CHOICE membership

Access to Australian Standards

It appears the once free personal access to the Australian Standards is no more. The publishing rights have been in the hands of a business (SAI Global) that has steadily increased charges and restricted access. In my view this is a step backwards, akin to making individuals pay to see legislation or state road rules.
This sort of sums up what Google tells me.

I expect @Choice has a corporate subscription, any comment on year on year cost variation?

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Business may have a similar view?
The view point of Australia’s Health and Safety professionals.

https://www.aihs.org.au/news-and-publications/news/media-release-call-australian-standards-be-free-australian-businesses

The rational behind Standards Australia creating SAI (2004?) as a listed company and subsequently selling out of any direct interest in the publication and distribution is history.

The current members of Standards Australia and the appointed board of SA:
https://www.standards.org.au/about/governance/members

The membership organisations include Choice.

Hopefully there is a member of the Choice Executive or Board who is able to comment. Is there a need or purpose for standards to be publicly accessible, for non commercial use?
How is SA funded, publicly in part or full?
@BrendanMays.

P.S. note
Perhaps as with access to Choice product reviews, there is the cost of membership, for SA there is no ‘free lunch’?

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I spent a few years as the management representative to an ISO 9001 program in a certified company. The standard’s price was more than an individual would probably be happy to pay to have a look-see as to what it really meant, but not onerous for even a modest business, that could also write off the cost.

As we have more standards, and many that are apparently voluntary, a cynic might think it has been purposefully set up to keep our preying eyes from any of it.

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This occurred about 3 years ago.

Also, Australian Standard were only available ‘free’ usually at the National Library in Canberra and at the State libraries in each capital city. If one wished to view an Australian Standard, unless one lived or worked very close to these libraries, it would be inconvenient at potentially costly (time and money) to visit one of these libraries to view the standards. My recollection was that they could not be printed, only viewed which also limited its usefulness (one had to take notes or try and photograph each page without a librarian looking (which could be very difficult as most computers were under continual surveillance).

BTW, many university libraries still have access to Australian Standard and it is possible and possibly more convenient to visit these libraries to view AS. It is best to check which with the university before arriving to determine if they have AS access and which campus library they can be viewed. Otherwise finding one’s way around a university campus may prove frustating.

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I know a business that pays around $50k for a full annual online subscription. It’s definitely more than I’d pay myself :slight_smile:

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Yes, it can be expensive for a unrestricted access to all Australian Standards. The last employer I had also had a high level access (not all standards were available, only those relating to the industry, engineering and electricity).

Each standard can also be purchased from SAI…which for most businesses is cheaper than buying the full monty.

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AS/NZS ISO9001:2016 (29 pages) is $178.22 but ISO 9001:2015 (29 pages) is $274.25, each once off pdfs. I suspect the difference is the title page and associated logos and copyrights, but. They [still] deliver the pdfs with the purchaser’s name ‘securely’ embedded in the margins to dissuade sharing and imply they will come after copyright violators.

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I think the last time I was wanting to access AS on a personal mission I went here
https://slwa.wa.gov.au/explore-discover/eresources

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I remember having online access to the Standards and being able to refer to the relevant sections when needed.

Many years ago I did a job in a Government Department and asked for access to the AS. The Department did not have access, and would not pay for access as they saw it as too expensive and of little value. Made complying with the Standards most difficult if not impossible.

Now days I think that the ASs has become an esoteric dogma run by a cabal of priests who we never see or hear of, and that 99.9% of the population do not care about. As long as some numbers appear on sunglasses etc. after the letters AS they don’t care. The vast majority wouldn’t even know or care if the right numbers are there.

To be meaningful, relevant, and useful, the standards need to be open, transparent, and accessible. Which they are not.

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I believe that view could be described as ‘optimistic’ :wink:

Very true - open to those who seek to comply, open to those who seek to challenge, and everyone else who is simply curious … it could be suggested that expecting compliance, relevant (or at least challenging) public comment, or just simply understanding of a standard that is not open and free is completely illogical.

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Accessible?
They are, if you pay. Did you mean free? I think you did.

Would it be possible to nominate which standards or standards by purpose should be accessible for free?

Is there an option for Standards with consumer outcomes to be provided at nominal cost, or in a summary format for free?

Open?
What is this asking for?
The available standards are diverse in scope and content.

Transparent?
My professional experience would say they are. (Edited) It’s conditional on the quality of the document/standard, the reader or users need and purpose. For the more technical Standards having the relevant training and competence and understanding of the application becomes more necessary. IE If you are having difficulty interpreting the standard you are likely outside those bounds.

P.S.
I empathise with the concerns over access. Not knowing what it is you do not know because it is not freely available can be unsettling.

Unfortunately the standards are not funded out of the public purse. Although various government departments and staff contribute and assist with the development and review of various standards. Some of the Australian businesses and organisations calling for free access to the standards do not contribute directly to the development or maintenance of the standards.

Noted, you have demoted the ‘Cardinals’. :wink:

Lists of the current active committees, standards under review or development are available on the Standards Australia web site, or to become part of a committee:
https://www.standards.org.au/standards-development/developing-standards/participate
There is also a standard for how to run a committee! :roll_eyes:

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And these committee and reviews come at considerate cost. Should the taxpayer subsidise AS to allow the few in the community (which is mainly businesses which use AS) to have them free?

Maybe the taxpayer would get a better return elsewhere.

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I have encountered more than one standard where the ‘expert practitioners’ did not and could not agree on what they meant, leading to ‘complying non-compliance’ as some viewed it. What was non-complying was controversial as it was a them and us and shouldn’t they have understood using common sense rather than the explicit words used?

