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Economics References Committee
Non-conforming building products

OVERTON, Mr Warren, Chief Executive Officer, Australian Glass and Glazing Association

JONES, Mr Phil, General Manager, G James Glass and Aluminium

RICE, Mr Jamie, Assistant General Manager, G James Glass and Aluminium

CHAIR: Welcome. Would you like to make any additional comments about the capacity in which you appear?

Mr Rice : I am representing the Australian Glass and Glazing Association. I am also chair of the Australian Glass and Glazing Association technical subcommittee and chair of IGMA, which is the Insulating Glass Manufacturers Alliance for AGGA as well.

Senator EDWARDS: Are you a glazier?

Mr Rice : No.

Mr Jones : I am here representing the Australian Glass and Glazing Association. I am also one of their representatives on the BD-007 committee. I am currently vice-chair of the Insulating Glass Manufacturing Association. I am currently the acting chair for the Australian Fenestration Rating Council, and I am the Australian representative on the North American IGMA technical committee.

Senator EDWARDS: Are you a glazier?

Mr Jones : No, I am not a glazier. I am in the manufacturing side of the industry.

CHAIR: Thank you for appearing before the committee today. I invite you make a brief opening statement should you wish to do so, and then we will open it up to questions.

Mr Overton : Thank you, Senators. I would just actually like to clarify that Mr Rice is also on the BD-007 committee as well.

I would like to just speak to our submission where we were talking about noncompliance and non-conformance. Within our industry, we do see that there is an issue, so we certainly welcome the fact that you are having this inquiry into the issue. In the glass industry, we typically see problems in the toughened glass or safety glass area, or IGUs or insulated glass units—or double glazing, to use the colloquial. But from our evidence and speaking to our members and trying to gather information on this, it seems quite evident that most of the time this is due to an incorrect selection of glass and the wrong glass being used in the wrong place, and also potentially incorrect installation methodologies.

We are an industry association that covers everything from glass manufacturing—that would be Viridian, who make glass here in Dandenong; to glass processing, and these are the people who toughen, laminate cut, paint and print the glass; and then the glaziers themselves. So as an industry association, we cover the full breadth and find ourselves in a situation we can see how the whole chain goes together and see where some of the problems arise. Having spoken to our members about this issue—unfortunately, most of the evidence tends to be anecdotal, and I will explain some the reasons later—when they do investigate problems, when we have the public inquire to us about issues, typically it is because they have found a fault in the actual installation or an incorrect product was used and that has caused an issue. If I have time, I will cover some of those examples.

We do get a reasonable amount of attention with toughened glass. Without going into the details, because of the process which actually makes it toughened, the glass is under tension and when it does break it can go with a bit of a bang. That gets people's attention, but it is intended—as you have already had quite a discussion about—to break into small pieces, and that is why they call it safety glass. When non-safety glass, or annealed glass, is impacted upon, it does break into long and dangerous shards, and so safety glass is designed to mitigate that, but significantly worse than what you will be showing there. This does happen.

You do hear sometimes of what they call spontaneous breaking of glass. It is an extremely rare occurrence in our industry. This tends to be either due to an impurity in the glass. You may have heard reference to nickel sulfide. That is very rare. There are test methodologies to address that called heat soaking, where you can reheat the glass to try to induce it to break if there is in fact an impurity. That can be done to try to mitigate that risk, but it still is a very, very small risk within the industry.

One of our main concerns though, and one of the things that we wanted to put forward, was around the installation issues as well. As an industry association, we probably cover 30 per cent of the industry in terms of our membership. In the glazing sector, from our figures, less than 30 per cent of the people out there working as glaziers, claiming to be glaziers, are actually trade qualified. We do have a full trade qualification—a cert III qualification. I might just say: that is up there with all the plumbers and electricians; we are just as significant a trade as they are. We even have a cert IV and a diploma that we are working on. So it is a proper trade that does require training and skill to actually do the work correctly.

What is happening within the building sector is that prices are constantly being driven down and we will find unskilled people doing work, particularly in the area of things like shower screens and balustrades—the growing areas of glazing outside your typical facades or windows—and these are people who are not effectively trained. They are not necessarily trained in the selection of glass. Nor are they trained in the handling of glass, and, more often than not, that is where we find we have problems, because people are not handling glass correctly or installing it in the correct manner.

