1st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Without wishing in any way to restrict the rights of the States, I would like to ask the Minister for Defence whether it was with his approval that Major-General Hutton stated in Adelaide on Wednesday, that “ in all the reforms he would have to make he would consult the Governments of the day in the various States.”
– If any such statement was made it was certainly not made with my approval ; but honorable members must be careful not to jump at conclusions based merely upon paragraphs appearing in the newspapers. Perhaps the words attributed to Major-General Hutton do not bear the sense which he intended his speech to convey. While the Government will always be only too anxious to meet the wishes of the States in regard to military matters, where that is possible, it is my intention to administer the department of Defence, subject to the approval of Parliament, in the way I think best calculated to promote the interests of the Commonwealth, and where compliance with the wishes of the State Governments would prevent that being done, it will not of course be possible to take notice of them.
asked the Minister representing the honorable the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice- -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
In Committee of Ways and Means :
Consideration resumed from 26thFebruary (vide page 10397) -
Division X. - Wood, wicker, and cane. Item 103 - Timber, viz. : -
Architraves, mouldings, and skirtings, of any material, per 100 lineal feet, 5s.
Timber, dressed, n.e.i., per 100 super feet, 3s.
Timber, undressed, n.e.i., in sizes of 12in. x Gin. (or its equivalent) and over, per 100 super feet,1s.
Timber undressed, n.e.i., in sizes of 7in. x 2½in. (or its equivalent) and upwards, and less than 12in. x6in. (or its equivalent), per 100 super, feet,1s. 6d.
Timber, undressed, n.e.i., of sizes less than 7in. x 24in. (or its equivalent), per 100 super, feet, 2s. 6d.
Laths, per 1,000,5s.
Palings, per 1,000, 15s.
Pickets, dressed, per 100, 4s.
Pickets, undressed, per 100, 2s.
Shingles, per 1,000, 3s.
Doors of wood : - 1¾in. and over, each, 7s. 6d.
Over1½in. and under1¾in., each, 5s. 1½in. and under, each, 3s. 6d. upon which Mr. Thomas had moved by way of amendment -
That the words “and on and after 28th February, 1902, free” be added to the duty “Timber undressed, . . . per 100 super ft., 1s.”
– The action of honorable members opposite in regard to the proposed duty upon undressed timber is consistent with their attitude towards the whole Tariff. We have often been told by them that we should devote our attention to the development of the primary industries of the Commonwealth, but surely there can be no better illustration of a primary industry than the timber industry of Australia. The various States have spent a great deal of money in administering their forestry departments, and developing their timber resources, and those who are engaged in the timber trade have in some cases to pay royalties, and in all cases to pay licence-fees for the privilege of cutting timber upon Crown land. That being so, it seems an extraordinary proposal to ask us to throw open the timber market of the Commonwealth’ to the unrestrained competition of the world. It ought to be one of the first duties of the Commonwealth to see that those who are engaged in a national industry like this shall have the preference in the Commonwealth markets.. That is not a new theory, and it has been advanced on this side many times already ; but that is no reason why it should not be repeated now. Efforts have lately been made by the States, and particularly by New South Wales, to develop an export trade in timber, and one might think from the paragraphs which appear from time to time in the various newspapers that the trade is assuming respectable proportions; but I have taken the trouble to analyze a return which was recently laid upon the table of this House at my request, and I learn from it that, whereas during the years 1898, 1899, and 1900, the value of the timber imported into the Commonwealth totalled £2,890,755, the value of the timber exported during that period totalled only £1,496,898, a difference of £1,393,857 in favour of the importations. During the period I refer to, “Western Australia was the largest exporter of timber, having sent away £1,218,644 worth, leaving about £300,000 to be accounted for by the exportations from the other States.
– Western Australia is much nearer to the markets of the old world than the other States are.
– Considering the natural advantages of New South Wales, the extent of her timber resources and the suitability of her hardwood for wood-blocking, we must come to the conclusion that the development of her export trade has not been very great, since she sent away in the period I have named only £220,788 worth of timber. Honorable members opposite seem to think, and some of them have gone so far as to say, that those who are engaged in the timber industry of the States have been lacking in enterprise, and have not shown sufficient “ push f but the true reason for the backwardness of our timbertrade is to be found in the fact that most of our good timber grows in very rough, and sometimes in almost inaccessible places, and the difficulties of conveying it by trollies and other means to the nearest ports are very great. AH along the north coast of New South Wales, which is one of the best timber districts in the Commonwealth, those difficulties obtain. In times gone by, the State Governments have obtained the services of experts in the cultivation of timber, and it is now proposed in New South Wales to make another effort to improve the administration of the forestry laws of that State, with a view to the better management of her timber. Taking all those facts into consideration, are honorable members prepared to throw away this chance of giving those engaged in the timber industry the advantage which their connexion with this great national industry should procure for them 1 The honorable member for Barrier made out a very good case for the Broken Hill mines, and I commend him for the attitude he, as the representative of that district, has taken up ; but he must recollect that Broken Hill is not the only place in the Commonwealth where imported timber is used, and that a concession cannot be given to the Broken Hil] mine-owners without allowing others to participate in it, and I do not think that should be done. A great deal has been said about the relative merits of imported and locally-grown timber, and I have taken the trouble to collect a few figures on thesubject from a pamphlet written by Professor Warren, of the Sydney University, upon the timbers of New South Wales. I regret that I have not been able to procure information with regard to the tensile strength of the Oregon timber, which is mostly used at the Broken Hill mines, for the purposes of comparison with our hardwood. I have substituted for Oregon the New South Wales pine, and in order to be perfectly fair I have, on the other side, adopted what I regard as the weakest of our hardwoods, namely, blackbutt. I am not suggesting that blackbutt should be substituted for Oregon, but I have adopted these timbers solely for the purpose of instituting a comparison. I find that in every case the pine is the weaker timber. I find that the breaking strain of blackbutt is 16,500 lbs. as compared with that of pine, which is 11,250 lbs. In every case, taking the shearing, tension, or compression strains, the blackbutt is superior to the Australian pine.
– The honorable member does not compare Australian pine with Oregon ?
