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Change on the horizon for legal metrology in Australia: Why Australia’s national measurement legislation needs updating
N.A. Cristaudo and J.J. Mayo
National Measurement Institute, Australia (NMIA) Department of Industry, Innovation and Science
GPO Box 2013, Canberra ACT 2601, Australia
Australia is currently planning a thematic review of its national measurement legislative framework. The aim is to modernise Australia’s measurement framework towards a more principles-based approach, to provide greater regulatory flexibility, encourage investment and support innovation for new technologies.
Measurement which draws on appropriate scientific and technical expertise is central to the effective functioning of a modern economy. Historically legal metrology originated from the need to facilitate fair trade and placed a strong focus on requirements for measuring instruments, measurements and testing methods. More modern policy priorities place the role of government in supporting strategic measurement capabilities and processes that will enhance business and consumer confidence, providing a strong effective system that is trusted and accepted both domestically and internationally.
While there has not been a systemic failure of Australia’s national measurement legislation, it is complex, overly prescriptive and outdated. To ensure that Australia’s measurement system is fit-for-purpose, there is a need for a more efficient legislative framework consistent with the government agendas for best practice regulation.
2. Australia’s national measurement legislation
The principal legislation concerning legal metrology in Australia is the National Measurement Act 1960 (Cth) (the Act). The Act and its subordinate instruments, the National Measurement Regulations 1999 (Cth) and the National Trade Measurement Regulations 2009 (Cth) together with determinations and recognized-value standards of measurement issued by the Chief Metrologist form Australia’s national measurement legislative framework.
Australia’s national measurement legislative framework establishes the National Measurement Institute, Australia (a division of the Australian Government Department of Industry, Innovation and Science) as Australia’s peak body responsible for a top-level infrastructure for biological, chemical, legal, physical and trade measurement.
3. Recent reviews of Australia’s national measurement system
3.1 Independent Review
In 2015, an independent review of Australia’s legal metrology and measurement policy identified the need to modernise and better align Australia’s national measurement legislative framework with Australian Government and international policy objectives. The independent review noted that Australia’s national measurement legislation is currently very prescriptive by principles-based, best practice regulatory standards and should be reviewed to simplify the regulatory framework and reduce the amount of prescription.
3.2 Legal Metrology Strategic Policy Review
The thematic review of Australia’s national measurement legislative framework builds on the outcomes of Australia’s 2016 ‘Legal Metrology Strategic Policy Review’ which aimed to articulate policy objectives to ensure a streamlined and effective regulatory system and measurement framework.
3.3 Labelling Review
A review has commenced on the labelling and quantity information required for packages sold in Australia under Part 4 of the National Trade Measurement Regulations 2009 (Cth). This review is being undertaken to consider options to provide more flexible arrangements and encourage investment in the short-term. The thematic review of Australia’s national measurement legislation will build on the outcomes of the labelling review of Part 4 of the National Trade Measurement Regulations 2009 (Cth) to inform options to modernise the framework.
4. Thematic review of Australia’s national measurement legislation
The thematic review will cover the Act and all legislative instruments made under the Act. The aim is to ensure Australia’s national measurement legislation is fit-for-purpose for current and future opportunities or challenges. The thematic review aims to develop options and recommendations in relation to:
To accommodate for a comprehensive analysis of the entire legislative and policy framework, Australia’s national measurement legislation has initially been divided into sixteen “thematic areas” that represent broad topics that form the current legislation (see Table 1).
Table 1: Thematic areas of Australia’s national measurement legislation.
The review will involve a systematic examination of the “thematic areas” and will be informed by tailored engagement and consultation. A comprehensive list of stakeholders groups has been established covering manufacturers, retailers, industry, consumers, utilities, appointed laboratories, licensed businesses, domestic and international standards and conformance bodies and other levels of government.
The thematic review will consider and consult on a wide variety of options, including options to improve competition, facilitate innovation and reduce regulatory burden on business. To assist this process an intra-government advisory group, chaired independently by Mr Edward Killesteyn, PSM, has been established to ensure the thematic review considers whole-of-government perspective on options for reform measures.
The thematic review aims to be completed within a five year period (to enable sufficient time to introduce revised legislation to the Australian Parliament and allow for sufficient education and transition periods). Options for reform are aimed to be presented to government for consideration in 2020, following the conclusion of public consultation.
6. Setting the course
Although Australia’s measurement system has been evolving since Federation, the current legislation which underpins the system has never been reviewed to examine the appropriateness of the entire legislative and policy framework. Changes in technology, industry and consumers call for a major rethinking of Australia’s national measurement legislative framework to ensure it continues to deliver benefits which underpin the many sectors of the Australian economy, now and into the future.
Given the wide reach of any country’s measurement system, the thematic review of Australia’s national measurement legislative framework will be informed by robust and comprehensive engagement with domestic and international stakeholders. A public consultation process involving key international bodies, such as the Asia-Pacific Legal Metrology Forum (APLMF) and the International Organisation of Legal Metrology (OIML) during the review process, will be leveraged to ensure international considerations and adoption of best practice regulation principles.
For further information regarding Australia’s thematic review of its national measurement legislative framework please contact: