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The Australian Computer Society should be disbanded (linkedin.com)
170 points by jennichen on Jan 31, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 158 comments

Accreditation is common in many industries in Australia, it's basically a huge racket. To legally do any wiring work at all it must be done by an accredited electrician, not merely inspected by one as in most countries. in fact most home improvements of any kind must be performed by an accredited tradesman. add to this the laws that state any home improvement must bring the entire house up to current building codes, it's a recipe for massive expenses that go straight into the pockets accredited tradesman.

This essentially prevents any person that owns older property from doing any upgrades, or major repairs at all, because the massive cost of upgrading the entire house at once is completely out of reach for most people. this leads to urban decay and property abandonment on a massive scale.

with the recent push by parties such as Apple, Microsoft, and Google to have registered developer programs complete with code signing, be very wary of industry wide pushes to introduce a similar thing for programmers. The IEEE has attempted to introduce the idea for years. you can be sure that soon after introduction laws forcing accreditation for many types of positions would shortly follow, as would subsequent rises in membership fees and requirements.

Not to mention the threat of only a certified developer being able to legally write code at all. this situation already exists in many engineering disciplines. with things like secure boot and locked bootloaders and signed code, it is almost a technical triviality.

want to know how general purpose computing will be killed? it will be via initiatives such as this.

> laws that state any home improvement must bring the entire house up to current building codes

This is patently false

> this leads to urban decay and property abandonment on a massive scale

Australia does not have property abandonment nor urban decay on a massive scale. Go to Detroit to witness such things.

10.2% (2011 census data) of Australian properties are sitting there vacant.

[ http://blog.id.com.au/2012/australian-census-2011/the-where-... ]

And there is certainly urban decay all over the city I live in (Perth).

Also, building codes are local government, aren't they? So it depends on what council you are in. And I've certainly heard some bad stories.

As your link itself explains, the vast majority of those vacant properties are either a) holiday homes that are empty outside vacation season, or b) "areas with declining population where dwellings are simply abandoned by owners who can’t sell their property". Vacancy rates in major cities are remarkably low.

it may not be a big problem at present, as there is a huge real estate boom in Australia. But when there is an economic downturn these regulations are going to hit older areas extremely hard, just like they have in many other nations.

Property values in Australia declined by 4.5% last year. Forecasts are for around 5% growth this year in my city (Brisbane), but continued declining prices in Canberra, Melbourne, Hobart and Adelaide.

Huge real estate boom fizzled at the end of '09 / early 2010.

So, what they need is, oh I don't know, maybe lots of immigrants looking for a house?

it may not be a big problem at present, as there is a huge real estate boom in Australia

DANGER WILL ROBINSON! A property boom has wrecked several countries. Australia could be hit by that.

1. People stay with other people overnight.

2. New buildings are unoccupied, sometimes for months.

A more useful measure is rental vacancy rates. The Australian average is 2.3%, which is pretty close to "none" in practical terms.

Those rates are voluntarily self-reported by rental property managers - there's a fairly clear conflict of interest.

According to the following Melbourne has a 5.9% vacancy rate. They use water usage data from the water companies for their analysis. (<50L/day = vacant property)


What's the conflict of interest?

Vacancy rate is basically a property manager's KPI. Additionally, data is collected by the REIV which has no interest in providing bad news about investing in property. https://s.zoomerang.com/s/REIV-January-2013-Vacancy-Survey

REIV vacancy rate is (unleased property on the books) / (property on the books). It's always going to be an under-estimate of true vacancy due to properties that are empty full time and those that are privately managed and temporarily vacant.

From the linked article:

> While dwellings are vacant for a number of reasons they are primarily associated with holiday areas

Seems inner city Sydney is a 'holiday area'.

[ http://australianpropertyforum.com/blog/main/3204321 ]

Only one or two of the suburbs listed are actually considered inner city.

As someone who does live in the inner-city of Sydney and pay $3100USD/month for a shoebox. I would be incredulous if there were a large amount of vacancies beyond normal turnover.

There are usually bidding wars for property sales (most inner-city properties are sold by auction) and dozens of applications for rentals.

I've lived in the inner-west all my life & I know 5 or so squatters. Yep. There are vacant buildings everywhere you probably just don't know it. There's a whole world outside the market & we need to encourage this sort of thing, or else a city becomes locked into mortgages with little job flexibility. The ability to live cheaply in a city is very important. High costs to maintain a basic lifestyle mean less risk taken, less businesses started, less innovation, less arts. In total contrast to Sydney is Berlin: high unemployment, very low cost of living, tons of start-ups, tons of arts.

I'm also from Perth, but I don't see urban decay "all over the city". The worst (and only) place I probably had the feeling of some urban decay was Ellenbrook.

the laws stating the building code requirement for upgrades are not implemented at a federal level, however many cities (such as brisbane) do have such requirements.

Rent control is usually one cause of urban blight. We don't have that in Australia.

Rent control may have been a factor in many major American cities, but it is far from the only contributor. Australian cities currently have many of the same structural problems that lead to these issues in American cities in the sixties seventies and eighties.

Suburbanization tied with ridgid regulations that make property development or improvement extremely costly lead to a downward spiral in property values, which means of obtaining loans insurance or other guarantees becomes nearly impossible, meaning even less redevelopment, more decay, and more crime, accelerating further suburbanization.

this feedback loop decimate inner cities.

Downward spiral in property prices?

I take it you haven't been to Perth lately?

Or Darwin.

> rent control may have been a factor in many major American cities, but it is far from the only contributor.

Right. Hence why I said "one cause".