– I have already explained that I was unable to obtain information with regard to Oregon, and I have instituted as fair a comparison as was possible under the circumstances. Some years ago, whilst. I was living at Dawes Point, Sydney, a retaining wall was being built at the back of the house. A derrick constructed of Oregon pine was erected for the purpose of bringing the stone into position on the wall, and one morning half of the derrick and the stone which it was being used to lift at the time came down into the back yard. That accidentillustrated the peculiar brittleness of Oregon pine when used for that particular purpose. The stone that was being lifted was not very heavy, and the arm of the derrick broke off diagonally in such a way as I am sure no Australian hardwood would have done. I admit that the Australian pine is not to be compared with Oregon, but it was the best timber I was able to adopt for testing purposes in the time at my disposal. There is another point in connexion with the use of Oregon or any other pine for the purposes of timbering in mines. On two occasions - first in the year 1895, and again in 1897 - very seriousfires broke out in the Broken Hill mine, and caused a great deal of damage, besides throwing out of employment about 1,200 men. These fires, which raged for a considerable time, caused great anxiety, and on the latter occasion lives were lost owing to the outbreak. I do not think it will be argued that hardwood is as inflammable as pine. I do not pretend that I know more than do the managers of the mines about the kind of timber that should be used at Broken Hill; but I have no hesitation in saying that they could procure more suitable timber than Oregon, both in regard to durability and strength.
– The chief feature of Oregon is that it neither shrinks nor warps.
– Its chief advantage is cheapness, and the mining companies use it owing to that, and because it is light and easily handled, both on its way to the mine and after its arrival there.
– It is also much more reliable when it is placed in the mines.
– I do not think so.
– The mining managers say so.
– The reason they have taken a fancy to Oregon is because it is cheap. That is an element that appeals to all of us.
– If the honorable member were to ask the miners of Broken Hill, they would tell him that they prefer Oregon.
– They have never tried, any other timber.
– Yes they have, and have had to abandon its use.
– Hardwood is used with great advantage right throughout the mines at Newcastle and elsewhere, and it is idle to say that Oregon is the best timber for mining purposes.
– Does the honorable member desire to force the Broken Hill mining companies to use a dearer timber ?
– I do not wish to force them to do anything. I have every sympathy with, those engaged in mining operations at Broken Hill, and if it were possible to give them what they require without inflicting injury on others I should be willing to accede to their wishes. That, however, cannot be done, because we cannot single out the Broken Hill mines, and make an exception in their favour, regardless of the interests of other sections of the people. The honorable member for Lang said that if a uniform duty were proposed he would support it, but that he objects to a differential duty. I cannot see the consistency of his attitude. The distinction drawn between the rate of duty on undressed timber and dressed timber is in accordance with a recognised principle, and although there may bean underlying element of protection in the differential duties, I can hardly follow the honorable member in his objection.
– Some of the undressed timber is charged at a higher rate than is the dressed timber.
– The honorable member has expressed his intention of voting against the duties because they are not uniform. I am supporting this duty, not because I happen to represent a constituency in which the timber industry is of importance, but because I recognise that the industry is one which we ought to develop, and which the imposition of this duty will tend to help. It will be useless for the States to maintain expensive forest departments if we throw our markets open to importation’s of timber from all parts of the world.
– I venture, to say that if the honorable member for Cowper had ever paid a visit to Broken Hill he would not have expressed the opinions to which he has just given utterance. I claim to have some knowledge of mining, derived from practical experience, and I can assure the committee that no mining in Australia is carried on under conditions similar to those which prevail at “Broken Hill. I have been over the Broken Hill mines, and have gone underground. I -was there when the companies were using “Tasmanian hardwood, which was not a success, and I believe that it would have been impossible to develop and properly work the mines, rich as they are, if it had not been for the introduction of the square-set -system. The particular form of timbering is exceptional, and is not adopted in any other mines in Australia. Hence it is be- side the point altogether to institute comparisons between the conditions prevailing there and elsewhere within the Commonwealth. In all other mines they use the : strongest timber they can secure - timber which will stand the greatest strain, which is the hardest, and which can be best used in long lengths ; but at Broken Hill it is f ou nd that 0regon is the most suitable for use in carrying out the square-set system of timbering. lt has the advantage of being tough, :and of possessing great capacity for resisting the crushing which it is intended to guard against, and it has not been shown that by imposing the duty we shall be able to compel the mining authorities to use any other description of timber. The mining managers of Broken Hill, who have made a life study of mining, and who are thoroughly up-to-date men, are not to be convinced that Australian hardwood is better for their purposes by the assertion of any one who has never had any mining experience, and who has never visited Broken Hill. They will continue to use the timber which they think best, and even though the duty were increased to twice -the amount now proposed, it would not have the effect which some honorable members seem to desire. I have been waiting for some proof that the admission of mining timber free of duty will inflict injury upon the timber industry, but I have not yet heard any evidence of its probable prejudicial effect. The honorable member for Cowper has asserted that the timber industry will be injured, but he has not shown that Oregon timber will come largely into competition with our own. Those honorable members who have advocated the use of hardwood for timbering purposes at Broken Hill have made the mistake of supposing that the mining managers of Broken Hill do not know their business ; and I can assure them that, whatever may be the decision of this Parliament, the mining managers are not likely to be persuaded that they have been making a great mistake for years, and resort to the use of hardwood. It has been stated that this duty is not to be imposed for protective, but revenue, purposes. If that is so I should like honorable members to remember that this Parliament has been careful to give due consideration to the circumstances of every industry. I appeal specially to those who have worked up an immense amount of enthusiasm in cases where alleged factories, employing a man and a boy, were likely to be affected, to be consistent, and to take the only step which seems possible just now to help a very large industry upon which many thousands of people are entirely dependent. Broken Hill is a mining settlement pure and simple, and if the mines went down the whole of the people now living there would have to move awa)’, because, apart from mining, the country could not support any population beyond those who might remain to look after a few scattered sheep. Honorable members who hold protectionist views ought to be consistent, and treat every industry alike. It has always puzzled me why miners are not considered to be entitled to the same consideration as are men who work in factories. The remission of the duty will not injure any one, but it will greatly benefit the mining industry at Broken Hill. It is impossible to increase the value of the products of the mines, and it is only by reducing the burdens which the mining population have to bear that we can in any way assist the industry. I claim that the use of Oregon timber is essential to the proper working of the Broken Hill mines. I do not urge that it would be impossible to work these mines if other timber were used, but one cannot altogether ignore thequestion of theincreased cost which would thereby be involved. I do not hesitate to affirm that Oregon is more suitable for use in the Barrier mines than is any other timber. i One honorable member advocated the use of Australian pine, and I should have been glad to learn what was the particular class of pine to which he referred. If he were speaking of the pine which is common throughout the country districts of New South Wales, I unhesitatingly declare that that would be the worst kind of timber that could possibly be employed in the Broken Hill mines in connexion with the “ square-set “ system. Indeed its use would be absolutely dangerous because it is a hard, strong, brittle wood, and brittle timber is what mining companies at the Barrier need specially to beware of. Such timbers as box and ironbark are utterly unsuitable for the purposes which Oregon serves in the Broken Hill mines. They snap altogether too readily. Therefore, unless those mines can secure a timber possessing the qualities of Oregon - a timber which will give warning when there is any unusual pressure upon it - it would be folly indeed to substitute any other. If this committee can grant the Broken Hill mining companies any concession - as I claim we can- - without injuring any other industry, I assert that we ought to do so. For that reason I hope that the amendment of the honorable member for Barrier will be accepted, and that Oregon pine will thus be admitted free of duty.
