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Metric Conversion Act - Metric Conversion Board - Report - Year - 1980-81 ( 11th)

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The Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia


Eleventh Annual Report


Presented pursuant to Statute 16 March 1982 Ordered to be printed 25 March 1982

Parliamentary Paper No. 76/1982





Australian Government Publishing Service Canberra 1981

The Honorable David Thomson, M.P., Minister for Science and Technology, Parliament House, CANBERRA, A.C.T. 2600

Sir, In accordance with the provisions of Sub-sections (2) and (3) of Section 24 of the Metric Conversion Act 1970 I have the honour to furnish to you for presentation to the Parliament the Eleventh (and final) Report of the Metric Conversion Board.

This report covers the operation of the Board during the year ended 30 June 1981.

Yours faithfully, J. D. Norgard Chairman

© Commonwealth of Australia 198 1

Printed by Canberra Reprographics Pty Limited, 119 Wollongong St, Fyshwick, A.C.T. 2609




Mr J. D. Norgard, B.E., F.S.A.S.M.(Met.)

DEPUTY CHAIRMAN Mr G. M. Hastie, o .b .e ., f .l .c .m .

EXECUTIVE MEMBER Mr A. F. A. Harper, a .o .. m .Sc., F.inst.p.. Hon.F.A.i.p.


Mrs Μ. M. Fitz-Geraid. j .p . Mr P. B. Free, b .Sc. Mr W. I. Stewart, a m .. b .Sc.. B.Sc.(Econ.) Commissioner R. G. Sweeney



1. Introduction .......................................................................................................................... 5

2. The Implementation of Conversion ..................................................................................... 7

2.1 Survey of Progress...................................................................................................... 7

2.2 Education .................................................................................................................... 14

2.3 Primary Industry ........................................................................................................ 14

2.4 Consumer Goods ........................................................................................................ 15

2.5 Engineering Industry .................................................................................................. 18

2.6 Building and Construction ......................................................................................... 19

2.7 Industrial Materials .................................................................................................... 19

2.8 Science and Technology............................................................................................ 20

2.9 Transport and Communication ................................................................................. 21

2.10 Real Estate .................................................................................................................. 21

2.11 Public Education and Information ........................................................................... 22

3. The Background to Metric Conversion in A ustralia........................................................ 25

4. The Metric Conversion Board .......................................................................................... 26

4.1 The Board and its Committees ................................................................................. 26

4.2 S ecretariat................................................................................................................... 26

5. Expenditure ......................................................................................................................... 27

Annexures A — Organisation of Metric Conversion Board and its Committees ........................... 28

B — MCB Publications...................................................................................................... 29

C — Metric Information C entres...................................................................................... 31



The change to the metric system of measurement is one of the success stories in Australia's history. When Australia embarked on the change in 1970 few would have expected that in only eleven years almost all of our activities would now be either metric or inexorably moving that way. Nor would many have expected such a radical change to have been effected with so little

trauma or disputation. This unusual — one might say unique — exercise has been brought to a point of substantial fulfilment so that there would have been no point in extending the life of the Metric Conversion Board after the terms of appointment of its members expire on 30 June 1981.

This Eleventh Report of the Board is, therefore, its final report. The winding up of the Board, as such, was confirmed by the Minister for Science and Technology, Hon. David Thomson M.C.. M.P. in a statement issued on 17 June 1981. This is as follows:

The Commonwealth metrication program has been formally completed and the Metric Conversion Board will be wound up on 30 June. The Board was appointed in 1970 to oversee Australia's conversion from imperial measurements and this is now substantially finished.

The 1500 people who have made up the Metric Conversion Board and its committees are to be commended for the way they handled this daunting task. I would particularly like to thank the Chairman Mr John Norgard, the Deputy Chairman Mr George Hastie, the Executive Member Mr Alan Harper and the past and

present Members of the Board for their dedicated work. Officers of the Department of Science and Technology will take over ongoing metrication activities and continue to give free advice to the public on metric questions. The Departmental officers will be co-located with the National Standards Commission at 12 Lyonpark Road, North Ryde. NSW 2113, telephone 888 3922. The Board does not wish to appear to be indulging in self adulation in acclaiming metrication as a success story. Rather its motive is to put into true perspective the reality of what has been achieved and to give credit to those who helped bring this situation about.

What has been achieved? A metric infrastructure has been firmly established. Most of the major aspects of our way of life are now wholly metric or almost so — in the shops, on the roads, at sport and in the media. Our children use only metrics, and our laws and codes are written in metric units. In industry and

commerce the change is complete in many sectors and well on the way to completion in the other, slower moving, sectors. These are the positive aspects of the change, which are easily overlooked because of the tendency to give prominence to criticisms or complaints.

The Metric Conversion Board had no power to mandate any aspect of any change. Its role was to facilitate and coordinate. The credit for the initiatives and planning belongs to 1500 people from industry, business, professional institutions, organisations representing the public and from governmental authorities nominated to sit on MCB committees who formulated the

detailed programs for changing from imperial to metric units. Significantly every program was the result of consensus planning. Programs were not. as some claim, imposed by a bureaucracy indifferent to the needs or wishes of those affected by the programs. The planners were also implementers.

Indeed, a community climate generally favourable to the introduction of metrics, in part engendered by the successful change to decimal currency, greatly facilitated the adoption of the system despite some personal inconvenience and the confusion which inevitably must accompany such a sweping change to long established customs.

Although the dissolution of the Metric Conversion Board represents the virtual end of the imperial measurement era it is still too soon to claim that Australia is a metric country. This stage will not be reached until the great majority of Australians subconsciously use metric measurement units in the natural flow of conversation as easily as they do now in the disciplined activities of their work or in day-to-day shopping.


Ultimately, time will take care of this but an individual commitment to use and think metric will advance the time when all the benefits of adopting the modern, efficient International System of Units can be enjoyed.



2.1 Survey of Progress

General review When the Metric Conversion Board was established in 1970, under the Metric Conversion Act, its terms of reference were to help plan, guide and facilitate Australia’s change to the sole use of the metric system.

The Act gave the Board no powers to require metric conversion. It was envisaged that the strong support for the concept of a metric Australia, as revealed in the extensive evidence presented to the Senate Select Committee on the Metric System of Weights and Measures in 1967-68, would ensure a successful conversion.

This proved to be the case so that the Board’s main task was to provide facilities for national leaders in the various sectors of activity which would be affected by the change to meet together and develop voluntarily consensus conversion plans. Most of these national leaders played an important part not only in developing the conversion program but in implementing it.

Some 140 committees with about 1500 members were set up and continued through the life of the Board. The main committees are set out in Annexure A. On the average each committee met about eight times (some much more and some just once or twice). Inherent in many conversion plans was the amendment of relevant specifications, codes of

practice and legislation so that although voluntarily adopted their implementation frequently involved a mandatory element. Often this was an important factor in obtaining what was adjudged to be the optimum conversion period for a particular activity. In some cases where

conversion pressures were absent the change was prolonged far beyond the optimum. Although conversion was effectively complete by 1976 in the majority of the identified sectors so that no purpose would have been served by convening further meetings of the relevant sector committees, the committees have been continued in existence to provide a

monitoring, reporting and consulting facility. With the disbanding of the Board these committees also will automatically be dissolved. The Board takes this opportunity of recording its indebtedness and that of the country as a whole to these committee members, many of whom took a lead in sponsoring metrication in their own and other sectors. Even though their nominations were rarely on the basis of a predisposition to metric changes, involvement in the work of the committees quickly made them ambassadors for the metric system.

When the Board was established the Government envisaged that the metric change would be substantially complete in about 10 years. This was in fact so but the Board continued to 30 June 1981 (11 years in all) so that its expertise should be available for residual intractable problems and for planning the run-down period.

The position now is that all foreseeable policy decisions and initiatives have been taken by the Board. Inevitably a few cases remain of unresolved problems and of conversion which are still incomplete. In several cases the problems are because of the inability of the relevant industry to reach and implement a consensus on matters which would, in the normal course of

events, lie within the province of the Standards Association of Australia. The incomplete conversions are in cases which from the outset were recognised as requiring a protracted conversion program. Most of these can be expected to proceed to full conversion under their own momentum.

Whether assessed in terms of the completion of the 1 50 sector programs developed, of the identifiable metrication still to be completed or of the overall extent to which metric units are employed in measurements in industry, commerce, education and the media, it is clear that the environment in which we are now living in this country is over 90 per cent metric.

However, it must be conceded that nothing like 90 per cent of the population yet "thinks metric" and until it does the change cannot be regarded as complete. While it is a one-way movement and there is no risk of regression, it will take a couple of generations before metric thinking is universal. This has always been recognised.

The Board's rationale has been that once the formal education of an individual is completed it is only through exposure to metric usage, and not by instruction, that familiarity with it will be acquired. In this regard, and contrary to what is commonly assumed, equivalent statements


in imperial and metric units hinder rather than hasten the acquisition of a familiarity with metric units. It has therefore been the aim of the Board to establish as all-pervasive a metric environment as possible and to depend on this to provide individuals with all the metric "education” they need.

