Chief Executive of the Safety Institute of Australia Mr David Clarke labelled the prices being charged to Australian businesses to buy Australian and International Business Standards as excessive, unsustainable, and unfair to Australian business. Mr Clarke has urged the federal government to intervene to ensure the ending of arrangements which for years have led to unreasonably high costs to Australian businesses, and to ensure that Standards are provided to businesses free of charge.
“Fifteen years ago, the distribution of Australian Standards was privatised. As a result, Australia’s employers are now paying excessive sums to access the Standards – and that cost no longer bears any relationship to the real production and distribution costs. Today, only a tiny fraction of those funds actually flows to Standards Australia, the creators of the standards.” Mr Clarke said.
Mr Clarke called on the government to intervene in the current arrangements that give Hong-Kong based private equity firm Baring Private Equity the sole rights to distribute Australian standards through its fully owned subsidiary SAI Global. “It’s an unacceptable situation and Australian businesses deserve better. We have laws that drive businesses to comply with standards, but because of excessive pricing they are unaffordable to many businesses.”
Mr Clarke explained that Australian Standards were critically important to assisting Australian companies meet health and safety obligations, and because of this, they should ideally be free to Australian business. “Australian business standards help companies create safer and healthier workplaces as well as meet a number of legal obligations. Providing them directly and at no charge will improve business performance, productivity as well as health and safety outcomes – all of which deliver significant benefits to the economy well in excess of the investment required to do it. It’s smart governance, smart business, and removes unnecessary red tape” he said.
“The whole system falls down if Australian businesses are unable to afford the price of accessing the standards – especially smaller enterprises” he said. “Australian Standards are a public good, and critically important to healthy and safe business practice. We simply have to address the issue of their accessibility” he said.
“It is an extraordinary thing that in today’s environment where competition policy should ensure markets operate equitably and competitively, that this sort of monopoly exists for the sale of a public good.” he said.
The Safety Institute of Australia has written to the Federal Government to ask them to support Standards Australia to end the monopoly distribution arrangements, and to take the further step of ensuring that Australian Standards are provided freely available to Australian business free of charge.
Source: Safety Institute of Australia