The whole area of registration or licensing of our trade is extremely variable around Australia. It is different in every state and I would suggest that it ranges from pretty much nothing to not a lot at all. As an association, we are quite pro the idea of licensing. When we had NOLA—I cannot remember what the acronym stood for, but it was the licensing authority—we were quite pleased, and hopeful that glazing could end up being a licensed trade. Now that that opportunity has gone—NOLA has been disbanded—we have introduced our own voluntary accreditation program, and this is one of the main areas I think it would be worthwhile for this inquiry to look at. Many industry associations, in the absence of a consistent national process, are putting in place their own voluntary accreditation programs. The issue with such accreditation programs, obviously, is that they tend to attract the already converted—the people who are doing the right thing already. Those who, let us say, are working at the bottom of the quality spectrum will tend to stay away. So some level of national coordination and government support or endorsement of these programs is certainly something that we would be calling upon.

The other issue is in terms of the policing of work when it is actually done. You have heard from several people who have made submissions about the complexity of the construction industry, and, yes, it is complex in terms of responsibilities, and the idea of how to police noncompliance is very difficult. Within the glazing sector, should a client request from a glazier a certificate of compliance, the glazier will typically provide a document that says, 'Yes, the glass was installed in accordance with our standard,' which is the AS 1288 installation standard, but there is no policing as to the veracity of those certificates, where they have come from or whether the person providing one is in fact qualified or not. That is why we are now entering the market with our own voluntary program, to put that out to consumers to say, 'If you want to find someone who is qualified and can back up the work that they have done, it is backed up by the association and these people are appropriately qualified.' We are certainly happy to provide much more extensive information about that program should you wish.

The fact is: our qualification, as I said, is a cert III qualification; it is a proper trade qualification. And we do work with a product that has a potential human health and safety impact. Obviously we do not want to have the wrong glass installed in the wrong way because of the potential for human injury. On that basis, we believe that really we should be up there as a licensed trade in the same way that plumbing and electrical are licensed trades, because of the potential for human health impacts. It is something we are working towards through our own voluntary programs first of all.

In summary, as to what we are doing in that space, I would just like to say that the areas that we are looking for change in, in this space, are a coordinated form of accreditation, be that led by government or led by industry, and therefore supported by government. Very easily: steps in the terms of government procurement. There is substantial investment by government every year in buying buildings, renovating buildings and renting buildings. Certainly significant improvements can be made in terms of tender documentation to ensure that the work is done by qualified glaziers and that the product actually complies and has been checked as well.

In the product space, Mr Jones and Mr Rice have indicated they are involved in a group called IGMA, which is the Insulating Glass Manufacturers Affiliation; it is effectively a subcommittee of AGGA, but it actually has its own membership base. To address the product compliance side of things we have developed a new program. It is called IGMAP. The P on the end is the program. It is about certifying IGUs, or double glazing, to ensure they meet the Australian standard, and that standard is AS 4666.

There are three organisations which are becoming accredited under that in the first tranche. They have actually been independently third-party audited—there was reference made to that process this morning—by an organisation that is JAS-ANZ certified, so it is a certifier who has been effectively certified in their own right. We are trying to provide that level of compliance in the industry, and those people will market themselves accordingly. You could obviously then see the scenario where these people—they are proactive; they make good products—are marketing in that sense. What happens with the rest of the industry? This is where the complication falls down. Without policing and so on, typically people will drive to the bottom and try to do the cheapest thing they can get away with.

We are looking to extend from the IGMA, the IGU certification program, and do a similar thing for safety glass. That is a program we will start to develop this year and roll out as well.

Once again, we put programs like that in the market, but they are voluntary. The consumers can respond to it. There were many comments this morning about consumers needing to understand where they can get information. Where can they find out if a product is compliant and whether it is fit for purpose? Through these voluntary programs we certainly hope to address that, but we could get a lot more effect if there were some form of integration into other codes or standards or government requirements.

That is in regard to the compliance and conformance side of things. I want to make some further comments in regard to the issues this morning with the discussion around the safety glass standard, AS 2208, just to summarise the process and AGGA's involvement so far. The BD-007 committee, which is tasked with this particular area, has 20 representatives on it. AGGA has three of those representatives. Over the extensive period where these standards have been developed and discussed, typically those three representatives have all been from different companies.

The claim of a cabal approach, considering that these are three independent individuals out of a total of 20, is obviously something that we would refute. Something we need to be cognisant of is that all the members of such a committee come from industry. That is why they have their expertise. They have all been employed by various companies at various times. The proponents who were claiming the cabal activity by AGGA have themselves been employed by other companies at other times. Everybody comes with history and knowledge, and that is why they are useful. That is why there are 20 people around the table to make those decisions.

The current 2208 that is standing as it is now, which was finalised in 1996, was in fact under the chairmanship of Dr Leon Jacob, who appeared this morning. So that standard as it stands now was actually approved by Dr Jacob himself in 1996. The new draft, yes, has taken a very long time. As we noted this morning, it has been going for some nine years now, and I think we are up to version 10 of a second iteration of that draft to try to get some conclusion.

