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Wednesday, 26 April 1972
Page: 2039

Mr BUCHANAN (McMillan) - As the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) just indicated, there is very little question of debate on the Bills we are considering. These Bills provide less room for manoeuvre than any item 1 have ever seen come before this Parliament because all that is happening is that we are converting our present imperial system to the metric system. However, the Bills do give us one or two thoughts. Apart from the convenience which will occur in world trade because of the metric system of weights and measures, we must consider what will happen with our own internal trading. I will never get used to it. I will never be able to get used to the idea that if I were still in business and dealing with spirits as I was a long time ago and I had to work out an order, instead of saying $2.69 per lb, I would have to say $5.93 per kilogramme.

There are 2i pages as a schedule to the Bill that indicates that people will have to learn a whole new system. The benefits in the long run must be advantageous to our whole living. It will obviously be much easier for school children to be able to handle these measures, although when I was at school we learnt the metric system. We learnt in tens, hundreds and thousands and so on and thought it was very easy. However, we had to learn the other things as well. I understand that the idea in the schools now is to take the rulers away from the children. The rulers that I have always used have had inches on one side and centimetres on the other. But the idea now is to move right away from that. The new method of teaching mathematics today is to give the children little sticks of different lengths so that they are able visually to see just what are the differences. Once everybody gets used to the metric system it will be very much more simple to be able to make calculations. The honourable member for Melbourne Ports mentioned, when he was speaking about the report of the Metric Conversion Board, that the changeover would not be completed until 1979. To me that seems a very long time. I would rather see a much more expeditious changeover. If we are to make a break, then let us make the break expeditiously. To be quite candid about this, I would have a lot of trouble in making calculations in pounds, shillings and pence now that I have become accustomed to using the decimal system in relation to money.

When it comes to liquid measurements, which are the subject of these Bills, it must be easier to handle these calculations according to the size of containers. It seems to me to be a little ridiculous that we should change hogsheads to something else because the contents are to be so many litres converted into dollars and cents. Surely it would have been much easier for us to have started off with the smallest measure of a one-pint milk bottle and change it to a one-litre milk bottle and then go on with the other sizes so that when we came to hogsheads and the other larger sizes used in commerce it would be a lot easier. 1 presume that cost is one of the troubles. Just think of the enormous number of beer barrels throughout the whole of Australia. Most of these barrels are 9-gallon containers, with a few 18-gallon containers. But these barrels are in existence, so we have to make use of them. This is why we have adopted this most complicated system of changing over from, for example, $1.1375 per gallon to the converted figure of $0.252778 per litre, although the capacity of the container is not a definite number of litres. It is a certain number of litres plus something. Surely we should be making this changeover - if this is possible - in one step.

One thing on which I would like to have a little more information is what will happen when eventually we reach the stage where we will be producing containers which are tailored to the metric system so that a container will be so many litres and contain so many kilograms instead of having measurements of one pint and so on. In that situation deliveries of goods will be made to people in 2 sizes. We can see this in the supermarket where 2 bottles are alongside each other but there is a slight difference between their sizes. The price is to be adjusted so that a person pays according to the number of units. But it will look as though the larger bottle is the better buy. This is the sort of confusion that must arise with this changeover. If it is humanly possible, I would like to see us get over that step as quickly as we can.

Certain industries have been anticipating what they will be able to do with the changeover to the metric system. I refer to the engineering field. Although we are not dealing with this field tonight, I mention it in passing and only as an example. This is a field in which tooling up is now being done according to the metric system and industry has found that this system suits it. The honourable member for Melbourne Ports pointed out that this has been done in the pharmaceutical industry for a long time. We have all had to buy a new measure with which to pour our medicines. This was done in a very simple operation. Today it would probably be very difficult to go around and buy an ounce measure, but one can buy very simply the equivalent in the metric measure.

I just drawn the attention of the House to the great difficulty that could be experienced unless we make a very clear break in this changeover. The only other comment I would like to make is that this legislation is an indication of the thoughtfulness of this Government. It is purely a machinery measure but, if anything, the Government will be the one that loses.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

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