> To legally do any wiring work at all it must be done by an accredited electrician, not merely inspected by one as in most countries.

That's what the various bodies would like you to think, as making things black and white makes their life easier, and keeps them friendly with the various trade organisations.

I gather it is now legal for a professional electrical engineer to do their own wiring in Queensland, just they can't do it for third parties. By my reading, it is also generally okay for anyone to work on an "extra low voltage circuit", meaning less than 50Vac or 120Vdc. At the same time, the various energy authorities will claim it is illegal to install your own solar panels, and their publicity material says you can't do any wiring. The actual law seems to say you can DIY, just that you would need an electrician to connect the 240Vac side of an inverter to the main.

Workcover applies an additional layer of regulation in industrial situations. There also seems to be a requirement for an electrician to do solar work to qualify for various green rebates, despite the electricity regulations saying its okay.

When accreditation becomes more about permission than proficiency, you'll get corruption instead of competence.

You mean like this ... in Malaysia they've drafted a bill to require certification for anyone to be able to work in IT ...


> To legally do any wiring work at all it must be done by an accredited electrician, not merely inspected by one as in most countries.

And contract electricians cost upwards of $80/hour, making replacing a light fitting prohibitively expensive.

Which is why many houses now have GPOs (power points) in the ceiling space, and the light fittings are appliances plugged into the GPO, rather than permanently installed. Domestically, it is legal to work on things that are not permanently wired in, the main constraint being that you should follow good practice, so you don't kill someone.

I'm surprised that a keen DIYer hasn't tried using a 3-phase 32A plug to plug their house into the mains, and claim the entire house is an appliance.

Oh wow .. I wonder if I could convince an electrician to put a massive plug and socket in my meter box ..

Unlikely :-) That final comment was tongue in cheek. It would make an interesting argument, but I suspect the house wiring would still be viewed as "fixed", despite the plug.

My gut feeling is that the law doesn't really achieve much, past a level of discouragement via FUD, since it's pretty well unenforceable. Electricians are supposed to write out "compliance certificates" for any work done, but I gather an awful lot don't. Even then, unless the work impacts the external connection, the only copy of the certificate resides with the home owner. I imagine an awful lot of people file it under the sofa, or in the garbage bin. As far as I know, there is no central record of a house's wiring configuration. Practically, the only way of telling that a job wasn't done by an electrician is that the job is really bad (and dangerous), or of a standard that significantly exceeds that achieved by a typical electrician.

Just wait till the property market collapses, like in other countries. Prices for skilled tradespeople will fall.

NPRs Planet Money did a podcast along these lines - "Why It's Illegal To Braid Hair Without A License":


Here's my experience with the Australian Computer Society.

Having studied abroad (Ireland), I was required to send in all of my exam results for my B.Sc, H.Dip & M.Sc. as well as a reference from each employer that I worked with in my field (Software Engineering).

For the visa I was applying for at the time it required that I was certified by the ACS, have a minimum of 5 years experience.

The process took 6 months for a single sheet of paper saying I was qualified for my profession! Due to this, my visa was submitted quite a while later than I initially planned and that took a further 12 months. 18 months all up waiting for my residency.

They took $600 for what was an open and shut case. They never contacted any of my references or colleges enquiring about my past experience or grades. The whole thing is a complete sham and is just another way of grabbing money off those who need visas.

The entire visa system in Australia is in bad need of restructuring and left a very sour taste in my mouth.

Compare that to a Canadian coming into the United States as a "Computer Systems Analyst" - Show up at the airport 20 minutes earlier than you normally would, give them a one-page letter describing your employer, what you'll be doing, where you'll be working. Include a either a 2 year diploma + 2 (3?) years of work experience or a 4 year degree.

10 minutes later you have a Visa good for three years. Normally one expects lots of bureaucracy when dealing with the government, but the US/Canada have really streamlined their NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) down to next-to-no hoops to jump through.

Off topic, but 'nafta' means petroleum in a good deal of languages, e.g. http://ru.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D0%9D%D0%B5%D1%84%D1%82%D1%8C

In English, too. Except for the spelling: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naphtha

TN's all fun and games until you find an asshole immigration officer who decides you've been working for to long in the US. It happens.

I've been here since 1995, and have renewed 18 times, always at YVR. Approximately 20-30% of the time I run into a guy taking that position with me. (100% male TN inspectors over 17 years - that's some weird gender bias in a job which really doesn't have any particular need for men vs women) Sometimes, they go so far as to say, "I don't think there's anything temporary about your stay, you're planning on renewing again next year, right?" [note - I love how they try to close me on that. ]

Regardless of what they say, you always calmly reply with the following mantra, "My period of employment is for a period of up to 3 years [note: used to be one year]", at which point my plan is to return home to Canada.

Every statement you make with immigration must be some variant of that, and you must never, ever, suggest that there is the slightest thought/plan of staying past your limited visa, even if you plan to do that by re-applying.

With the exception of the first couple years (where I was rejected twice), I've never had to spend more than 10 minutes at immigration. I will admit the confrontational attitude does get your heart racing...

It sounds like they are not following their own code of ethics.

"You will place the interests of the public above those of business, personal, or sectional interests".


Quick questions. Is it possible to migrate to Australia (Sydney) if you only have a DipHE (didn't finish last year of uni) and have around 2 - 3 years full time Software Engineering experience or MUST you have a BSc?

Also, I am potentially doing this through my current employer rather than as a skilled independent migrant.


Edit: I'm from London

Make sure your employer is willing to sponsor you on the other side. I worked for a large multinational in London that were not.