All possible steps have been taken to establish the metric environment through the country; now time must be allowed for it to have its effect in everyday processes, slow though that effect may be. As the incidence of the everyday use of metrics progressively increases — and it is increasing all the time — the pressure on those staying with the obsolescent imperial units is also increasing — particularly for anyone who needs to convey information in its most acceptable form. Nowadays one rarely hears the disclaimer “ I just can't cope with metrics". The tag “ Metric Confusion” , at one time extensively employed by the media on articles or letters critical of metric conversion, is now rarely seen. This reflects the disappearance of the confusion generated by shopkeepers who priced goods per pound when their scales showed the price per kilogram and weighed in grams. The confusion persisted until the weight and measures authorities made metric pricing mandatory.

More generally it has been the Board’s experience that more than 80 per cent of complaints or criticisms coming to the Board's notice throughout its 11 years of operation have related to difficulties or problems encountered during conversion (or non-conversion) to the metric system rather than to the system as such or to its employment after conversion has been effected. Now that conversion is nearly complete it is natural that problems of converting should disappear.

Approaches made to the offices of the MCB and its information centres have fallen to about 100 per week. These are mainly requests for technical information. The ready availability of basic everyday metric information in the capital city telephone directories, provided by courtesy of Telecom, is greatly appreciated by the Board. This doubtless has played a considerable part in the reduction in the number of requests received for such information beyond the rundown to be expected as people learn to live in a metric environment.

The MCB Secretariat has been based in the premises of the National Standards Commission (NSC) since June 1980. After 30 June 1981 most of the staff of this Secretariat will continue at this location, as officers of the Department of Science and Technology, to provide advice and assistance in ongoing metric matters.

Association of the NSC with metrication is very appropriate because of its responsibilities under the Weights and Measures (National Standards) Act. The objects of that Act are "to provide for the establishment and use throughout Australia of uniform units of measurement and uniform standards of measurement of physical quantities". This closely parallels the object of the Metric Conversion Act, “ to bring about progressively the use of the metric system of measurement in Australia as the sole system of measurement of physical quantities".

The final stage of the fulfilment of the object of the Metric Conversion Act will be the withdrawal, at appropriate times, of obsolete non-metric units as Commonwealth legal units of measurement. Legal units are prescribed under the Weights and Measures (National Standards) Regulations and already a considerable number of units, both imperial and non-SI metric units, have been withdrawn on the recommendation of the NSC following initiatives by the MCB. As indicated above some units, such as the inch, can be expected to continue as legal units, at least for prescribed classes of transaction, for some years to come because of their continuing importance in long-term industrial activities.

While the Board has always expected people to gain most of their metric knowledge from the use of the new units in "doing" situations, it has also considered that before it was disbanded a "wind-up" campaign should be conducted to invite the public to obtain information of a general or specific nature while it is still readily available. Such a campaign was supported by the Senate Committee on Science and the Environment in its June 1978 "Report on Annual Reports". A pilot exercise of advertisements on the radio resulted in a substantial number of requests for information. However, as available funds did not permit further advertising of this kind a trial advertisement in a national weekly publication was published.

On the basis of requests for information received the result was disappointing; although it


might also be interpreted as pleasing on the grounds that it indicated that the desire for information evidenced by the earlier pilot exercises had largely been dissipated. In any case the matter was taken out of the hands of the Board by the non-availability of funding for the recommended wind-program.

The near-completion of metrication activities, consequent on the fulfilment of most of the conversion programs, has meant that while the Board has met four times to exercise general oversight of ongoing activities and to plan for the transfer of its residual responsibilities there have been only a couple of areas (plastic piping and the advertising of real estate) for which it

has seemed appropriate to convene panel meetings of leaders in the relevant field. In most other cases it has been sufficient to communicate with representative interests directly, by personal discussion, telephone or correspondence. Such approaches usually result in the speedy resolution of the issue because the need to metricate has already been recognised

by the party concerned, who needs only an inquiry or an offer of assistance to trigger the change. As this will be the last annual report made by the Metric Conversion Board this review of the year's metrication activities has been extended to include an assessment of the status of

metric usage in each of the areas of concern of the Board's eleven Advisory Committees. These are detailed in the sections which follow. It is envisaged that, independently of this report, a more comprehensive overview of the whole operation will be published.

This would describe: — the circumstances which led to the Government's decision in 1970 that Australia should become a metric country; — the basis on which the planning and implementation of the change were effected; and

— the history of the conversion operation both as a whole and sector by sector. Such an overview is seen not only as providing a historically valuable summary, collation and analysis of Australia’s metrication but also as furnishing useful source material for other countries less advanced than us in implementing their decisions to go metric and for the study of “ comparative metrication".

The MCB has continued to act as a focus for inquiries regarding Australia's metric conversion; the rationale of the operation, the progress made, the difficulties encountered and the successes achieved. An active exchange of information by correspondence, telephone, cable and personal visits

still continues with a number of metricating countries, usually relating to a particular issue concerning the other country. Although it is no longer possible for Australia to provide ready examples of conversion activities, visitors from such countries as U.K... USA and Canada find much to interest and

reassure them in the evidence of the completed change (e.g. for goods weighed or measured in the presence of the customer) with which they find themselves surrounded.

Conversion rationale and lessons learned In surveying the progress with our metrication from being a country which exhibited only isolated instances of metric usage in 1970, such as in Olympic sporting events and the size of photographic films, to a country which is over 90 per cent metricated in 1981. it is instructive to identify the key elements in the rationale adopted and the main lessons learned.

This was attempted in the 8th Annual Report (para 2.1 page 8) but has been revised in the light of three years further experience with the change. The key elements were: — unequivocal commitment to Australia’s conversion by Federal and State Governments; — the Federal Government's decision was based on an all-party unanimous recommendation

following a detailed inquiry by a Select Committee of the Senate, thereby providing the answer to the inevitable query “Why was the matter not put to a referendum?" and allowing the Board to get on with planning and facilitating the change without having to defend the Government's decision; — the change was treated as primarily a technical one (which it is) and was almost wholly free

from political disputation;


— general support for the decision by industry, commerce, organised labour, professional and trade associations and local governments; — general acceptance that 10 years was an appropriate conversion period; — an explicit statement in the Metric Conversion Act that the object of the change is

ultimately to convert wholly to metric units, as is necessary if the full benefits of the simplicity and coherence of the modern metric system (SI) are to accrue; — the development of conversion plans for each sector of activity identified as in need of such a plan —

• by appointing an MCB Sector Committee of national leaders nominated by the relevant organisations and drawn from all over Australia, • by encouraging each Sector Committee to develop a draft program by consensus on the basis, hopefully, of optimising the change and ensuring it has associated with it the

available benefits such as rationalisations and other economies, • by critical assessment of proposed conversion plans by as many as possible of those likely to be directly or indirectly affected by them, • by reviewing all comments and giving wide publicity to the agreed plan and, if considered

appropriate, by including the plan in a brochure which provides other relevant conversion details;

— support for the voluntarily agreed plans in all possible ways, including mandatory provisions where appropriate through the amendment of legislation, technical standards and codes of practice and the commitment of large organizations to act as “front runners’" in the implementation of conversion programs; — the Board’s committees were advised and serviced by a very competent and dedicated

technical secretariat whose responsibilities included the dissemination of information, monitoring the implementation of progress and early identification and research into potential problem areas; — in the belief that a knowledge of metrics would only come to the public through the experience of using or being exposed to the metric system and that the offer of instruction in the system or an attempt to provide such instruction through paid advertising would be largely wasted, the Board’s aim was to establish metric manifestations wherever possible and in association with these to provide assistance with their assimilation; — learning by experience is hindered rather than helped by the use of equivalent metric — imperial quantity statements and accordingly dual statements were restricted to “ need to know’’ situations; and — effective communication is critical if fear of the unknown is to be allayed and intelligent cooperation obtained in the implementation of conversion plans. Some of the lessons learned in giving effect to the above principles were: — consensus planning presupposes effective and continuing representation of all significant

interests. The enthusiasm engendered by involvement in metrication made this possible and resulted in very few indeed of the thousands of conclusions reached by the Board's committees without vote, being challenged or upset; — a sector program which has the support of national leaders will generally be accepted by

their peers and will usually be implemented with goodwill in the spirit in which it was developed and so needs only to be in general terms with sufficient flexibility to take care of unforeseen contingencies; — because a sector conversion usually occurs over an extended period, with some changing early and some late, the need for careful co-ordination of plans between related sectors is usually minimal so that planning for simultaneous conversions is unlikely to cause problems; — early conversion of technical standards, i.e. before the event, although contrary to the usual practice in developing a standard, was a most important element in many conversions; — target dates (“ M days” ) for a key element of a conversion program helped to marshal and co-ordinate support for the implementation of that program; — the optimum change was usually a quick one; — changes should not be made the occasion to increase price rates or to make the relevant conditions more severe;


— while the concept of a wholly voluntary change may appear attractive, in a fiercely competitive situation this will engender confusion and disadvantage both to traders and customers by prolonging unduly the period during which imperial and metric units are used. In such cases a mandatory change, after suitable preparation, resulted in orderly trading

almost overnight to the satisfaction of all; — resistance to the metric change is mostly due to fear of the unknown. Few realised it could be a simple, non-traumatic experience so that, with the general public, support for the change can only be expected after it has been experienced, as was the case with the

adoption of decimal currency; — clear guidance should be available at short notice if a problem arises in program implementation. As far as possible fruitless disputation on trivial issues should be avoided; — costs did not prove to be a significant factor in the implementation of conversion programs.