To bring you up to date as to where we are with that standard at the moment: there was a meeting of BD-007 in the second half of 2015, at which Dr Munz was present. At that meeting it was tabled—I am sorry to go into some of the technical detail—that the fragmentation count would be increased significantly, from 30 to 50, and that would actually be in line with the much higher automotive glass standard. That was tabled and put to a smaller working group to then work this up and take it back to the BD-007 committee.

The document as it stands now was distributed to the BD-007 committee a month ago for consultation and comment. Once that process has been finalised, if the BD-007 committee itself can come to an agreement as to that draft document, it will then go out for public comment as well. So we would certainly refute any claim that there is a collusive or cabal activity. It is a very open process. Multiple parties are involved, and they all have the opportunity to make comment.

CHAIR: Thank you, Mr Overton. I will ask you to bring it to a close at that point.

Mr Overton : I have finished, thank you.

CHAIR: Very good.

Senator XENOPHON: Thank you very much for your opening statement and for your submission. Can I just go back to some broader matters before we go to Dr Munz. The process of developing the standards, the Glass and Glazing Association's role in developing the Australian standards, has been going on for quite a while, hasn't it—a very long time? As I understand it, the standard changed in 2006; is that right?

Mr Overton : At this stage I would like to pass to Mr Rice, who is part of the BD-007 committee.

Mr Rice : You are referring to the 1288 standard in 2006?

Senator XENOPHON: Yes.

Mr Rice : That is the Glass in Buildings—Selection and Installation standard. That is a separate standard from 2208, which is the Safety glazing materials in buildings standard.

Senator XENOPHON: So there was a change in 2006?

Mr Rice : In 1288, yes, regarding the selection and installation of glass.

Senator XENOPHON: Would you describe it as the standards being stricter, looser or the same? How would you describe the changes?

Mr Rice : I would say slightly stricter in terms of overall balance. It is difficult to give a particular number because there are a number of different things that happened at that amendment, at that change.

Senator XENOPHON: Can someone explain to me why it has taken—how many years has it been—a 10th draft?

Mr Overton : About nine years.

Mr Rice : In 2208?

Senator XENOPHON: No.

Mr Rice : In the safety glass standards?

Senator XENOPHON: Yes.

Mr Rice : As the committee was told, we had a working group established in 2008 that developed some options for a revised standard that went to the committee, and there was no consensus reached, so it stopped. The working groups are not long-term bodies; they are designed to be short term, so you form them, get something done and abandon them. It goes back to the committee. And then, if the committee feels there is more work to be done, a new working group will be formed. So I do not think the working group has been active since 2008. I think there have been working groups active since then, but not a single group.

Senator XENOPHON: It is an important standard, though, isn't it?

Mr Rice : Yes, it is.

Senator XENOPHON: Why the hold-up? I am trying to understand what it was.

Mr Rice : Because consensus cannot be reached. There is difficulty getting agreement amongst all of the members of the committee.

Senator XENOPHON: But there must be a point in time, Mr Rice—I am sorry to interrupt. If a consensus cannot be reached within a reasonable period of time, what mechanism is there to impose a new standard?

Mr Rice : It depends on what the basis for the difficulty in reaching consensus is. This is probably a question better answered by Adam, from Standards Australia; he is more involved in their procedure. Adam has been involved on a few occasions with our committee to help reach a consensus over different items. I do not think this was one of them. So Standards Australia will get involved and get parties involved to continue discussions.

Senator XENOPHON: You can understand an outsider looking at this, say from last year—

Mr Rice : Yes. But there is also an existing standard that is operating and operating well, so it is not as if the committee has abandoned Australia or the marketplace. There is a standard there.

Senator XENOPHON: No, but you heard the evidence that Drs Munz and Jacob provided.

Mr Rice : It is very dramatic, isn't it? Yes.

Senator XENOPHON: It is, what, 18 to 20 centimetres long—

Mr Rice : That is right.

Senator XENOPHON: and about seven millimetres wide—

Mr Rice : I have been subject to the same presentation as the committee has, which Dr Munz presented. I have seen it before, yes. It has also been presented, I believe, to the ISO committee, who also rejected it.

Senator XENOPHON: This is what, though?

Mr Rice : The basis for that presentation.

Senator XENOPHON: So you are saying that if you—

Mr Rice : If you break glass in a different way, you get a different result.

Senator XENOPHON: You do not get this result?

Mr Rice : I have not seen—actually, Phil might be able to answer that question. Is that okay?

