues. There have been too many electricians and apprentices die in recent years. The biggest problem is the fact the industry often feels pressure to cut a corner or get a job done quicker, or to an unrealistic budget. We constantly find ourselves facing customers who try to pressure us to cut corners. It may have

“There have been too many electricians and apprentices die in recent years.” Matt Baney

The Master Electrician

Winter 2016


“Talk to potential customers – ask them about their needs, talk to them about things that have nothing to do with the job, get to know them. If you make your customers feel comfortable talking to you, it will help you. ”

inspected against the Service Installation Rules and AS3000. Beyond attracting a defect and more importantly, this process provided the opportunity to maintain both skills and knowledge. Nowadays, it’s entirely possible that an electrician could unwittingly breach the standard for 10 years and be none the wiser.

Michael: Couldn’t agree more with Matt – health and safety is a must. You just have to look at the amount of deaths in roofs because of the insulation debacle.

How do you see the landscape of the electrical industry changing over the next five to 10 years? Matt: This is a hard one. The last 10 years have changed quite a bit, especially in my area. There are so many more sole traders and small companies. It may have a lot to do with the mining sector slowing down, and many larger businesses downsizing. I’d like to imagine the industry growing along with rest of the economy.

Guy: Deregulation of the industry has a lot to answer for in my opinion. Once upon a time, an electrician would be forced to maintain standards due to the likely scenario that his work would be

Michael: I would say it’s going more automated than ever. There will be less jobs because it costs the company less in sick days and annual leave because machines don’t take holidays!

Matt Baney

a lot to do with the DIY and unlicensed workers putting pressure on the industry.

Guy: I’d like to see increased policing of licencing and compliance in order to narrow the gap between the best and the worst of the industry. Sadly, I suspect it will go in the opposite direction and therefore qualifying leads and servicing customers will become more important for those who aim to provide quality work and service. Automation will be key, not just in administration but particularly in marketing and engaging with customers,

“... have a think about the type of work you prefer, the type of work you feel will be profitable and define your ideal customer.” Guy Jenkins


as increasingly, modern society expects more for less. What’s your top tip for other sparkies wanting to make it as electrical contractors? Matt: Communication – it’s the most important factor in business. Get your name out. Talk to customers. Talk to potential customers – ask them about their needs, talk to them about things that have nothing to do with the job, get to know them. If you make your customers feel comfortable talking to you, it will help you. Don’t get caught up doing what many do – showing up late, getting the details of the job in a rush, then leaving. The client will feel that all you care about is getting their money, and not actually care about their job. Michael: I think it’s important to do what you say you are going to do. An example of this is you often hear of contractors not showing up to jobs or arranging a time to do the job and then cancelling last minute. I also think being punctual is very important. You also need to get the right tools for the job. I also think you should sign up with Master Electricians because their technical support is absolutely amazing and the amount of benefits you get by being with them is priceless, especially when you’re just starting out as a contractor, because time is money. Guy: Before rushing out and advertising that you’re an electrician and will do anything, adopting a “no job too big or too small” type approach, have a think about the type of work you prefer, the type of work you feel will be profitable and define your ideal customer. Armed with that knowledge, create a strategic marketing plan and avoid crazy busy with little reward. Matt: Just because you are busy doesn’t mean you are making money. Guy: Exactly Matt, in fact it means you’re probably not. The Master Electrician

Winter 2016



Sparking a brighter future The electro-technology industry is at a crossroads – with its ongoing growth and evolution, the industry faces a raft of challenges that need to be addressed if it is to continue to maintain and improve on its industryaccepted quality benchmarks.

AS an industry partner and training organisation, Master Electricians Training (MET), driven by Master Electricians and Careers Australia, is tackling two of these issues head on, with timely, industry developed strategies; these are the increasing rate of student cancellations and the shortage of appropriately skilled workers.

If these issues are not sufficiently addressed, we can expect to see an increased negative impact on businesses and subsequently, on the local economy, that will naturally flow on to impact national outcomes. The electro-technology workforce is in need of suitably qualified and motivated workers and, training organisations are in dire need of students who have the

drive and the capacity to properly acquire the knowledge being taught, in order to become the expert workers needed. According to the Energy Skills Qld 2012-2017 Workforce Plan, in the section focusing on student cancellation rates per year of study, there is a significant doubling of cancellations in the second year of study. It’s reported that a staggering 14 per


“MET has partnered with E-OZ (Industry Skills Council for the Electrotechnology, Communications and Energy Utilities industries) to develop a programme that puts aspiring apprentices through a ‘readiness assessment’.”