Very rarely did they even receive mention, indeed reports of ongoing savings have outnumbered reports of costs; — it is important to maintain the momentum of the change, which required that planned changes be not impeded unnecessarily by delays in amending the relevant regulatory

provisions, codes of practice etc., as happened in some cases; — opposition to the change, often on spurious grounds, must be expected and, if answered by a soundly based response of patent credibility, can often serve the useful purpose of calling attention to the planned changes. The Board, its political masters and its “ family” of

committee members must be resolute in the face of such ill-founded opposition; — familiarity with metric manifestations, such as metres for sporting events, kilograms for packaged goods and litres for petrol, does not help greatly with the application of the same units to other circumstances, such as metres for carpets, kilograms for potatoes or litres for

weedicides; — the ability to “ think metric" generally only develops slowly, even though the individual may be thinking in metric units at his work. Our wholly metric education system will doubtless be the principal factor in effecting this;

— the “ tail” of conversion is inevitably a long one and will consist in the main of conversions which are “ difficult”, some because of their long time scale, others because they lack specific motiviation and yet others because they represent islands of resistance to the change or those who through apathy have previously ignored it. Even after the need for a

formal Board has ceased the need for guidance and assistance and the authoritative rebuttal of misconceptions and misstatements will continue, requiring continuing service by metrication experts. The Board itself should not be disbanded until its task is effectively

completed; — the Report to the Senate Select Committee on the metric System of Weights and Measures (Parliamentary Paper No 19, 1968) provided in effect a blueprint for Australia’s metrication which was based on the evidence given to that Committee and its deliberation.

The guidelines for the change as there outlined, although in no way binding, have been found to be appropriate in almost all cases and have been followed quite closely.

World metrication In its metrication Australia had the benefit of observing the initiative taken by other countries which embarked on the change from imperial to metric units before us e.g. India (1956), UK (1965), South Africa (1967).

At about the same time as our decision was announced New Zealand and Canada followed suit. Subsequently many other member nations of the British Commonwealth, which had traditionally used imperial units, joined the “ metrication club” . These included Fiji, Hong

Kong, Papua New Guinea, Malaysia, Singapore and Trinidad and Tabago. In 1975 USA enacted legislation which declared it a national policy to co-ordinate the increasing use of the metric system. The US Metric Board was appointed in 1978. While all countries will differ in the demands to be satisfied and the optimum manner for making the change, all have a good deal in common in respect of what needs to be done and

how it may best be approached. It is not surprising therefore that the authorities charged with

1 1

planning and facilitating the change in one country should wish to exchange views and experiences with those with similar responsibilities in other countries. Because Australia has been ahead of most other imperial countries in its change to the metric system and because its approach has tended to be middle of the road — its conversion

programs developed voluntarily but their implementation supported by mandatory require­ ments as appropriate — our experiences have been of particular interest to many other countries. Over the years we have visited 16 metricating countries for discussions, participated in 11 international metrication conferences and been visited by over 100 individuals from 21 countries wishing to study our metrication activities. Our correspondence with other countries continues to be both voluminous and demanding.

We have greatly appreciated the lessons we were able to learn from other countries with similar problems to ours — both lessons of what to do and what not to do — and believe we have been able to benefit others in like manner. The best time to visit us is now past, because our change is so far advanced that examples of ongoing metrication are rare. Soon we will be in a like situation to that we found when we visited India and Japan in 1970 where the change had already been effectively complete for some years. Many of those who had been most actively involved in it had already retired and the recollections of the remainder were less sharp than we would have wished.

From the information and queries received from other countries it is clear that world metrication is still proceeding with vigour. No country has regressed though some are proceeding more slowly than would seem to be optimum. It is pleasing to record that two countries with whose change we have been actively involved, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, are now metric countries, as also are South Africa and New Zealand with whose conversions we have kept closely in touch.

Many other countries, including Ghana, Guyana, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore are approaching completion of their change. In Canada there was something of a hiatus in the most visible aspect of conversion — weighing in the presence of the customer — but it has now been announced that this program will commence across the country in January 1982. Already, because so many goods are packaged, nearly 80 per cent of the products sold in the food stores are in metric units. Petrol is sold by the litre, speed limits and car speedometers are in kilometres per hour and temperatures are in Celsius degrees. Chemical products are 85 per cent metric and building is advanced to the stage that in metropolitan Toronto it is already 75 per cent metric. The very extensive planning which has been undertaken under the Canadian Metric Commission is now being implemented in almost all sectors as active change so that currently their metrication activity is probably at or near its peak.

In the United Kingdom the position is much as it was described in the report for 1979-80: the change has been extensively adopted in the manufacturing industries in the schools and other teaching institutions and in retail trading, where most packaged goods are in metric sizes or carry metric quantity markings. However, metrication of the ticketing and selling of goods weighed or measured in the presence of the customer and of goods described by measurement has been left as a voluntary decision of the individual shopkeepers. While the trade organisations have expressed a desire to see the change completed quickly they recognise that any program they develop for this would only result in the confused shopping situation of some metric and some imperial which we suffered in Australia until solely metric trading is made mandatory.

The need to trade with EEC and other countries in metric units and the recognition that under an EEC directive UK will ultimately have to discontinue the use of imperial units for shopping and other economic purposes, will inevitably lead to the ultimate completion of the UK metric change, but this seems likely to take a long time and to result in a very confused trading situation unless the traders and consumers are able to convince the government that it is in everyone's interests to bring the metric change, already within sight of completion, to fruition.

In USA conversion continues to make progress, particularly in education and industry. In California, for instance, the State Board of Education has recently directed that the Department ofEducation establish a plan for teaching the metric system as the primary system


of measurement. Industrial giants like General Motors and the Caterpillar Tractor Company are nearing the completion of their change and each has announced substantial savings ($1 million per year for Caterpillar) associated with the change. By the end of 1980 over 250 000 pumps were measuring the fuel dispensed by them in litres rather than gallons and since January 1980 all the wines and spirits bottled have been required to be in standard metric sizes.

It is interesting to find that the US United Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Association has recognised that metrication will provide a unique opportunity to rationalise the 500 different sizes and types of vegetable shipping packages in use, just as did the Australia's vegetable growers in 1976.

There are three national organisations concerned with supporting the change to the metric system in USA: the US Metric Association (USMA) which was formed in 1917 but has been operating with increased vigour in the last few years; the American National Metric Council (ANMC), established by the American National Standards Institute in 1974; and the US

Metric Board (USMB) a Federal instrumentality appointed in 1976. The MCB has been in close touch with all three of these bodies and it is clear that each is playing a very significant role in the march towards a metric USA. The USMA is particularly concerned with education in the metric system and providing a service for advice, assistance and proselytization on metric matters. In the last year both the

President and the President Emeritus have visited Australia and had extensive discussions on metric matters. Planning for metrication in the private sector is largely under the auspices of the ANMC through an extensive committee structure. There are over 30 active commmittees with a total

membership in excess of 1200. Of these committees 23 are in the planning stage for conversion in their sectors and three are reported to have arrived at or be close to a consensus on their plans. Some of the sectors reporting substantial progress are those concerned with metals, petroleum and natural gas, forestry and timber products, aerospace, electrical goods,

surveying, real estate and engineering education. Those at or near consensus are concerned with instrumentation, chemicals and allied products and the construction industries. At the 7th Annual Conference of the ANMC, held in April 1981, the theme was "Developing America's New Metric Capability". President Reagan in sending his best wishes

for a successful and productive conference recognised that metric usage can help expand export opportunities and that many industries have already converted. '"As others follow", he wrote, “ they will look to private organisations such as the American National Metric Council for assistance and support".

The USMB plays important roles in assessing conversion plans in the private sector, in co-ordinating the work of the State Metrication Committees, many of which are themselves very active in local metrication matters, and also in facilitating and do-ordinating the work of other government agencies. A consumer program involving the assessment of consumer needs

relative to metric conversion, the review of conversion plans, the development of consumer projects and surveys and liaison with the metric co-ordinators of the 400 major consumer organisations in the country was announced in January 1981. All three of these bodies and the innumerable independent metric committees associated

with government instrumentalities, industry, commerce etc. are helping to carry USA forward, even if it is less rapidly than they would wish, into the metric world. In the face of the evidence of active concern with metrication throughout USA the claim sometimes head that "USA has rejected the metric system" is patently untrue.

In the international sphere the new approach to a single language of measurement — SI — is bearing fruit in the rapidly expanding array of technical standards written in SI. Organisations such as the International Organization for Standardisation (ISO), the International Electro­ technical Committee (CEI) and the International Organization for Legal Metrology (OIML)

now prepare their standards and recommendations using only IS units; the inch-pound system is ignored. This is of very great technological significance. Thus previously there were many different metric technical standards for screw threads for fasteners as there were inch based ones. Now international standards have been agreed which will replace all of the old metric and

imperial standards except for a few used for special purposes or to meet unusual criteria. As country after country brings the metric system into greater use. so the strength of international standardisation continues to increase, with benefit to all.


2.2 Education One of the Board’s earliest decisions was that every effort should be made to ensure that everybody leaving a teaching establishment would have a working knowledge of SI, the system of measurement which they would be using for most, if not all, of their working lives. To do this required that the change to instruction in metric units be made more or less at the same time at all levels of tuition, and this is what was done.

By the end of 1974 all school primary and secondary curricula had been altered to the sole use of metric units. Some tertiary education courses took a little longer, partly because of the need to prepare or obtain new course material. Thanks to the co-operation of Departments of Education and of Technical Education, of the other instructional establishments and of the teaching staffs, the change was effected quickly and without trauma, although it subsequently became necessary to make it clear that the metric system to be taught was the modern International System of Units ( SI) not the old, outmoded, cgs or MKS systems teachers had themselves learned at school.