Senator XENOPHON: Sure, of course.

Mr Jones : That particular test is not really related to real-world circumstances, and it has been a little disingenuous of Dr Munz not to include that in his presentation. The way that particular test as it is currently carried out is taken is that, if you take a given size square of glass and if you break it in a particular way, and if it satisfies a particular requirement, then that glass can be deemed to be safe for society. I would put it to you that, in all of the years that that standard has existed, it has served our community extremely well. We are all familiar with the great press coverage of some poor unfortunate child or individual who has been sliced up by a broken window. I would put it to you—and I have looked for it as part of the BD-007 function—that, both within Australia and around the world, you cannot find significant numbers of accidents that have occurred when safety glass has been involved. Since this standard was introduced into the industry, those sorts of accidents have been significantly reduced.

Senator XENOPHON: Is there scope to reduce them even further, do you think, with some reasonable—

Mr Jones : I think there is always scope to reduce things. There is always scope to improve something. But, if you take a piece of glass of a different size and you break it in a different way, the industry understands and expects that you will get a different result. There is no surprise in that whatsoever. The problem here is that neither the test that is current to the standard nor the method that Dr Munz is suggesting relates to a real-world situation. People do not run around with a punch and break safety glass. It does not happen that way.

Senator XENOPHON: What do you mean by 'a punch'? A hammer or just a—

Mr Jones : No, it is a punch. It is a pre-loaded pressure punch. You go to the glass surface while it lies in a horizontal position and, if you are doing it properly, you restrain the sides in order that the stresses are released uniformly, and you assess the result. But that does not in any way mirror what happens in a real-world situation.

Senator XENOPHON: Thank you. I am sure these are things we can put to Dr Munz as well. I do not understand why we still have to wait another year and a bit for this standard for safety glass—no? We do not have to, Mr Rice?

Mr Rice : I was surprised today when that 2017 date came up, because my latest verbal correspondence with the new project manager for the BD-007 committee was that he was expecting the draft to be completed earlier this year. I think it was initially going to be at the beginning of February, but there were some comments received on the latest draft to be integrated into that, so I think it is March now. He wants a draft.

Senator XENOPHON: This was raised earlier. There seems to be some lack of precision or certainty about the test environment, the test criteria and whether it is pass or fail. We do not seem to have that at this stage, do we?

Mr Rice : Whether there is—

Senator XENOPHON: To develop the standard. Is there a lack of coherence or uniformity in terms of testing standards?

Mr Rice : No, I think we are very close. It is difficult to say we have consensus without a full meeting of the committee to discuss the draft that has been put in front of them, but I would think we were very close to consensus. That has been the aim of developing this latest draft: to get to consensus. Not all of Dr Munz's suggestions are included in that, but there are some. For example, Warren was talking about increasing the fragmentation count to bring it in line with automotive glass. That is incorporated into the latest draft.

Senator XENOPHON: If you do not resolve it this time round, what happens then?

Mr Rice : I am not sure what Standards' approach would be to that.

Senator XENOPHON: Thank you.

CHAIR: I have a couple of follow-up questions before I hand over to Senator Madigan. What do you say to Dr Munz's critique as to the method of testing that we currently have, which is an impact at the edge of a sheet of glass as opposed to testing with an impact in the middle of a sheet of glass, which, to my way of thinking, would probably more reflect a real-life situation of somebody walking through a sheet? What do you say to that? Perhaps, Mr Jones, you might comment.

Mr Jones : I endeavoured to cover that when addressing you a short while ago. I do not think either faithfully represents or duplicates what happens in a real-world circumstance. It is simply accepted by the industry that if the current test is passed against the current criteria, that glass will be released into the community. That serves the community well. I put it to you that the record of the product in the community supports that claim.

CHAIR: So you do not believe that a shot-bag impactor targeted at the middle of a sheet of glass is reflective of a real-world situation?

Mr Jones : The shot-bag test is one that is more often associated with laminated glass. In his presentation Dr Munz has looked to include photographs et cetera of that test being carried out, in order to substantiate his claim about the breakage pattern. But what he has declined to include in that presentation is that when a piece of glass is laminated, and it is broken, a percentage of the energy is dispersed back into the PVB and the breakage pattern is affected by that. It is affected in line with what Dr Munz has demonstrated.

CHAIR: What would you say is the most appropriate way to test a sheet of glass to reflect a real-world situation?

Mr Jones : I would say that for Australia to achieve the best result it would be wisest for it to employ the matters that are used in every other country in the world.

CHAIR: Which is?

Mr Jones : Which is the current test that is in the draft proposal for the reviewed standard.