This initiative ties into the growing success of pre-vocational training programmes, whereby apprentices and trainees are able to learn and work in an actual workplace environment. The success of these pre-vocational training programmes and the reason why MET pursues them, is to ensure the students’ success, whilst creating a stronger, higher quality workforce for participating businesses. The students not only progress through their units, but are exposed to current standards and best industry practice, whilst businesses are able to witness first-hand the capabilities of the students and how well they fit into the workplace. Is this enough?

cent of second year students are electing to exit their studies in this sector. Whilst the data indicates the reasons for cancellation are varied, it’s interesting to note that it coincides with the introduction of more complex subjects, particularly in relation to mathematics. What can be done, to ensure against this having a lasting impact on your business? Under the banner of MET, Master Electricians and Careers Australia are focused on driving holistic success for the industry by starting implementing a ground-up approach. The organisations are taking an optimistic approach and choosing to see this as an opportunity instead of a roadblock; recognising that there is a need to address current challenges with a multi-solution strategy. MET has partnered with E-OZ (Industry Skills Council for the Electrotechnology, Communications and Energy Utilities industries) to develop a programme that puts aspiring apprentices through a ‘readiness assessment’. In a similar fashion to recent government reforms, the organisations have implemented an assessment that focuses on an individual’s fundamental skills in both literacy and numeracy. The assessment is undertaken prior to enrolment in the Certificate II in Electrotechnology programmes. It is not a tool to discriminate or exclude, simply a means of determining an individual’s current state of readiness to be able to undertake and meet the requirements of the qualification. The end objective is to ensure a higher calibre of the people applying, commencing and continuing through their qualification, resulting in a lower student exit rate, most notably in the second year.

While these are strong and productive initiatives, there is always room for more, for bigger, better and stronger initiatives. MET provides students with access to high-quality, innovative and industry-current training delivery, no matter their situation or location. This means providing access to platforms such as Trades Future, a learning platform where trades students have access to a variety of industry-required qualifications and associated units of study, for example, the White Card. They can view and submit responses to assessments from any device and receive real-time responses from trainers and assessors, regardless of being on the worksite, in a classroom, at home or waiting for public transport. MET employs continual self-analysis – it is Master Electricians and Careers Australia’s aim and vision to help build and maintain a strong and innovative future, through initiatives that are designed to attract a higher calibre of student committed to their training and their future. The organisations are dedicated to developing these individuals into strong quality members of the industry, who strive to give back and grow with it. Master Electricians Training fosters a future and an industry sector that is bright, locally and nationally, and both Master Electricians and Careers Australia are constantly taking steps to make sure this is a reality for the Australian electrical industry. For more information, visit The Master Electrician

Winter 2016


meet a master electrician

Name: James Patterson Company: Going off Grid State: Victoria Status: MEA member for 6 years

Appearing on the electrical contracting scene in 2009 as the owner of Albatross Electrical with a team of 15 guys on the tools, James earned a stellar reputation among his peers for his ‘yes man’ attitude and hardworking nature. In 2014, he took a break from the industry for a year before relaunching and refocusing in 2015. Now, as a part of the two-man team who make up his new business, Going Off Grid, James is pursuing his passion, servicing the emerging solar sector all over the country and abroad, and helping others reach their off-grid power goals. Were you born & bred in Victoria? I was born in Victoria but I moved around a lot as a kid. My dad was in the mining industry. Growing up, I spent five years in PNG, and stints in Perth, Gove, Brisbane, Geelong, Melbourne and Tasmania. Why did you decide to start your own business – Going off Grid? When I started contracting (in 2009) I got caught up in the grid connected solar boom. But my real passion has always been off grid solar. There are some tragic standalone power stories around where people have all the best intentions to live independently in the bush but end up running out of power and wish they connected to the grid. I set up Going Off Grid as a way to combat this issue and have developed a unique system of helping customers decide whether going off grid is realistic for their lifestyle. We are only a year old and work with people who want to be disconnected from the grid but who don’t want to compromise on power.

What sparked your interest in renewable energy? I actually started my apprenticeship because I wanted to get into solar: it just makes sense. Back in 2005 there were only a handful of companies doing solar so I moved to Tassie to learn from a veteran in the industry. Early on we did some work on top of a mountain for a stand-alone system powering emergency services communication. When I got into the helicopter I was hooked with the variety that off grid installs provide. Since then, you’ve worked all through country Victoria and Tasmania. And last year you spent a lot of time in Fiji and Vanuatu. One of your biggest projects was for Parliament House in Vanuatu! Tell me about that experience. The biggest off grid job I have worked on is 200+KW of solar with 162kW of battery inverters and 648kWh of batteries. And the biggest grid connect was a 767kW solar system in Vanuatu where we caught boats and planes to the island every day.

Last year we spent five or six months over in Vanuatu. That was putting in 767 kilo watts. We worked with local guys to do that for Parliament House in Vanuatu, contracting to another company based over in Fiji. When we fired up this 767 kilowatt system, it was putting out 500 kilowatts. There was a point after it was operating for about a week and it had offset a ridiculous amount of diesel – it was out of control how much it was! After about a week it had produced about 20 megawatt hours, which might have offset about 7000L of diesel in a week. This one for parliament house was grid connected but the one that’s going to go in, starting now, is off grid… it’s a huge hotel in Vanuatu. It’s a highlight that it’s going to be disconnected from the grid! What’s it like working with the sparkies in those countries? It’s awesome. It was incredible how good some of the electricians are over in Fiji. There is a huge range of skills. Some of the guys are called


electricians but they’re only just electricians, but other guys are guns! I really like working with them, understanding the culture and getting a really good insight into the country. Where would you like to see your business grow in the future? As for the future, I have been enjoying working with other electrical contractors lately. A few guys with their grid connect accreditation have given me some off grid leads so that they can come out on the job and do the install and get a taste of it. In terms of where I want to take the business, I’ve got three electricians who I help with their off grid designs. With off grids, they’re really long lead times. That’s where these guys who I’m doing the designs for get the benefit. I do the system design and energy audits and I give it back to them to sell. It means, if they get a lead, they can process it without having a massive drama. I’m hoping to collaborate with more sparkies across Australia in the future and to help make the process of going off grid as smooth and easy as possible! You’ve been married for nearly five years, and have a little boy. With all of your travelling between states and across the Pacific, your life must be very full! Tell me about your family life.