Since 1974 the MCB has provided assistance to special groups such as the blind and those in remote areas (the “ School of the Air” ) and in particular fields such as the paramedical sector, but in general the change has been well implemented with little need for help from the Board.

Throughout this year it has become increasingly obvious that the principal areas of non­ conversion are among craftsmen and semi-skilled tradesmen who have neither the time nor the expertise as individuals to analyse and solve the problems of metric conversion in their trades and who are not sufficiently under the influence of professional associations, large companies or educational institutions to see metrication as essential to them.

In many instances these people are continuing to work in imperial units, and where a metric output is required they simply apply a conversion factor at the end. This problem would be met, at least in part, if a leaflet containing practical details of procedures, formulae and rules of thumb in metric form ready for immediate use by the operative were provided for each of these areas of non-conversion. This is not an impossibly large task and work is currently in progress to identify these crafts and to obtain details of imperial routines with a view to adapting these to metric.

Since the inception of metrication it has been apparent that the built-in compatibility between individual units, or coherence as it is usually called, may offer special advantages, over and above its value as a measurement system, in the teaching of scientific concepts on physics. Considerable work has been completed towards developing the use of SI as a teaching aid in physics and steps are being taken to evaluate these procedures internationally before injecting them into Australian curricula.

2.3 Primary Industry The bulk of the conversion in the various sectors of primary industry was completed by 1977 and none of the 13 Sector Committees which reported to the Primary Industry Advisory

Committee has had cause to meet since then. Some of the earliest of the metric changes were made in these sectors; (wool 1971, grain, eggs 1972, sugar, cotton, poultry 1973), and the smooth way in which they took effect set a pattern for many other changes. The early changes reflected their advantage of not requiring extensive preplanning as they comprised little more than agreement to an "M -day" and ensuring that all those concerned were made aware of the impeding change and its implications.

Probably the two most important factors in bringing about conversion-in-depth in the rural sector were the Australian Bureau of Statistics requirement that all farm statistics be supplied in metric and the packaging of farm chemicals with directions for use in metric only. Despite this, however, imperial measurements still remain part of the farmer's vocabulary and conversion back to some imperial units will be practised for many years to come.

Although officially all primary production and most products for farm use are now metric there remain a few cases where conversion is not yet complete. Articles in most farming journals and newspapers and agricultural extension leaflets are almost totally metric. However some farm machinery, particularly equipment which has not changed or for which new models have not yet been produced, is still advertised in imperial or dual units although the use of metric advertising in agricultural journals and newspapers is quite


considerable. The change from horsepower to kilowatts in farm tractors is occurring satisfactorily but the trend is slower than occurred with motor vehicles. Of products for farm use some polyethylene pipes are still being produced in the old imperial sizes. It is hoped the manufacturing industry in conjunction with the SAA will soon resolve this

anomalous position. Because of the influence of Britain and America, whilst the Australian meat market is emphatically metric, prices quoted in the World Meat Futures market continue on a per pound basis and exports to the US are also packaged and priced in imperial units.

2.4 Consumer Goods During the last year the metrication of goods weighed or measured in the presence of the customer has been completed. The use of metric units for goods described by measure is increasing rapidly, due to the decision to use sole metric descriptions by many of Australia’s major retailers.

Goods weighed or measured in the presence o f the customer The weights and measures legislation in most of the States now requires metric pricing. In summary the present position is as follows: • the recommended practice of allowing only a price per kilogram or per tonne for goods

weighed in the presence of the customer applies throughout NSW. NT, WA and Vic; • in A.C.T. the imperial price is allowed but must not be shown more prominently than the price per kilogram; • imperial pricing is not allowed in the remaining States; and

• in SA, Qld, and Tas., retailers are allowed to price goods in metric units other than the kilogram, but the kilogram price must be at least equally prominently displayed. The requirement that the price per kilogram be shown removes the difficulty faced by shoppers trying to assess the relative value between three shops selling the same goods; for example one greengrocer selling mushrooms at $2.29 a pound, another at $1.29 per 250 g and a third at $4.49 per kilogram.

The value to the consumer of this type of legislative assistance has not always been understood, but it was urged by many retailers and retail traders' association for a considerable time prior to its introduction. The conversion of retail scales, begun in 1973, is now complete throughout Australia; many retailers took advantage of the changeover to introduce new digital

scales which compute prices more accurately and reduced the time spent on each weighing operation. For goods measured in the presence of the customer, by volume, length and area, legislation has eliminated pricing in terms of both imperial and metric units in all States and Territories,

with the exception of A.C.T. where a revised ordinance is in preparation. The swift acceptance of price per metre for fabrics following an "'M-Day‘" agreed by retail trade associations in 1974 was most gratifying, particularly since in this case the consumers concerned were predominantly housewives, the section of the community that metric

conversion’s critics maintain are the least capable of using the system. There is still some reluctance on the part of the home handyman (as opposed to the tradesman) to accept metric measures for timber; this is understandable when the infrequent need to buy this commodity is considered.

The Metric Conversion Board has concluded that its early premise, that the best way to get used to the metric system is to actually use it, is correct. The proof is clearly demonstrated in the degree of familiarity with Celsius temperatures evident in the conversation of the Australian public. Only when the temperature approaches 38 C is any reference made to

Fahrenheit because of the association of 100 F with heatwave conditions.

Packaged Goods The Packaged Goods Sector Committee was one of the first committees to see the disadvantage of dual marking. It was recognised that putting both metric and imperial measures on packaged goods was. if anything, a deterrent to the acceptance of metric sizes (1 lb of butter obviously looked a better size than 454 g), but a period of transition was necessary to allow

various industries to change to metric packs as efficiently and as economically as possible. This


was done by giving a long lead-in time before the date after which imperial markings would no longer be permitted. The changeover took four years and was planned and co-ordinated by the Packaged Goods Sector Committee and the Standing Committee on Packaging; this latter body is made up of

representatives of States and Territories and the Bureau of Customs, with a Chairman and Secretary from the National Standards Commission. The definitive document on packaged goods previously known as “ Metric Conversion and the Quantity Marking and Standardisation of Packaged Goods” adopted as a statement of principles by the Standing Committee on Packaging has been published as Issues Nos. 1 to 5. In Issue No 6, about to be published, the title has been changed to "The Quantity Marking and Standardisation of Packaged Goods”, signifying the successful completion of the metric conversion stage. While dual marking is still allowed, most consumer goods manufactured in Australia now have sole metric markings. A metric statement is added to imported goods if they are not so marked. Standard metric sizes are required to most commonly used commodities. The requirements of Issue No 6 should be adequate for the packaging of consumer goods in a wholly metric environment.

The basis for this change is given in the table on page 17.

Goods described by measurement Because there is no legislative control, either State or Federal, of goods described by measurement the descriptions of such goods are less uniform than the descriptions of, for instance, the quantities in packaged goods.

The sale of clothing described by measure has been achieved because the clothing industry has accepted the standards for metric coding and labelling developed by the Standards Association of Australia. This, together with a requirement of the major retailers that manufacturers and wholesalers supply such items marked in sole metric measurements, has resulted in a situation where most clothing is now labelled in metric units.

The standards themselves are under constant review and this year has seen the re-issue of the Size Coding Scheme for Women's Clothing. Other items which are affected by Australian Standards in the consumer area are carpets, hosiery, cooking utensils, garbage cans, bicycles, slide fasteners, metric measuring cups and spoons and standard litre measures for domestic purposes. These standards, while not being directly concerned with measurement, provide the basis for the correct metric descriptions in sales literature.

The decision of major retailers to describe goods solely in metric units was made at meetings convened by the MCB and held in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide. In all cases, the decision affecting goods such as furniture, bedding, manchester and travel goods, was implemented very quickly, indicating the desire of retailers to eliminate the lack of uniformity in descriptions of these goods. There is little possibility of complete uniformity occurring without legislation, but this is outside the purview of the weights and measures authorities. It is clear however that the full benefits of uniform descriptions (in metric units) would only become available if such descriptions were made mandatory.

Clothing and Footwear As described earlier, the acceptance by industry of the SA A recommendations on size coding for clothing has assisted the adoption of metric sizes in the market place. There are still some areas of dissatisfaction, particularly men's clothing, but the problems are frequently due to the difficulty of reconciling existing Australian standards to standards issued by the International

Standardization Organisation (ISO). The latter are often very long in preparation even though there is an urgent need, as is the case with footwear. The Metric Conversion Board expressed an interest in the adoption of Mondopoint in the 1970-71 Annual Report. A firm decision on both dimensions for Mondopoint sizing by the ISO would benefit both local manufacturers and importers of footwear, and abolish confusion among consumers.

Bread The Bread and Pastry Sector Committee's recommended sizes, adopted in 1972, have proved to be acceptable to the industry. The period of grace allowed for the attrition of imperially


PACKAGED GOODS Uniform Model Weights and Measures (Prepacked Articles) Regulations 1977, amended 1978 under the Uniform Model Weights and Measures Act.

General All States and Territories have laws which require that: (a) all packaged goods must be marked to indicate the quantity of contents; and (b) “ standardised” goods must be packed only in prescribed quantities.