– -It seems to me that in advocating the imposition of a duty upon timber the protectionist members of the committee occupy a somewhat strange position, in view of some of the arguments which they advance in favour of their fiscal faith. I presume that their object in wishing to levy a duty upon timber is to benefit the Australian timber trade. But an argument which they frequently use is that the effect of protection is to cheapen prices. If that be true the Queensland representatives and others who advocate the imposition of the proposed tax are adopting a course which will tend to reduce the price of Australian timber. That is the logical result of their method of reasoning. But I am perfectly satisfied that they do not believe that protection will reduce the price of Australian timber. In this particular instance some of the Queensland representatives who entertain free-trade opinions, seem to me to be subordinating their political principles to what they regard as the best interests of the timber trade. As free-traders they probably recognise that n majority of this committee are in favour of the imposition of protective duties. They regard such duties as a means by which a certain amount of loot, which is exacted from the public, is distributed amongst the various industries of the Commonwealth,, and they feel that though they are freetraders, the particular interests which they represent ought to receive a share of that loot. Probably that is the way in which the Queensland free-traders, who advocate the imposition of the proposed duty upontimber, reconcile their attitude upon this question with their fiscal principles. As fatas this particular industry is concerned, I think that no State is more interested in it than Western Australia. The output of timber from that State is considerably greater than the output ‘ from Queensland of which we have heard so much during this discussion. The timber trade in the west also employs a larger number of hands than does the industry in Queensland, and when one comes to reflect upon the relative populations of the two States, it will be seen that the industry means a great deal more to Western Australia than it does to Queensland. At the same time I do not agree with the proposal of the Government, and I shall certainly vote with the honor* able member for Barrier in favour of exempting timber from duty. In the State which I have the honour to represent the supply of timber is almost inexhaustible. Its value has been estimated by Mr. Ednie Brown at £127,000,000. But I have such faith in the Australian timbers that I believe they can compete with any timber in the world. Of course, there is a particular class of work for which the Western Australian timbers are not suited, just asthere is work for which the Queensland timbers are unsuitable. In the Western Australian mines we have to use a large quantity of Oregon, and it would be absurd, to argue that the native timbers of that State - which are some of the finest in the world for certain purposes - are the most suitable for mining. But for street paving, railway sleepers, piles, wharves and jetties, the timber of the western State is unsurpassed. To my mind it is ridiculous to urge that the timbers of Western Australia or Queensland, are superior to Oregon for the purposes for which the latter is at present being used in the Broken Hill mines, and in many of the mines of Western Australia. What was said by the honorable member for Barrier was perfectly true. Where there is unsafe ground the Oregon will give warningof impending danger, thus allowing the men employed underground an opportunity to make their escape. It is not so with hardwood which snaps without warning ; consequently the miners always prefer the use of Oregon pine. I wish also to point out that it is not only in connexion with mining that timber is used. It enters into innumerable industries which are carried on within the Commonwealth. The more timber that there is imported, the more these industries are promoted, because the use of timber must provide a certain amount of work. The proposed duty will not have the protective incidence which the Government desire, because it will still be necessary to import Oregon. It will simply be a tax upon the large number who use timber. At this stage I should like to draw attention to a circular which I have received in common with other honorable members. It does not come from a distant State, neither does it emanate from the capitalistic class. On the contrary, it comes from a quarter which has always received an immense amount of consideration in this House. It is a circular from the Timber Yard and Sawmillers’ Association of Victoria. They ask that the raw material of their work shall be placed upon the free list, and I urge the Government to give their request favorable consideration. The amount of revenue which the Treasurer expects to derive from this particular item is £119,000, and that sum will constitute a tax upon the users of timber throughout Australia. Therefore, I hope that the committee will agree to the amendment submitted.
– I trust that the committee will not accept the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Barrier in its present form. He spoke eloquently - as befitted the occasion - on behalf of the miners of Broken Hill, and he undoubtedly made out a strong case for them - a case which certainly deserves careful consideration. But the practical effect of the adoption of his amendment would be to throw the whole of the timber industry of the Commonwealth open to unlimited competition. In developing a policy for the Commonwealth, I submit that it is our duty to consider what has been done by the various States, and what is being done by them at the present time in connexion with this industry. On the one hand, we know that the different States arecoming to regard their forests as important national assets, and are formulating policies of forest conservation. In Queensland quite recently a forestry department has been instituted . The Government of that State have seen a great many of its native timbers going to ruin, and as a result they are now proclaiming large timber reserves, and encouraging a system of planting in order to replace the forest timbers as they are depleted. In my opinion it would be strange if we allowed the States to continue developing this industry, and practically deprived them of the benefit arising from their action byneglecting to protect the native timbers. I think that we ought to supplement what is being done by the States by the imposition of the proposed duty. It has been made patent to all by what has transpired during the present discussion that throughout the Commonwealth there are large supplies of valuable timber. However, I merely desire to speak of’ the quantity available in Queensland itself. Mr. L. G. Bord, the Inspector of Forests, in the official year book of Queensland for 1902, states -
The State of Queensland has a total area of 668,497 square miles, or 427,838,080 acres ; and out of this area it is estimated that about 40,000,000 acres bear timber of commercial value. At least one-third of the State may be said to be covered with trees which have a local use for building and other purposes.
