[LINK] Free access to Australian standards no longer available in public libraries
brd at iimetro.com.au
Tue Jun 7 15:58:29 AEST 2016
Free access to Australian standards no longer available in public libraries
June 7, 2016 - 3:27PM
Consumer Affairs Reporter
Australian standards, which govern everything from the handling of food
to safety regulations in the home building industry, will no longer be
available in public libraries after a breakdown in publishing negotiations.
Children's toys, playgrounds, car tyres, manufacturing, electrical work
and building design are just some of the consumer products and
industries guided by principles developed by Standards Australia, the
nation's peak non-government, not-for-profit standards organisation.
There are more than 9000 standards which govern the most everyday
industries and products in Australia, such as cot mattresses, for which
standards are being reviewed by the Australian Consumer and Competition
Commission, to guard against the risk of infant suffocation.
Until recently everyone had free access to Australian standards in hard
copy and online, through national and state libraries around Australia.
However that access has now been limited after negotiations broke down
between National and State Libraries Australasia and SAI Global, the
commercial publishing outlet which holds exclusive rights to the sale,
marketing and distribution of Australian standards.
"We have been negotiating for many months with SAI Global. The various
state libraries have licenses expiring in the first half of this year
and we have finally given up," said Dr Alex Byrne, chair of NSLA and
NSW state librarian and chief executive.
"[SAI Global] are intransigent, they don't recognise the public interest
and so we have to say 'No, we can't continue on this basis'."
Dr Byrne said he could not see why access to standards, "which govern
just about anything you can think of", should be any different to that
of legislation, which is freely accessible to the public online.
A spokesperson for SAI Global said historically, the NSLA has received
"highly discounted subscription rates, in some cases to the magnitude of
over 60 per cent."
"You can see...that SAI is acting reasonably in making standards
accessible to all library members while recovering some revenue to cover
its costs of service provision, information updating and access
facilities." he said, adding that SAI Global remained open to discussions.
A Standards Australia spokesperson said chief executive officer Bronwyn
Evans was urging the two parties to resume negotiations.
"It is in the interests of all Australians that Australian Standards are
accessible through libraries."
In NSW, a member of the public will later this month have to pay
anywhere from $100 to $500-plus to purchase and view a standard, which
Dr Byrne said can be prohibitive for consumers or people starting a
"There might be several standards applying to one business. Electrical
standards, fencing, some relating to food...It's unrealistic to expect a
small business with small margins to pay to access those."
Since 2003 Standards Australia has given exclusive publishing rights to
SAI Global. SAI Global then holds its own agreement with nine
participating libraries around Australia, giving each library online
access to standards at an annual cost of $14,000.
NSLA said the most recent negotiations with SAI Global set an
"unrealistic price point", employed an outdated technology platform and
denied members of the public access to standards outside a library.
"That is impractical for someone who lives in Dubbo or Bourke. They are
not going to come into Macquarie Street to check a standard," said Dr Byrne.
Tom Godfrey, head of media at consumer group Choice, said it "fails a
common sense test" that vital documents that are called up into
regulation for safety are not available to all consumers through public
"This is clearly a case of corporate greed where a company has
completely lost touch with its community," he said.
"This company doesn't need to be ripping off public libraries to make a
buck...and when the publishing license is up for review I think
Standards Australia should look to find a company whose values are more
aligned with the community."
Dr Byrne said the NSLA would like to see Australia follow New Zealand,
who earlier this year took the distribution of standards back into
government and committed to maintaining public access.
"Increasingly legislation refers to standards, rather than spelling out
legal requirements. All that says the community needs to have access to
The publishing agreement with SAI Global ends in 2018, with an option to
renew for a further five year term; however, Dr Byrne said the NSLA was
attempting to negotiate an alternative publishing arrangement with
email: brd at iimetro.com.au
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