CHAIR: I thought that Dr Munz indicated that overseas they have moved to the shot-bag impactor—

Mr Jones : There may be an environment that has done that, but it is not a universal position.

CHAIR: What about the thickness of the glass that we use in Australia? I think Dr Munz talked about the fact that the Europeans have moved away from the four millimetre glass. What do you say to that?

Mr Jones : That is not quite an accurate statement. The majority of glazing that occurs overseas is done with double-glazing or insulating glass units, and it is quite common that four millimetre glass, toughened, is included within the assembly of the double-glazed unit.

CHAIR: For my understanding, what is the most common form of testing that is done for this safety glass standard. You have mentioned that there is something happening in other countries. What is that?

Mr Jones : It is typically in line with the ISO—

CHAIR: But please describe what it involves.

Mr Jones : It is the impact fragmentation test.

CHAIR: How is it done?

Mr Jones : Using a centre-punch in the middle of the longest edge of the sample size, and the sample size that is typically used is the 1,180 by 360 size. The problem with the larger size is that represents a very small percentage of glass that is glazed in that thickness. Most—and when I say most, a minimum of 85 per cent—of the glass that is used in industry in the four millimetre thickness is far smaller than the size that the swing-bag test exposes it to.

CHAIR: I thought I heard you say earlier that the shot approach was not reflective of a real-world situation. Did I misunderstand what you said?

Mr Jones : You may have misunderstood me marginally, in that the only way use can successfully test four millimetre glass in that environment is to do it in a laminated glass format, because if you can get the glass to break the thin glass will just absolutely shattered and go everywhere and will leave the frame it is tested in.

CHAIR: But we are talking about the safety glass standard.

Mr Jones : We are.

CHAIR: You have indicated to me that a shot approach on the edge of a sheet of glass is reflective of a real-world situation?

Mr Jones : No, I have indicated to you that a pre-loaded centre-punch is typical.

Mr Rice : I think there is some confusion about whether it is reflecting a real-world example or whether it is ensuring that safety glass is provided. While the fragmentation test might not be representative of real-world breakage, it is still a very effective way of demonstrating compliance with the standard and ensuring that the glass is adequately toughened to provide a safety glass at the end. The issue with the swing-bag test is that it gives very dramatic results for thin glass, but if you were to move to thicker pieces of glass—eight, 10 or 12 millimetres—and hit it with the swing-bag, it does not break and you do not demonstrate anything apart from that the glass is very strong and the swing-bag did not break it. There have been some proposals at the committee by Dr Munz and Dr Jacob to deliberately damage the glass to cause it to break. To my mind, testing new products by damaging them is not a very sensible way of going about establishing anything, and that is why the swing-bag test is not universally used. Quite often, in overseas standards there will be a requirement to use the swing-based test and, then, when the glass does not break you use the impact test, the fragmentation test, to break it.

Senator MADIGAN: Mr Jones, to get more clarity, we are talking about the pre-loaded centre-punch, which I am familiar with. Can you explain to the committee how a pre-loaded centre-punch simulates when a person, say, walks into a shower screen?

Mr Jones : I do not believe that it does in any way whatsoever. I do not think it is intended to.

Senator MADIGAN: What is it intended to represent?

Mr Jones : At the risk of repeating my words, it is endeavouring to say that, if you take a given piece of glass of a given size and break it in a prescribed manner and then assess that breakage via criteria, you will be able to ascertain that the product that is being released into the market is appropriately safe for the community.

Senator MADIGAN: I think the committee is finding it difficult to understand. I understand that you are referring to a given piece of glass of whatever size—I think you said 860 by 1,190—and you are referring to the length of the glass, roughly half an inch in from the frame.

Mr Jones : That is correct—on the longest edge.

Senator MADIGAN: You then referred to a spring-loaded centre-punch. We are just trying to understand how that relates to what happens out in the real world. Which is the better test of the two?

Mr Rice : That gets back to the issue that I just discussed. If you have a swing-bag test, you cannot use it on all glass types, because the thick glasses do not break. So with the swing-bag test all you are doing is demonstrating glass strength. Industry needs another method that is applicable to all glass thicknesses, and the one that is used internationally, and here, is the fragmentation test on the edge. What that does for you as a toughened glass producer is allow you to get some feedback on how the glass you are manufacturing is toughened. If it is not toughened properly, the fragmentation—the number of pieces in a 50 by 50 square—will be less than if it is toughened properly. Those are the criteria that are used in the standard. Currently for four millimetre glass I think it is 30 fragments in a 50 by 50 inch square, in the worst case on the sample. I think the current standard proposed is that it is going to be 50, which is the automotive glass standard.