In a pamphlet which has been issued I find it stated - and the statement is borne out by a telegram which I have received from the inspector himself - that, at the present time, there are over 11,000,000,000 superficial feet of growing pine available in Queensland for present purposes.
– Is that timber near the coast?
– It is within the coastal areas. Of course the people of Queensland have had difficulties to contend with inasmuch as its native timbers have been removed from the more accessible places and have now to be obtained from the less accessible localities. Large sums of money have been expended in the development of private tramway systems, and in one or two instances local bodies are undertaking the provision of similar means of making the timber available for market. Queensland at present is undoubtedly able to supply her own market almost completely, and with the development now going on, that State will soon be able to send her timbers into the markets of the Commonwealth, in competition, of course, with the other States. It has been asked how it is that Queensland has not before now supplied New South Wales and Victoria. In reply, it can only be said that to a very great extent Queensland timber producers have been engaged in capturing the local market. The State hasbeen growing rapidly, and, with considerable building operations going on, a great deal of the timber has been used up by the Queensland people themselves. But now that Inter-State free-trade is to take place, and the attention of the saw-mill owners has been directed to the larger possibilities in the southern States, efforts are being made to obtain markets in other parts of the Commonwealth. One reason why Queensland producers have not gone into the southern markets is possibly that their attention has not been sufficiently drawn to the advantages presented ; but, with the present possibilities, the plants in Queensland will be increased, and the railway systems developed, with the result that a fair share of the southern trade will be obtained. The timber supplies are a very important asset to Queensland. To my own knowledge there are many little townships almost entirely dependent on the industry, and a great many of the branch linesof railway have their working expenses and interest paid to a considerable extent by the timber carriage. Both as regards revenue and the employment of people within the State, the industry is very important indeed to Queensland. The honorable member for Wide Bay does not exaggerate when he states that there are about 30,000 people dependent on this industry ; indeed, I regard that as a very moderate estimate. If the certificates of experts be taken, there is no doubt that the Queensland timbers are exceedingly valuable, and can hold their own with timber grown in any part of the world. Mr. Brady, the Government Architect of Public Works in Queensland, says-
The forest lands and scrubs of Queensland abound in timbers which are proved to be of the greatest value in building construction of all classes, as well as for the making of furniture, office fittings, vehicles, and boat building.
Mr. Brady goes on to apeak of the value of Moreton Bay, Cyprus, and other pines, and then, dealing with hardwoods, he says -
The Queensland hardwoods are without doubt second to none in Australia, and, for the purposes of building construction, will compare favorably with any bearing timbers which can be produced. Tests of Queensland hardwood, made in London in 1895, showed a result which was highly satisfactory, equalling 8 tons per square inch tenacity, and 4.546 tons per square inch crushing strength, with other strains equally satisfactory.
Mr. Brady is a competent authority, and he bears this valuable testimony to the timber supplies of Queensland. Mr. Pagan, Acting Chief Engineer for the Queensland Railways, says -
With reference to the native timbers grown in this State and their suitability for use in railway and other works, I would like to add my testimony after long experience as to their durability and strength. Almost all the hardwoods are used by this department, and the pines of various descriptions are daily used in numbers of constructive works. For joinery work, flooring and lining boards, or wherever light coloured timbers are used, I consider that the latter timber is unsurpassed.
Several Queensland architects certify to the value of the local timbers, and Mr. C. W. Chambers says -
Its (the pine’s) strength compares favorably with the best Oregon, and in my opinion for joinery it excels Oregon and other imported soft woods.
It will be seen, from the testimony of all the experts, that the timbers in Queensland are of the very finest description. It must be remembered that there was a higher impost in Queensland than that now proposed. As to whether there is a desire for this duty in Queensland here is a practically unanimous petition, presented by almost all the members of the Queensland State Parliament, asking that the duty may be continued.
– They would be ready to support a duty three times higher than that proposed.
– Members of Parliament of all shades of political opinion, and representative of the various classes of the community, all ask that, for Queensland purposes, a duty be maintained. The petition reads -
Many thousands of our hardiest and best pioneers will be thrown out of employment if foreign competition has to be faced without any duty. We, therefore, earnestly urge that the interests of the large white population, directly dependent on the welfare of this industry, shall be safeguarded by a fair and reasonable duty on all timber imported into the Commonwealth.
By the “Workers’ Political Organization of Woolloongabba, which is composed of employes, we are told -
That they are in accord with the saw-millers, in believing that the duties, as at present framed, will entail hardship and loss of employment to a large number of working men at present employed in the timber industry of Queensland.
There we have the testimony of the millowners, the workers, and nearly the whole of the members of the Queensland Parliament. But there is another aspect of the question to be considered. That is the aspect which apparently presented itself to the Queensland Legislature, namely - that in Queensland this industry has been built up under a protective duty, and that there is a desire for a continuance of that duty, or, at least, for a duty as nearly as possible the same. From a national point of view we have to consider the claims of all the States. We have to consider the claims urged urged by the honorable member for the Barrier on behalf of the mining industry at Broken Hill ; but we have also to consider the claims of Queensland and other States, and, in my opinion, the Government proposal provides a compromise which is fair and just. It is not suggested that we impose the duty of Queensland, nor the free-trade conditions of New South Wales, and T, as a Queenslander, do nob ask that the proposal of the Government shall be increased. A great deal has been said previously about the pioneers of the Commonwealth ; and we have been asked how this Tariff will affect them. But I submit there is no class of pioneers more worthy of consideration than those who go into the scrub and work very hard in obtaining timber in almost inaccessible places, and who . run great risks in bringing it to the mill. The petition on behalf of these men practically asks this Parliament to consider their claims and the interests of the families who are dependent on them. All we ask is for a continuance of the duties proposed by the Government.