I have a lovely wife Bec and we have a little boy Lenny. I am really enjoying being a Dad. Lenny is 10 months old. It’s definitely made me want to be at home more. It’s just a big change I guess. It’s one of those things that probably makes you evaluate your priorities. I definitely want to be not working as much now that I’ve got Lenny. How do you find that magic work life balance? When I first started contracting in 2009 my work life balance was non-existent. Now that I have a little one, I am better at finding time away from the business. I try to be the best at what I do and I find people are willing to wait for us nowadays. What’s it like living on the beautiful west coast of Victoria? I live near Bells Beach. There isn’t a better place in the world. It’s easy to sneak down for a wave when the surf’s good. I like avoiding the city where possible. When you live right near a stunning beach, and internationally renowned surf spot, where do you go for holidays? How does it get much better than that? We go down to Tassie a fair bit. We just stay at a shack in the Bay of Fives – it’s pretty isolated. The best part of coming back from holidays is knowing you’re just coming back to the beach. The Master Electrician

Winter 2016


the buzz

Electricians continue the call for Qld Government to stay out of electrical contracting Over the past month, we have been continuing our very vocal campaign for the Queensland State Government to stay out of electrical contracting in response to reports that Queensland Government-owned electricity distributors Ergon and Energex have been developing their own business division to enter an already-crowded contractor market. This is not just an issue that should concern Queensland electrical contractors, but one that should spark a great deal of alarm amongst contractors across the country. We have been inundated with calls from dozens and dozens of mum and dad electrical contracting businesses concerned about the impact the move will have on their viability, and their ability to retain employees and apprentices. So as the voice of the industry, we launched a parliamentary petition opposing the Qld Government’s plan. We have also written to the Queensland Productivity Commission, arguing the business model would breach National Competition Policy principles. Should the State Government go ahead, it would be a very serious abuse of market power for Ergon and Energex to be competing with mum and dad electrical contractors, who would never be able to afford to borrow money or sustain losses in the same way the State Government can.

Ergon is the authority that approves connections of solar panels or battery systems for homes and businesses. This is the bread and butter work for many small contractors in regional Queensland. Under the Qld Government’s plan, these contractors will be forced to compete with their own regulator for business. How can they have any confidence their applications will be treated confidentially or dealt with quickly by their competitors? And is it fair that one player in the contracting market will hold all the marketing information on which houses already have solar and which ones don’t? As if that’s not bad enough, this new so-called business would be reaching into taxpayers’ pockets in order to support its operations and sustain any commercial losses. This is akin to the Government funding Woolworths to move in and smash the local corner store.

Regional Queensland already has a wellsupplied electrical contracting market, with many businesses in competition for the kind of work that would be taken away from them. There is absolutely no suggestion of market failure or other conditions that would justify the Qld Government deciding to compete with small, local businesses and employers. The only thing this would do is drive those smaller operators out of business, which would in turn drive up prices for consumers once competition is reduced. We’re continuing to call on the Queensland Government to rethink its plan, consider the crippling impact it would have on regional small businesses and the communities that rely on them, and put an end to this crazy scheme. For more information, contact Master Electricians Australia on 1300 889 198.


Clean Energy Summit to attract delegates from all over the world More than 150 industry speakers are lined up for Australia’s single largest, clean and renewable energy conference and exhibition. Last year’s All-Energy Australia conference attracted more than 4,200 industry professionals from around Australia and the world, and this year is expected to be even bigger and better. The program will cover seven first-rate conference streams including smart grids, off-grid solutions, community energy, investment opportunities, electric cars, bioenergy and wave energy technology. Energy storage, future grid and energy efficiency have been earmarked as the standout streams for the All-Energy Australia conference, with each set to attract internationally acclaimed speakers. All-Energy Australia Exhibition Director Robby Clark said these three new sub-brands were sure to retain the event’s market edge and improve its offering for each high-growth area.

“We’re always looking for ways to maintain All-Energy Australia’s market leading position and find ways to pack as much quality content as we can into the free, two-day program,” Mr Clark said. “Our delegates are hungry for the latest technology and expert advice in the sector, which is what this year’s program, and its three sub-brands of future grid, energy storage and energy efficiency, will bring to the table.” As part of the exhibition’s offering, delegates can participate in a two-day solar installer demonstration run by leading companies Clenergy, Solar Juice, Trina Solar and SMA. All-Energy Australia is Australia’s largest and most comprehensive clean and renewable energy event, and will take place at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre from October 4–5. To access the 2016 program and register for free, visit The Master Electrician

Winter 2016


Encourage your clients to be vigilant this winter As we enter the middle of the winter season, it’s important to continue to take extra precautions and be vigilant with fire safety. Data from all Australian Fire Services shows that during winter there is an increased risk of house fires due to higher usage rates of electrical appliances. Sadly, this in turn results in an increased mortality rate from house fires.