“ Prescribed items” provisions

The intent of these laws is, in effect, uniform throughout Australia. This has been achieved through the Standing Committee on Packaging (SC) on which all State weights and measures authorities are represented. A detailed conversion program was developed by the Packaged Goods Sector Com­ mittee of the Metric Conversion Board in conjunction with SCP and comprised three phases as follows: (i) Before 1972-01-01 all products were required to carry an imperial

statement of quantity but additional metric markings were permitted. (ii) Between 1972-01-01 and 1976-01-01 packaged goods could be marked in any of the following ways: solely metric; metric with additional imperial; sole imperial; or imperial with additional metric. (iii) After 1976-01 -01 solely imperial markings were no longer permitted.

Packaged goods including food, must carry a statement of quantity expressed in metric units. They may, however, carry an additional statement showing the equivalent in terms of the imperial or other system. This applies to both

locally produced and imported goods. Where an article is standardised then it must be packed in one of the prescribed metric rounded sizes.

For non-standardised products, a list of preferred metric sizes was developed and manufacturers were encouraged to pack their products in these sizes from 1972-01-01 onwards. SCP expected all products to be in these sizes by 1978-01 -01 unless a special dispensation was granted. This was generally

achieved although longer conversion periods were permitted for some products. There are special provisions for goods packed in rigid containers, so as to minimise the number of different container sizes used. (The rationalisa­ tion of sizes achieved is considerable — a 3:1 reduction in the variety of can sizes.) Provided containes of defined capacity (and dimensions in the case of

cans) are used, goods may be packed by mass in non-recommended quantities. In such cases a volume statement is also required on the rigid container, unless the mass packed is a prescribed (rounded metric) one.

Generally ISO can sizes have been adopted.

Random weight provisions

Random weight packs of certain prescribed goods (e.g. cheese, smallgoods (bacon, ham, etc.), fish, fresh vegetables*, meat) require a quantity statement, a price per kilogram and a pack price. Where the random weight is a prescribed rounded quantity (e.g. 500 g), it is exempted from the requirement

to state the price per kilogram. *except in one case

embossed bread tins was found to be more than adequate and bread products were substantially metric by 1974.

Knitting needles and crochet hooks The method of metric marking adopted by the British manufacturers is still far from ideal, but the use of vulgar fractions (of millimetres) appears to have been discontinued. It is to be hoped that ISO will eventually produce a standard which will replace the British size code and the several US size codes at present in use.

Domestic measuring equipment In keeping with the use of metric units in most domestic situations, including household goods, dressmaking patterns, cooking recipes and the formula for baby's milk, most of the household


measuring appliances sold are now solely metric. These include babies’ feeding bottles, bathroom scales, dressmakers' cutting boards and fabric tape measures. For all of these measuring devices the local manufacturers have voluntarily restricted their production to items graduated solely in metric units, in parallel with a similar restriction on the importation of other than solely metrically graduated measuring devices.

An exception has been made in the case of kitchen scales and measures, which may be graduated in both metric and imperial units to take account of those old and tried recipes written in imperial units. Feeding bottles graduated only in millilitres reflect the concern of several of the State Directors of Maternal and Child Welfare that a misreading of fluid ounces as millilitres could result in a seriously incorrect formulation of the baby’s milk. All the relevant tables relating to baby mass, to the mass or volume of milk powder and the volume of added water use only metric units, as do the records kept by hospitals and baby health centres.,

2.5 Engineering Industry Conversion of the engineering industry has continued, without evident problems, in accordance with existing programs. The rate of conversion in the various areas of engineering has been necessarily uneven,

being in some cases wholly subject to design and production control within Australia whilst others are partially or wholly dependent upon decisions made overseas. Thus changes in units used in flying by civil aircraft must await the production of a new generation of commercial aircraft, principally obtained from USA, as a change in instrumentation and spares would clearly be impractical and unnecessarily costly to achieve.

Many engineering industries have likewise been engaged in the production of spares and components for equipment built to imperial specification in other countries and it is essential that these be compatible with the equipment as it exists. Again many engineering firms are engaged in jobbing, fabrication of replacement parts and maintenance of existing long-life imperial equipment which it would be uneconomic or impracticable to modify or scrap.

In some instances conversion is dependent on the need to redesign and produce a new model whilst the present one is neither inadequate nor obsolete and production plant is not yet due for refurbishing. This is not necessarily a bad thing and can usually be got over by soft conversion but where the product does not have a dimensionally described name even soft conversion is unnecessary and conversion should await the design of a new model.

The above broad categories of engineering have been made additionally conspicuous by their need for continued availability of imperial measuring instruments, and to facilitate their continued operation the Board has ensured that no person or organisation which reasonably requires non-metric measuring instruments for the conduct of their business has been prevented from obtaining them through the application of the Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations.

Although at this stage a relatively large proportion of the engineering industry has still not completed its change, the Board is confident that as the occasion arises these companies will adopt metric designs and practices. Where such companies are prevented from early conversion employee and tradesmen training is also necessarily retarded. In fact, several requests have been received from large companies and particular specialists for reverse training of apprentices who now know only metric. Total retraining in the use of imperial measurements has not been necessary and the degree of retraining required is usually no more than the ability to read in sixty-fourths and thousandths of an inch. Where an organisation is large enough to have or to have had a metrication officer metrication patterns have already been established and the final metrication of these companies is not in doubt.

The area of job training where the greatest difficulty exists is that of the small servicing and repair business, such as refrigeration, air-conditioning and hydraulics, operated by a self- employed craftsman with perhaps one or two helpers, who is insufficiently trained to analyse and solve the problems of conversion or is too hard pressed to find the time to do it. In the short term, conversion of these businesses may depend on a responsible body collecting, converting and issuing to the trade a set of metric practices and rules of thumb to replace those in imperial units hitherto used in these trades and crafts. Inevitably the flow of metrically trained


apprentices and the increasing proportion of metric installations will eventually win the day. Not surprisingly a number of the trade journals reflect this duality of measurement language. Additionally many, referring to equipment produced in Germany and Japan in particular, even use the non-SI technical metric units, which still find some use in these countries.

There is no evidence of a deep-seated resentment to metric conversion in any segment of the industry and it is confidently expected that the whole industry will progress toward total metrication. In regard to engineering components the production and use of metric fasteners is steadily increasing and is now over 50 per cent of industrial use. Off-the-shelf availability of metric fasteners in retail hardware stores is still unsatisfactory and will only improve as metric fasteners are predominantly used by industry and supplies spill over into retail usage.

A decision was made this year to publicise and support the metric nominal size terminology for metal pipes contained in the Australian standard for these products. The MCB does not normally enter a field which is the prerogative of the Standards Association of Australia but has done so on this occasion to overcome a stalemate in the conversion of plumbing and of the plumbing supply industry arising from an apparently irreconcilable divergence of views on this subject in the industry.

2.6 Building and Construction Apart from major commercial projects carried forward from pre-metric days the building industry has been fully converted since January 1976 by which time the submission for approval of plans and specification in metric had become mandatory in all States.

Although some people in the industry may still refer to a piece of 75mm x 50mm timber as "3 x 2" there is no evidence of dissatisfaction with metric measurement or of reversion to imperial ones. Editorially the trade journals use metric almost exclusively but advertisements for earth

moving equipment manufactured in USA often give the specifications in imperial or dual measurements. Because of the existence of imperial building regulations in each State at the time of conversion the amendment of these regulations has served to give metrication the force of law. but most significantly, it obviated any uncertainty or ambiguity within the industry about the change so that even the smallest building firms were involved in the change.

Ancillary services such as plumbing, heating and air-conditioning, however, being predominantly in the hands of relatively small companies which had neither the time, the expertise nor the compulsion to convert, have remained outwardly imperial even though most products and components used by them are metric.

On the merchandising side advertisements and sales brochures for project homes are all in metric measurements although a small number of firms appear to consider dual dimensioning desirable.

2.7 Industrial Materials “ Industrial materials” covers a very wide range of materials and products, including timber, paper, leather, flat glass, bricks and tiles, rubber, agricultural and veterinary chemicals, plastics and petroleum derivatives and rope and cordage.

In almost all cases the metric programs developed voluntarily by the committees of national experts were implemented without substantial modification. This was greatly helped by the leadership of the committee members in implementing the programs in their own industries. Once a conversion program was put into effect it was seldom necessary to reconvene the relevant Sector Committee.

In a few cases unforseen difficulties in fully implementing the conversion program occurred. One of those, still unresolved, relates to the adoption of a single standard for the manufacture of black polyethylene pipe for agricultural use (refer para 2.4). Whilst the use of polyethylene pipe for domestic cold water supply in accordance with the Australian metric standard is now well established, a section of the manufacturing industry which supplies principally to the

agricultural market has continued to produce inch sizes without the benefit of a standard. In July 1980 the MCB convened a widely representative meeting of manufacturers and users in the hope that the industry would resolve this confused and inefficient situation.


Although the meeting accepted in principal the desirability of all pipes being manufactured to an Australian standard the meeting could not reach a consensus on what suqh a standard should provide. Rather than see a highly competitive industry denied the protection of a standard, the MCB has proposed that a selection of the old (imperial) sizes in the discontinued standard be soft converted and incorporated in existing metric standards.

Agreement of the industry to this proposition has not yet been indicated.

2.8 Science and Technology

Units The NSW legislation associated with the safety of radioactive substances and the use of irradiating apparatus now requires the use of SI units in respect of the activity of radioactive sources (becquerel), exposure to ionising radiation (coulomb perkilogram), absorbed dose (gray) and dose equivalent (sievert). Other States have indicated they expect also to make this change shoYtly. The requirements for the marking of radiopharmaceutical preparations have also been amended to require activities to be shown in becquerels, although the old non-SI unit (curie) may additionally be used for an interim period of two or three years.