– The honorable member for Darling Downs asked the committee to consider the interests of the Commonwealth as a whole, and in doing so undoubtedly took a federal stand. But all the arguments he used were distinctly in favour of the State of Queensland. This afternoon we have heard the representatives of Western Australia, the north-east coast of New South Wales, Queensland, and New South Wales again. The representatives of Western Australia proclaim that the timber resources of that State are greater than those of the remainder of the Commonwealth put together ; yet there is no appeal from Western Australia for assistance of a fiscal character. Then a representative of the labour party of New South Wales, who is experienced in mining and has a full acquaintance with the timbers necessary in that industry, is absolutely opposed to the use of Australian wood, and to the imposition of a duty upon the imported article. The honorable member for Cowper is well informed on this question, and, as a member of the State Parliament, his expressions of opinion carried a good deal of weight ; and it is to his arguments and those of the honorable member for Darling Downs, to which I intend to confine my remarks. The honorable member for Cowper lamented the small export of woods from New South Wales, and he supplied a reason for that small export. These hardwoods are used in the construction of bridges, railways, wharfs, and works of a similar character, and the position is that the saw-millers throughout New South Wales, though working full time, cannot overtake the demand in the State. But the honorable member for Cowper, under the guise of lamentation, is attempting to influence the committee in the direction of imposing a duty on all undressed timber. The honorable member spoke of the inaccessibility of this New South Wales timber; and similar remarks might be made in regard to the whole of the forests of Australia. New South Wales, although abundantly rich in forests, is handicapped by her bar-harbors, which prevent the easy transmission of timber. It is only by means of specially constructed shipping that these bars can be negotiated, and timber transported ; and the difficulties presented by double haulage _ and in other respects, stand very much in the way of an export trade. Where timber can be easily obtained, the forests have been denuded. There is no settled scheme of conservation, and the way in which the timbers of Australia have been treated is truly cruel. Our timbers are a national asset, ‘ but it is in the future that that, “asset is to be properly utilized.
Although we have much good timber in Australia, we must recognise that a great deal of it is unfitted for the purposes for which softwood timber is used, and for which Oregon pine is so much in demand. It is the representatives of Queensland who are making a stand in defence of the proposed duty ; on this occasion, for once, the representatives of Victoria do not seem much concerned, because, in the past, a good deal of the timber which is now made dutiable was allowed to come into Victoria free. But while we are now dealing with the timber industry for the first time, we have heard, during the discussion of this Tariff, of a good many industries that pine. First we heard of the pining industries of Victoria, then we had the banana pine from Queensland members, and later on again we had the sugar pine. Now the representatives of ‘ Queensland wish for the imposition of a duty for the protection of their white pine. “We have the undeveloped timber industry of Queensland opposed to the developed industries of the Commonwealth. Surely the representatives of- Victoria must see that their saw-milling industry is in danger if this duty is proposed. If a duty is placed upon undressed timber, and the Queensland saw-millers obtain possession of the Commonwealth market, it is not reasonable to suppose that they will export their timber in the rough. They will save freight, and give employment to their own people by dressing their timber in their own mills, and the result will be that the New South Wales, Victorian, and South Australian mills, which have hitherto found work in dressing imported timber, will suffer. I do not wish to range the representatives of Victoria, South Australia, and New South Wales against the representatives of Queensland ; but it is my duty to point out the operation of the proposed impost. Oregon is used, not only for mining purposes, but to make joists, beams, and other building material. No one could have made out a stronger case for admitting Oregon free, than the honorable member for the Barrier has made out. He showed that no State in the union imports so much timber per annum as -does one of the Broken Hill mines. Even if we impose this duty, Queensland will not be able to supply the requirements of the Commonwealth for some years to come, so that during the whole of that time, the people of the other States will have to import timber, and will be charged a heavy duty upon all that they use. It would be cheaper for the Commonwealth to pay the Queensland Government, say £20,000 per annum, to develop their timber industry, than to place this tax upon all users of softwood timber throughout the Commonwealth. I am informed that Oregon pine costs about 40s. Gd. per 1,000 feet at the port of departure, and that the freight on it is 47s. 6d., the wharfage charges 6s. 3d.,’ insurance and exchange ls. Gd., and the landing charges 7s., or about 62s. in all. Therefore Australian pine has the enormous advantage of a natural protection, equalling 150 per cent. I could understand the contention that we should put an end to the importation of softwood if our own hardword could be used in its place ; but we know that, apart from mining altogether, hardwood is absolutely unfitted for building purposes, because it costs so much more to dress and to shape. The representatives of Queeusland also ask that the importation of white pine from New Zealand shall be stopped. That pine is used chiefly for the making of boxes for the exportation of butter and other produce, and in the past between 21,000,000 and 24,000,000 feet of it have annually been imported into Australia. Ib is estimated by their own authorities that the Queensland saw-mills to-day, working full time, could supply only 1,500,000 feet of pine per annum. Is it not, then, absurd to ask us to compel the dairy farmers, the orchardists, and other producers of the Commonwealth, to use Queensland pine exclusively, or in default to pay a heavy duty upon New Zealand pine 1 The honorable member for Lang, who is well acquainted with the timber trade, and has had years of experience in connexion with it, has told us that the timber merchants would have preferred an all-round duty. If this timber cannot be placed upon the free list I trust that some compromise will be arrived at under which a small duty, purely for revenue purposes, will be adopted. The duties now proposed are very high, and the revenue expected to be derived from them represents very large amounts. For years to come we cannot expect the softwood timbers of Australia to seriously compete with those which are imported from abroad. Our needs are daily increasing, and a duty upon undressed timber will seriously affect the industries in which it is used. Even if the Broken Hill mining companies were compelled to use hardwood, the timber industries of New South Wales and Queensland would not derive any benefit, because the cost of the haulage from the forests in those States would be too great, and the demand of the mines would have to be supplied from places near at hand. The pine forests of New South Wales contain timber of the very highest value in great abundance, but they are so situated as to be almost inaccessible, and it will not be possible for New South Wales pine to compete successfully with the importations from America. The. saw-millers of the United States have displayed great enterprise, and have the best of facilities for carrying on their operations, and for securing cheap transit to all parts of the world. The timber industry in Queensland has not been developed, and it will be years before our requirements can be met by those who are operating on our local forests, even though the duties are made prohibitive.
