Bills Digest No. 186  1997-98 National Measurement Amendment Bill 1998

Numerical Index | Alphabetical Index

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Passage History
Main Provisions
Concluding Comments
Contact Officer and Copyright Details

Passage History

National Measurement Amendment Bill 1998

Date Introduced: 8 April 1998

House: House of Representatives

Portfolio: Industry, Science and Tourism

Commencement: On Royal Assent


The amendments in this Bill will correct some minor drafting errors in the National Measurement Act 1960 and abolish the compulsory retiring age for the Executive Director of the National Standards Commission.


Australia has a uniform system of weights and measurements, which is implemented through the National Measurement Act 1960 (the Principal Act) and is administered by the National Standards Commission (NSC). The Commonwealth's power to legislate with regard to weights and measures is contained in paragraph 51 (xv) of the Constitution.

The field of law dealing with weights and measures is known as legal metrology. Legal metrology comprises all measurements carried out for any legal purpose and includes measurements that are subject to regulation by law or government decree. In addition to measurements administered by trade measurement authorities, legal metrology also includes the measurement of electricity, gas, water, telephone calls, parking fines and taxi charges. It also applies to measurements in areas such as surveying, environmental monitoring, occupational health and safety, for example, acoustic power and ionising radiation and traffic control, for example, vehicle speed and breathalysers.(1)

Amendments to the Principal Act in 1992 provided for certification of reference materials, many of which come from overseas, so that measurements made using such materials satisfied the traceability provisions of the Act. Reference materials are sample materials or substances which have properties that are well established for the calibration of apparatus, the assessment of a measurement method or for assigning values to materials. For example, alcohol water solution is used to calibrate breathalysers.

The 1992 amendments also provided for the certification of measuring instruments used for legal purposes so that these measurements would comply with the traceability provision of the Act. Traceability is the ability to trace a measurement back to the Australian and international primary standards. In order to establish the legal validity of any measurement made in Australia it must be shown that the measurement can be traced back to the Australian primary standards.

The 1992 amendments introduced a definition of a 'certifying body' which did not allow for existing bodies, such as chemical laboratories, capable of certifying instruments and reference materials to be appointed under the National Measurement Regulations. Only new certifying bodies could be created under the regulations. This Bill does not prevent the appointment of existing certifying bodies by the National Standards Commission. This will allow for measuring instruments and reference materials to be certified more easily.

Main Provisions

The operational sections of the Bill are found in Schedule 1.

Item 1 removes the reference to certifying body from the definition of certified reference instrument.

Item 2 removes the reference to certifying body from the definition of certified reference material.

Item 3 repeals the definition of certifying body.

Item 4 repeals subsection s.18AJ(2) of the National Measurement Act 1960. This effectively abolishes the compulsory retirement at 65 years of age for the Executive Director of the National Standards Commission. This is in line with current government policy to abolish compulsory age retirement at age 65 for public servants (Public Service Bill 1997).(2)

Item 6 repeals the provision of the Principal Act which allows for the establishment of certified bodies under regulation.

Concluding Comments

These amendments will allow for the National Standards Commission to certify instruments and reference materials more easily by allowing the appointment of existing bodies to certify such items, rather than having to establish new bodies.

The removal of compulsory age retirement for the Executive Director will allow for greater flexibility in staffing arrangements.


  1. National Standards Commission. Annual Report 1996-97, 14-15.
  3. For a more detailed discussion of compulsory age retirement see 'Compulsory Retirement: To their Last Breath?' Robert Bennett; Anne Twomey. Current Issues Brief (Law and Public Administration Group) no. 35 1994-95.


Contact Officer and Copyright Details

Catherine Lorimer
5 May 1998
Bills Digest Service
Information and Research Services

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ISSN 1328-8091
Commonwealth of Australia 1998

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Published by the Department of the Parliamentary Library, 1998.

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