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Friday, 12 June 1903

Mr HUME COOK (BOURKE, VICTORIA) - I have great pleasure in seconding the motion for the adoption of the report of the select committee, of which I was a member. I think it is only fair to say that the members of the committee, and I think also honorable members generally, owe a great deal to the honorable member for South Sydney, for the care and patience he has displayed in connexion with this important subject. I do not know of any work which he has not read, or of any utterance which he has not studied, and he has brought the weight of his interest to the committee, and has helped it materially in its deliberations," and in arriving at the determination now placed before the House. To-day he has given further evidence- of his knowledge and ability. The subject dealt with is one' that is very difficult for most persons to follow, and in which no great interest can be worked up. Whilst, however, it is not likely that many people will become enthusiastic over the proposal, there are many practical considerations connected with it which deserve the attention of honorable members. Nearly all those who have studied the subject recommend the adoption of some form of decimal coinage, and it is very significant that at the present time that system has been adopted in every country of the world, except four, namely, the United Kingdom, South Africa, India, and Australia. Therefore we have the full strength of precedent to urge us on in the path of reform. I have not heard of any country which desires to abandon its decimal system ; but, on the contrary, we are well aware that attempts have been made in Great Britain to substitute for that which is now in vogue the decimal system of currency. The first recommendation of the committee is that the seigniorage or profit resulting from coinage for the Commonwealth should belong to the Commonwealth.

When the present Treasurer filled the office of Treasurer of Victoria, I remember that he almost succeeded in inducing the Premiers of the different States to agree to a similar proposition, and I am, therefore, at a loss to understand why the coinage of silver has never been undertaken in this State. But even though the effort in that direction has hitherto failed, no one can question that sooner or later it must be successful. Consequently, 1 do not propose to direct my remarks to that branch of the subject. I take it for granted that the Government intends to obtain for the people of Australia any profit which may result from the coinage for the Commonwealth. Regarding the system of decimal coinage, I have previously observed that every country in the world, with the exception of about four, has adopted it. We have, therefore, an excellent lead, if we feel disposed to follow it. Those who have studied the question agree that so much can be said in favour of the system that there is no need for me to dwell upon its disadvantages, if it has any. The honorable member for South Sydney has ably combated most of th% objections which are usually advanced against -its adoption." This is not a matter which involves any international complications, and. I do not see any reason why we should hesitate to adopt the system until some move in that direction is made in the United Kingdom. Unquestionably, by establishing it we should facilitate our international trade, besides effecting a considerable Saving. It is, perhaps, worth while pointing out that, although the witnesses who appeared before the committee were drawn from all sections of society, the great majority of them supported this system. Those witnesses included bankers, financial editors, accountants, the representatives of chambers of commerce, of insurance institutes, and of the Trades Hall, and almost without exception they favoured the adoption of some system of decimal coinage. It is also worthy of notice that after giving the matter most careful consideration, the chief objection raised against it has been met by a recommendation in favour of decimalizing the sovereign. The committee always kept in view the fact that the bulk of our trade must be done with the Empire itself. By retaining the' sovereign as the unit, and by decimalizing it, I feel that the .chief objection which can be urged against the system has been, overcome. It is all very well to say that we should wait until Great Britain has adopted this scheme, but I do not believe in any conservative delay. So many trivial objections weigh with those who have not studied the subject, that it is the duty of the .Government to place it before the public in such a way that they can fully understand it. I am prepared to admit that to a certain extent it would be idle to decimalize our money unless simultaneously we are prepared to decimalize our weights and measures. Some of the witnesses examined by the committee "thought it was not absolutely necessary to touch our system of weights and measures, and that we should deal with our money first. Personally, I think that the two are so intimately connected that a movement for the decimalization of money ought to carry with it the decimalization of weights and measures. One reform without the other will confer very little advantage upon us. Modern requirements demand that our methods of conducting our business should be as rapid as possible. In the United States the whole desideratum is to get through business quickly and accurately. By adopting a decimal system for weights and measures as well as for money, that country has facilitated its business in a way that the people of Australia can hardly realize. The saving of time in connexion with these two matters is so great that all minor difficulties ' can be set aside. I have nothing further to add at this stage. I believe that it is to the benefit of Australia and the trading community generally that the report should be adopted.

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