• Always make sure all heaters are turned off as soon as you leave the room or house.

To help identify the risks involved with winter house fires we have developed the simple safety checklist below that you can share with your clients to help them ensure their homes are safe and free of any appliances or other items that may start a fire.

• Never leave children unattended near candles, matches, or electric heaters and flammable items.

• Make sure all items meet Australian standards and are not damaged. If they are, throw them away. • Make sure you have an adequate number of fire alarms throughout your house and test them regularly.

• Do not piggyback cords on double adapters or power boards.

• Always handle open flames with care and extinguish them before you leave the room or go to bed. • If you have a fire place make sure the chimney is kept clean with a screen in front of it.

• Check all electric blankets for fraying and damaged cords.

• Never leave cooking unattended and always be alert and aware of what’s on the stove.

• Make sure that all electric heaters are not kept within 1 metre of other objects.

• Always make sure you have an evacuation plan prepared and practiced in case of a fire.


gadget guide



Thermal imagers are invaluable to help quickly troubleshoot electrical equipment, panels, and transformers but electricians and maintenance technicians often don’t have access to one when they need it. The Fluke 279 FC TRMS Thermal Multimeter is the first test tool to integrate a full-featured true RMS (TRMS) digital multimeter (DMM) with a thermal camera in one device to speed troubleshooting.

Clipsal by Schneider Electric’s Saturn OneTouch is a stylish range of touchsensitive controls, with multi-way switching and dimming capability, which will appeal to your more discerning customers looking for a point of difference in their home.

The 279 FC lets technicians quickly and safely check for hot spots in fuses, wires, insulators, connectors, splices, and switches with the imager and then troubleshoot and analyse issues with the DMM. For more information, visit

INDEPENDENT TEMPORARY INSULATED EARTH STAKE The ETS20SS stake can be screwed into the ground easily with the stainless steel auger tip. Connectivity to earth is maintained by one end of the flexible cable permanently bonded to an internal brass bush running the length of the inside of the reel. This has created a very robust product that will give years of trouble-free use. Various types of test equipment can be connected to the stackable banana plug with 20 metres of green flexible cable available to use.

It’s a modular range of integrally switched electronic switches and dimmers, incorporating advanced touch control technology. Designed for universal load compatibility, Saturn OneTouch products utilise powerful and sophisticated microcontroller based universal dimming technology to provide full control of almost any type of load.

Other features include the 1000V rated insulated handle for increased safety while testing, and an adjustable drag system fitted to the reel that is easy to use and requires no tools to operate.

For more information, visit

For more information, visit

ProTag PrimeTest Elite Australia’s Most Advanced Test & Tag System

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The Master Electrician

Winter 2016



You asked ... Every year, tradies from Cloncurry to Perth to Adelaide to Bendigo start their own businesses. At MEA, we know better than anyone the pressures of getting a business off the ground. There’s insurance, HR, job management, safety systems, customer relationships, and making sure you have the right tools for the job. The whole process can be quite expensive, time consuming and at times, stressful, but if done right, it can also be one of the most rewarding career steps you take.


We are constantly fielding enquiries from sparkies who want to take the plunge and become an electrical contractor, but don’t know where to start.

In addition, you’re also keen to make sure you’re compliant across the Australian Electrical Standards, ensuring you’re fulfilling your obligations as an electrical contractor.

Over the past 12 to 18 months there have been a number of high profile cases of safety breaches on the job, so in addition to wanting a little guidance on where to start, callers are also keen to make sure they get all the right protocols in place to make sure breaches like these don’t happen to them.

So whether you’re just starting out, or you’re a seasoned electrical contractor, these are all issues we can help you manage through our partnership with the very best industry providers. But with the know-how of our trusted partners, we can also help you with your other day to day responsibilities, like quoting, scheduling and invoicing, that have a tendency to chew up a great deal of your time, and take away from your number one priority – customers.

Over the years, we’ve stressed the importance of having a safety system in place, so we understand that when you’re getting started as an electrical contractor, you may be yet to develop a consistent revenue stream, and you still want a safety system in place from the outset – but one that won’t break the bank.

All of this accounting work can be kept under wraps in one place and be accessible both in the office and on the road. But what about staff training? Over the last six months, we’ve received great feedback from electrical contractors about the difference Master Electricians Training (MET) has made to the way they handle the training of their staff, and how it has provided them with flexible opportunities to upskill.

“So whether you’re just starting out, or you’re a seasoned electrical contractor, these are all issues we can help you manage through our partnership with the very best industry providers.”

However, we know that it is a big commitment to go down the path of pursuing courses. We’ve had electrical contractors ring us up and ask if they can have a taste of what the course delivery system is like, without having to commit to a full package. So, we’re taking things to the next level. You asked for the very best in safety, compliance, job management, accounting, and training – we listened, and we delivered. The Master Electrician

Winter 2016



... We delivered At MEA, we set the standard for electrical industry representation. Ever since we brought the Master Electricians Australia brand onto the electrical industry scene eight years ago, we’ve been at the forefront of developing services and products to support you and give you the right tools to run a successful business.


