CANBERRA, Australia — The Commonwealth of Australia on Wednesday announced its plan to abandon the metric system in favor of a new system of measurement based entirely on the length of actor Paul Hogan’s knives.
“We feel the time has long since come for Australia to adopt a system of measurement its people can be proud of and relate to on a more personal level,” Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove announced to a throng of jubilant supporters on the Government House lawn. “And who among us Aussies does not take great pride in the vast collection of sharp-edged objects owned by Australia’s most beloved son, actor and ‘Flipper’ star Paul Hogan?”
The announcement ends a tumultuous four-decade affair between the metric system and the Oceanian country that comprises the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania and several smaller islands. The world’s sixth-largest country by total area, Australia gradually began to implement the modern form of the metric system in 1970, when its parliament passed the Metric Conversion Act, a controversial law that soon sparked riots across much of the country.
“The Metric Riots were a direct response to the government’s sickin’ bitzers on our bathers,” recalled the late Australian rugby league football legend Roy Bull in a 1998 interview with Systems of Measurement Quarterly. “Suddenly you take away my plate of barbie and expect me to crack a fat at a counter lunch? Not gonna happen without me gettin’ mad as a cut snake, mate.”
The Metric Riots eventually ceased, but the country that traces its colonial roots to the establishment of a British penal colony on New South Wales in 1788 never fully embraced the metric system, an act of disobedience on display in several notable and violent protests over the last 40-plus years. In spite of that bloody history, Australian Prime Minister Tim Abbott is hoping the new system, which combines the country’s love of razor-edged instruments with its most revered and versatile entertainer, will forever put an end to the measurement-inspired unrest.
“Your average bloke in Australia has never grinned like a shot fox telling his tailor how many centimeters he needs his trackie daks to be,” Abbott said. “But now any swagman can feel like a tall poppy when he tells a mate his daks run as long as nine of Mick Dundee’s buck knives.”
The move toward a system of measurement based entirely on Hogan’s impressive stockpile of lengthy blades began in 1998, when the infamous Melbourne Millimeter Uprising reawakened the anti-metric movement that had been largely dormant throughout much of the decade. But government leaders took note when, at the height of the millimeter-inspired bloodshed, rioters suddenly paused, returning home to watch “Floating Away,” a made-for-television movie starring Hogan, Judge Reinhold and Rosanna Arquette as a mother struggling to find her identity after losing custody of her infant child.
“We knew at that point that if anything was going to end the turmoil surrounding the metric system once and for all, it was going to be a uniform system of measurement founded upon the star of ‘Lightning Jack’ and his array of imposing cutlery,” Sir Cosgrove said. “And I’m like a possum up a gum tree that the day has finally arrived when all of us can season our snags without having to use the same measurements as those sheepshaggers on the other side of the Tasman Sea.”
But while much of Oz found reason to celebrate Wednesday’s announcement, Hogan himself was somewhat skeptical.
“Those bleeders have a few roos loose in the top paddock,” Hogan said. “But if this new system gets me a new set of strides and puts more bouncing beef in my cake hole, then I’m all for it, eh mate?”