Senator MADIGAN: You speak about the automotive glass standard and how a piece of automotive glass shatters to be like gravel. You are saying that the committee that is looking at the standard now is looking at the new standard replicating, for want of a better word, the automotive glass standard as to how the glass will break or collapse.

Mr Jones : The current draft has that fragmentation count in it, yes—the automotive glass one.

Senator MADIGAN: Regarding the concerns with shards of glass, as we have been shown—which I would not want one of my children to come up against—are you saying that the proposed standard will address those concerns?

Senator XENOPHON: Senator Madigan is referring to the automotive glass standard.

Mr Overton : One of the issues we are facing here is that to produce shards like that requires you to take a centre-punch and break the middle of the glass. As Mr Jones was saying previously, that is not a realistic real-life scenario, so you are not going to get shards—

Senator MADIGAN: I have actually seen it break like that with the bag. I have physically gone and had a look at it and had a look at the drawing for the standard. I have seen the weight checked on the bag and I have seen it break like that. I have measured it. I am a tradesman myself, Mr Jones, and I am right into detail.

Mr Jones : Very good. One thing I would say to you is that if the glass has been toughened properly you will more likely than not find that the shard you have in your hand, when broken again, will break into the small pieces that are typical of the rest of the glass. It is the way that the glass has been broken—with the centre-punch in the centre—that can produce that result.

Senator MADIGAN: But it was not broken with a centre-punch, Mr Jones—

Mr Jones : Well, very good—

Senator MADIGAN: I am just trying to understand what is going on.

Senator XENOPHON: Supplementary to Senator Madigan's line of questioning, mention has been made of the automotive standard. Quite simply, does the industry, does your association, support the automotive standard being used as a new standard for glass—for the toughened safety glass?

Mr Jones : It was our industry that suggested it and put it on the table.

Senator XENOPHON: Mr Overton, is that the case?

Mr Overton : Yes.

Senator XENOPHON: Mr Rice, is that your understanding?

Mr Rice : Having been involved in the small working group that came up with it, yes.

Senator XENOPHON: So what is the hold-up? We would rather that it break like that, into gravel-type pieces, rather than shards. Is that not a better standard?

Mr Rice : That working group met, I think it was in September or October last year, and a draft was circulated to committee for comment, I think it was in December. Comments were asked for and have been received and they have been reinserted into the current draft for circulation to the committee.

Senator XENOPHON: It seems to be taking a very long time. If there is an automotive standard, how much more expensive will that make glass?

Mr Rice : Negligible, if at all.

Senator XENOPHON: But you acknowledge that it is a lot safer than the current toughened safety glass?

Mr Rice : It is safer, yes.

Senator XENOPHON: If it is negligible, what is the problem?

Mr Rice : Well—

Senator XENOPHON: I am not having a go at you. I just want to know what the hold-up is.

Mr Rice : There is a group of people who have to reach consensus for the standard to be passed. I cannot speak on behalf of the people who are objecting to the standard. I do not know if they will accept the draft—

Senator XENOPHON: You are not suggesting that Dr Munz is to blame, are you?

Mr Rice : No, it is a group of 20 people. I cannot speak for the 20 people on the committee.

Senator XENOPHON: Why would anyone hold it up, though? If it is a negligible cost, as you quite frankly set out, and if it will be safer—I am trying to use cautious language—I do not understand what the hold up would be.

Mr Rice : I don't either.

Mr Overton : It is still in the seeking comments time. There is no official hold-up yet. They do give people a fair amount of time to write comments—

Senator XENOPHON: In terms of injuries, I have had a family member injured by glass and needed emergency treatment, and it could have been much worse. That was many years ago. That was not reported to anyone. You just get the problem fixed, you get the suturing and you are grateful that it was not anything worse. I am trying to understand this. You do not know how bad some of these injuries are, do you? Do we get reports back?

Mr Jones : I think there is a great deal of confusion in relating accidents that have happened with glass and wanting to say that they have happened with safety glass. I think that that is a leap that is too—

Senator XENOPHON: I was not making the leap at all. I am just trying to understand whether you get any feedback from time to time of injuries relating to glass including toughened safety glass. That is all I am asking. I am sorry if I did not express that elegantly.

Mr Overton : I have been in contact with various data agencies and, unfortunately, when people present, as was stated earlier, they are busy fixing them rather than asking them, 'Can you tell me if it was toughened glass?' So the data we get back at best says it was a glass impact, and there is no distinction as to whether it was toughened or not.

Senator XENOPHON: I do not think that people are thinking of contacting your association or Standards Australia at the time that they are in hospital.