OTOH the independent visa gets you much better terms than the sponsored one. The sponsored one contains a provision stating you must leave the country if you're unemployed for a month (IIRC). BUT you will need to prove more experience than you currently have to get the independent PR visa. If you have the BSc it knocks a few years off the experience requirements.

I found the australian immigration website and a web community called PomsInOz very helpful for these things.

Your employer should be able to get you on a 457 visa fairly easily; they just need to prove that you are qualified to do the job and they can't find a local to undertake it. The 457 binds you to that employer for the term of that visa unless you find another employer to take it over.

You would have issues getting a different visa than the 457 though, they require 5 years experience if you do PR by yourself.

Thanks for the info. I plan on doing an MSC at some point anyway so could always get PR (if I wanted it) later down the road.

Does the 457 visa mean that there is no requirement to meet the educational requirements for a Software Engineer on the SOL?

Effectively, my lack of BSc won't stop me if I can get on a 457?

After two years (IIRC) on a 457, you can apply for a permanent visa, and that's also easier - and more expensive, of course - with a nominating employer. At least at the moment, there doesn't seem to be any education requirement for the nominated permanent visa (but they have a tendency to change the rules quite often).

The 457 requires you "have skills, qualifications, experience and an employment background which match those required for the position". I never finished uni and got a 457 in 2008 (I'm Swedish). I did have ~10 years of experience though.

The Department of Immigration have lots of information on their site, http://www.immi.gov.au/.

I see that the 457 requires those things but I don't know what their criteria is other than what's on the SOL list which is a BSC or a lot of years of experience.

I'm trying to figure out if they will accept me being sponsored by my employer with my 2.5 - 3 years experience and DipHE... basically, will they take me despite my lack of BSc?

I went through the same process. Yes it took longer than I would have liked, but in general it went very well.

Australia is very restrictive on immigration because so many people want to go there. I'm not really sure why they would restructure the system when this is the case, they have a relatively small population and extend a variety of state benefits to immigrants, so they don't want to be swamped.

They used to have a "White Australia" policy until late 60s. (Basically yes, we want immigration in order to populate our country, but we only want white people). Since then they have stopped having racist immigration policies, so they have just reduced all immigration.

It's all about keeping one type of immigrants out.

Last year, India and China were the biggest sources of immigration to Australia - 29,018 and 25,509 ppl respectively. Followed by the UK at 25,274.


Yes, that policy from 50 years ago sure is good evidence that they have a racist immigration policy today!

And the American South having a policy of racial apartheid 50 years ago provides no context for the current day.

Please read this, then come back and tell me that Australia's visa system is sane: http://gyrovague.com/2012/08/10/notarizing-your-fingerprints...

That guy has

  - moved all over the world
  - applied for a visa while inside the country in question
  - some expectation that having an employer vouch for him means anything
  - most of his trouble with getting a COC out of Singapore
Oz basically want to know you have skills, education and no criminal record. They ask you to go to some length to prove this. I really don't see a problem with this. As I say, they are in the unusual situation that they are swamped with applicants from all over the world, they can afford to be picky, and in fact need to be.

That guy is me. My application for permanent residence in Singapore -- another place "swamped with applicants from all over the world" -- was all of three pages long but managed to cover skills, education and criminal records, was processed in a few weeks, and cost precisely $0. By comparison, my employer and I have paid approx. $10,000 to date to the Australian government in visa fees, not including the charges of the agents my employer hired to navigate the morass, despite being unusually versed in this sort of thing.

As I state at the end of the post, I'm quite well placed to deal with all this and thus personally find it mostly rather comical. However, dealing with this as eg. a refugee fleeing war or persecution is another kettle of fish, and the sheer rigidity of the system means that plenty of people fall through the cracks: a friend of mine recently had to leave the country after 10 years (!) of legal residence and entrepreneurship because his self-employment didn't fit squarely into Immigration's boxes.

My sister got the boot from Australia for 9 months even though she was young, had a master's degree in a needed occupation, was attending unimelb, and was about to be married to an Australian. Australia likes to tout its fair and transparent points based immigration scheme, but at the end of the day the decision is arbitrarily decided by an official who might not like your home country or may simply be having a bad day.

You, your employer and your agent are all having a harder time of it than me, an individual with no assistance at all, that managed to get through for about a third the cash and in far less time. I managed to navigate the system, why can't you?

Singapore is a business, not really a country, they want as many immigrants as possible. They have a stated aim to use immigration to massively increase the population. This is not the same situation as Australia at all.

And refugees don't have to apply for skilled visas, they come under other rules.

Good luck with your visa, but don't assume that everyone finds the system as hard as you seem to be.

I did navigate the system. The rules for refugees are considerably worse, DIAC's official estimate of processing time for an Offshore Humanitarian visa is several years. And you're welcome to take a gander at the comments on my blog to see how easy others are finding it!

I still don't understand why you think they should make it easier or faster for people like you (or me), when they have their pick of immigrants and many, many more applicants apply each year than there are places. At that point they can well afford to make all their checks very thorough.

I don't even live there any more so it doesn't affect me directly.

How Oz treats refugees is a subject of much debate, I was trying to say it's quite a separate issue from this one.

That explains the delay. What explains the money? Thousands of dollars line their pockets for each immigrant, successful or unsuccessful. That's just greed.

What government doesn't like money?

Yes, the processing fees are enormous, especially considering you don't get it back if you fail.

I thought the Singapore process for getting a Certificate of Clearance was the craziest part of his post. Getting fingerprints done should be easier, I suppose, but that isn't an indictment of Australia's Visa system, in itself.

