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Thursday, 11 May 1972
Page: 1591

Senator COTTON(New South Wales-

Minister for Civil Aviation) (3.41) - I move:

That the Bill be now read a secondtime

The Bill now before the Senate represents the initial step towards the progressive implementation of the Government's decision to adopt the metric system of weights and measures in Australia. It is proposed that ail references to weights and measures in the Customs and Excise Tariffs and in related administrative legislation will be amended to metric terminology to take effect from 1st July 1972. This Bill is one of a group of six that collectively amend the Excise Tariff and all complementary administrative legislation. The other five Bills seek to amend the following Acts: Excise Act. Distillation Act, Spirits Act, Diesel Fuel Tax (No. 1) Act, Diesel Fuel Tax (No. 2) Act.

The rates of excise duty proposed in this Bill represent the conversion of existing duty rates carried out in accordance with principles approved by the Metric Conversion Board. Honourable senators will appreciate that because of the conversion factors involved, for example 1 gallon converts to 4.54609 litres, some rounding off of decimals in the rates now proposed was unavoidable. I can assure honourable sena- tors that where rounding off has been necessary, care has been taken to ensure that neither the public nor industry will be disadvantaged by any variation in absolute duty collections. Overall in fact the changes will represent a very slight reduction in Commonwealth Excise receipts - approximately $30,000 in a full year, or, expressed another way, a reduction of 0.003 per cent.

The proposed new duty rates also give effect to the Government's decision to adopt a different system of expressing the alcohol content of potable spirits. Currently the alcoholic content, or strength, of spirits, such as brandy, rum, etc., is expressed in terms of proof spirit and duty is assessed on the spirit content expressed in the imperial unit of proof gallons. The terms proof and proof spirit are derived from the British system of alcohol measurement. This system provides a scale of 0-175 in which 0 equals pure water and 175 equals pure alcohol. 'Proof is taken to be 100 on the scale. Strengths between 100-175 are overproof, for example 159 equals 59 o.p. while strengths from 1-100 are underproof, for example 70 equals 30 u.p. Readings within the scale are ascertained from hydrometer readings and related tables.

This proof system does not lend itself in practical terms to volumes expressed in metric terms. In fact, to the best of my knowledge no country using metric measures also uses the proof system for expressing alcoholic content. The system now proposed provides for the alcoholic content of a product to be expressed as a percentage of the total liquid contents of that product. It is a simpler system to work with and no doubt will be more readily understood by the general public than is the present proof system. The proposed new method is widely used throughout the world and is in fact recommended by the International Organisation of Legal Metrology. It is also under consideration by the Customs Co-operation Council for adoption by member countries as standard procedure.

The new method of expressing alcoholic content and the proposed duty rates based on metric measures have been given wide publicity. Officers of the Department of Customs and Excise have held talks with the interested industry groups and I am confident that the changes which are proposed to take effect on 1st July next will be implemented with little or no inconvenience either to commerce or the general public. I commend the Bill.







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