Mr Overton : Exactly. We do get some inquiries. Very few inquiries come through to us where someone has hurt themselves and they want to know about the legislation.

Senator XENOPHON: How many inquiries do you get?

Mr Overton : I have only been in the role for 2½ years, and I might have had three or four of that nature.

Senator XENOPHON: So they are very rare?

Mr Overton : Very rare. All of those ones who have contacted our office are people who have impacted with non-safety glass. The problem is that there is glass already in existing houses, which met the code way back when that house was built, and it is non-safety glass and the owners are not obliged to change. They only have to upgrade it if it is broken. So there is glass and regular annealed glass. Most of the inquiries we get are from people who have impacted with that glass, and that is where the serious injuries happen.

Senator XENOPHON: Given Senator Madigan's line of questions about the automotive glass, which appears to be a better standard with negligible additional cost, when are we likely to hear about the outcome of that process?

Mr Rice : I would expect the middle of this year.

Senator XENOPHON: That long?

Mr Rice : That is for us to finalise the draft, have it circulated to the committee for committee comment and then out for public comment. There are time delays built into it to enable people to comment on it—including the committee itself and the public so that interested parties outside the committee can give their feedback on it—and then it goes to Standards Australia. There is a significant amount of pressure and encouragement from Standards Australia to complete this process. For example, the last draft that went out needed to include the New Zealand perspective, because it is a joint Australia and New Zealand standard.

Senator XENOPHON: Can New Zealand veto us?

Mr Rice : No. What happens is they choose to go their own way, which they did with 1288, so there will not be a veto but we have been waiting for them to provide comment because they are working on their version of the 1288 standard—the selection and installation standard. So that delayed it by a couple of weeks; it was not a long time, but it was still a delay.

Mr Jones : Within that consensus environment that takes place at BD-007, not all parties are equals. While BD-007 can in fact produce a standard and even have it certified as a standard, you have the Building Codes Board, which can tell you that it will not call up that standard if it does not like it. So the cost-benefit analysis that was being discussed previously is a requirement of the Building Codes Board. If you produce a standard that they are not prepared to accept, then the standard will be produced but it will not be called up in the Building Code of Australia.

Senator XENOPHON: Why wouldn't they accept it? Let us, for argument's sake, say you recommend automotive glass for buildings instead of a new standard; what reason could the Building Codes Board possibly have for not accepting it? Could you think of any?

Mr Jones : I believe their only consideration in that case will be the cost-benefit analysis, and I do not believe that they would have a basis on which to reject it.

Senator XENOPHON: Mr Rice has said it is going to be a negligible cost increase.

Mr Jones : That is correct. However, within that environment of consensus, that is one of the things that I would think Standards Australia are very wary of: what is the point in them having a glass standard that the Building Codes Board refuses to call up in the Building Code of Australia? I can assure you that that happens because, within the BD-007 room and discussion environment, I have been told that by the Building Codes Board representative.

Senator MADIGAN: As to the composition of the committee, you said there are 20 members of the committee and your organisation has three members on the committee. Could you give us some idea of the composition of the rest of the committee for our benefit so that we understand?

Mr Rice : If you give me a few moments to open my iPad, I can because the interested parties are in the front of the standard. Can I refer you to that?

Senator MADIGAN: Right.

Mr Rice : Or I can get the composition of the standard and email it to you, rather than going from memory.

Senator MADIGAN: If you have three members, that represents, say, 15 per cent. What I am interested in is community and consumer representatives—the end users. What sort of number do you have there, and who are they?

Mr Rice : That is a very good question. I cannot answer that question.

Senator MADIGAN: I have just had a look at the list. There are really no consumer representatives on that committee. They are all industry representatives. The consumer has no representation, or no representation by a consumer representative body, on the standards committee. Would you agree?

Mr Rice : If you have the list in front of you, I will agree with what you are reading.

Senator MADIGAN: I am going by it. They are all industry bodies. End consumers or groups representing end consumers have no representation on that body. It is good we have cleared that up. When we talk about a consensus—so that we have clarity here; I am trying to understand this—could you explain to me what you mean when you say consensus?

Mr Rice : I believe it would be a majority of the committee.

Senator MADIGAN: Okay.

Mr Jones : It is not unanimous. I do not think it is 51 per cent, but I am not—

Senator MADIGAN: Fair enough. At the moment you do not have a consensus. Can you get for the committee the definition of what Standards Australia calls a consensus?

Mr Rice : I think it is 75 per cent, but I am not entirely certain.

Senator MADIGAN: What I want to understand is: does scientific fact come into the consensus for the—

Mr Rice : We have a couple of members from different universities across Australia, and scientific fact is very definitely part of it.

