• John Luxton
Commerce and Industry


Special guest, ladies and gentlemen, it is indeed a pleasure to be here today as Minister of Commerce and Industry to present certificates to the first four industry bodies to be approved as Accredited or Designated Standards Agencies.

Earlier this evening I had the pleasure to close the seminar with has focussed on risk and quality assurance in particular in the public sector. Both these events today are an important step for New Zealand.

The Government sector takes up about a third of New Zealands GDP. How Government manages its resources, delivers its services and treats its customers, has a huge impact on the wider New Zealand economy. It impacts on all New Zealanders. Managers in the public sector have an important job to do. These two events signal that progress is being made.

I have a keen interest in seeing progress being made by New Zealand commerce, industry and Government, as we strive to compete on the world market. Being a trading nation it is vital that both industry and Government continue to improve the way we do things.

Nothing ever stands still. While some may think Government has done all the improvements it needs to, simply they are wrong. By its very nature Government is an impost on business with its costs and requirements.

There has been a strong emphasis over the last six years on fiscal responsibility. This is good but I believe we now need to concentrate more on the quality of our service and of our spending, rather than just the quantum.

While there has been a strong focus on productivity gains over the last decade, there hasnt been the same focus on quality outcomes. I believe the time has come for there to BE a concerted effort to improve the quality of government spending and government sector outcomes

There has not been a suitable recognition by both politicians or government sector managers of the cost to the economy and New Zealand citizens of lack of quality.

The cost to the nation of underperformance is huge, not just in terms of money paid by private sector for unnecessary regulation and compliance costs, but the loss of opportunity and innovation that the impact of government and the way it participates in the economy can have.

So what areas should we as a government be looking at.

Firstly my Ministry, the Ministry of Commerce, is now starting a programme to look at the compliance costs of existing legislation such as OSH, RMA, Privacy and Human Rights Acts, not to challenge their basic concepts but rather to improve their operation.

Quality standards can play an important role in making improvements in this area. Customers thoughout the country should have the same high level of consistent service from whomever they seek it.

And it simply isnt good enough that families end up paying more for their washing machines, their food, or their transport because it took some part of Government months and months to process a resource consent, or respond to a letter.

Too often we build on the status quo in Government to avoid the risks of a greenfield approach. Hence the enormous costs of IT systems in Government which have to meet demand of existing systems.

How often do we really analyse our systems. The Singapore Port Authority confronted a similar problem of having 42 different forms at the time of implementing a new IT system. But it found after a thorough reassessment of what was or was not really necessary that it needed only one.

I guess what I am saying is we need to bring a new approach to the issue of best practice. We need to ensure what we are doing is relevant, up to date, and as simple as possible. Perhaps we need to take a more questioning attitude towards the status quo and a more visionary approach.

But we also need to recognise that the monopolies that Government legislation imposes on its citizens such as with pharmacies, conveyancing, optometrists, teachers, lawyers, tariffs, local government, and the marketing of primary produce can also impose a cost. We need to improve contestability. Perhaps the implementation of quality standards can ensure consistent quality across a range of service providers rather than monopoly legislation for just one.

Thirdly, Government itself can also lock up innovation and impose costs in the monopoly provision of services such as education, health, ACC, energy, airport services etc. These need to be reassessed regularly. My personal belief is that such areas could be further opened up to competition, innovation, the drive and Kiwi ingenuity that freedom from political and legislative interference can offer.

I believe we underestimate the lost opportunities because Government, for whatever reason, has retained monopoly provision of some services, and allows the monopolies of others to remain. Monopolies have little incentive to improve their quality of performance and focus on the customer. The answer to my mind involves greater contestability in more core functions.

We in Central government have some way to go before we can say we operate at international best practice. But it is this goal that you and I as managers in the government sector have a responsibility to strive for.

Industry itself has progressed enormously over the last decade as has the Government sector. There are many success stories to be told. However there are still many areas for improvement, especially in areas of quality control, consistency, risk management, and better management practices just as in the private sector.

It is really about becoming user friendly in Government. Becoming responsive to our customers, the public. Not ignoring phone calls or passing the buck. Taking a month to answer letters. Months to provide property titles. The screeds of forms to be filled to register as an Electric Tramway Driver, to seek a consent, or to deal with the Inland Revenue dept. This is all about the compliance costs of Government. Which is Synonymous to Quality Assurance and best practice approaches. These are the big challenges in Government today.

I know it is not an easy market for the private sector to operate in out there at the moment. But what we often find in both public and private sectors is that it is the leaner times which are the catalyst for the most innovation, new ideas and improvements in quality, which can lay new foundations for longterm progress. Accredited and designated standards agencies play an important role in this.

The principle of Accredited Standards Agencies is to encourage the wider use and recognition of standards developed by industry, professional groups or Government agencies by enabling them to be formally approved as New Zealand or Joint Australian/New Zealand Standards.

This concept provides a practical way of using established standards and certification processes to ensure consistent, transparent results which are recognised nationally and internationally as a marketing advantage in todays global trading environment.

An Accredited Standards Agency undertakes the entire standards development and approvals process subject to Standards New Zealand audit and final Standards Council approval.

A Designated Standards Agency carries out the development of draft standards which are then subject to the committee review and public consultation process managed by Standards New Zealand.

With the standards agency concept now well established, the purpose of this presentation of certificates is to formally recognise and commend the organisations who have been approved and to encourage others to take up the facility.

A guide setting out the criteria for Accredited and Designated Standards Agencies in New Zealand has been published. There is also an equivalent Australian guide and this should facilitate compatible trans-Tasman arrangements.

Before I make this presentation I would make one further comment. I have recently presented three ISO certificates to a variety of enterprises, but none until tonight ,from Central Government. Why not? Why doesnt parliament and other parts of Central government follow industrys lead and adopt best practice principles and standards?

I would now like to present in turn the five certificates:

The first Government Department to be so approved is The Office of the Chief Electrical Engineer, Ministry of Commerce, became an Accredited Standards Agency in April 1995 to develop national electrical installation standards. Represented here tonight by Mr Peter Morfee. Congratulations

First industry group to become an Accredited Standards Agency, with its code approved as a New Zealand Standard, was the New Zealand Agrichemical Education Trust in June 1995. Represented tonight by Ken Milne , Chairman, and Peter Silcock, Secretary.
[NZS 8409:1995, providing guidelines for the safe use of agricultural chemicals, was launched at Parliament House in June 1995 by the Hon John Falloon as Minister of Agriculture and Forestry.]

This was followed by approval of: The New Zealand Institute of Quantity Surveyors in August 1995 as an Accredited Standards Agency to review and update the national quantity surveying standard, NZS 4202 Standard method of measurement of buildings works. Represented tonight by Karl Bale, Executive Director, and Steve Flanders, National Council Member for Otago

The Gas Association of New Zealand in November 1995 as a Designated Standards Agency to develop New Zealand Standards for the gas industry. Represented by Tony Hammond, Chairman technical committee, and Vergne Quinn, Executive Director
The New Zealand Chemical Industry Council in January 1997 as a Designated Standards Agency to develop New Zealand Standards for the chemical industry. Represented by Tony Petley, President.
(Working from a chemical industry draft, the Councils first project is the revision of NZS 5433:1988 Code of practice for the transport of hazardous substances on land. The standard is a means of compliance with current regulations which are to be replaced by the new Land Transport Safety Authoritys Dangerous Goods Rule in 1997.)

Congratulations to all. Well done. Thankyou.