Over this time we’ve set the pace for the electrical industry nation-wide, and have forced other organisations to really think about the kinds of services their members need and deserve. We’ve lifted the bar yet again with a range of unparalleled benefits with a new offer to both existing members, and those yet to join. The new offering will continue our track record of disrupting the status quo in the industry in order to provide better services for you, the electrical contractor! It’s the most comprehensive membership offer ever to be made available to electrical contractors in this country. The basis of it is that we’re focused on providing the very best tools a contractor needs to run a safe, profitable and sustainable business.

The new MEA membership offer includes: • Three months’ free membership (a 25 per cent discount on upfront annual payment); • Free access to ME Safety Express – the industry’s leading safety program helping contractors start their safety journey; • Free access to 14 key Australian Standards including the new AS/NZS 3000 later this year; • Six months’ free access to Tradify, the industry’s leading job management system, then 20 per cent off all licenses after that; • Two months’ free access to small business accounting package Xero, then a 20 per cent discount after that; • A CNW account with $50 voucher; and • A free asbestos online training course from ME Training.

“The new offering will continue our track record of disrupting the status quo in the industry in order to provide better services for you, the electrical contractor!”

All these benefits add up to $3,527 in value! For a membership which starts at $668, there has never been so much value offered to the industry.

For more information, head to The Master Electrician

Winter 2016


the interview

Peter Rowe Peter Rowe is the kind of man who commands attention wherever he goes. The 69 year old is taller than most and visibly strong (testament to years of a healthy lifestyle and competitive power lifting), fiercely intelligent, well-spoken and highly educated. He’s a former court reporter, TAFE Head Teacher, software designer, business publisher, business improvement specialist, design engineer and transmission specialist, but it’s his six-year body of work commercialising unique plant biotechnology, as the founder of Queensland-based PolyGenomX, that’s commanding attention from environmental groups and agribusinesses the world over.

Peter, what exactly is PolyGenomX, and what does it actually do? We use cutting edge biotechnological processes to develop new, high performance plant varieties of any species, and then license the use of those plants to large-scale agricultural enterprises to improve their performance in turn. So how do you change plant performance in a natural way, without using genetic modification? We take advantage of the fact that if you stress any organism it has two options: adapt or die. We apply that fact to stress a few tiny cells of plant material in a very specific way to trigger adaptive reprogramming of their genes in ways that are beneficial for our purposes. Our goal may be faster growth, earlier maturity, higher yields and tolerance of salt, or resistance to disease, for example. Once adapted, those plants grow from their embryonic state to maturity and are then able to pass on the induced performance enhancements to their progeny, and so represent entirely new plant varieties. What are the applications and possibilities for a ‘super plant’, both domestically and internationally? Improved food production is a high priority. Our plants are able to utilise more atmospheric carbon than unadapted plants, and covert that carbon (dioxide) into plant sugars and other materials. So, we are able to produce more flavoursome, more nutritious, bigger fruits, grains and vegetables, for example. And the same goes for plants which feed into renewable energy production, carbon capture, land remediation, forestry and so on. We also have the capacity to adapt those plants to say, a saline environment to remediate salt-affected soil which still provide a commercial yield, or to withstand the impacts of climate change. So these PolyGemomX plants – or polyploids – they grow darn fast, mature early, and tolerate environmental stresses like drought, salinity and diverse soil nutrient qualities better than most. Plus they also have a higher yield of biomass. What does all this mean for the environment? I think the key factor to grasp is that most of the performance boost in polyploids comes as a result of better carbon utilisation. Our results show that they can be using up to 50 per cent more carbon than their standard equivalents. If you extrapolate a 150 per cent growth rate over time you can, quite literally in the case of some species, ‘grow a 10-year-old tree in four years’ – and all you are using to do that is more CO². How much of a game-changer is research like yours in the environmental sustainability arena? How can plants like polyploids be implemented to have a significant impact on climate change? If you accept the evidence that current atmospheric carbon levels are high and rising, that’s good news for plants and bad news for a lot of other life forms, ours included. If you can replace a commercial plant with an adapted plant that provides higher yields by converting more atmospheric carbon to plant material –