Firstly - come to New Zealand. There is long list of ICT/Electronics and Communications roles, including all professional engineers, on the long Term Skills Shortage list. Additionally ICT and creative indistries are deemed long term growth areas. This means it's much easier to get into NZ - either for working or for immigration through our points system.[1] On the ground the answer is yes, we really need more devs and creatives. Requirements are generally degrees and a little experience.

Secondly, it's telling that we have yet to see a response from ACS on this page. Speaks volumes.

[1] http://www.immigration.govt.nz/pointsindicator/ follow for Absolute Skills Shortage and Future Growth Areas.

Australia also has a points system and we too have various software professions on a high-value list.


Assessed by ... the ACS.

The main problems with working in IT in NZ are that there aren't many jobs, and the pay is much lower than in Australia. And since Kiwis and Aussies have reciprocal working rights, there are a whole lot of Kiwi IT people who've moved to Australia.

I've been told that NZ is seen as a backdoor into Australia.

I don't know if that's a genuine phenomenon or whether it's just a third-hand mutation of some shock jock talking point.

It may have been. It's been locked down a fair bit since then.

It will get you here -- it wont get you PR/Citizenship/Centrelink anymore. ( http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&obj... )

as an aussie CS grad looking for work, what is a good NZ job search site to check out? I'd love to work in NZ for a while.

http://www.seek.co.nz - All the corporates

http://jobs.geekzone.co.nz/Jobs - You may find some more fun jobs here

Looking at user groups in NZ might yield you something too

Yeah but then you have to live in New Zealand...

I basically joined the ACS because it's there and I figured I ought to.

They gave me a post-nominal: CT.

If I want the next grade up -- CP -- I will need to take thousands of dollars of synergising-outside-the-box courses.

Basically the ACS isn't really for software engineers. It's for middle management.

I won't be renewing.

(I might renew my ACM/IEEE memberships).

Totally. I've only once heard the ACS mentioned outside of the immigration context, and that was a senior manager in a bank asking why we (his best tech staff) weren't members.

I'm not sure if (Insert nationality here) Computer Societies are as irrelevant in other countries, but in Australia I'm pretty sure it serves no useful role other than in immigration.

So, if that's the case, they have no basis for qualification to determine the merit of an IT skills based residency application.

A self-proclaimed peak body.

Well I wanted to join the IEEE-CS and ACM because those are the legit world leaders. I've harboured that ambition ever since I was a teenager and I read the first edition of Code Complete.

But that too has turned out to be bit of a farce. The real value is in their digital libraries and it is amazing how carefully they segment it to make it hard to get access to anything useful without paying frankly stupid amounts of money.

In Britain we have the British Computer Society. When we were at university they turned up and gave us a talk on the benefits of membership and sold a bunch of us "student memberships", to graduate to full membership IIRC you needed to get a degree and then pass a bunch of extra exams.

Out of all the people I know working professionally in dev/IT I don't think any of them are now BCS members.

I haven't heard of employers asking for it either.

In 12 years in the UK managing development teams and reviewing hundreds of CV's, I've never once seen the BCS mentioned on CV's or had any candidates mention it.

I did consider membership at one point, and attended a few events, and judging from the people there it seems like they might have a little bit of relevance in pockets of the consultancy industry etc., but otherwise there doesn't seem to be much value in joining. There are some good special interest groups, and affiliated organisations (e.g. ACCU is great if you do much C/C++ stuff), but most of those are open to people who are not BCS members anyway.

I wouldn't ever ask for BCS membership from candidates because I know my own experience, and know the hassle I'd still have to go through to get membership just in order to certify a very basic level of knowledge, so I know I'd exclude a huge proportion of good candidates without getting an assurance that they were fit for the job, and would still have to go through most of the same interview process anyway.

I work with one (out of 200 odd) person who has bothered with becoming MBCS, so they do exist!

I (Comp Sci B.Sc.) never bothered for many of the above reasons, and I can find better things to spend £100 a year on, but I have bothered with IMA (ima.org.uk) membership after finishing my Maths B.A. because the IMA's magazine is actually quite interesting (and it's only £48 a year).

It's interesting, because just last week I looked up the South African Computer Society, and they too, seem to be fading into obscurity.

There is a role I think, for software developers to organise in some form, to accredit training courses and represent the profession/craft/trade to government.

It seems these old style Computer Societies aren't up to the job and prefer to act as gatekeepers.

I briefly thought about joining the ACS, but really no one that I've worked with has paid for membership (I think one person had won a membership).

In software it is just not needed, especially since a lot of the people I have worked with have other degrees outside the areas of electrical/electronic engineering and computer science.

I never joined. The ACS was not referred to in a positive manner when I was at university.

If you are a Sysadmin or in a related field, you may want to consider joining SAGE-AU

I'm a Network Engineer and find membership worth while, if only for the mailing list.


I joined the ACE some years ago for the same reason - because it seemed like a good idea to be a member of a professional organisation.

I also didn't renew after I realised what a joke the ACS really was.

When I graduated from University, there was a big push to join IEAust. I thought it was a good idea, but they were really trying to push the engineering profession rather than the actual engineering itself. So I opted out after the first year.

It wasn't cheap either. I remember the fee to be around $700 per year. That was in 2002. And for a graduate, I would rather spend that $700 for something with a better ROI, like rent or food on the table.

I was recently involved in an ACS "Re-accreditation" review for my University which I graduated from in 2011. It was clear from the outset that the whole thing was a farce - to be re-accredited required the ACS to ask past students generic questions (such as "How important is ethics to an IT Professional") and for us to give canned answers. While the university didn't explicitly tell us to give the 'expected' answers to ACS questions, it was strongly implied that we were expected to represent the virtues that the ACS "teaches".

