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Thursday, 22 July 1920

Mr FOWLER (Perth) .- 'I have pleasure in seconding the motion, although I confess that I am not sanguine that it will be carried with any great amount of enthusiasm at the present time." In spite of all our pretensions to be an advanced people, we in Australia are a very conservative community in many ways. In some regards conservatism is an eminently good thing, but it seems to me that a considerable amount of ingenuity is required to discover anything to justify the continuance of the present remarkable methods of calculating and naming our various weights and measures. Any one who takes .the trouble to study the history of these will realize, in what a higgledy-piggledy fashion they have grown up; they have been forced upon the community by sheer custom. Custom is a very strong influence in any community, and probably it is as strong in a British community as anywhere else in the world as regards adherence to things which our fathers, grandfathers, and even great grandfathers, regarded as eminently suitable in their time.

Mr Gabb - I call attention to the state of the House. [Quotum formed.]

Mr FOWLER - Commercial ccompetition is becoming so keen in the world now that the British Empire cannot afford to put aside any method by which its inter- course with other parts of the world, with regard to trade and commerce generally, will be facilitated. It is .admitted by nearly all business people who have international relations in trade, that our present system of weights and measures undoubtedly offers a somewhat serious obstacle to the prosecution of trade relations with other parts of the world. It is quite true that up to the present we have had a large share in international trade. That has not been due to the existence of our remarkable method of weights and measures, but has been achieved in spite of it. Any one who has given consideration to the simplicity of the metric system, and places it alongside the very complicated and unscientific methods that we have in vogue at the present time, will realize the tremendous advantage that the more modern and more scientific system gives in any kind of international trade whatever. America, it is quite true, has not seen fit to adopt metric weights and measures, although it has adopted decimal coinage. There will, admittedly, be in the change a considerable amount of difficulty to many, and a considerable amount of confusion; but any old-established' custom necessarily implies some difficulty in changing it, and sooner or later those countries which adhere in such conservative fashion to the old methods of reckoning weights and measures will have to put them aside. If such is the inevitable future, then we may fairly argue that the sooner these difficulties are faced and overcome the better. It is largely a matter of prejudice that has to be overcome, and it is not always reason which overcomes prejudice. It is the force of circumstance that does so, and probably the change will come only when we of Australia, in common with other parts of the world, realize that we are falling behind in competition with more scientific nations in the effort to win or retain the world's trade. Then we shall have the change. But it is the duty of those who believe in the change to urge it as often and- earnestly as they can, so that we may not lose way in the course that the British Empire has successfully maintained in the world's trade up to the present time.

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