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Wednesday, 14 March 1973
Page: 578

Mr MORRISON (St George Minister for Science and Minister for External Territories) - It is not only very encouraging but also I think very significant that the Opposition on this occasion is supporting the Bill. I think all Government supporters can agree with many of the Opposition speakers, particularly the honourable member for Boothy (Mr McLeay), that the legislation should have been introduced before now. It was the Government's intention that the legislation should be brought before the Parliament with the most urgent haste and this has been done. I may now be able to answer a couple of points which were raised in the course of the debate. I shall certainly try to supply answers to honourable members who raised questions that cannot be answered at the moment.

The honourable member for Murray (Mr Lloyd) asked whether an exemption from sales tax would apply to male contraceptives. I am delighted to inform him that the answer is yes, the exemption will apply to all types of contraceptives. The honourable member also asked whether the basic chemical components, oestrogen and progesterone, from which the oral contraceptives are made, are subject to import duty. I have not been able to ascertain that but I will ensure that the answer is supplied to him. As the items are on the pharmaceutical benefits list the prices to consumers will not be affected one way or the other, whether or not they are subject to import duty.

The honourable member for Diamond Valley (Mr McKenzie) referred to the possibility of profit being made from metric conversion. There is an understandable concern in the community about possibilities of malpractice and there are misgivings and fears. There certainly have been reports of dubious practices. The honourable member quoted from some of these reports. As the Minister in charge of the Metric Conversion Board I can assure honourable members that every effort is being made to ensure that there are no malpractices. In fact a number of reports have been investigated very carefully and the investigations have not revealed any malpractices. That is not to say that the misgivings and fears that the community may have should be wiped aside. The community may be quite justifiably concerned. I appeal to honourable members who hear of any reports of malpractice or become aware of it to report it to me. I shall then give the matter my personal attention.

I think the metric conversion arrangements are proceeding very well. I compliment the former government for undertaking the program and for making the arrangements that are now working very efficiently. The Government hopes that the arrangements will continue in this way. Marked advances have been made. I think the conversion to the metric system in Australia is being carried out with the minimum of interference and dislocation.

I think that winds up the debate on this issue. Again I thank the Opposition for joining with the Government in support of the Bill.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

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