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Thursday, 23 August 1973
Page: 281

Mr NIXON (GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA) - Mr Speaker, I address my question to the right honourable the Prime Minister.

Mr SPEAKER - Order! Not 'right honourable' but 'honourable'.

Mr NIXON - My sincere apologies to the Prime Minister. He will recognise a famous quote: 'I come here not to complain but to seek information.' The Prime Minister will be aware of the requests to industry not to make a profit out of metrication. Is he aware that his Government is setting a very bad example in that the Post Office, in converting from ounces to metric grammes, is making a heavy profit? For example, a 2 oz or 56 gramme letter, newspaper or parcel which previously cost 7c to post will now cost 15c? As this is a simple abuse of conversion to metrication will the Prime Minister do something about it?

Mr WHITLAM (WERRIWA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Prime Minister) - The Postmaster-General will answer the question.

Mr Lionel Bowen (KINGSFORD-SMITH, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It may surprise the honourable member to learn that the idea of entering into metrication was endorsed by the previous government in which he was a Cabinet Minister, and further that the metric rates are on the international standard applying to all letters. The idea was in fact endorsed by my predecessor as far back as May 1972. A Press statement was issued at that time. It clearly indicated what would be the actual weights in metrics for all letters.

Mr Sinclair - What about the rates?

Mr Lionel Bowen (KINGSFORD-SMITH, NEW SOUTH WALES) - As regards the rates, the honourable member might be interested to know that my predecessor also knew the position and in fact was going to increase postage rates by lc on a 1 oz letter. This is the astounding fact. A former Minister of the same Cabinet would have known in 1972 that under the previous government's policy it was proposed this year to increase the rate of 7c for a letter to 8c, and it had nothing to do with metrics as such. It was due to the fact that the whole policy of the previous government was designed to ensure that the 7c letter rate was increased to 10c by 1975, and that is the problem.

Mr Anthony - This is dishonest.

Mr Lionel Bowen (KINGSFORD-SMITH, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It is not dishonest. It is on record. The honourable member was a member of Cabinet. He had access to all these details.

Mr Anthony - There was no decision.

Mr Lionel Bowen (KINGSFORD-SMITH, NEW SOUTH WALES) - There was a decision.

Mr SPEAKER -Order! If interjections do not cease I will have to take appropriate action.

Mr Lionel Bowen (KINGSFORD-SMITH, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It is quite clear that these sorts of questions are asked in order to try to delude this House into accepting the fact that there was no previous knowledge of metrication and no previous knowledge of tariff increases. Both of the decisions on these matters were the responsibility of the previous government.

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