Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Standing Committee on Infrastructure, Transport and Cities
Current and future developments in the use of land-based mass transit

CHIDGEY, Mr Daniel, Head of Stakeholder Engagement, Standards Australia

McGRATH, Mr Scott, Public Affairs Officer, Standards Australia


CHAIR: I welcome representatives of Standards Australia to give evidence today. Although the committee does not require you to give evidence under oath, I should advise you that this hearing is a legal proceeding of the parliament and therefore has the same standing as proceedings of the respective houses. The giving of false or misleading evidence is a serious matter and may be regarded as a contempt of parliament. The evidence given today will be recorded by Hansard and attracts parliamentary privilege. I now invite you to make an opening statement before we proceed to discussion.

Mr Chidgey : Thank you, Chair, and thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today. I'm aware Standards Australia has appeared before this committee previously. However, quickly, Standards Australia is Australia's national standards body and a member of ISO and IEC—two international standards organisations. In different areas of work, we bring experts together from industry, government and the community to develop and adopt voluntary standards to ensure products, services and systems are safe, consistent and reliable. Many are drafted in a way that allows another party to test and certify. Standards also facilitate interoperability. This is particularly important for innovation and the adoption of digital technologies to enable systems to talk to each other.

We do a lot of work in technology related areas. With growing cross-country digital connections in the globalisation of production, we are seeing the importance of international standards increasing. Countries are operating in the global market. International standards help to break down trade barriers and further world trade. We also seeing an increase in standards work being done around security and privacy. The development of connected and automated mass transit and smart infrastructure will most likely generate an increasing quantity of data use, raising potential privacy challenges. Having increased connections to different networks lends the situation well to using artificial intelligence to make sense of the big data while, at the same time, managing the increase in cybersecurity risk. Therefore, standards on data privacy and data security can become essential. We are in the early stages of developing international standards frameworks for data sharing and privacy preservation through the international standards committees, and we look forward to the government's continued support in this regard.

I just wanted to highlight some of the areas of work relevant to the inquiry. In September 2018, the world's first hydrogen fuel cell passenger trains began operating in the northern part of Germany. I understand interest in hydrogen fuel cell trains is sparking interest in other countries. Both France and the UK have announced plans to launch similar passenger trains by 2022. Japan and Korea are both at the forefront of adopting fuel cell technologies for automobiles and have been the first markets to adopt this technology. In 2000, the IEC, the international standards body, established a technical committee with the remit of developing international standards for fuel cell technologies. The work covers safety, performance and interchangeability of fuel cell power systems—most recently a new standard to provide performance test methods for fuel cell power systems used in certain industrial electric trucks. Australia can succeed at this world stage and, with the right enabling environment, can be a world leader. By participating in international standards. Australia can help explore, shape and capitalise on the global experts to ensure we have the standards supporting an Australian rollout of these highly innovative transport systems.

Regarding hydrogen as a potential fuel source, Standards Australia, in partnership with the CSIRO and Hydrogen Mobility Australia, hosted a forum in October 2018. A key aim of the forum was to develop a forward plan for increasing participation and adoption of international hydrogen standards. There was unanimous support for Australia to become a participating member of the international technical committee on hydrogen technologies. A recommendation of the forum was that Australian stakeholders should proceed to adopt all of the standards currently published by the hydrogen technologies international committee, which include standards for land vehicle fuelling systems and vehicle refuelling connection devices. We are currently working with stakeholders to deliver on this outcome. This international harmonisation will also provide Australia with a better understanding of future developments and opportunities in the industry.

Regarding electric vehicles, Standards Australia's technical committee on electric vehicles has published and adopted 20 standards for road vehicles totally or partially electrically propelled from self-contained power sources, and for electrical industrial trucks. The committee responsible for developing the content of the Wiring Rules standard has included advisory information to provide guidance for the installation location of electric vehicle socket outlets and charging stations, giving industry direction for this new technology.