while breathing out more oxygen – all for no change in process, infrastructure, labour or inputs, then the increased performance drops straight to the bottom line as profits. If that fact is accepted and – in the best of all words – we transition all commercial crops to our adapted varieties, then we not only lower our cost of food and renewable resource production but lower our levels of atmospheric carbon as well. I’d call that a potential game-changer. 2015 was a record-breaking year for investment into renewable energy, amid an ever-growing trend toward divestment (voluntarily reducing fossil fuel investments). As the value of fossil fuel holdings drops and the profitability of renewables grows, the experts are tipping that the corporate case for sustainability is becoming just as much about profits as it is about public relations. How does this apply on a governmental level? We’ve had some really passionate, politically-connected advocates take us to local, state and federal government ministers and bureaucrats here in Australia – but with very little direct response. We are grateful for the R&D tax credits we’ve received each year and our single Commercialisation Australia grant, but overall we’ve had far more positive responses from overseas than here at home. Our next major project, for example, will have the Chinese Government as its ultimate sponsor. Why do you think companies should turn their sights toward investing in renewable energy, bio research and greener technologies? Primarily because those are ‘sunrise’ industries and hold huge opportunities for a smart country like Australia; huge opportunities to innovate, which we do better than most, and huge opportunities to value add via intellectual property rather than trying to compete with low-cost economies on non-renewable commodities like coal, oil and ore, and on last-century industries such as labour-based manufacturing. Biotechnology is green, scalable, transportable, and has enormous wealth-creation potential for its host economies. What are the flow on effects of divestment for companies like PolyGenomX? If you are asking if we’ve witnessed any flow of capital from investors divesting themselves of say, oil as the Rockefellers, Saudis and other oil barons are doing, into our sector, then yes, there’s a trickle, but not yet down to our level of a few million, and not out here on the cutting edge. That old money is, predictably enough, going primarily into ‘safe renewables’ rather than into creating new technology. What is your vision for the future of this type of research, and how are you going to make it happen? My vision for PolyGenomX is to play a key role in commercial research partnerships with future-focused institutions such as Southern Cross University, Griffith University and QUT, to create ‘a global centre of biotechnological research investment and commercial excellence’ here in South East Queensland. In our own case, we can fly plant material from any point on the planet within 36 hours, adapt it over an 8–24-month period, and fly it out again to begin its commercial life anywhere in the world. The adaptive services command substantial fees, and the plants grown from our plants command on-going royalties, creating escalating investment capital to be applied to developing further technology in partnership with others. We need to stop allowing last-century business thinkers to make us ‘the quarry of the world, at a dollar a tonne and a damaged environment’, and quickly become ‘the ideas lab and solution provider of the world, at a million dollars an idea and a better planet’.

Peter Rowe, Founder of PolyGenomX, a six-year-old company dedicated to using epigenetics to naturally improve the performance of plants for long-term environmental sustainability.

The Master Electrician

Winter 2016



The Victorian lighting sector’s ‘Kodak Moment’ In 1995, Kodak was the global powerhouse in photography. A ‘Kodak moment’ was another name for a charming point in time worth capturing. Today, when an industry has a Kodak moment, it’s another way of saying they’re about to be wiped out by a disruptive technology they ignored for too long. General Manager of Green Energy Trading Luke Konynenburg explores the technology disrupting the electrical industry.

WITH recent changes to the Victorian Energy Efficiency Target (VEET), electrical contractors in Victoria have the opportunity to capitalise on generous incentives for carrying out lighting upgrades. If your business relies on lighting fitouts and you aren’t able to access the benefits of this scheme, you may soon be facing your own Kodak moment, as a number of well-organised competitors flood the market with low cost or even free products.

“Don’t be caught out. Get up to date with the VEET scheme ... and defend your turf ...”

Simply put, the VEET scheme allows businesses to create Victorian Energy Efficiency Certificates (VEECs) for reducing energy use. These can then be exchanged for payment with companies like Green Energy Trading, greatly reducing the upfront cost of the installation. There is a bit of paperwork, a few rules (such as compulsory recycling) and all products must be on the VEET approved list – but there is no ‘catch’. And participation is growing at an incredible rate, with 89,000 VEECS (equivalent to around 60,000 LED tubes installed) created in February 2016 alone. To get a better idea of the numbers, let’s look at a couple of concrete examples.


“Simply put, the VEET scheme allows businesses to create Victorian Energy Efficiency Certificates (VEECs) for reducing energy use.”

Warehouse case study • Replacement of 35 metal halide high bay lamps with LED equivalents at a total cost of $13,335; • Green Energy Trading is able to create 564 VEECs, delivering a benefit of $9,024 and reducing your customer’s upfront cost to $8,196 (a reduction of 52 per cent); • The value of the electricity saved is estimated at $13,143 per annum; • Your customer’s simple payback for the upgrade is just seven months. Retail premises case study • Replacement of 280 T8 fluorescent lamps with LED equivalents at zero upfront cost to your customer; • Green Energy Trading is able to create 473 VEECs, delivering a benefit of $7,568 and reducing the upfront cost to zero (a reduction of 100 per cent); • The value of the electricity saved is estimated at $11,025 per annum, delivering:

Electrical Contractors

• Immediate savings for your client (zero payback). All figures are estimates only and exclude GST.

...A unique connection

If the total system cost is under $20,000 and your client is a small business, they may also be able to deduct their full expenditure immediately, making the opportunity even harder to ignore.

Focused, intelligent, straight-talking legal solutions...

