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Wednesday, 24 November 2010
Page: 3557

Mr HAYES (9:46 AM) —I rise today to also speak in favour of the National Measurement Amendment Bill 2010. This bill amends the National Measurement Act 1960 to correct some of the unintended consequences arising from the translation of the trade measurement provisions of state and territory legislation into the Commonwealth legislation. Quite simply, the government has listened to the concerns of industry and business and has acted in a very prompt way to rectify this situation.

Trade measurement is the use of measurement in determining price. The primary purpose of a trade measurement system in this country is to ensure that the pricing of traded goods is based on accurate measurement. Trade measurement covers both business-to-business transactions as well as business-to-consumer transactions. This may appear to be a complex and somewhat irrelevant concept for many who may be, for example, listening in Fowler at the moment, but these are issues that are more familiar to people than they actually realise. Every time we go out and buy our groceries at the supermarket, our meat from the butcher or our seafood from the markets we are relying on accurate trade measurement instruments to determine the correct price on weight for those goods. So in terms of the day-to-day aspects of this piece of legislation, whilst trade measurement might seem unimportant to some people, for those who go and buy food to support their families these are things that are probably taken for granted but which are nevertheless very important.

The trade measurement system contained in this bill ensures that trade-measuring instruments are sufficiently accurate to give a fair price to both buyers and sellers. Essentially, the national trade measurement system, which came into effect in July this year, provides confidence to buyers and sellers that the instruments made for trade anywhere in this country are both consistent and accurate. The establishment of a national trade measurement system, which has been implemented by this Labor government, is one step in moving towards a seamless national economy.

The national system came about thanks to an agreement through the Council of Australian Governments and has been welcomed by industry at large. When the legal framework for the national trade measurement system was established in 2008, the weighing sector of the industry highlighted some serious concerns. Those concerns arose as a result of unintended consequences when the strict liability clauses that existed when the state and territory legislation was translated into the Commonwealth arena. The changes to be introduced in this bill will correct and clarify the areas of concern to the weighing industry.

The bill will narrow the circumstances in which some offence provisions may apply by removing doubt about the application of offences to inappropriate people. For example, if a measuring instrument is sold to an intermediary before its installation and used for trade then the strict liability provisions of this bill will not make the original supplier liable to prosecution. It will not be an offence to supply or install an unverified measuring instrument provided there is a reasonable belief that a measuring instrument will be verified before being used for trade between a supplier and seller.

The bill will, however, explicitly state that it is an offence to let for hire or to loan an unverified measuring instrument for the purpose of trade. Whilst the wording is clearer, it is not a new penalty. Such behaviour would have been subject to penalties in terms of its wider wording when originally contained in both the state and territory counterpart legislation.

The bill will also assist in making greater efficiencies possible in the operation of the new national system of trade measurement by: allowing for the explicit recognition of prior knowledge and experience in making appointments for trade measurement inspectors; ensuring that the secretary of the department appoints only competent verifiers of utility meters; making clarifications, replacing or re-defining a number of technical terms; and providing a greater role for the Chief Metrologist in determining various procedures of a technical nature that, quite frankly, would be administratively complex and for which legislative amendments would be very slow and burdensome. A greater role is given to the Chief Metrologist, in that respect, to be able to resolve those matters through regulatory processes.

The government is determined to create a seamless national economy unhampered by unnecessary duplications, overlaps and differences in regulation. We are also determined to remove those inconsistencies that create unnecessarily complex and costly burdens on business. This legislation is another step on that path. It is a step that has been pursued by this government to give business a greater degree of certainty and more support in business regulation reform. I commend this bill to the House.