Being dismissive of a layman’s ability to understand could be taken as a slight extending to the experts, not what you intended, but.

Many of them are funded by the industrial participants as a result of them learning that some standardisation was good for their own P/L, so their participation is not altruistic but also not necessarily something their output should be charged for, beyond a nominal amount to publish and curate. Standards publications have become big business in its own right. I’ll not take sides, just point out it was corporate self serving self preservation that caused many standards making bodies.

http://consumersfederation.org.au/access-to-australian-standards/

noting these are the state libraries. A search for ISO 9001:2015 or AS/NZS ISO 9001:2016 at Victoria is a miss. The dated 2000 version is a hit as well as comparisons between 1994 and 2000 versions :roll_eyes:

Working on standards bodies is a tax write-off so does affect the public purse (admitting paying no tax on less or more is an academic argument when it happens). Licenses, and what is available in libraries, have licenses for personal and research use, not business or commercial. I am sure nobody every violates a license condition, but…

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There is no need for any of us to do so. Choice as I noted earlier is a member of Standards Australia. It has an interest too in a number of ways.

It’s worth the thought - It might need a more thorough examination to determine the extent or degree. IE how much is delivered unbiased and to the benefit of the community or to what extent is self interest at risk of skewing consideration. I suspect we hear less about the former and pay more attention to the latter.

It’s worth considering next time, standing near a crane building a high rise, which outcome is preferred. The same consideration for portable cots and child car seats which deserve the best interests of the community.

Irrespective the Choice Board and management team have made their decision to participate.

Agree, any comment was not intended that way. I’ll add an edit.

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@mark_m, I had not intended to imply or infer standards are not good outcomes, regardless of their motivational origins. I presume you are aware many ‘standards’ were originally proprietary that were opened, and others were started by ‘community’ efforts and antagonists had to come kicking and screaming for their own survival. It happens all ways.

Safety? The numbers of standards and the adherence? That speaks for itself, especially when non-compliant products can be imported, manufactured wherever, as well as sold. Then we can go to the topic of self-certification of compliance?

I am a fan of standards, but the big business of publishing them? Been ‘there’ (a standards committee) and saw the process up close.

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:slightly_smiling_face:
I agree, they do provide good outcomes.

I hope between all of us we have opened up the discussion beyond the initial post on the topic. There is more to Standards than simple provision of a document service that is either paid for or free to access. Community access while problematic, needs a better solution.

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The Standards should be available for those diligent enough to want to look and use them for non-commercial use. For a simple example: how would someone know if the cot or car seat they are buying for their child is compliant or not?

Therefore, the average individual consumer has no recourse to the retailer or manufacturer for a product which doesn’t comply with the AS. Thank goodness we have Choice looking out for us.

Rather than being sequestered away where only the well-to-do can afford to access them, I think that the Standards should be handled like the copyright for other publications, that is they are readily available to peruse, and also to copy small portions for non-commercial use.

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Car seats need to display the AS ticks/certification…not sure if cots do.

Most won’t be able to determine compliance, which is why organisations like Choice exist…some tests require pushing the product to its design limits, and consumers won’t be able to carry out standardised testing in controlled conditions.

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Yes products may need ot display AS certification, but what does that mean to the average Jo/Joe Blow in the street. How would they know that the product actually complies with the standards under the certification?

Here is an example for children’s car seats Choice buying guide for children’s car seats
" I bought an ISOFIX car seat overseas – can I use it in Australia?

No. Despite the temptation to buy or import a cheaper ISOFIX car restraint from overseas, it’s illegal to use one as it won’t meet Australian safety standard AS/ANZ 1754."

The average shopper wouldn’t know AS/ANZ1754 if it tapped them on the shoulder. What does this mean? What are they looking for when buying a child restraint for their car?

Here is an example for cots. In the recent Choice article: 85% of portacots tested by CHOICE fail safety standards
Our test is mainly based on the most recent Australian Standard from 2010, which isn’t mandatory for manufacturers to meet. It specifies that a child must be able to breathe through the textile materials and other materials used in the breathable zone around the mattress. We also test against the 1999 Standard, which is mandatory, and we find failures there too.

If the average porta-cot consumer knew this, they would know what to look for when buying.

So my point is, wouldn’t it be better if the average shopper was informed about these standards and knew what to look for BEFORE buying a non-complaint & therefore faulty product?

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But how would one with the Australian Standard test if the portacot they were interested in met the standard for breathable materials…I for one (who has used Australian Standards in past employment and is familiar with testing regimes), would not know where to start or would not have the resources or tools to be able to carry out such testing to a standard. I would also not be able to carry out a test in controlled repeatable conditons (auch asnin a NATA test laboratory) which could be used to compare to the minimum levels dictated in the relevant Australian Standard. Having the AS may be interesting to read, but wouldn’t assist in making purchase decisions to whether a product complied or not. Thinking one could do their own home/in store testing is potentially just as dangerous as not knowing…as it may give one a level of confidence in a product where such confidence should not be given.

Maybe those products which have potentially high safety risks, mandatory AS testing and compliance labelling be implemented?

The average shopper even if they had AS1754 would kjow what it jeans or how to carry out their own tests to determine compliance. An average shopper can’t buy an overseas baby seat, carry out their own tests to see if it is compliant and if it is, then use it legally in Australia. The seat needs to have the AS sticker on it to show compliance and to be used. Technically, if the sticker is removed on purchase snd then used, it could be deemed as non-compliant as the seat doesn’t have a sticker as required by law.

As I indicated, fortunately we have Choice which can test in the laboratory in controlled and repeatable test conditons to a revevant standard for a product. Their test results are defendable, creditsble and also provide comfort to the consumer who uses such information when making purchase decisions.

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