So, if you’re submitting lighting quotes without a VEET benefit, you’re fighting with one hand tied behind your back. You may have great relationships with your clients, but a 50 per cent or greater reduction in price is a big advantage to weigh against your engaging personality. Don’t be caught out. Get up to date with the VEET scheme (and its equivalent in the other states and territories) and defend your turf, on even terms. Take advantage of this once in a generation opportunity to deliver quality upgrades and meaningful savings to your clients, and generous profit for your business. And why is the ‘Kodak moment’ now just a punchline? Because Kodak invented the digital camera in 1978, owned the worldwide patent until 2007, and went bankrupt in 2012. It is estimated that more than one trillion pictures are now taken each year on digital cameras. For more information on how Green Energy Trading can help, contact them on 1300 077 784 or via

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Master Electricians Ad March 2016 FINAL.indd 1

Brisbane | Mackay | Gold Coast | Surat Basin

The Master Electrician Winter 2016 23/03/2016 12:04:16 PM


letter of the law

Avoid risks on major contracts It is important that Master Electrician members implement strategic planning in their business practices. The key area identified by Doyles Construction Lawyers is the pre-contractual dealings with external parties such as head contractors and subcontractors. Prior to entering into a contract for undertaking works, it is important that you review the terms upon which you are willing to engage in the dealings as you may be bound to comply with provisions later on in the piece that may affect your entitlement to claim payments, seek adjustments to the contract and in respect of your liability to the other party(s). The following questions are applicable when you have received a contract from a head-contractor and information about a project 1. Have you had long enough to read and understand the terms set out in the contract and have you recorded the information you relied on to quote? As a written contract governs the parties rights and obligations,

it is imperative that prior to entering into the contract, you know how the contract is to operate at all material times (i.e. during and post completion). 2. Is the contract sum clearly stated? The contract sum may be based on a quotation. It is important to state whether it is inclusive or exclusive of relevant risks.


3. Is the scope of work clearly defined and does it list exclusions? Where a contract does not expressly state that particular items/ works may be excluded, a dispute may arise as to the scope of work under the contract. 4. Are the payment provisions present and do you understand the pre-condition for submitting progress payments (time and content)? The contract should provide for an effective mechanism that enables the contractor to claim progressively. 5. Does the contract provide an appropriate variation mechanism? i.e. Can the scope or the contract sum be varied by the parties conveniently?

“Prior to entering into a contract for undertaking works, it is important that you review the terms upon which you are willing to engage in the dealings as you may be bound to comply with provisions later on ...”

6. Does the contract provide an appropriate mechanism for seeking extensions of time? An adequate extension of time clause enables the contractor to seek extensions of time for delays caused beyond its control, for inclement weather and otherwise and ensures that the notification of delay requirements are not onerous (i.e. short). 7. Has your liability been limited and capped to a certain amount? Where the contract contains a provision enabling the contractor to claim liquidated damages or general damages they ought to be limited to mitigate risk. 8. Does the contract include an adequate dispute resolution clause? In the event of a dispute, it may be a pre-condition to taking next steps to assert any rights under the contract to engage in a dispute resolution process. A dispute resolution clause that provides a mechanism where the parties can resolve their dispute by external intervention of an expert or an arbitrator whose decision is final and binding and efficient could prove to be more efficient than other external forums and it is important to obtain advice as to the drafting/interpretation of such clauses. Doyles Construction Lawyers work closely with Master Electricians Australia and its members to provide legal services that assist with strategic planning and pre-contractual negotiations in an effort to minimise exposure to liability and encourage prompt payment for work done. Please contact Doyles for a confidential discussion as to how you can avoid risks on each major contract –

Queensland’s Leading Provider of Electrical Apprentices Do you need a helping hand?

The advantages are: > Job ready apprentices > No recruitment concerns > Flexible placement periods from three months to four years > Provision of uniforms, tools, PPE and training > White card, CPR and switchboard rescue > Only pay for the time worked

PH: 1300 EGROUP > The Master Electrician

Winter 2016


workplace relations

Your top 3 workplace relations questions Workplace relations is a complex area that requires specialist advice. Our dedicated team of workplace relations officers provide members with specific advice regarding the interpretation of awards and legislation, employment procedures, contractual matters and industrial relations, via MEA’s workplace relations hotline each and every day. Here are three common questions our workplace relations team receives: Q: I’ve heard there’s going to be a wage increase, what does this mean for me as an employer?

sole traders and partnerships.

A: A federal minimum wage increase will come into effect on the first pay period on or after July 1, 2016 this year.

and as such there is no obligation on employers to increase the

This wage increase will apply to all employers operating under the modern award structure with the exception of Western Australian

than the new minimum rate of pay. The minimum wage increase is

Tradesmen – Typically tradesmen are paid in excess of the award wages at this time, provided the over-award payment is still greater ‘absorbed’ in the higher rate of pay.


Apprentices – Commonly apprentices are paid at the award level and therefore they will receive an increase with this federal minimum wage decision. The decision will also affect the allowances at the same time.

A: Where an apprentice is offered ongoing employment as an electrician, it is not the case that their employment has come to an end – their employment continues beyond the apprenticeship.

Q: What should I do to prepare?

The movement from one position to another does not reset the employment relationship. An employee who moves internally within the organisation from, for example, receptionist to accounts clerk cannot be said to have two periods of employment with the employer – they have simply held two positions with the one employer.

A: Ensure that you are receiving and checking MEA e-news and e-alerts. Further, if you have a dedicated person completing your payroll function, make sure you pass the e-alert on to this person.

The fact that the apprenticeship is a fixed term engagement is irrelevant from the moment they continue on in their employment as an employee as an electrician.

