A conversation with CFA Standards Representative Paul Loney about his participation in standards development, what his work looks like today and what keeps him excited to represent consumers.
How long have you worked in standards development and can you tell me about some changes you’ve seen in that time?
I’ve been representing consumers in standards for 18 years. Today standards are largely new and in development, they have a broader canvas and are focused on global ISO (International Organization for Standardization) standards, not purely on Australia and New Zealand. There is a greater emphasis on tech knowledge and skills, and the average consumer representative has IT matters experience. In contrast, 18 years ago the standards I was involved in were about Australian water saving devices, appliances and washing machines, they were much more straight-forward.
Another CFA Standards Representative has said that a good representative does their homework, comes prepared and canvases their community. What do those processes look like when the committees are discussing complex information or technology?
The work I do on the IT committees is highly technical and can be difficult. There are vast amounts of data and reports to read which can be very jargon rich and complex. When canvassing the community you need to be aware that largely members of the public are quire unaware of the technical matters you’re talking about. Consumer representatives must be well prepared and do their homework.
So, rather than focusing on going over technical minutia with everyday consumers, you take their more general will and advocate on their behalf in the committees. What skills do you utilise when representing consumers in meetings?
Yes. One of the really important skills is to be able to hear alarm bells and recognise danger signs in the meetings. Academics and industry can move very quickly and forget the ordinary end user who could be exploited by any specific thing and so you need to be able to ask what the implications of something are for the public.
Consumer representatives need to have the confidence to put their hands up and say “Hold on, how is this going to impact the end user? How is this going to impact an ordinary person who interfaces with this process on a daily basis without realising it?” It can be quite difficult to do when surrounded by experts, and you need to have a level of confidence to be able to stop the whole proceeding, because that is what you have to do.
This all sounds challenging! What drives you to continue to be involved in standards?
I do find it very rewarding, and you do get little successes along the way. You can feel really good when your feedback is taken onboard and given time in the meeting. You learn so much! You can build relationships with associations and federations in interest groups, and industry and academia representatives who are prominent members in their fields.
Standards are critical to our civilisation. Just about everything you touch or use in your everyday life has been influenced by standards. They are fundamental to the consumer. To be able to walk through a homeware store and see stickers on the light goods referencing standards, you can see how your work is being useful to consumers, and that people are making decisions based on your work.
Paul Loney has had a career as an educator and public servant. He is a member of Queensland Consumers Association and Consumers’ Federation of Australia.
He has been involved in the development of standards for almost 20 years and represents the Consumers’ Federation of Australia (CFA) on six Standards Australia Technical Committees as part of the CFA Standards Project.
CFA Standards Representatives bring the consumer/end user point of view to the process, ensuring a robust standard which is market relevant and of benefit to the community.
CFA regularly seeks skilled volunteers to represent CFA on Standards Australia Technical Committees. If you are interested in finding out more about becoming a CFA standards representative, please contact CFA’s Standards Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org and/or register your interest.
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