It is in the universities interests to advertise that their IT degrees include ACS accreditation (despite no Australian IT employers I know of giving a damn about it) and it is in the interest of ACS for the university to keep paying the exorbitant fees. If anything, I feel that ACS accrediation is detrimental to the students as it requires the university to include such useful courses as "Ethics for the IT Professional" in their degrees. While being ethical is obviously important to any professional, this is time that could be spent learning real skills instead.

I did one of these a few years ago and it seemed like quite a formality, they asked vague questions about topics related to professionalism rather than any technical skill.

While I can understand that a professional body would want to ensure that people acted ethically and in good faith, I would think that it would be wiser to ensure that people graduating from technical, engineering related, and detail oriented degrees were just that. That way having an ACS seal of approval on a degree would carry some sort of weight towards the technical quality of the person, and hence would actually mean something.

Maybe it's the spaces and people I work with, but no one that I have worked with is actually a member of the ACS, despite being in industry for almost a decade.

The reason they hammer on the Code of Ethics is because that's what other professions have.

They need to show that there's some Code that could be made enforceable by legislation. It's part of the bigger plan to lever the ACS into the same role that the law societies or the AMA enjoy.

As far as software is concerned, until we have proper liability for defective software, ala Civil/Mechanical Engineering (where one signs their name to the design to certify safety and fit-for-purpose), we have little right to call ourselves (Software) Engineers, and hence no real reason for a professional accreditation/certification body.

I also just looked at the website, and all of the membership levels look like rankings in a guild system to me. Spend your time, pay more money, rise in ranks. Protectionism at its finest, and even though I'm heavily a software developer, I'm still against this burden.

Liability doesn't make sense for a lot of software. It's not like electricity where it's always potentially dangerous, civil where mistakes can cause death and dismemberment en masse and so on.

Basically software liability is just rolled up into the relevant market. Writing facebook games? It doesn't really matter to society if you get it a bit wrong. Writing pacemaker software? Then you're governed by medical device regulations.

Software's application to problems are so varied, so wide, that it's insensible to apply a single liability scheme to it.

Exactly my point.

The wide range of software that can be written precludes a standard measure of risk and liability, hence it eliminates the need for an (software) industry wide accreditation body.

Plus I've always found smaller more local meetups to be a better way of interacting with a specific development community.

Those courses are mandatory because the Australian government now correlates generic graduate attributes with funding allocation. This means that all Unis have to show that a percentage of their graduates are competent in, and all graduates have access to courses in ethics, sensitivity, knowledge application, problem solving, and communication. Uni administration forces lecturers to integrate these into their courses, and they then deliver a half arsed rendition to the students.

And they are just horrible. The level of this class at University of Sydney is. Bu the lecturer is really close to the ACS.

The comp sci degree at UNSW back in the early 90's didn't go in for the ACS thing. It was something offered at more Tafe-y places like UTS. Not sure about now.

It seems the lower down the qualification chain you go, the more importance is placed on giving you fancy certificates. ACS membership is one of those things.

Professional ethics at my university was one lecture.

Of the basic form:

"Here is the Code. Read it some time."

For those unaware, this polemic is by Matt Barrie, CEO of Freelancer. He's been very outspoken in the Australian media about over-regulation of industry and outdated think tanks stifling innovation by recommending tactics that reinforce the status quo.

I think I can explain the Electrical Engineering thing.

A few years ago the ACS geared up to join some sort of peak body for professions. They took the view that they should represent all software professionals of any kind.

Then Engineers Australia put in a competing claim for jurisdiction over software engineers. The scoundrels.

I remember this because I was a student member at the time (hey, free BBQs) and they sent a sob story email to all their members about it.

Basically everybody is pissing on everybody's curtains.

Technically you can get your profession recognized by Engineers Australia even if you are a software engineer. You will not get the most relevant code for your profession though, and most probably will not be able to get a visa in the end. However it worked for me back in 2010.

Completely irrelevant, but I must say I like the phrase "everybody is pissing on everyone's curtains".

Even more irrelevantly, I'm rather impressed at how quickly Google has indexed this. When searching for that, rather splendid, phrase this page ranks top.

I find it completely ridiculous -- how on Earth could a the ACS hope to apply any sort of standard evaluation to a CS / IT degree earned in any of a dozen countries, from any of a thousand universities (with attendant varying degree requirements and relative differences in course difficulty), not to mention evaluating self-taught skills or industry experience in hundreds of specialties. A programmer is not a tradesman.

No IT employer in Australia that I've communicated with has ever mentioned the ACS in regards to qualifications, not once -- I would be surprised if any even know it exists, unless they have worked with sponsoring skilled worker visas.

    No IT employer in Australia that I've communicated with has ever mentioned the
    ACS in regards to qualifications, not once -- I would be surprised if any even 
    know it exists
Same - I've been working as a software engineer in Australia for almost five years now, had never heard of them!

We know they exist. They're just irrelevant.

It says a lot if you prefer to tell us you're an ACS member rather than that you write code for fun at home.

This is interesting to hear. I'm in the process of applying for an Australian visa (no CS degree). To get an independent visa, I need 2 more years of work experience, before I qualify to apply to have my skills tested by ACS in very specific (and almost esoteric) programming knowledge.

And this is only the first step to apply for an 'invitation to apply' for a visa.

What are my job prospects as a US software developer seeking to emigrate to Australia? How often do Australian companies sponsor visas for overseas workers?

