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Thursday, 13 November 2008
Page: 10896

Mr TREVOR (1:09 PM) —I commend to the House the member for Forde’s contribution to this debate. I rise to speak on the National Measurement Amendment Bill 2008 and hope to deliver a brief and well-measured speech. I am sure all would appreciate that. The National Measurement Amendment Bill 2008 amends the National Measurement Act 1960 to introduce an Australia-wide system of trade measurement based on the current measurement systems found in each state and territory. This bill will introduce a national system. I commend my government’s approach on this matter. It is long overdue. This amendment bill is in response to trade measurement being one of the 10 regulatory issues identified by COAG in 2006 and 2007. Australia currently has eight different jurisdictions, one in each state and territory. This has created increases in compliance costs for those businesses operating across state boundaries—in effect, a red tape nightmare.

The bill inserts general trade measurement provisions into the act which will provide the legislative framework for the national trade measurement system. These include provisions to ensure the accuracy and reliability of trade measuring instruments, provisions to ensure pre-packed articles contain the stated quantities, the appointment of trade measurement inspectors and their powers, licensing provisions for the verifiers of measuring instruments and the operation of public weighbridges, provision for private sector firms or individuals to be licensed to verify trade measuring instruments, and transitional provisions to ensure a seamless transfer from the states and territories to a national system.

A trade measurement framework provides confidence to buyers and sellers that measurements which support our trading system are consistent and accurate anywhere in Australia. The bill will create the legislative framework for a national system of trade measurement. Currently, trade measurement is regulated by the states and territories, but they each regulate trade measurement slightly differently. This bill will address the issues surrounding businesses operating across state and territory boundaries, which will be welcome news.

As mentioned earlier, creating a national trade measurement system was identified by COAG in 2006 as a regulatory reform hot spot, an area where overlapping and inconsistent regulatory regimes were impeding economic activity. The bill gives effect to the COAG decision. A national trade measurement system will reduce the regulatory burden for business, particularly for those firms that currently have to comply with different requirements when operating across state and territory borders. The new system will be administered by the Commonwealth from 1 July 2010.

The bill has provisions which will ensure the accuracy and reliability of trade measuring instruments like scales, fuel dispensers and weighbridges; ensure pre-packaged articles contain the stated quantities; allow private sector firms or individuals to be licensed to verify trade measuring instruments; create powers for the Commonwealth to appoint trade measurement inspectors; create all the necessary elements of a national trade measurement system with the technical and administrative detail to be specified in regulations; and provide traditional arrangements to ensure a smooth transfer from the operation of state and territory legislation to a national system.

The bill also introduces the voluntary option of using the average quantity system, AQS. AQS is an internationally recognised system for sampling and testing groups of packages to determine whether, on average, they contain the quantities with which they are marked. The offence provision in the bill will apply to a wide range of companies, from large to small, in a wide variety of circumstances. This makes it desirable to have a range of enforcement options appropriate to the different circumstances to which the bill might apply. Consequently, the bill provides for different categories of offences in relation to particular conduct for a range of responses depending on the circumstances of a particular suspected offence and for a variety of penalties. The availability of AQS will meet longstanding requests from major packers and wine producers and will improve their international competitiveness.

The system also provides flexibility to introduce new technologies or approaches. For example, the protein content of grain now determines the price paid to growers, rather than weight. The new national system will have the flexibility to take up these new ways of doing business. This is groundbreaking legislation. This is fantastic legislation for Australia. I commend the member for Rankin and I commend this bill to the House and congratulate the Rudd Labor government for its outstanding leadership on this issue.