Senator MADIGAN: That only applies, though, if they are in your 75 per cent or whatever percentage it is that you need for a consensus. I am trying to understand what the definition of a consensus is and what you are using to say that you have a consensus. You have to have facts, have you not?

Mr Rice : Yes.

Senator MADIGAN: What I am asking is: have you got a definition of what a consensus is for the agreeing parties so we can understand how you reach a consensus?

Senator XENOPHON: I can summarise that briefly. It is both in terms of the numbers—in other words, is it a two thirds majority or 75 per cent et cetera—and in terms of what Senator Madigan was asking. If somebody says, 'I'm not agreeing to this because I don't like the colour of the paper the report is being printed on'—to give an absurd example—must there be a basis of reasonableness in a consensus not being reached, in terms of some reasonable standard or objective standard? That is the question.

Mr Rice : In my experience, there has been. Even if I do not agree with somebody's opinion—and there is some stuff that is being presented that I do not agree with—I do not question their belief in it. I think they think they are doing the right thing. I think that people who object are objecting on sound, logical reasons that sound logical to them. It may not be to the rest of the committee. I have not encountered a situation where someone has objected to a proposal or to a change in the standard for trivial reasons.

Senator XENOPHON: And the weighting we give to each vote. Could you take that on notice? In other words, who has more weight?

Mr Rice : One person, one vote.

Senator XENOPHON: One person, one vote.

Senator MADIGAN: As I understand it, around Australia there are currently 100 or more toughening furnaces operating. Is that approximately right?

Mr Rice : There are quite a lot of them, but it is in that order of magnitude.

Senator MADIGAN: Are many of the smaller companies members of your organisation?

Mr Overton : Not as many as we would like. A considerable number are not.

Senator MADIGAN: In your communications with your members who operate toughening furnaces, have you discussed the AS 2208 and the conjecture around that standard with them?

Mr Rice : The AS 2208 standard has been up for public comment on a previous occasion and that was distributed to members, seeking feedback. From memory, we did not get very much feedback.

Senator MADIGAN: Was that distributed in your newsletter?

Mr Rice : We let people know that it was available for download. You give them a website address so they can go to the Standards Australia website and download a copy of it.

Mr Overton : Our plan would be, if it gets through BD7 as it is now, it would once again go out for public comment and we would ensure we contact all of our members—not all of them are our members.

Senator MADIGAN: If you cannot ascertain whether your members who are in this part of the industry have read it or are aware of it, is there a better way to address your members so that they know what is going on? Taking into account that a lot of your members would be incredibly busy—they have BAS statements to do, they have quotes to do, they have to deal with occupational health and safety—would there be a better way of communicating with members to let them know the state of play?

Mr Overton : Senator Madigan, you have probably hit on one of the biggest issues we always have as an association—trying to communicate with our members and have them pay attention. My colleagues here are probably going to roll their eyes when I say that we are putting a new system in place to improve our communications in these things. It is a constant challenge for us to get that information out there. In many ways it relates back to the whole issue of non-compliance. They are too busy running their businesses and they think they are doing the right thing, but getting that information to them is often very difficult. That is why, when I mentioned our accredited company program, within that there is continuing professional development requirement. We will be starting to make it a requirement for accreditation that you have to be across this sort of information. The short answer is: yes, we could improve it and it is something we are looking very strongly at at the moment.

Senator MADIGAN: Would you be able to furnish the committee with information that explains how AGGA points to the ISO standard as a credible reference for AS 2208? Has your association got the rationale to support your reference to ISO, saying why AS 2208 is good? What is the argument so that we can understand it? There is something you obviously refer to to make that statement.

Mr Rice : Standards Australia's position is to participate quite strongly in the ISO process. We are a representative on the ISO technical committee for glass—160, I think it is. We participate in that as part of an Australian Standards committee. Sixteen or 17 other countries also have input into that particular ISO standard. I will defer to Adam again, but the preference is to default to an ISO standard, if available, in certain circumstances rather than defaulting to another national standard.

Senator MADIGAN: If there is not a national standard you default to the ISO standard, whether or not the ISO standard is suitable to Australian conditions?

Mr Rice : I would have to check the wording on that but it is along that line, yes. When you say 'whether it is suitable or not', you have experts from 17 countries in that particular field, so the idea that it is not suitable would be pretty tricky.

Senator MADIGAN: Mr Rice, that is why we made cars in Australia for a long time—to make them to Australian conditions. It is not necessarily correct to say that an international standard might be the best applicable standard for Australia, is it?

Mr Rice : No.

CHAIR: Thank you very much gentlemen for appearing before the committee today.