> What are my job prospects as a US software developer seeking to emigrate to Australia?

Frankly, assuming you have the right to live in the US, you are much better off staying in the US if you want to maximize your opportunities as a software developer vs. moving to Australia.

I say this as a Canadian who worked as a software developer in Southern California for 4.5 years but moved to Australia two years ago, largely to escape the restrictions of US work visas and try my hand at doing my own startups.

Sydney and Melbourne are the only two cities in Australia with sizable markets for software developers. Compare that to multiple regions in the US with large software industries (SV, SoCal, Texas, Research Triangle, NYC).

There are very few pure technology companies in Australia so the vast majority of software development is in-house development for banks, insurance companies etc. Australian companies also tend to be relatively conservative in terms of technology platforms so PHP, .NET and Java are the norm vs. Python or Ruby.

Certainly there are very talented and capable software developers in Australia, but the software industry is so small and under-valued (compared to e.g. mining or real-estate development) that there's very little opportunity to advance professionally.

Check out http://www.seek.com.au/ to get a feel for what jobs are on offer.

http://www.realestate.com.au/ is also interesting to get a feel for the eye-popping prices that Australians pay for housing. (I rent.)

Funnily enough realestate.com.au is one of the places running a Ruby on Rails dev shop, since I've seen them advertising for Ruby on Rails devs on lists that I'm on.

My boyfriend lives in Melbourne; hence the motivation to move. ThoughtWorks has an office in Melbourne, and Google in Sydney, but it was hard to find other pure tech companies in the area.

It's a shame that there isn't a well-defined exchange program between countries like the US and AU. In all other aspects I meet the visa criteria head-on, yet the fact that I don't have a degree will slow me down by 2-3 years.

IIRC you don't need your skills tested if you have at least 5 years experience and can find someone to sponsor you on a 457 visa. After 2 years you can enter the transition stream for PR. You might find that easier than direct entry if you don't have a relevant degree. It's worth talking to an immigration lawyer even if you have to spring a couple of hundred bucks for the privilege.

As for your job prospects, they're excellent in Melbourne or Sydney, and good to fair elsewhere.

I haven't talked to an immigration lawyer; and I think that they will be able to clear up quite a bit for me. Mostly I've been working through this on my own, with some help from the Australian Embassy as well. I will get in touch with one. Thanks for the tip!

There are plenty of people out here who Ron even have degrees who know gigantic amounts and are highly skilled, and who the ACS wouldn't even talk to. They are a complete waste of time.

I'm not particularly fond of the ACS. I was provided with membership by my work and started getting a large volume of email from them. Unsubscribing from their mailing lists was a complete ordeal[1], and it was impossible to completely unsubscribe online - I had to call someone at their office to get taken off a mailing list. In the end I gave up and filtered their emails instead. Despite the fact that my membership has since lapsed, I am still receiving their newsletter and invitations to various events that, as a non-member, I can't attend.

[1] I had to log in to their account management system, which involved finding a randomly generated username and password that had never been sent to me.

Exactly the same experience but instead of emails (filtered out) I get a ton of snail mail asking me to re-join / attend events, its probably been 2-3 years since i've been a member and I still get the mail forwarded to me from my old address

You can contact the privacy commissioner if the wont remove you from their mailing lists.

What sort of events do they promote? Curious.

Edit: oh, but only if there was a piracy commissioner...

I'd love to hear Matt's views on TAFE, i think accreditation has a very important place in our society (mainly because i got very sick of uneducated morons charging people for fixing computers, writing bad code...etc)

Anyway, the fact that Matt is complaining about fees and then is happy to be associated with the Singularity University that chargs $25k for a course (http://apply2013.singularityu.org/res/p/faq/) makes me wonder if hes just mad that they cant compete with courses provided by organizations such as TAFE.

In general, this all makes me mad. Matt just seems very outspoken and is giving Australia a bad rep in general.

I believe Matt is strongly pro accreditation.


More so he's pro-theoretical grounding in a subject, because with the right background it's easy to get up to speed in the practicalities.

It's a bit unpleasant reading these articles (Barrie's and the original by Harper) now, as I currently work for Bigcommerce, and turned down an offer from Freelancer. Ironically, Freelancer offerred me about 40% less salary because at the time I had a theoretical background and almost zero practical experience.

If you like, turn on 'showdead' in your HN preferences. Matt appears to have responded to your original post directly from a hellbanned account (teflonhook).

Reviewing the account's comment history, funny to see "teflonhook" has been chattering away for a year without noticing the hellban.

Matt, setup a new account.

Accreditation is a tool of retaining economical privileges of certain class, not an instrument for weeding off morons.

Morons still get in. There's no accreditation in the whole world that says "This guy or girl is not a moron."

Having witnessed the hoops that 2 colleagues with significant experience, skills and strong qualifications- both had university degrees, and were white (meaning that they received a high quality education) -had to jump through to migrate from South Africa to Australia, I suspected ACS was more of a protection racket. This seems to validate this opinion.

One gave up, the other went to New Zealand.

I'm just staying in South Africa.

I think the ACS is irrelevant to most developers working in Australia. I've always had the impression its elitist and/or aimed at IT management.

Matt here. Turns out I've been talking to myself for the last year with a hellbanned account! lol.

The ACS just issued a media release: http://www.acs.org.au/news-and-media/news-and-media-releases...

Delimiter has posted an article as well: http://delimiter.com.au/2013/02/01/morons-freelancer-ceo-wan...

I find it humorous that the ACS's response is "the ACS Foundation has nothing do to with the ACS". It just happens to be an organisation they set up and uses their name that their members promote.