Unfortunately sole use of SI units is not yet permitted by the international (IATA) regulations relating to the labelling of radioactive goods transported by air and local air transport regulations which are based on IATA similarly require old metric units to be shown. The dietary foods industry has not yet accepted the idea of promoting “ low calorie” foods as “ low energy” foods as they should more properly be described although the somewhat clumsy expression “ low kilojoule” is starting to appear. The expression of energy values in kilojoules is now fairly extensive.

In stressing the importance in SI of correct spelling and correct pronunciation of unit names and symbols the Board has consistently discouraged the evolution of metric equivalents of the words like mileage, acreage and gallonage. It has promoted the use of standard English words such as distance, distance allowance or fuel consumption for mileage, depending on the meaning intended, and of area and volume in place of acreage and gallonage.

The firm stance adopted by the Board regarding the pronunciation of “ kilometre” recognises that metric unit names are compounds of a base unit name e.g. “ metre” with a greek or latin prefix indicating the size of the multiplier used to form the unit multiple or submultiple e.g. kilo meaning 1000 times. Syllabization into kil/o/met/re, in which the emphasis is distributed as if it were two hyphenated words, “ kilo-metre”, clearly indicates that the user understands how the system works whereas syllabization into kil/om/et/re with emphasis on the second syllable indicates that the user is treating it as a single word and does not understand the metric system. In USA, where the mispronunciation is common, the use of the spelling “ meter” encourages people to see “ kilometer” as analogous to the names of measuring

instruments such as thermometer and odometer which it is not. It is gratifying that many of the matters in dispute in the early days, such as whether “°C" should indicate “ degree Celsius” or (as in U.K.) “ degree centigrade” , whether non- SI technical metric unit “ kilogram-force” (equivalent to "pound-force” in the imperial system) should be adopted in addition to the SI unit of force the newton, and whether the pascal or the bar (100 000 pascals) should be the unit of pressure, are now recognised as having been remnants of earlier metric systems which, if retained, would have detracted from the purity of

SI for no useful purpose. Throughout metrication the Board has recommended that the “thousands marker” between triads of digits, if required, be a thin space rather than a comma. This recommendation is in accordance with the international (ISO) recommendation that the comma be not so used because of the risk of it being confused with the comma decimal marker employed in many countries. The use of the space has met with some resistance from the banking fraternity on the grounds of the possible fraudulent insertion of an extra digit in the space (although this could be

avoided by “ blocking” the figures) and the comma thousands marker still finds extensive use in the media and elsewhere. At one time it was envisaged that the decimal comma would replace the decimal point in Australia. Its use was recommended by the Board and it was adopted by the Standards


i k

Association of Australia and a number of other bodies. If its general use were imminent, clearly it was important that the use of the comma as a thousands marker cease as quickly as possible. However the decimal point now seems likely to persist, at least for some time. A survey of preference conducted by the SAA last year revealed that the decimal point on the line was

almost exclusively preferred to the decimal comma. Under these circumstances while the Board still recommends that the use of the comma as a thousands marker be discontinued there is no longer the same urgency for this to occur.

Non-metric measuring devices Controls under regulation 4L of the Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations to limit the growth in the number of non-essential non-metric measuring devices which could be rendered obsolete as Australia progressed towards total metrication have continued to operate.

On 22 December 1980 regulation 4L was amended to exclude from the controls length measuring instruments having graduation that include 1/64 inch or finer, this being a class of measuring device which previously could only be imported on the establishment on a bona fide need.

Whilst requests for permission to purchase dual or imperial instruments which were deemed essential in the operation or maintenance of existing imperial equipment continued at about two per week the number of requests from people who preferred to work in imperial but for whom imperial measurements were not essential was extremely small.

Although the controls constituted a small, if sometimes irritating element of force to bring about a more rapid transition to metric usage, it was reassuring that the sales of sole metric measuring tapes rapidly returned to normal, or better, following the quite severe drop in sales which occurred during the first year. At least one company found that a positive marketing

approach to selling metric instruments could achieve even more satisfied customers than they had achieved selling dual or imperial. Fear of the unknown which seems to have been the main cause of buyer resistance to metric is quickly dispelled by the simple experience of working in metric and the controls provided the essential incentive to gain that experience.

The legislative control of the importation of non-metric measuring devices has been matched by the voluntary limitation of local manufacture of like products in all but one or two cases. Although the policy of restricting local production to sole metric graduations was initially adopted by some firms with some trepidation, they quickly found the advantage of rationalising their range of products. Many of the manufacturers concerned have indicated that they now support the basis of the import restrictions and voluntary limitations and would be reluctant to revert to the previously existing situation.

2.9 Transport and Communication The only item of significance under this heading is the growth in the use of litres per 100 kilometres (L/100 km) as the nationally accepted metric index for fuel consumption performance for motor vehicles. This is now quoted in advertisements by most vehicle manufacturers either alone or with the traditional miles per gallon figure.

Although the calculation involves dividing volume used by distance travelled rather than distance travelled divided by volume used, neither method is inherently simpler than the other. In electing to use L/100 km rather than km/L the adopted procedure is, in effect, the inverse of the miles per gallon calculation but conforms with the practice more commonly used in metric countries. This method of stating fuel consumption has also been adopted by the Standards

Association of Australia. The use of the kilowatt (kW) as the unit of engine power and the newton metre (N.m) as the unit for engine torque are now well established among motor car enthusiasts. Some imperial road signs and finger posts still exist in remote areas and in one State distance markers in miles have been maintained apparently for use by people still driving

pre-metric motor vehicles.

2.10 Real Estate Throughout 1980-81 the real estate industry has continued to express concern at the advertisement of properties in imperial units (acres, perches, feet etc.) rather than in metric units (hectares, metres). It seems clear that this could only be completely eliminated by


Federal or State legislation to control the units in which real estate may be described. In the absence of such legislation the Board again examined the possibility of enlisting the co-operation of the newspaper and other media in improving the situation. In discussion it was found that the real estate industry was unhappy about the protracted nature of the conversion and at the apparent inability of the Board to provide protection from people gaining an unfair trading advantage from non-conversion.

The Real Estate Institute of NSW strongly supported the concept of a newspaper cut-off for non-metric real estate advertisements and a meeting of newspaper publishers in NSW was held at which agreement was reached to implement such a cut-off from 1 April 1981. At the close of the year under review the level of metric advertising in the NSW papers is very high although, contrary to the agreement, there has been some use of dual units.

Whilst such agreements are essentially fragile it is believed the high level of public knowledge and competence in metric usage presently attained will lead to a much more lasting change than has been achieved on previous attempts. In the long term withdrawal of non-metric units as Commonwealth legal units will be appropriate to reflect, if not enforce, conversion to metric.

2.11 Public Education and Information

The Board’s rationale fo r public education and information The efficiency of the Board's public education and information campaign is reflected in the general status of metrication at the end of this final year of the formal conversion program. While the Board and its various committees wrestled with the mechanics of metrication and, over more than a decade, launched changes affecting almost all day to day activities, the great majority of Australians have maintained an attitude of commendable tolerance and forbearance.

The Board sought to keep the campaign low-key and, for the greater part, it has remained in low profile. It was hoped that older Australians would philosophically accept the inconvenience of having to learn to use metric measurements so that future generations could be spared the difficulties that they had experienced in learning to master the more complex imperial system. By allowing people to absorb metric changes in the market place, one or two at a time, before progressing to the next, they would find that metric units are no more difficult to learn and use than the ones they already know and in many cases are a good deal easier.

The concept was that once a person has had an initial experience in buying or using a metric quantity, followed by one or two repetitions, he or she would almost certainly have acquired sufficient confidence in his or her ability to work directly in metric units to no longer require dual units or conversion back to imperial ones. People would thus, progressively, gain all the experience necessary to survive in a metric environment until very soon they would have sufficient knowledge of the system to establish new measurement benchmarks and even to recount past experiences in metric terms.

For most people the ability now exists to cope with the metric units used in shopping for foodstuffs and petrol, and to a lesser extent for textiles, floor coverings, paints and building materials. Along with the establishment of a solid metric infrastructure, a climate of public receptiveness to the change has been maintained. Crucial changes to traditional practices have been introduced without any major adverse reaction. In all areas where there is no alternative to using metric the change has been accomplished with apparent ease. These represent a large proportion of the measurement-utilising activities in the average person's daily routine.

Undoubtedly, many people have merely learned the appropriate metric terminology to use in these situations and continue instinctively to use imperial terms when there is no pressure to do otherwise. The Board in its planning anticipated that just as many Australians continued to speak in

terms of pounds, shillings and pence for a long time after the change to decimal currency in 1966, it would be some time before they would become accustomed to the multi-faceted change to metric measurements. The continued, extensive use of imperial units conversationally and in “ undisciplined"

measurement applications — many of them around the home where source references are still imperial — is not seen as evidence of obstinacy or rejection of metrication but rather as a


natural human tendency to stick to long-practised habits. Pressure to continue the process of re-programming the human computer to function metrically will continue as opportunities to use imperial diminish and the full impact of metrically educated school leavers is felt in the community.

