In August 2009, SafetyAtWorkBlog reported that Standards Australia had been hit hard by the global financial crisis. To our knowledge, circumstances have not changed but a report in the Australian Financial Review (not available online) on 17 February talked positively about the future of the organisation that publishes the Australian Standards, SAI Global. Australian Standards are widely used by business and safety professionals.
The report says the company, SAI-Global
“…posted a 33 per cent rise in first-half net profit to $13.7 million on the previous corresponding period, beating analysts’ forecasts by more than 10 per cent.”
The company is described as a “defensive earnings stream”, partly because
“it publishes business standards information that companies use to comply with government rules”.
The importance of Australian Standards has been re-emphasised with the matter being raised intermittently in the current Australian insulation installation drama. The rapidly changing nature of that scheme and other environmental initiatives does not make Standards any more important but it does illustrate the need to have Standards reflect, and sometimes lead, the state of knowledge in the acceptable quality of products and measurable qualifications.
The potential weakness in the standards regime is the current struggle by the knowledge gatherer, Standards Australia, to speed up the development of standards and to refresh the knowledge base. Standards Australia has been seeking new (funding) models to achieve these aims but it is hard to keep up with the demand, particularly in the area of environmental standards.
If the government is truly committed to easing the regulatory burden on business, i.e. to cut red tape, excising Standards from the upcoming OHS regulatory changes should be an option. The other option is to re-nationalise Standards Australia, tender out the publication the of Standards and have SAI-Global continue in its lucrative auditing role. This also has the benefit of not have the “law-maker” also being the policeman.