Some interesting emails came in overnight:

"The ACS is run by a whole bunch of accountants and lawyers who can't believe their luck that people associate them with the technology industry"

"You’re right that the ACS has to go.

Back in 2001 I contacted the ACS to discuss some policy things and was horrified to discover the “experts” I was talking to were nothing more than accountants. Later they elected a lawyer as president, and then a recruiter, prompting me to publicly condemn the ACS as a fake during the period 2004 – 2006.

The ACS is actually an anti-professional organisation. Their agenda is not to promote computer science or engineering expertise, but rather to allow pretenders to hide in the generic vagueness of “ICT Professional.” They actually work to devalue real expertise, since engineers and computer scientists pose a threat to accountants, MBAs and lawyers who want to claim membership of the technology professsions.

I think the solution has to be a formal inquiry into regulation of the IT professions, with a view to government stepping in and, as you put it, disbanding the ACS. At the moment, the ACS has insinuated itself too strongly into formal regulation. Simply starting a rival organisation for software engineers, say, would not work. Government has to dissolve existing ACS influence and leave the way open for new specialist organisations."

Former employer bought me an ACS membership one year (mainly so we could get access to their members in the hope of selling our services).

The entire membership seems to be guys who built a homebrew PC in the 70s and haven't showered since, or international students who believe so much in their education they're fooled into believing they need the ACS to rubber stamp their degree.

They're totally irrelevant in today's "but can you write good code?" hiring practice.

The ACS preys on uninformed international students. (Who, in interviews, all seem to want to work for Cisco in five years time! Are they taught this by the ACS?)

The general (low) opinion of the ACS on Whirlpool (AU broadband / IT forums) is that they exist solely to make money from rubber-stamping IT accreditations for skilled worker visas.

I forgot that the ACS even existed, just let it fade into obscurity on its own terms.

teflonhook 2 hours ago | link [dead]

The problem is this is the professional body that determines what we teach in universities, that promotes the technology industry as a whole and who decides who we let into the country on a skilled visa.

If you don't like the Australian Computer Society accreditation, you could could always become a Microsoft Certified Professional.

Which one is the bigger joke?

You would probably get something out of being a MCP. There just isn't a good reason to be a member of ACS - at all.

Totally different. MCSD and the like are actually ok for training in very specific areas of study, assuming you don't cheat of course.

Just payed the required $450 to have my Australian Master degree accredited by the ACS, that was only after I had spent $60.000+ in tuition fees in two years. only to see that the temporary residency application fee rose from $315 to $1250, (almost 400% increase in only one year)... :( some much money. I truly believe they have gone too far and soon they will start missing all the money from the international student and skilled migrants. (sorry for any grammar mistakes)

This reflects pretty poorly on a country and government which supposedly is trying to shift from a "get stuff out the ground and sell it" to a knowledge economy...

Moving from commodity based, bricks and mortar investment focus to an abstract, information industry innovating mindset is a huge paradigm shift for most Australians. It has unfortunately been popular mantra that banking, real-estate, commodities or finance-oriented (to fund commodity) business is the bread and butter for a happy, future-proof life and not easy to break. Many people have done well under that mantra, by island standards. To put it another way, as a country of very few people, those with the power to control the narrative can, and do so, in servicing that agenda. It's shameful. John Howard's pontifications of Australia 'punching above its weight' were a painful misrepresentation and yet many continue to buy into such impoverished thinking.

Different countries can be good at different things.

I've been working in Australian IT since the late 1970's and never once did anybody ask whether I had ACS membership.

When I graduated from uni, I looked at the ACS requirements and they were all to support the status quo of the 1960's EDP era. So I wouldn't have been accepted even if I tried. Even though I had the best computer engineering qualifications available at the time.

Over the years the ACS members I have had the misfortune of working with couldn't program their way out of a wet paper bag, not even using COBOL or RPG. Of course, as other comments here indicate, they abided by the Peter Principle and had been promoted to their level of utter dismal incompetence to muddle management.

All that about the pamphlet, not a big deal. But the payments at the end for accreditation? That seems to be a worse offense. Of course, if companies are only accepting applicants accredited by the ACS, they must be missing out on SOME people.

I think the main problem is you need the accreditation if you want to apply to immigrate. As I understand it even if you are from overseas and study at a Australian university you would still need to get the accreditation to apply for a visa.

It seems to me this is one of the key functions of the organisation - to act as a pseudo governmental entity to asses qualification and experience claims relating to IT.

I believe it also exists to provide a framework around CPD (continuing professional development), but I'm not sure how relevant this is to our industry.

Paying to vet the qualifications of people who have studied and worked overseas is not unreasonable -- but having to pay them $425 to certify that an accredited Australian university's CS diploma is, in fact, an accredited Australian university's CS diploma is ludicrous.

I was concerned about this very thing when I was preparing to immigrate to Australia. In the end, because I had a job offer I got in on a 457 (good for 4 years) and didn't have to pay the ACS' accreditation fee. Even better, in 6 months when I apply for Permanent Residence I still don't have to pay the ACS because I've been working here for 2 years.

I am not sure this holds.

Luckily, it still does though the visa has changed from 1 July 2012. It's now a ENS 186. The relevant portions [1] are below. This visa costs 3060 AUD along with 540 AUD for the employer nomination, but that covers the entire family.

"Temporary Residence Transition stream

If you apply for the Temporary Residence Transition stream, your skills do not need to be assessed because you have already worked for your nominating employer for two years in Australia.

You must have at least vocational English.

