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Thursday, 25 October 1973
Page: 1458

Senator HANNAN (VICTORIA) - I ask: Is the Leader of the Government in the Senate aware of the general hostility and aversion felt by the man in the street, his wife, and the small shopkeeper in particular, to the use of metric units for weights and measures- very different from the general acceptance of decimal currency? Is he aware that the general public believes that the promised advantages have not materialised and that grams, millilitres and kilometres are mysterious? Is he aware of the clumsy units which have been forced upon the public- for example, a 26-oz bottle of beer has become a 740-millilitre bottle of beer and no litre bottles will be made? Also, how many metres are in a cricket pitch? Is he aware that metric units are being used to bolster inflation both in private industry and in the Post Office? Will the Minister re-examine the position and ascertain whether this extremely expensive decision could, even at this very late hour, be reversed?

Senator MURPHY -There is a Metric Conversion Board, of which I understand Dame Ivy Wedgwood, formerly of this chamber, is a member, and it is endeavouring to bring these changes in smoothly. The honourable senator asks me whether it is a change for the better. I suppose if one had been born in France one would find it just as difficult to change over to a system of pints, feet and inches. On being asked whether it is a change for the better I would say that it is possibly 2 steps forward and one step back. If we had wanted to adopt the perfect system we would obviously have gone for that system which combines the advantage of the zero, which is the reason for our moving to the metric system, and the advantages of the 12 with its divisibility by 2, 3, 4 and 6, as against 10 with its simple division by 2 and 5 which is not very helpful and leads in practice to great fractions. The duo-decimal system is one which the world will probably accept on the next occasion that this great problem is dealt with. The disadvantages we are striking we will just have to put up with, because we are moving towards some kind of world uniformity in this field.

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