In closing, I will leave the committee with three suggested recommendations. One is the need to address issues early and proactively. Standards help to take industry, government and the Australian community forward and address the challenge. Standards should not be an optional afterthought. All levels of government and industry should work together to ensure we have the right infrastructure and regulatory systems in place to facilitate the deployment of automated mass transit and ensure they are integrated into the planning process for transport and urban developments. Standards Australia's priority is to work with industry, government and the community to develop the right standards to provide the right solution within a complex area and help facilitate the appropriate adoption and uptake. As per Standards Australia's submission, we recommend that any Australian government response to automated mass transit should consider an integrated standards development road map, including international standards participation. The aim of such a road map is to identify gaps as well as Australian industry strengths. We can stay ahead of issues and opportunities in this space. As part of this approach, we should look to address both vertical and horizontal priorities in new and emerging areas of work. Where activities reach across sectors, it is important for us not to work in silos. Standards Australia has established broad communities of experts needed to better understand both the technical elements and use cases. Not only do our experts span industries, but many are deeply entrenched into the international community and highly regarded in their field. Finally, don't reinvent the wheel. There is an opportunity to participate in and adopt appropriate international standards where possible, reducing the need for government intervention.

In closing, we don't know what transport systems and the standards that support them will look like in the future. It is not possible to predict. However, I think we can confidently say it won't be the status quo. There are still many unanswered questions, and indeed unasked questions, about the role of standards in the future as the nature of transport changes. However, by working together as we have done for many years, we can navigate this fascinating and fast-changing area of next-generation connectivity. Thank you again for the opportunity to appear before you today.

CHAIR: Thank you.

Ms BIRD: There are three areas that I'd like to get your perspective on. You mentioned the work you're doing in partnership on the international standards and standards around data sharing and privacy preservation. I'm just interested in your comments on that space between getting effective data sharing so things can be integrated—you can have smooth flows, for example, between modes of transport and so forth—and the vulnerability to intervention by somebody seeking to disrupt the system, steal data and so forth. What is your view of the development of international standards in that space and what we should consider in this report around that aspect of mass transport?

Mr Chidgey : My understanding is that it's a very complex area. What we are doing is working with our expertise in Australia to participate in those international arenas to provide input and influence and to gain an understanding from those international experts to develop standards. As a next step, we would be looking at where we can adopt and implement those standards. My suggestion would be that, as part of this committee, we look at what international standards should form part of any implementation of new technologies.

Ms BIRD: You provided a report to us about the hydrogen road map and looking at the future of standards in the hydrogen sector. I'm just interested. I can't remember when, but I remember we had a discussion with someone else about some of the challenges of the existing standards on vehicles and so forth and whether they're a help or a hindrance to the move to more energy-efficient vehicles. Do you have a review or consideration of existing standards and how they impact on innovation?

Mr Chidgey : I'm not a technical expert, so I couldn't talk about the technical matters, but, as part of that road map, what we did was to get a group of stakeholders together to identify, again, potential adoptions of international standards in Australia. Many of these standards are international standards where Australia can participate and have a voice internationally but, then again, look at where we can adopt these standards and implement them here in Australia

Ms BIRD: Further on that, obviously there's a space—if you like, a tension—between the sensible proposition to adopt international standards because we're in a globalised economy and the pressure to adapt to the Australian experience. We had evidence that some of the more advanced automated features of vehicles and so forth get turned off because we're a right-hand-drive-country and, rather than redo them, they just turn them off. Have you had any experience, in the work you're doing around what might be considered best standards, of balancing that adoption of an international standard and amending it for an Australian experience?

Mr Chidgey : What our process allows is that modification of international standards. We would look at where we can adopt international standards directly in the first instance. But, where we do need to modify, or where stakeholders see the need to modify, the international standards to adapt them to Australian needs, we could modify those documents—as in, include an appendix—which would stipulate the provisions for Australian needs.

Ms BIRD: We're particularly looking at mass transport, so buses, trains and so forth. In terms of alternative fuel—obviously there are electric cars as well—are there any areas where Australian challenges have already emerged?

Mr Chidgey : That is something on which we can draw upon an established network of expertise. We have hundreds of committees and contributors. We can work with them to identify where there could be other opportunities such as alternative energy sources.

Ms BIRD: Your submission refers to the Australian company providing hydrogen buses in London, yet there appears to be very little uptake in Australia. Do you have any evidence that there might be issues around the standards that might be affecting that?

Mr McGrath : Could I jump in there, on where hydrogen is at, particularly at this point in time. This is the exciting part. We've had the forum. We've presented the report. The big take-out is that there's an industry here that's ready to dive into it. We're looking forward to leveraging our network of international experts as well as Australian experts to see if hydrogen is part of an automated mass transit future. If there are other options then we can certainly go that way too. That's one of the big recommendations that Daniel and I are keen prosecute.

