Lighting : LIGHTING Oct-Nov 2018
26 LIGHTING MAGAZINE | October/November 2018 October/November 2018 | LIGHTING MAGAZINE 27 LCA UPDATE Opaque policy-making hinders Australia’s development Unelectedofficialsareignoringindustry warnings about damaging new regulations, hiding behind needlessly restrictive secrecy provisions and keeping Ministers in the dark. At a meeting of Building Ministers in Adelaide last month, bureaucrats all but confirmed that changes affecting billions of dollars’ worth of industry and thousands of Australian manufacturing jobs would be decided in closed- door meetings and presented to Ministers as final outcomes. These changes were outlined in more detail in the August-September edition of this publication and relate to significant reductions in allowances for non-general and architectural lighting under the National Construction Code. The National Construction Code – which provides the rule book for all new builds and redevelopments of commercial buildings – has been under review for two years. At the very tail end of the public consultation phase, new proposals were put to industry that set off alarm that the new draft of the Code would pose a serious threat to the long-term viability of the Australian lighting industry. When questioned by Building Ministers about the impact of provisions of the Code on the lighting industry last month, government officials provided confident assertions from that the concerns of industry had been considered and reflected in a revised final version. Participants of the lighting industry would sleep easier, but for the absurd refusal of the officials to divulge the actual outcome of the process, instead hiding yet again behind a wall of bureaucratic secrecy that might have made Sir Humphrey blush. The central cause is over a century old, with Australia’s federal system refusing to grant the power to the Commonwealth Government to regulate fully on the issue of construction policy. Recent decades have seen the development of new norms of public administration: states and territories become joint stakeholders in convoluted, multi-year processes, usually allured by the promise of federal dollars to resolve long- standing barriers to economic development. A similar COAG-style approach appears to have been used to develop the National Construction Code every three years. On closer inspection, however, the process elevates unelected bureaucrats at least to the same level of authority as Cabinet Ministers who are accountable to their electorates at the ballot box every few years. The lighting industry is one that innovates locally, developing clean, green, world-leading technology, manufactures locally, and provides the prospect of a long-term, high-end industrial manufacturing sector in Australia. At issue is a set of exceedingly severe restrictions on an entire class of lighting products, unhelpfully described by the drafting bureaucrats as “decorative” lighting. Decorative lighting – better understood as ‘all the lighting that isn’t the most utilitarian form of downlighting available’ – provides around 1,500 domestic manufacturing jobs, 1,000 jobs for lighting designers and engineers, and thousands of related jobs in installation, sales and distribution. The proposal put to industry in recent months would provide barely half as much allowance as in California, the world’s next most restrictive jurisdiction. The decorative lighting policy appears to be driven by a single focus – the reduction of energy consumption. In the same way that a household sedan can be made more efficient by stripping out indulgences like comfortable seats, air conditioning systems and radios, so too can buildings be made to consume less energy by pursuing efficiency at the cost of all other considerations. The key difference between the textbook and the real-world, however, is that there are quite often a range of other considerations, including the impact of a policy proposal on local industry, the well-being of end-users, and other intangible benefits that generally markets value far more accurately than government officials. The officials had an opportunity to prevent all of these issues being brought to the attention of Ministers. In the preceding month however, rather than giving comfort to the lighting industry by granting an opportunity to present to the influential Building Codes Committee, government officials – likely motivated by removing all traces of their bungled consultation to date – re-wrote our industry’s submission and put it to the Committee on our apparent behalf. The Committee, a group of thirty with little specialist lighting expertise faced with the task of reviewing thousands of documents in a three-day meeting supported by a 236-page agenda, was not well- placed to consider the finer points of lighting engineering and design. Unsurprisingly, the Committee agreed with the officials’ reworked proposal. It is abundantly clear that Australia has a labyrinthine and opaque process for the development of construction policy. Lighting Council Australia has in recent years strengthened its political engagement with Commonwealth, State and Territory Parliaments. This dovetails with Lighting Council Australia’s longstanding leadership role in technical and standards matters, and our track record of extensive and good faith participation in consultation processes. Despite all of this, however, our industry finds itself once again facing needlessly onerous restrictions that will cost jobs and produce worse outcomes for building owners and those who subsequently occupy those buildings. The decorative lighting issue is not the first major policy mistake of recent years affecting the lighting sector. The current National Construction Code allows for the use of photoluminescent, or glow-in-the-dark, emergency and exit signs. The approval of these photoluminescent signs ran contrary to 40 years of empirical research Richard Mulcahy Opaque processes and poor management in a critical government policy-making body threaten the future of the lighting industry and will lead to worse outcomes for consumers, explains Lighting Council Australia CEO Richard Mulcahy establishing a required level of illumination for safe evacuation of buildings and was opposed by more than 20 industry bodies, including those representing the safety, firefighting, and electrical contracting industries and other independent experts. Under the existing regulations, photoluminescent signs need only provide 0.03 Cd/m2, which is 250 times less than the required light output of a conventional emergency and exit lighting system. The failure of two critical checkpoints in the policy development process, the Building Codes Committee and the Building Ministers’ Forum, clearly demonstrates that the process underpinning the development of the National Construction Code must be urgently addressed. The lighting industry calls for an overhaul of the National Construction Code policy development process. A better approach would not allow for any single objective, such as reducing energy consumption by 40 per cent, to trump all other considerations, including the impact on industry, occupant wellbeing and ensuring that there is sufficient choice for market participants. Stakeholder consultation needs to be bona fide, not the “tick a box” style consultation received to date. Moreover, elected officials need to be engaged with the overall process. Australia’s federal regulatory landscape makes construction policy development a challenging undertaking, however our current approach is clearly deficient and is failing to develop approaches that reflect the concerns of industry and is undermining outcomes for end users. The lighting industry is one that innovates locally, developing clean, green, world- leading technology, manufactures locally, and provides the prospect of a long- term, high-end industrial manufacturing sector in Australia. At issue is a set of exceedingly severe restrictions on an entire class of lighting products, unhelpfully described by the drafting bureaucrats as “decorative” lighting.
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