Q: Do apprentices have a new probation period when they are offered ongoing employment?

The probation period is only at the start of their employment. The employer cannot apply a new probationary period.

Federal Minimum Wage Decision – We do not know by how much the wages and allowances will increase as the decision of the Fair Work Commission will not be due out until early June.

The Master Electrician

Winter 2016


social snaps

Master Electricians out and about Thanks to our members who attended our recent events. Were you there? See if you can find yourself in these pics, and keep up to date with upcoming events in the member portal at

Our Sydney based WiC event was a huge success – the ladies started creating the conversation around women in contracting and had a lot of fun, too!


Queensland ladies celebrating the launch of the refreshed Women in Contracting program with a cheer!

(L to R): Tegan from Clipsal & Schneider Electric, Roberta from Energy Super, Tammy from Platinum Electricians Morningside, Teagan from The Blue Collared Woman and Angela from William Buck.

The Master Electrician

Winter 2016


social snaps

General Manager of Membership Services Michelle Cooper addressing the eager Qld WiC launch attendees.

It was a pleasure to welcome Qld Leader of the Opposition Tim Nicholls MP (pictured right) to our recent Brisbane branch meeting.

More than 90 guests turned up to hear Qld Leader of the Opposition Tim Nicholls MP speak at our recent Brisbane branch meeting at the Colmslie Hotel.


Our Adelaide ladies (and our stellar State SA/NT CEO Greg Bryant) enjoying a delicious lunch to celebrate the launch of WiC in South Australia.

The Townsville ladies catch up to talk business at the WiC event in North Queensland.

GOT A SNAP TO SHARE? Send ‘em through to: Platinum Sponsor Clipsal by Schneider Electric manning their hole with the team from CNW at a recent Gold Coast Golf Day.

The Master Electrician

Winter 2016


the last word

Master Electricians membership – strength in numbers For as long as humans have walked on the earth, we’ve understood one very simply yet very powerful motto – there is strength in numbers. For survival and advancement, we’ve always banded together. That’s why Master Electricians Australia exists – to use our collective strength as an industry to get the best deals for contractors, and to ensure our voice is heard in the corridors of power.

because we all work with a product that can injure or kill if it’s not used properly.

As you will have read elsewhere in this magazine, there has never been a better time to join MEA than right now. I won’t run through all the benefits again here, but they can be summarised as safety, training, business support, buying power and helping you to be the best electrical contractor possible.

We’re very proud that we’ve set the pace for the entire industry over those eight years, and forced other organisations to finally think about providing the kinds of services their members deserve. We’ve lifted the bar, and now we’re lifting it again, with the most comprehensive membership offer ever made available to electrical contractors in this country.

So if you’re not a member already, you really need to ask yourself why not. MEA membership will make it easier and cheaper to run your business, and you will protect yourself and your staff with the latest knowledge and safety system on the market today.

“The total focus is on you – the contractor – and all the tools and support you need to run a safe, profitable and sustainable business.”

Ever since we formed into Master Electricians Australia around eight years ago, we have been using the collective strength of our membership to influence government decisions and to lobby for important issues to our members and to the public generally. That’s important,

We’ve used our strength in numbers to develop the real-world tools and services electrical contractors need to run successful businesses. And importantly, we’ve used our strength in numbers to shake up the way electrical industry associations have been run.

And once again, the total focus is on you – the contractor – and all the tools and support you need to run a safe, profitable and sustainable business. We know that contractors have been asking for more from their industry association, and I’m proud to say we’ve listened and we’ve delivered. And Master Electricians Australia is going to continue to deliver. Many of you will be reading The Master Electrician for the first time. This is because we have significantly upgraded our national distribution list as part of our service to the entire industry. We believe very strongly in a well-educated, well-informed industry, so we provide this magazine regardless of whether you are a member or not. Because strength in numbers is about the entire industry – becoming stronger and better in everything we do through ongoing education and awareness. That’s what Master Electricians Australia is all about. But we could certainly do this better if more business owners made the decision to join. Strength in numbers. Why not you? Why not now?


22-26 September

DON’T MISS OUT ON VITAL INDUSTRY INFORMATION, BUSINESS STRATEGIES, AND PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT Welcome to Fremantle Master Electricians Australia (MEA) would like to invite you to Fremantle, Western Australia, for the 2016 Electrical Industry Conference. Network with your peers, develop your business skills, and explore Fremantle’s rich history as a major Australian port. Don’t miss out on Fremantle, voted in the top ten cities of the world to visit in 2016 by Lonely Planet, at the electrical industry event of the year.

Register for the industry event of they year at or call 1300 889 198 to find out more

So fine, just stunning silhouette

The new silhouette range Boasting a clean, modern design and at only 4mm off the wall, Hager’s new, 2016 Good Design Award winning, silhouette range has been designed with distinctive elegance in mind. With the choice of standard switch mechanisms or our new electronic push button switches and dimmers, silhouette brings a much needed fresh and stunning design to the Australian market.

Profile for Master Electricians Australia

The Master Electrician Magazine  

Welcome to the winter edition of the Master Electrician Magazine

The Master Electrician Magazine  

Welcome to the winter edition of the Master Electrician Magazine