A road map would be the best way forward because it would paint where the industry's at, where standards can fill a gap, and what Australia's strengths are that we can share with other countries and help industry to be fuelled that way. I think there are ample examples, if I can use that phrase, internationally; but here in Australia we're at the point where we're figuring out what we've got and what we need to bring in.

Ms BIRD: So you would see the sorts of questions I'm asking as being part of that road map process?

Mr Chidgey : Correct, yes.

Mr McGrath : Yes, absolutely—and not just questions for industry but for government and the community. I mean, what does the average punter in Australia expect from an automated mass transit future? We don't know. What is it that standards can help address in that conversation is part of the discussion.

CHAIR: Firstly, in previous inquiries we learned that with electric cars there were different plugs made by different manufacturers. Have we been able to establish a common Australian standard so that we don't go down that route again of having, for instance, eight different gauges?

Mr Chidgey : To date we've updated the Wiring Rules standard, which has provided some information for industry to follow. I don't know the particular details about standards on that subject matter, but I'd be happy to get come back to the committee with more information.

CHAIR: I think it's a very important issue—for example, if Tesla has a different electric plug, the rolling out of charging stations might not provide common access, which is something that I think we definitely need to do. In regard to hydrogen and hydrogen filling stations, are there standards that already exist?

Mr Chidgey : My understanding is that there are international standards, yes.

CHAIR: So if someone wanted to build a hydrogen filling station in Australia—as I understand it there's one being built in the ACT. Are they building it under international standards? How are they governed at this point in establishing that filling station?

Mr Chidgey : Standards on their own are voluntary documents. They're only mandatory if they're called up in regulation or through a contract or procurement. Whether anything that is being built now or anything built in the future is built to any particular international standard is part of the discussion we're having. We had it in the first forum late last year, and the industry responded well to the fact that there are so many international experts developing international standards. Let's talk about how we can make that an Australian acceptable approach.

Mr McGrath : As part of this road map, this is what we do: we identify what international standards are available that could be used and adopted through those processes. The value of the road map is to identify those opportunities and potentially the gaps where new standards need to be developed.

CHAIR: So we need to go through the process of establishing the standards and then having them made into regulation or legislation?

Mr Chidgey : Where there are policy opportunities, standards can support those policies. What our road map can do is identify what standards are available for Australia to participate in and adopt and, to the earlier point, where we need to modify international standards for use in Australia.

CHAIR: So this would come under the early part of your presentation of addressing these issues early?

Mr Chidgey : Yes.

CHAIR: We should be doing it now, anticipating that hydrogen technology will certainly be a good thing to embrace, particularly given our circumstance of heavy vehicles, whether they be trucks, buses, or trains for that matter, having long distances to cover. It seems to be appropriate to be able to provide filling stations for those industries and even private vehicles, because that is a possibility also. We need to proactively get on top of it rather than have a lack of action cause delays in rolling it out or dispirit those who might be interested but think we're going from overregulation to not having any regulation and that they can't do it because of that.

Mr McGrath : I think the important piece there is that it's part of the discussion at the beginning and that there's a discussion about what the community wants, what the government wants and how industry can fit into that. Standards being at the forefront means that—as with the term before, interoperability—everyone's talking to each other from the start, and we're not operating multiple networks with different languages. Standards are a common language.

CHAIR: In regard to autonomous vehicles, the evidence at yesterday's hearing ranged from shared vehicles and totally autonomous on-demand vehicles to vehicles that may be owned by an individual and might serve the purposes of that family—providing multiple trips and then, driverless, returning home to take out another family member. Where are you in regard to standards for semi-autonomous to autonomous vehicles?

Mr Chidgey : That's probably something we'd have to take on notice to see what standards we are either working on or participating in. But, again, if there is a need for standards in that space, we would be happy to work alongside stakeholders to deliver on that outcome either through international participation or the development of Australian standards. But what current work we have in that space is something we'll have to get back to the committee on.

CHAIR: I don't know whether this would come under your umbrella, but we have in Sydney three light rail systems, and I understand that they are not compatible with each other. Is that something that could have been addressed by having standards for light rail that would enforce all delivery of light rail services to be compatible with each other?

Mr Chidgey : Potentially. I'm not sure what standards were followed, introduced or part of any contracts, but, again on the earlier point, the value of standards is that they assure product safety but also that there's consistent interoperability between different systems.

