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Thursday, 25 November 1965

Dr FORBES (Barker) (Minister for the Army and Minister Assisting the Treasurer) .- I move-

That the Bills be now read a second time.

All of the Bills excepting that dealing with the customs tariff are bound in one pamphlet. The Customs Tariff Bill is separate because of its bulk. When introducing the Currency Bill 1965 the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) informed the House that the provisions of that Bill would enable most references to £ s. d. amounts in Commonwealth legislation to be construed after C Day as references to dollars and cents. He added that there were, however, a number of acts in which money references in £ s. d. needed to be specifically amended. A large number of amendments are made in the 30 Bills to which I have referred but all of them - and this is the point made by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) - are of a machinery nature and they do not involve changes of policy. It would not, I believe, be a profitable use of the time of the House if I were to attempt to explain each one of these amendments. However, I shall, of course, be very willing during the committee stage of the debate to explain any of them on which honorable members may wish to have further information.

Perhaps I could give some idea of the changes proposed if I said that there are in a number of cases references in acts to returns or figures being submitted to the nearest £1 or the nearest £1,000. The amendments would change these to references to the nearest dollar or 1,000 dollars rather than to the nearest 2 dollars or 2,000 dollars as the case may be. There are a number of other amendments in respect of acts which specify amounts for fees, charges, rates and so on which will not convert exactly to dollars and cents. In these instances, and in conformity with the previously announced intention not to profit from the changeover, the Government has decided that the amounts should be rounded down wherever this is appropriate. There are other cases which relate to payments by the Government where amounts have been rounded upwards. The amounts concerned are in no case greater than a fraction of a cent. Similarly, the changes proposed in the conversion of the customs tariff are consistent with the Government's stated intention to minimise increases in rates of duty as a result of the introduction of decimal currency. The general method used was to convert old currency amounts of less than 5s. to the nearest three decimal places of a dollar and amounts exceeding 5s. to two decimal places of a dollar. In respect of certain high duty goods such as tobacco, gasoline and various petroleum products, a more exact conversion has been made, in some cases to four decimals of a dollar.

The Bills have been prepared specifically to effect the change to decimal currency and to exclude other matters. This is why these provisions have not been included in some bills which have been before the House recently to amend some of the legislation which I mentioned at the commencement of this speech. I believe that the procedure proposed for dealing with these Bills will facilitate their speedy consideration by the House and I commend them to honorable members.

Debate (on motion by Mr. Crean) adjourned.

Sitting suspended from 5.54 to 8 p.m.

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