– The honorable member for Barrier has devoted special study to this question, and his knowledge of the local requirements of Broken Hill will render the information he has given to the committee of special value. The interests of South Australia are very intimately associated with the mines of Broken Hill. That State is dependent for a large proportion of her railway revenue upon the traffic to and from the Barrier mines. The immense population at Broken Hill are entirely dependent on the mining industry, and, owing to the low prices of silver and lead during the past twelve months, the number of men employed there has been largely reduced. The mining companies are experiencing great difficulty in making both ends meet, and in some cases have been carrying on at a very considerable loss. I have made inquiries from men closely associated with the Broken Hill mines as to the advantages to be gained by the use of Oregon timber as compared with hardwood, in the special class of mining work that is carried on in those mines. There they have to deal with immense bodies of ore, 40 feet, 50 feet and upwards in width, and they have to use a perfect forest of timber, cut and built up like the frame of a house, in order to prevent the country from breaking into their workings. It is important, therefore, that they should use timber which is light, and which can be easily handled and readily cut and shaped. One of the directors of the Block 14 Company points out that the three principal qualities of Oregon which make it so suitable are - its strength and rigidity, its lightness, and the ease with which it can be cut and shaped. He states further that Oregon stands alone, owing to its possession of these essential qualities to a remarkable extent. Its lightness insures easy and expeditious handling, which is a matter of vital importance, and the work of cutting and shaping can be carried out with ease and rapidity. The whole of the timber used in the Broken Hill mines is squared in baulks of 10 x 10 or 12 x 12 inches. These are cut and fitted in exactly the same way as the portions of a cabinet would be; they are mortised and tenoned. It has been pointed out to me that the cost of Oregon timber delivered on the mines at Broken Hill may be divided in this way : - ‘ One-fourth of the cost is represented by the prime value of the timber, another fourth by the cost of conveying it by ship to Port Pirie, and the balance by the railage from Port Pirie to the mines. The committee will understand how largely South Australia is interested in this question when I state that the cost of the timber used in the Broken Hill mines amounts to about £100,000 per annum, and that half of this amount, or roughly £50,000, is represented by the cost of railway carriage. When the Broken Hill mines are in full operation the various duties levied under this Tariff will represent an additional cost to the mining companies of £30,000 per annum, and half of this amount would be represented by the duties on timber. If the mining companies were flourishing as they were when the prices of silver and lead were higher, there would not be so much necessity for us to consider the influence of the timber duty upon the mines themselves. It is all very well for some honorable members to point out that the duty only involves the expenditure of a few thousand pounds per annum to the Broken Hill companies. This would not have been a matter of any great concern a few years ago, but now, when the companies are struggling hard to keep the mines from closing down, it is of considerable importance. It is a course of action which will probably result in the closing down of some of the mines, and the consequent displacement of a large number of men. Under such circumstances the committee will see that this is an important matter, not only to New South Wales and to Broken Hill, but to South Australia. It is especially important to the State which I represent, because it may seriously affect its railway revenue. I trust therefore that the committee will agree to the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Barrier, and admit mining timber free. To my mind it has been shown most conclusively that the hardwoods of Queensland and New South Wales are not suitable for the particular kind of work which is carried on in the Broken Hill mines. They are unsuitable by reason of their brittleness and shortness of grain, in addition to which their use would tremendously enhance the cost of freight to the mining companies. I wish also to point out that Queensland - which, it has been held, will be the chief sufferer if we exempt timber from duty - imported in 1900 £26,000 worth of timber, out of which £18,000 worth came from New South Wales. I have no doubt that that £18,000 worth chiefly represents Oregon, which . had originally been imported into New South Wales. The balance came principally from New Zealand. In the same year I find that Queensland exported only £15,943 worth of timber to the other States. Seeing that Queensland timbers are said to be so useful to the other States, is it not strange that with a free port open to the industry in New South Wales, and only low rates of duty operating in South Australia and Western Australia, Queensland absolutely imported timber to the extent, of £26,000, and exported only £15,000 worth? These figures, I think, completely shatter the argument that an enormous industry in Queensland will be ruined if we admit timber free. In view of the important part which timber plays in connexion with the mining industry - an industry which is responsible for such a large proportion of our natural wealth - I hope that the committee will agree to the amendment of the honorable member for Barrier.
– If the honorable member for Barrier had proposed to exempt from duty the special class of timber in which his constituents are interested, his position would have been intelligible. But in order to secure the free importation of Oregon into Broken Hill, he wishes to place all timbers upon the free list. In taking such an extreme course, I think that he has over-reached himself. Honorable members opposite frequently oppose the imposition of protective duties, upon the ground that it is impossible to protect the primary producers ; but if the forestry and saw-milling industries are not primary industries, I do not know what are. Yet, when the interests of these industries are under consideration, our friends opposite oppose granting them any assistance, just as bitterly as they fight any proposal to assist the manufacturers. In acting thus they are not quite consistent with their professions. . I do not know why the whole of this discussion should centre round the interests of Queensland. All the States are equally interested. The forestry and saw-milling industries are very large and important ones in all the States. The district which I represent is as largely interested in this matter as is any portion of Queensland. Indeed, I venture to consider that no part of the Commonwealth produces better timber than does the Gippsland district.
– Does that district grow Oregon?
– It does not grow Oregon, but it produces a great deal of timber which takes the place of Oregon for building purposes. Indeed, Gippsland has exported considerable quantities of hardwood to the old country for street-paving and other purposes, and that timber has admirably met all requirements.
Mr.Fowler. - Will protection benefit the saw-milling industry?
– It will benefit that industry as a whole. In addition to redgum, Gippsland produces iron-bark, which is probably one of the most durable hardwoods to be found in any part of the world. Then we have also the native cedar.
– Does iron-bark need protection?
– Yes, it requires protection, together with our other native timbers. I know that for certain purposes there are timbers which are used as substitutes for iron-bark. Then we have the yellow box, the yellow stringy bark, the mountain ash, the blackbutt, and the blackwood, all of which are valuable timbers, the use of which provides a great deal of employment. It is true that the proposed duty is a low one. It is chiefly a revenue duty, but it appears to be a most legitimate one, because so far as it will restrict importation our own saw-millers will be benefited.
SirWilliammcmillan. - Will the imposition of the proposed duty affect any of the timbers which the honorable member has mentioned ?
– Of course it will. The saw-millers of Gippsland have been crying out for years that the use of Oregon for building purposes has competed very largely with our native timbers, and if my honorable friend inquires into the matter, he will find that their complaint is a very legitimate one. I have every sympathy with the Broken Hill miners, and if we could assist them without interfering with the larger interests of the saw-millers and foresters throughout the Commonwealth, I should be very pleased to do so. At the same time I think that honorable members are unreasonable in asking that all timber should be placed upon the free list, that the Commonwealth should thus lose a very valuable source of revenue, and that our foresters and saw-millers should be deprived of the modicum of protection which it is proposed to extend to them under this Tariff.