This stream is available only to people who hold a subclass 457 visa. People who hold other 400 series visas may qualify to apply for a permanent residence visa through the Direct Entry stream."

[1] http://www.immi.gov.au/skills/skillselect/index/visas/subcla...

It does: I transitioned from 457 to permanent residence (ENS 856) without paying ACS a cent.

Congratulations! The ENS 856 has since been replaced, but luckily there is still the skills exemption for 457 workers.

If you want to enter under the skilled migrant program, I expect you're correct.

However as an employer, I've hired a bunch of people from overseas on a 457 visa and never thought to get them to talk to the ACS. I don't really care if your university degree has been rubber stamped or not. (And if you can write code, I don't really care too much about your degree)

Is it possible to get people from outside of Australia to migrate for work on a 457 visa without having to get their skills assessed by the ACS?

i can't say i know of many companies that exclude people because theyre not members of the ACS. I work for an investment bank, and i have friends from uni who work everywhere from the IT department at one of our supermarket chains to the big 4 audit firms, and i don't know of any who actually have ACS accreditation

I would take it a step further and bet that none of those employers have even heard of the ACS, unless they've tried to hire people and sponsor them with a skilled worker visa.

My rule of thumb is that anyone who uses the term "ICT" is talking out of their backside.

In New Zealand just now, there is a national scandal over a system called Novopay. Google this to get the details. It is a payroll system for NZ teachers. It is complex, developed by an Australian firm, and full of errors. The errors in operation are such that teachers get the wrong pay, pay the wrong tax, and even get no pay on occasions. Public servants have been sacked, and government ministers are in trouble.

It is because we need to avoid such problems that we need software developers who can develop systems that actually meet their specifications, tested to provide assurance that they do. This is why we need certification of professionals (of their competency, and with expectation that they will behave ethically when there are problems with systems), and why we need accreditation of qualifications that provides external confidence that educational institutions are producing graduates who are of a standard that they can be expected to grow into competent professionals.

Most "developed" countries have schemes aimed at this - imperfect, and certainly needing improvement - and most are managed by professional societies - the organisations comprised of IT professionals who give voluntarily of their time to serve their colleagues and their profession, to no personal benefit.

In Australia this is the case with the ACS, which sees itself as the guardian of professional standards. Hence ACS provides certification of professionals (the CP scheme), and accredits university courses in IT, according to international standards. In both certification and accreditation, ACS serves as the Australian implementor of international standards that are widely accepted throughout the world, and particularly in our Asia-Pacific region. If you are interested, google "IP3" and "Seoul Accord" to find out more.

ACS may be imperfect in that role (this is inevitable), but seeks to improve, continuously, and always aims to respond to identified genuine problems with the ways it conducts its business. In order that the profession of IT should mature, and deliver outcomes acceptable to society at large, ACS has a goal that increasing numbers of professionals should become certified, and believes that ultimately mandatory certification of at very least senior professionals, charged with managing major projects or leading the design of technical solutions, should be established (paralleling other professions, which, over time, have been recognised as being of such critical importance that competence should be certified).

There will always be those who prefer to avoid any kind of regulation or oversight, any kind of distinction that identifies those in whom greater trust can be placed. But the Novopay system in NZ is just the latest example of medium to large systems worldwide, with critical roles in wider society, whose failure illustrates the need for software systems developers to lift their game, and which begs the introduction of quite stringent requirements on senior developers and managers who claim competence to develop such systems.

As the Vice President of ACS charged with oversight of certification and accreditation, I am always keen to have input from wise professionals who believe they can improve the way we conduct our business. If you have considered input, then please contact me so that we may benefit from your wisdom.

Professor Doug Grant FACS CP ACS Vice President (Membership Boards)

I'm sorry Australia, you are not getting me as a skilled worker (I thought you were in need of IT experts with fluent english). No seriously, I stumbled upon this issue some time ago, and that wasn't the first or last paywall. You have to pay for everything, even if you end up being rejected (not that I couldn't afford it, but f*ck that). Kind of offtopic, but I also saw they have some serious discrimination issues (it's not even about skin color, which I don't care since I'm white, they just don't want foreigners). Back to Google Maps to find a different destination.

Just out of interest, what are the discrimination issues? (I'm Australian so I don't ever get an outsider's perspective, but it'd be nice to have some understanding of what others think of us.)

Well I was watching videos trying to catch the Australian accent, which I found to be very cool... One video led to another, and somehow I ended up watching this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hp6J6PF47CM

From another angle, and longer explanation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BsWhGBgbUsc

I have never seen something like that in real life, I couldn't believe it.

There's 22 million people in Australia, don't assume a few idiots reflect the entire country. Neither my wife nor I were born here, but as parents with a mixed-race kid and experience of living on four continents, we haven't found a better place to bring him up yet.

Indeed, but to be fair, 22 million is nothing, especially for a country so big as Australia. Also, it wasn't just one crazy person or crazy group. They were random people in a bus, and they had the same anger and hate. Wtf was that?

I'm curious, where in Australia do you live if I may ask?

Melbourne, same city as the bus attack. For what it's worth, that took place in Frankston, one of the city's dodgier suburbs, which has a reputation for crime, drug problems and lots of "bogans".

haha, Frankston... explains a lot.

If you're still interested, and can find someone willing to employ you look at the 457 visa and the transition stream to PR. Circumvents that whole mess IIRC.

Yup, this is the best option if you can swing it -- the problem is that you need to find an employer to sponsor you, which is a significant hassle and expense for them.

It's usually an egg/chicken problem. Employers want you to have a visa first, and visa wants you to have an employer first.

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