Mr McGrath : I suppose it very well may be that standards would have been able to bridge the gap between different operating light rail systems. Something like a road map prior to light rail construction might have identified whether there were standards that could solve that problem, whether there is a problem there, whether industry wants to combat the problem or whatever the case may be. I think that, like we said before, having that discussion early about the future networks and whether we want them to all talk to each other is where standards play their most crucial role.

CHAIR: So could standards being in place have enforced the rollout of these three separate systems to have been compatible with each other? Is that the way to go or should it be handled differently?

Mr McGrath : I think it's part of a bigger discussion. I think whether standards have a role is part of a discussion that could be had.

CHAIR: It would be a component within that.

Mr McGrath : Yes.

CHAIR: Okay.

Ms BIRD: As I understand it, standards are usually a minimum requirement for a product or service. Are there examples of best-practice standards? Do you do that sort of work, or is it only the minimum standards for the Australian market?

Mr Chidgey : We can work with stakeholders to deliver on those technical solutions as well. So, yes, many Australian standards are the minimum benchmarks, but we can work with stakeholders to deliver on those technical solutions.

Ms BIRD: How does that happen? Do they come to you seeking assistance? Is that generally the method would be?

Mr McGrath : Where there's an opportunity, we would work with different stakeholders in a sector, from manufacturers to government to consumers to academics, and then take them through a process of consensus which essentially would then set an agreed benchmark or best practice within that area.

Ms BIRD: Okay. And the people like state and local governments use you for those purposes as well?

Mr McGrath : They're certainly part of the committee, absolutely. I think it depends on the sector that we're operating in. You have different regulators at federal and state level as well as the local level itself.

Mr Chidgey : What's important to our process is identifying stakeholders that could potentially be impacted and ensuring they're in the room up-front. We want mixed representation and to get those voices up-front into the process. Having that mixed representation is certainly important from government, industry and consumer perspectives.

Ms BIRD: An example that comes to my mind from a long time ago about broadband technology in another committee. We had evidence of the experience in America where companies rolled out their own infrastructure. They constructed it in such a way that you could only, in effect, get the handset that was amendable with that broadband infrastructure. So it sort of created a captured market. Do you come across tensions, and is that a major issue for the transport sector around our market advantage in held information that we would prefer to pursue rather than having open systems and so forth.

Mr Chidgey : That goes back to my earlier point about the importance of having that mixed representation in our process. The contributors have different interests and different agendas and also work to the net benefit of the Australian community, but they do have those different viewpoints. Then, through a process of consensus, we can get an agreement on that level of benchmark for Australia with the view that it's for the Australian net benefit, not for individual interests.

Ms BIRD: Okay. That explains it well. Thank you.

CHAIR: I have a small question on the transport of hazardous materials. We have Formula Chemicals in my electorate, and they are frustrated that there are four agencies that they have to deal with. They get caught with such things as a highway patrol person pulling over one of their hazardous vehicles, demanding that they stop there on the side of the road, which is in contravention of other laws that they have to obey in regard to the carriage of hazardous materials in that they are not allowed to pull over the side of the road when they carry hazardous materials because, if a truck or car hits them, there is a major problem. What role could you play in sorting that out to develop a hierarchy of regulations and laws that the transport of hazardous materials would adhere to? For instance, in this example, the highway patrolman would then be informed by the driver, 'I cannot. The law does not permit me to pull over here. I should pull over at the nearest location,' and the highway patrol would have to be subservient to that higher law and be agreeable to it. Is there any thought in Standards Australia to address such conflicting regulation?

Mr McGrath : I think you've found one of those really complex examples. I think standards are part of a regulatory mix. We work with so many different experts across so many different sectors because we find an industry benchmark. Industry, the community, governments and all of our stakeholders agree it is acceptable to do the job effectively and safely. In that particular instance there may well be a role for standards, but it's probably part of a much bigger discussion. As Daniel was saying, we would draw any stakeholder impacted on that particular circumstance to the table and find out where the solution may be.

CHAIR: Is there anything else that you would like to contribute?

Mr Chidgey : No thank you.

CHAIR: Thank you for a very comprehensive opening statement. The problem when you do such a comprehensive opening statement is that there aren't many questions; they've already been answered. So very well done. Thank you for your attendance today. If you have been asked to provide any additional information—and you have—would you please forward that to the secretary by Wednesday, 6 March. You will be sent a copy of the transcript of your evidence and will have an opportunity to request corrections to transcription errors. Again, thank you both for attending.