Response 897230821

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Introduction

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John Henry

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Current regulatory framework

4.1. What should be the role of Australia’s measurement laws in a modern economy?

What should be the role of Australia’s measurement laws in a modern economy?
The measurement laws should apply where a current or potential risk of disadvantage in trade exists that can be effectively addressed through regualtory action. The normal tests associated with the Regulatory Impact Statement (RIS) process should be applied. In other words, the action should only be what is necessary to overcome the problem.

Measurement laws in other countries

5.1. What should be within the scope of Australia's measurement laws?

What is the appropriate scope of Australia measurement laws?
My only comment is that the States have largely vacated the field of weights and measures, and the expertise in metrology is no longer present in State agencies. As a result of this, and other factors, State exemptions are no longer appropriate.

5.2. Are there ways in which the current scope of Australia’s measurement laws could be expanded or limited?

Are there ways in which the scope of Australia’s measurement laws should be limited?
With many law enforcement functions, such as radar/laser speed detection and parking meters, this was traditionally managed by State governments that checked accuracy within their own test labs; but these functions are now largely outsourced to private companies. I think the argument for an exemption from the National Measurement Act is no longer tenable and these functions sould come under the Act. I have experience of how the calibration of radar speed detection was undertaken by the Police and it was somewhat circular. A police car's speedometer was checked against the radar, then the radar was checked against another police car's speedometer. I'm not sure what the private contractors use now, but it is not very transparent, especially at a time when revenue fron speed detecion cameras is a significant component of the State budget. The same agument about outsorcing applies to utility meters where it is no longer a State Government agency that is operating and calibrating the meters. This, too, should come under the Commonwealth Act.

Principles-based legislation

6.1. Would you be confident of operating in a principles-based regulatory environment for measurement? Why or why not?

Would you be confident of operating in regulatory environment for measurement that is characterised by principles-based legislation? Why?
I think that legal metrology is by nature a prescriptive regime aimed at preventing harm before it happens. I would not favour a principles-based regime because such regimes ineviably are based on redress after the harm has occurred. You can only prove that a principle hasn't been met by observing the outcome. For example, if my ISP introduces a new method from counting my data usage, I know that my monthly bill has gone up; but how do I prove that it's due to the new data counting method? It's difficult to prove in retrospect, and places the onus on the consumer to take action. If you go to places like China, it's buyer beware; and this detracts from confidence in the marketplace. One of the great advances of Western economics was the introduction and enforcement of prescriptive weights and measures. This goes back as far as 960 AD, when King Edgar declared that the measure of Winchester shall be the measure of the kingdom. In other words, even though there were a multitude of ways to measure barley, everyone had to use the one set of measures endorsed by the king.

6.2. Would the need for detailed guidance material limit the value and flexibility of a principles-based approach to measurement laws?

Would an implemented principles-based approach acquire such a quantity of additional guidance and specification that the value of the principle-based approach was neutralised?
As above, I disagree with the use of principles-based measurement.

Measurements used for trade

7.1. Are there benefits from directly regulating an area of measurement as opposed to providing broad principles of good measurement practice without direct intervention?

Are there benefits from directly regulating an area of measurement as opposed to providing broad principles of good measurement practice without direct intervention?
Direct regulation makes more sense than setting principles, because every situation is different. For example, greenhouse gas measurement is based on algorithms that predict, for example, how much carbon a forest will sequester in a year. It is a rather inexact approach, but the consequences of an error of, say 20%, because it was an usually cold or dry year are not that great. It will eventually be made up in other years. Another situation is laundry detergent where an individual box can be significantly underweight, so long as the average of 12 boxes is above the stated mass. Again, the short-fall in one purchase gets made up over time. However, getting short measure at the petrol pump is a very different matter and we wouldn't accept it. A principle that would cover every different situation, would require such a high level principle that it would be meaningless.

7.2. What regulatory models should Australia’s measurement laws enable (for instance, principles-based, compliance-focused and/or rules-based), and why?

What regulatory models should Australia’s measurement laws enable (for instance, principles-based, compliance-focused and/or rules-based), and why?
I think that enforcement is what should drive the approach chosen.

Changing nature of trade measurement

7.1.1. What types of measuring instruments should be regulated by Australia’s measurement laws?

What types of measuring instruments should be regulated by Australia’s measurement laws?
This question is outside my expertise.

7.1.2. How should Australia’s measurement laws apply to transactions for goods and services that are based on measurement?

How should Australia’s measurement laws apply to transactions for goods and services that are based on measurement?
Yes, they should potentially apply to all transactions based on measurement.

7.1.3. What regulatory models should be applied to quality and quantity measurements?

What regulatory models should be applied to quality and quantity measurements?
I think that product quality should remain outside the scope of measurement regulation. Quality and quantity are two differen concepts. You may use measurement as part of assessing quality, but it is just a tool for assessing a discrete indicator of overall quality.

Exemptions

7.2.1. How should Australia’s measurement laws specify the types of measuring instruments they apply to? For instance, by exemption or inclusion requirements?

How should Australia’s measurement laws specify the types of measuring instruments they apply to? For instance, by exemption or inclusion requirements?
I would opt for inclusion, rather than exclusion. In many cases, new technologies will emerge where there is yet to be an agreed measurement method that can be used for pattern approval, etc. We don't want the measurement law to hold back technology development.

7.2.2. What are your views on the current listed exemptions?

How are the current listed exemptions not appropriate?
They are about right, except for the State-based exemptions, which should be scrapped.

Non-trade measurements

8.1. What future measurement needs or priorities would benefit from a measurement framework?

What future measurement needs or priorities would benefit from a measurement framework?
No comment.

8.2. Should the focus of the Australia’s measurement laws be to regulate measuring instruments or measurement results, or both?

Should the focus of the Australia’s measurement laws be to regulate measuring instruments or measurement results, or both?
Both.

8.3. How should the national measurement framework apply to non-trade measurements and instruments? Should the approach be different for different types and/or categories of measurement?

How should the national measurement framework apply to non-trade measurements and instruments? Should the approach be different for different types and/or categories of measurement?
Yes, of course the approach should be different to legal metrology.

8.4. What are the types of non-trade measurements (and measuring instruments) that would benefit from inclusion within the measurement framework?

What are the types of non-trade measurements (and measuring instruments) that would benefit from inclusion within the measurement framework?
No comment.

8.5. Are there instances in which non-trade measurements (and measuring instruments) requires a nationally consistent approach to measurement?

Are there instances in which non-trade measurements (and measuring instruments) requires a nationally consistent approach to measurement?
Not my field.