Mr. BATCHELOR (South Australia).I agree with the statement that the honorable member for Barrier is asking for too much when he seeks to have all timbers placed upon the free list, in order that Oregon pine may be exempt from duty. I strongly sympathize with those who are anxious to foster the timber industry of Australia, but I cannot forget the duty which I owe to the State which I represent. Of course, it cannot be denied that there are certain Australian timbers which can take the place of Oregon for special purposes.
– The Minister for Defence says that jarrah can be substituted for it for mining purposes.
– The Minister for Defence may say that as long as he chooses, but I shall not believe him.
– I do not speak from hearsay, but from knowledge.
– Unless we impose an absolutely prohibitive duty upon Oregon, Australian hardwoods cannot compete with it as far as the Broken Hill mines are concerned. As a matter of fact the proposed duty is simply a revenue duty. Oregon timber will still have to be employed in those mines, and the duty of1s. per 100 superficial feet will have to be paid upon it. As amatter of fact the Broken Hill mines will not pay that duty. The miners employed there have already had to submit to a reduction of wages, and the result of the imposition of the proposed duty will be that the South Australian railways will have to reduce the cost of the carriage of Barrier ores, and thus bear the whole burden. The Minister for Defence claims that the mines in question can use jarrah. Of course jarrah can be used for a great many purposes. It is a splendid timber, and enters very largely into consumption in South Australia.
SirJohnforrest. - It is used for mining purposes in Western Australia.
– So it is in South Australia ; but it is not used for the special purposes which Oregon serves at Broken Hill. The carriage of such weighty stuff as jarrah would absolutely preclude that.
– It is stronger, than Oregon.
– But lightness is required as well as strength. The timber used under the special conditions which obtain at Broken Hill must be one which is easily handled and is not too heavy. It is sheer nonsense to talk about carting heavy timbers into the interior of Australia, because it cannot be done. There is any amount of gum timber not far from Broken Hill, and if the mining companies there could have used hardwood in their mines, they would have drawn upon the supplies which are available in their own immediate neighbourhood. But they cannot use hardwood. Whilst I believe that Queensland hardwood is very excellent, and will take the placeof Oregon formanypurposes, it cannot be contended that it will supplant Oregon in the southern market. The immense quantity of the latter timber which is used precludes the possibility of Queensland supplying a substitute for it for many years. I am not going to affirm, however, that the northern State cannot produce a substitute. It would be a mistake to impose a heavy revenue duty on an industry which is struggling under very adverse conditions, and that merely because of the possibility that some day one of the States may be able to supply the timber required. I am not prepared to support a proposal that all undressed timber shall be free.
– If the honorable member will support a proposal that Oregon timber shall be free, I am willing to accept that as a good compromise.
– I am prepared to vote for placing Oregon on the free list. The point that has been made all through the debate is that there are special circumstances in connexion with the use of Oregon timber.
– At Broken Hill only.
– At Broken Hill particularly.
– We are not going to victimize the whole community for the benefit of Broken Hill.
– What does the right honorable gentleman mean? It is absurd to talk about victimizing the whole community. But we do not want to victimize Broken Hill or the State of South Australia for no purpose at all. I do not believe that this duty will lead to the employment of an additional log of jarrah.
– I know that jarrah will do very well for the work. It does for the coal and gold mines in Western Australia.
– There are no mines of any size in Western Australia.
– Looking calmly at the evidence in regard to the different woods, we see that whatever duty may be imposed will not lead to the greater employment of hardwood. I hope the honorable member for Barrier will withdraw his present amendment, and propose that Oregon be placed on the free list.
– What other timbers but Oregon are there imported?
– There is any amount of other timber imported.
– Used for what, particularly?
– Does the right honorable member know of the immense number of timbers used in connexion with carriage building, buggy building, and similar industries?
– I think Oregon is the big item.
– I do not think so.
– There are also Baltic pine and Huon pine.
– Huon pine is, I believe, used for furniture and railway carriage making. I hope the committee will hesitate before imposing a revenue duty - not a protective duty - on a timber which must be used, and which cannot be replaced by any timber within the Commonwealth.
– I shallsupport the Government proposal for the simple reason that it means a low duty, which will not average over 10 per cent., or, at any rate, very little over, and because it is a duty which will largely help the saw-milling industry in Gippsland. I have been returned here to support low duties, not freetrade pure and simple, and this is a low, fair revenue duty, which, at the same time, will afford moderate protection. The Gippsland saw-millers held a meeting some few weeks ago, and passed unanimously a resolution asserting that theycould not carry on their business unless the duty were continued. Oregon timber, which is the timber principally imported, andwhich this duty is no doubt aimed at, comes into competition very largely with the timber cut by saw-millers in Gippsland and elsewhere throughout the State of Victoria. The Gippsland timber is used, not for the purpose of mining, but for the purpose of building, and it is well known that if Oregon can be obtained at anything like 11s. or 12s. per 100 feet, it will be used in the erection of the frames of buildings, though hardwood is really the better for the purpose, simply because the former, owing to its lightness, can be more easily worked by the artisan. If the duty be removed, much larger importations of Oregon will come in, with the result that the saw-milling industry will be seriously hampered. This industry, in Gippsland more especialty, has been the means of clearing large forests and of settling hundreds of prosperous people there. I have heard one or two honorable members speak disparagingly of the Australian timbers ; but I can speak of these from a very large experience of all the Victorian hardwood. There is hardly a timber in the State of which I have not intimate knowledge, and I can say that as regards strength and lasting power there is nothing that is imported that can compare with them. I say that, not caring what the imported timber may be or where it comes from, excepting it may be in respect of teak from India. I have here a list of tests which were made by the Victorian Railways Commissioners a short time ago in regard to timber for use, not only for sleepers, but for bridge building. The tests were made with pieces of timber 7 feet long, and 2 inches by 7-8th inch, oral most 2 inches cubic. These pieces of timber were suspended between bearings 6 feet apart, and they carried the following weights : - Blue gum, 1,112 lbs. ; mahogany, 931 lbs. ; messmate, 797 lbs. ; iron bark, 1,045 lbs. ; bastard box, 799 lbs. ; gumtop stringybark, 876 lbs. ; mountain ash, 965 lbs. ; spotted gum, 833 lbs. ; and blackbutt, 547 lbs. Blackbutt is an inferior class of timber, and is probably that referred to by the honorable member for Kooyong as having been found unsuitable at Broken Hill. That timber, which was largely cut in Tasmania, and exported ten or twelve years ago, is a light and pretty looking wood, but it does not last long in the ground; and will not stand a great breaking strain.
