Ask Your Mates Open Forum

Australian Standards

  • 1.  Australian Standards

    Posted 25 October 2013 04:34
    I've never understood why something as important as national standards are not a government responsibility, why the commercial arm of Standards Australia was sold off to a commercial entity or why digitial versions of all national standards aren't freely and openly available to anyone who is interested in them.

    Can anyone edify me?

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    Wayne Eddy
    Strategic Asset Planning Coordinator
    City of Whittlesea
    BUNDOORA MDC VIC
    wayne.eddy@whittlesea.vic.gov.au
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  • 2.  RE:Australian Standards

    Posted 28 October 2013 10:24
    In response to Waynes query, we have just attended a National conference in Efficiencies in  roads maintenance in Sydney.
    The view of the participants at the conference in our opinion, which was made up of Local Govt ,state govt and NZ government authorities  was that a national approach and responsibility to standards would benefit engineers and asset managers at all levels of government and private enterprise.,
    Having a national body responsible for maintaining and upgrading standards would result in standards having the latest test methods and technologies being applied via regular industry reviews prompted by changes in industry practice.
    We have had experience within  some  local  government authorities which currently have published standards, have  undergone  4 upgrades of some  standards  over a period of years, with  Councils not adopting these upgrades.
    This leads to contractors being required  to try and conform to redundant  standards which may have non existant  test methods and procedures as part of the specification.
    Giving this responsibility to a National authority in, our view, will ensure that the most up to date industry practice  and technologies are are reflected within these standards
     

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    Mark Pilgrim
    General Manager
    Mid Coast Road Services
    WAUCHOPE NSW

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  • 3.  RE:Australian Standards

    Posted 28 October 2013 19:11
    Thanks for the response, Mark, and great to hear that people are starting to think about this.

    Do you think the support for the idea at the conference is likely to translate into any action?

    Regards,

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    Wayne Eddy
    Strategic Asset Planning Coordinator
    City of Whittlesea
    BUNDOORA MDC VIC
    wayne.eddy@whittlesea.vic.gov.au
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  • 4.  RE:Australian Standards

    Posted 29 October 2013 00:20
    G'day Wayne and Comrades.  I put this question to contacts who have been involved in developing Aus Standards over the years, and got this reply from one (who admits to having invested in a parcel of SAI Global shares when they went commercial, so there must be real money in it):

     
    "I'm not sure of the historical reasons, other than following the UK model, but I can see there might be advantages in having a process that's at arm's length from government - the theory is that the community can benefit from the collective wisdom from the relevant professions (who tend, in my very limited experience,  to dominate the process), industry, government and consumers and protects the process to some extent from political interference.  I don't know if there's any way of comparing how effective and efficient a relatively open system like this  compared to a 'command' system which applies to the way standards are organised in some countries where government takes direct responsibility for standards.

     "There are other areas where broadly similar arrangements apply, e.g. professions are generally responsible for setting and enforcing their own standards of conduct and practice.

    "Requiring people to pay for standards is a way of funding the  secretariat at the core of the process without government having to involved - though bear in mind that most of the work gets done voluntarily through a combination of self-interest and altruism  (e.g. industry combining its good citizenship while making sure decisions are to its liking, academics and consultants positioning themselves while making sure that the public good is served by the application of scientific principles and their own particular expertise).  I'm guessing the privatisation of SAI global was a way to raise capital to expand the training side of the business.

    "Not having  all standards available on-line is a bit of a pain, but anyone who really needs to access them would be able to do so through their local library if the can wait a few days though that may not be much of an option for people in remote areas).

     "PS.  Thought experiment.  Can you imagine what the first government-sponsored standard on LATM might have looked like?"


    I could add to this response that there is a trend overseas towards making the results of all government-funded research "open access" i.e. freely available.  Standards are somewhat different, but I am inclined to agree that it is a bit irksome to have to pay for what you are obliged to know in your professional practice. 

     Cheers

    Ray



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    Ray Brindle
    Editor, "Road and Transport Research"
    Malmsbury VIC

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  • 5.  RE:Australian Standards

    Posted 29 October 2013 08:35
    Hi Wayne

    Good question, and one that has been asked by a lot of people.

    I am unsure of the philosophical background, but standard setting in Oz is seen to be a function of industry developing concepts of best practice via a process that follows principles of governance.

    Standards Australia oversees the development of standards by committees populated by volunteers from the industry that the relevant standard impacts upon.

    Some years ago, Standards Australia sold of the rights to publish standards - to SAI Global, and pocketed a wad of cash that they use to support their standard setting operations.

    That is how we ended up in the situation where standards must be purchased.

    There is certainly merit to the idea that these (or at least some of them) should be available free of charge, but I suppose someone has to pay the piper.

    Regards

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    Matt Turner
    Plant Assessor - Machinery Safety Made Easy
    Thornton NSW

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  • 6.  RE:Australian Standards

    Posted 30 October 2013 09:25
    Thanks, Matt.

    It sounds like a bit of a variation on the theme of public asset sales resulting from short term political thinking, and an over reliance on "market forces" to find appropriate costing levels and to ensure that the user of a service pays.

    I get that, but I think in the medium and long terms it is definitely the wrong way to go.  The way I look at it, it adds "friction" in that it creates an unecessary layer of transactions and hold ups compared to the case where all standards can be freely downloaded in PDF and copied and shared.
     
    Where I work we have an account with SAI Global and I can access standards if we need to.  What I can't do is link to the appropriate part of a standard from a intranet page about a certain topic, and that stops people accessing the knowledge they need at the exact time they need it, and that is almost certainly a bigger problem than the cost issue.

    I don't know if anyone here uses the Austlii website to access legislation at all, but this is how I think standards should be disseminatd.

    http://www.austlii.edu.au/

    If I want to say explain the reason for Council having to employ a Municipal Fire Prevention Officer I can simply link to the appropriate cliause in the legislation.

    http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/vic/consol_act/cfaa1958292/s96a.html

    Similarly, if i want to explain why a reinforced concrete beam is constructed in a certain fashion, I should be able to point to the approprioate cluase in an Australian Standard.

    We have to stop thinking of digital documents in the same way we think of paper documents, and start making the best use 21st century technology.    Locking away important documents behind paywalls is not the best use of 21st Century technology,

    // End of Rant //

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    Wayne Eddy
    Strategic Asset Planning Coordinator
    City of Whittlesea
    BUNDOORA MDC VIC
    wayne.eddy@whittlesea.vic.gov.au
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  • 7.  RE:Australian Standards

    Posted 31 October 2013 02:09
    Wayne

    Well said - I could not agree more.  It is difficult to comply with a standard or to query whether it is being complied with if the standard can't be accessed.  Australian Accounting Standards are freely available on the AASB web-site.

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    David Hope
    Principal Consultant
    Skilmar Systems Pty Ltd
    Beaumont SAau

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  • 8.  RE:Australian Standards

    Posted 01 November 2013 16:04
    Good point, David.

    Being an Engineer I am always a bit tempted to assume that us Engineers are more logical and sensible than our Accounting colleagues, but I definitely have to take my hat off to the Accounting fraternity and concede that their way of doing things is much better than ours in this particular case. 

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    Wayne Eddy
    Strategic Asset Planning Coordinator
    City of Whittlesea
    BUNDOORA MDC VIC
    wayne.eddy@whittlesea.vic.gov.au
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