While it is not necessary for imperially educated Australians to go back to school to learn metric, the repetitive experience of doing things in metric is the most important part of the learning process and fluency in the new system only follows such experience. Thus, as time passes, it is expected that the measurement language used by Australians will increasingly be metric.

Experience in this and other converting countries has shown that there is a real risk of polarising public opinion in the course of a campaign if too much is attempted too quickly. The controlling authority, on the other hand, must exercise some judgment on how long the full benefits of using the new system should be denied to the community and how long the inherent

inconveniences and confusion of the transition period should be tolerated. The Board believes the rate of change has been as close to optimum as it was possible to achieve in a society as complex and industrially developed as Australia.

"Wind-up" campaign Inevitably some people find it more difficult than others to cope with continued demands to change traditional habits and these people tended to be under-serviced with advice and guidance in a campaign which was deliberately “ low-key”.

Research undertaken for the Board in 1976 in which was for then a metrically advanced area (in Adelaide) indicated that while metrics were well established and “ metrication as a specific annoyance affected only a miniscule section of the community in terms of day to day living”, there was a sizeable minority (up to 20 per cent in some cases) who consistently expressed some degree of concern about metrics.

The researchers reported that these people did not constitute a “ solid core” of objectors and the Board adopted their recommendation that a wind-up campaign should be conducted aimed at moderating this concern and helping these people to make the transition to metric. The Board confirmed the desirability of such a campaign in a series of pilot radio

commercials that went to air in selected areas of the eastern States in 1979. However, to the Board's disappointment, funding to extend this nationally, to help provide this desirable bridge from imperial to metric for use by a significant number of Australians, has been denied. Sufficient funds were provided to allow only a limited campaign to be conducted in some of the

areas not covered in the pilot campaign. The Board believes that most of the people who would benefit from assistance are passive rather than negative, and are only waiting for some friendly advice on how to make the change. Many have become frustrated by attempting to use difficult-to-remember conversion factors in the mistaken belief that they are a prerequisite to going metric. In reality, of course, frequent

recourse to factors merely creates an ability to continue living with the imperial system in spite of the change to metric. Factors are only needed when measurement precision is important and when the measurement cannot be made with a metric measuring device. Few of our day to day measurements are made in this way.

The Board regrets the unavailability of funds to complete this final aspect of its public education campaign which would have made it possible to communicate the message to those still experiencing difficulty that there is an easy way and that help is available. Time should eventually take care of this shortcoming. Meanwhile, the metric section of the

Department of Science and Technology at the National Standards Commission and the various industry organisations that have co-operated with the Board over the past 1 1 years in the dissemination of metric information will remain ready and willing to help moderate any

residual metrication problems remaining in the community. Although the Board did not have funds for a national radio campaign, it was able during the year to test response to low budget advertisement in a nationally circulated magazine. Dollar for dollar the response rate was comparable with that achieved from the pilot radio

commercials but the total number of inquiries received was disappointingly low.


Remaining Issues Two main issues remain in public contention as the campaign draws to a close. They are: — whether imperial measurements should be allowed to co-exist with metric indefinitely; and — the restrictions which limited the availability of some non-metric measuring devices to bona

fide uses relating to the maintenance of imperially designed plant and equipment. Public comments in the media on both issues have frequently been misinformed or have misrepresented the true purpose of metrication policies. Anti - metric ationists, having failed in their efforts to stop the introduction of metrics, have demanded that imperial measurements be available to all those who choose to use them. They falsely state that the Board is making criminals of people who merely wish to continue using the measurements they have used throughout their lives.

The Board has no such powers and has never sought them. The Board has worked for as rapid a change to metric as possible consistent with public acceptance of the change. Certainly, with the substitution of metric units for imperial in a variety of Federal, State and Local Government regulatory controls and in many industry codes, practices and products, it has become more difficult — even impossible — for individuals to remain solely imperial. There remains however, ample scope for individuals to exercise their prerogative to use imperial measurements in private pursuits. The current list of ‘Commonwealth legal units’ proclaimed under the Weights and Measures (National Standards) Act guarantees current freedom to use these units except for prescribed trading purposes (under States legislation). Some imperial units will remain legal units for many years to come but, in any case, the statutory requirements relate only to the use of measurements in legally enforceable contracts and transactions.

The second issue is really a recent extension of the first. Import controls and an agreement by local manufacturers to limit the availability of non-metric measuring devices have been misrepresented as a ban or total prohibition. This is not so. The extensive provisions for the continued availability of these devices for bona fide purposes is discussed in Section 2.8.

Public contention centres mainly on the fact that retractable steel tapes available in hardware and other retail stores are now solely metric. The use of these tapes in trades and industry is widely accepted as the most efficient method of measuring and the least prone to error.

The reality of the situation is that virtually all measurements that are made around the home can be made equally well in metric as in imperial units. Local authorities require plans and specifications to be in metric; most materials are measured in metric or sold in metric sizes. For these reasons it is usually easier to measure in metric than to convert to metric from imperial measurements. The disadvantage allegedly suffered by these people in most cases is considerably overstated.

One aspect of this matter which has continued to give the Board some concern is that some imported plans and specifications, manuals, etc. used in hobbies and crafts give detailed instructions in imperial measurements. Repeated recourse to conversion factors can, of course, be onerous and lead to error. The Board has made every effort to encourage conversion of these source references but the flow of this material is likely to continue while countries like the

United States and the United Kingdom still use some imperial measurements. Meanwhile, hobbyists can always obtain, for slightly greater cost than that of the common retractable steel tape, one of the precision engineer’s steel rules which include graduations of 1 /64th in or finer and which are available without restriction.

Advertising and metric description o f goods Metric usage in the media continues at a high level both in editorial and advertising content. Earlier evidence that advertisers were increasingly using metric units in descriptions of goods not covered by mandatory requirements to use metric was confirmed by further significant increase in metric usage in 1980-81. The Board has received many queries from both business people and the public as to why some advertising still carries imperial units, not realising that the Board has no power to mandate metric usage. As stated in an earlier report the Board believes it is an imposition on all those who have co-operated in the change to metric over the years and to the rising generations of Australians who are learning only metric at school not to, at this late stage, require the use of metric measurements in advertised descriptions. Not necessarily metric only, but at least to require that metric be used and that imperial units if


desired can be used alongside them with no greater prominence while it is felt there is a need for them. This was the successful formula that was applied by State authorities for goods weighed or measured for customers in stores.

M CB News Two issues of the Board’s official newsletter, MCB News, were published in 1980-81, the last announcing the Board’s closure and thanking all those who co-operated to make metrication a success.

Publications In the closing stages of metrication demands for MCB information material narrowed down mainly to a range of industrially related publications, the secondary schools pamphlet — “ SI — the International System of Units’’ and a few aids to consumers or for use around the

home. Except for reprints of Metric Measures fo r Mothers which were distributed through State Health Department child and maternal welfare centres and Buying Real Estate the Metric Way, most of the requests were met from existing stocks of publications. Adequate stocks of in demand publications will be available for distribution through the metric section at

the National Standards Commission. Publications issued by the MCB since its inception are listed in Annexure B.


Although metric units had been in extensive use for scientific and technical purposes for many years and in 1947 Australia signed the Treaty of the Metre supporting in principle the use of this system it was not until 1961 that metric units became legal units of measurement in Australia. This followed the adoption in 1960 by the General Conference on Weights and

Measures of the simplified, coherent metric system known as the “ Systeme International d’Units” (SI). In the Regulations made under the Weights and Measures (National Standards) Act 1961 all legal units, including the imperial units based on the pound, yard and gallon, were defined in

terms of SI units. Under State laws, which control the units which may be used for measurements for retail sales, metric units became permissible for pharmaceutical purposes in 1962 and for general trading in 1963.

After conducting an extensive inquiry on the metric system of weights and measures a Select Committee of the Senate unanimously recommended in 1968 that Australia pro­ gressively adopt the modern metric system as its sole system of measurement. The Government (January 1970) announced its intention to implement the recommendation, a proposal which was supported in principle by all States.

In mid-1970 a Metric Conversion Board was established under the Metric Conversion Act to advise and assist the Minister regarding the adoption of the metric system and in particular to help plan, guide and facilitate the change. It was envisaged this would be substantially completed in about ten years.



4.1 The Board and its Committees With the completion or near-completion of conversion to the use of the metric system in a high proportion of the spheres of activity in industry, commerce, education, technology, govern­ ment, sport etc., few sectors requiring further initiatives remain. This has meant that while the Board has met on four occasions in 1980-81 to deal with ongoing activities there has been no call for most of its numerous committees, working parties and panels to meet. They have been continued in existence, nevertheless, as a means of maintaining contact and liaison with the individual members, comprising about 1500 nominees from national associations; professional institutes; organised labour, business and industry, government and semi-government and other interests, who have played such an important role in planning and then implementing this change.

The Board's committee structure as at 30 June 1981 is tabulated in Annexure A. Thereafter, with the completion of the Board’s term of appointment, these committees too will lapse. It is most appropriate therefore to record at this time the very great contribution to the metrication of Australia made by these committees, their individual members and the colleagues and organisations they have been able to carry forward with them.

It was through these committees that the voluntary conversion programs were developed, sector by sector, and through their members that leadership in their implementation was given. Without this the speedy, trouble free and beneficial conversions in most of the sectors would not have occurred.

In planning and monitoring Australia's metrication about 1200 formal meetings were held under the Board’s aegis but the innumerable contacts between these individual committee members and their colleagues and the Board's secretariat have played an even greater part in facilitating the implementation of the committees’ recommendations.

From its establishment the board held in all 79 meetings with an average attendance of the members of 88 per cent. The seven members of the retiring Board represent in all 70 member- years of service on the Board; four of its members including the Chairman, Deputy chairman and Executive Member have served on the Board from its inception.

4.2 Secretariat At 30 June 1981 the Secretariat’s full-time staff numbered seven, of whom two were located in Melbourne and the other 5 in Sydney. In addition the Secretariat had the services of an officer

on secondment from another department and a part-time technical officer. Industry organisations have continued to maintain metric information centres on behalf of the Board in capital cities other than Sydney and Melbourne and the Board gratefully acknowledges the valuable assistance it has, over the years received from these bodies and the dedicated approach of the officers specifically concerned.

Despite the cessation of the Board’s operations on 30 June 1981 it is hoped that most, if not all of these centres will maintain an information service. With the closing of the Melbourne office on 30 June the Department of Science and Technology will provide an Information Section in Melbourne, as it does in Canberra.

The Board is indebted to the National Standards Commission for the accommodation and services provided during the year. With the cessation of the Board it is expected that the residuum of its secretariat will continue to serve the cause of metrication either under the auspices of the Department of Science and Technology or the National Standards Commission at the premises of the Commission at North Ryde, NSW.

The continuing metric information centres are listed in Annexure C. The Board gratefully acknowledges the outstanding and dedicated service of the members of its Secretariat, both past and present, throughout the eleven years of its operation.



Total expenditure for the period 1970-71 to 1980-81 is shown in the table below.

Expenditure (to the nearest $1000)

Salaries etc.

Sitting Fees travelling expns etc.

Public Relations etc.

Admin. Exps.

Incidentals Total

$ $ $ $ $ $

1970-71 ........ . . . 65 000 91 000 — 60 000 50 000 267 000

1971-72 ........ . . . 203 000 248 000 55 000 78 000 4 000 589 000

1972-73 ........ . . . 262 000 203 000 405 000 86 000 5 000 962 000

1973-74 ........ . . . 346 000 157 000 218 000 81 000 26 000* 827 000

1974-75 ....... . . . 407 000 155 000 137 000 84 000 9 000** 792 000

1975-76 358 000 116 000 114 000 44 000 7 000 639 000

1976-77 ....... . . . 346 000 111 000 76 000 31 000 8 000 572 000

1977-78 ....... . . . 261 000 102 000 57 000 25 000 6 000 453 000

1978-79 ........ . . . 152 000 78 000 53 000 24 000 5 000 312 000

1979-80 ....... . . . 146 000 72 000 51 000 21 000 5 000 295 000

1980-81 ....... . . . 127 000 72 000 33 000 13 000 2 000 247 000

5 955 000

* Includes $21 000 residue of establishment expenses incurred in 1970-71 **Includes $5 000 as Australia’s contribution to North American-Australian Metric Conference.


Annexure A

_ Land, Fuel |

Transport and Power and Health and

Communications Public Services Recreation

Panels and Working Parties Tourism

Body Fluid Pressures

Underwater Diving

Public Relations


Chairman: J. H. Watson





A. F. A. Harper J. D. Norgard

s J o r Sector

Motion Committees Committees Picture

Petroleum Medical Broadcasting

Electricity Generation and

Pharmaceutical Recreation Advertising

Distribution Professional

Gas Production Sport Amateur

Sewerage Sport

Land and Safety

Surveying Youth

Public Administration Activities Panels and

Working Parties Units for Ionising

Panels and Working Parties Real Estate Surveying

Energy Value (Dietetic)

Annexure B


General Metric Conversion for Australia To the Householder — Metric Conversion and You All You Need to Know about Metrics The World Perspective in Conversion to the Metric System

Metric Conversion in Australia (Conference Paper) Metric ACTION Australia (Conference Paper) Program for North American-Australian Metric Conference and Metrication: The Australian Experience Awareness Cards — f How Big; t How Fast; t How Full; t How Heavy; t How Long; t How Hot/Hot Cold

Pamphlets — Metric Me; t Shane Gould — “ Let's give Mum and Dad Some Help"; + Think Metric It’s Easy; t It’s a Metric World; Using the Metric Symbol; Buying Real Estate the Metric Way Posters — t Metric Units for Everyday Use; How Big; How Fast; t How Full; t How Heavy; How Long; How Hot/How Cold; Composite poster — How Big; How Full; How Heavy; How Long

Education, Training t Industrial Training in Metric Conversion in Australia t Metric Conversion and Tertiary Education Metric Practice Metrikit Speakers Notes (Metrikit) Guidelines for Metric Reporting

A Metric Handbook — Australia’s Metric System t Metric Conversion and the University Pamphlets — Metric Conversion Program Check List for Use within Industry; Typists and Stenographers; Metric Sums; Metric Conversion in Braille Teaching, training aid — Metrikit

SI The International System of Units — The Student Guide to the Metric System

Transport, Communications Metric Conversion Information Brochures — Water Transport Sector; Road Transport Sector; Freight Forwarding — Road Transport Pamphlets and Cards — + Motor Goes Metric — 1 July 1974; Going Metric in Travel and Tourism; + Aircraft

Cabin Announcements tConsign in Metric (Sticker) + Motoring Goes Metric ( Posters)

Engineering, Industrial Metric Conversion Information Brochures — Engineering Industry; Shipbuilding; Mining and Metallurgy Engineering Workshops — December 1973 + Metric Conversion Manual for Engineering Establishments

Metric Conversion in the Aeronautical Engineering Industry Pamphlets — Metric Guide for Typesetting; The Effect of Metrication on Process Instrumentation: Paper and Printing; Timber and Forestry; Bright Steel Bars Metric Change Information Sheets Refrigeration & Air Conditioning Metric Data

Building, Construction Metric Information for Building Tradesmen Pamphlets and Cards — Metric Conversion for Building and Construction Design Notes (September 1972), Metric Conversion for Building and Construction Design Notes (June 1973); + Metric Information for Building

and Construction Workers: Building and General Hardware + Posters — Think Metric Now: Be Ready for July 1974 (Set of 5)

Real Estate Pamphlets and Cards Metric Information for Real Estate Agents. Valuers and Developers: Buying Real Estate the Metric Way Metric Units for Real Estate (Poster)

Rural Metric Farming Conversion Scales (Nomograms)


Retailing, Consumer Goods, Domestic Cookery and Metric Conversion Posters — Metric Conversion for Piecegoods: + How Many Grams, How Many Kilograms? — Butchers; How Many Grams, How Many Kilograms? — Greengrocers; How Many Grans, How Many Kilograms? —

Delicatessen; + Metric Shopping; Metric is Easy (Small and Large) Pamphlets and Cards — + Our Metric Baby; Guidelines for Label and Package Printers and Designers; Kitchen Metrics; + Retail Scale Conversion; Registered Scale Adjusters (Victoria and South Australia); + Metric Competition; Information on Retail Weighing Scale Conversion; Fabrics and Clothing; Trading in Metric —

Shopkeepers" Guide; Metric Shopping; Metric Conversion of Domestic Recipes; + Metric Shopping Guide; Metric Measurs for Mothers; Metric Advertising tT h is is a Metric Shop (Sticker) + Metric Cost Comparator ( Slide Scale)

Health and Recreation X-Ray Equipment and Film Accessories Medical X-Ray Films and Equipment + Metric Tables for Horse Racing (Poster) Units for the Measurement of Radioactivity and of Ionising Radiation

Annual Reports Metric Conversion Board Annual Reports for +1970-1971, 1971-1972, 1972-1973, 1973-1974, 1974-1975, 1975­ 1976, 1976-1977, 1977-1978. +1978-79

MCB Newsletters + Vol. 1 Nos. 1-12 November 1971 — October 1972 Vol. 2 Nos. 1-12 November 1972 — October 1973 Vol. 3 Nos. 1-12 November 1973 — October 1974 Vol. 4 Nos. 1- 6 November 1974 — December 1975 Vol. 5 Nos. 1-6 January/February 1976 — November/December 1976 Vol. 6 Nos. 1- 6 February 1977 — December 1977 Vol. 7 Nos. 1- 2 September 1978 — August 1979

+ Out of Print


Annexure C


Metric information continues to be available from the following centres after the closure of Board:

Sydney Metric Section, National Standards Commission. 12 Lyonpark Road. North Ryde. NSW 2113 (02) 888 3922

Melbourne Metric Information Section. Department of Science and Technology. GPO Box 2288U. Melbourne, Vic. 3001 (03) 228 3684

Brisbane The Queensland Confederation of Industry Ltd. 375 Wickham Terrace, Brisbane, Qld. 4000 (07)221 1699

Hobart The Hobart Chamber of Commerce. 65 Murray Street. Hobart. Tas. 7000 (002) 34 6034

Adelaide The Chamber of Commerce and Industry South Australia. Inc 12 Pirie Street Adelaide, SA 5000 (08) 212 4691

Standards Branch Department of Public & Consumer Affairs 25 Grenfell Street Adelaide. SA 5000 (08)228 3684

Perth The Confederation of Western Australian Industry Inc. 190 Hay Street East Perth. WA. 6000 (09) 325 01 11

Canberra Grants & Projects Branch Department of Science and Technology PO Box 65 Belconnen. ACT 2616 (062) 64 4379

Darwin Professional Services Branch Department of Education PMB 25 Winnellie. NT 5789 (089)85 021 1