– It is more suitable for staves.
– That is so. With regard to the crushing test of timbers, I should like honorable members to have the result of experiments made by Professor Kernot, at the University of Melbourne, from the 4th August, 1888, to 1889. I find that yellow box stood a crushing strain of 30,500 lbs. before collapsing, while Oregon stood a strain of only 5,000 lbs., or one-sixth of that borne by the Australian wood. Pretty well the same proportion can be observed as between the other Australian hardwoods and the Oregon right through the experiments, the crushing strain in every instance showing that hardwood is five or six times better than Oregon in this respect. What honorable members have stated in regard to the use of Oregon at Broken Hill is perfectly true. I have been through the Broken Hill mines, and some years ago I asked why hardwood was hot used. The reason given was that hardwood is too heavy and cumbersome, and costs more to land there than does Oregon. It was further pointed out to me that at Broken Hill there is no great over-burden on the timbers, and that Oregon suited the purposes of the work better than any other wood. But it seems to me that a fair way of getting over the difficulty would be for the Government to agree to a proposal that all timber used underground for mining purposes should be allowed a drawback on the duty. That would surmount the difficulty under which the mines are labouring, and, at the same time, would protect the saw-mills, the timbers from which are not used in the mines, but for building purposes, bridge construction, and other classes of work for which Oregon is also used.
– Oregon is not used for. bridge building.
– I can assure the honorable member that Oregon is very often used for bridge building, though the structures may be of a temporary character. My suggestion would carry out the wish of the committee, which, I am sure, is to afford the mining industry as much relief as possible.
– The item which we are now discussing is one of great interest to the whole” Commonwealth, because of the large number of persons employed in the timber industry, and the large consumption of timber by our citizens. The honorable member for North Sydney, however, in speaking upon this subject last night, made a statement to which I take great exception. He said that the proposed duties upon timber, have been framed in the interests of the Queensland timber merchants, and that the representatives of Queensland asked for them. That statement is altogether incorrect. The representatives of Queensland, prior to the Tariff being introduced, were as ignorant of the intentions of the Government in regard to timber duties as any other members. The duties which we are now discussing were proposed by the Government without reference to honorable members who come from Queensland, and no Queensland representative was consulted by the Minister on the subject previous to the introduction of the Tariff.
– How can the honorable member answer for others?
– Because I have made inquiries, and I have every reason to believe that the information which has resulted from them is correct. In my opinion, the proposed duty is a moderate one, and I shall support it, but I wish it to be understood that it has been proposed, not solely in the interests of Queensland, but in the interests of the whole Commonwealth. I regret that members of the Opposition have attempted to make it appear that Queensland will derive some special advantage from the proposed duties which the other States will not get, and I shall be glad when this habit of disparaging one State and another ceases. Are not all the States members of the one federal family?
– But they have not all timber to sell.
– There is good timber in all the States.
– Would the representatives of Queensland solidly support the proposed duties if it were not for the existence of large timber resources in that State?
– It is true that we have large supplies of timber in Queensland, and it is only right that we should make the fact known. But the duties which we are now considering have not been proposed solely in the interests of Queensland. As representativ es of the Commonwealth, we should all work to secure the interests of the community at large rather than the interests of our own particular State. Honorable members opposite, however, have directed their attention solely to the interests of Broken Hill ; no mention has been made by them of other parts of Australia. The honorable member for Barrier made a great deal of the cost of Australian hardwood as compared with that of imported Oregon pine, but the question of cost is not the only question that we have to consider. In my opinion, a far more important matter is the safety of the miners who have to be protected by the use of timber. The first cost of Oregon is possibly much lower than that of hardwood, but as hardwood lasts more than twice as long as Oregon, it stands to reason that in the long run it must be cheaper, besides being safer. While we have an abundance of timber of all kinds within the Commonwealth, I am not prepared to vote in favour of allowing American and New Zealand timber to be imported free of duty. The timber-getting industry is one which is already in existence in every State of the Commonwealth, and provides a means of livelihood for a very large number of our best citizens. It requires only the moderate encouragement which the Government now propose to give it, to make it in the near future one of our most important industries ; but unless that encouragement is given, thousands of people throughout the Commonwealth - white men, not kanakas - will be injured. Three or four months ago two practical men, Messrs. Campbell and F.G. Lahey, came from Queensland to place before honorable members all the information they possessed in regard to the Queensland timber industry, and I think honorable gentlemen will admit that the pamphlet which they published contains most valuable information in regard to the timber resources of Queensland. Of course they have not written about the resources of other States, and Queensland members have not attempted to say anything, except in regard to the resources of their own State.
– Queensland does not yet supply its own requirements.
– But we shall do so within the near future, because we have resources which are sufficient to meet all the demands of the Commonwealth for many years to come. In the meantime I think the committee should continue to act upon the principle which has hitherto governed our decisions in regard to proposed duties, and that is to encourage local industries. Where articles can be produced or goods manufactured within the Commonwealth, a duty should be imposed to encourage the local industry, but where we cannot produce or manufacture our own requirements it has been agreed to allow them to be imported duty free. I have here a report from the management of the Mount Morgan Gold Mining Company on the superiority of hardwood for mining purposes, and I wish to place it before the committee, because I . do not think it has been sent to honorable members generally. Mr. Campbell writes -
In conformity with my promise, made to you. when returning to Brisbane, I now havethe pleasure to hand you herewith copy of a report obtained by the management of the Mount Morgan Gold Mining Co. Limited, on the superiority of hardwoods for mining purposes. I estimate the Mount Morgan Co. could land Oregon pine at their Works for 10s. 6d. per 100 feet, free of duty. You will note that hardwood costs them 16s., but Mr. Cornes points out that much reduced sizes of hardwood can be used, compared with the larger sizes required if Oregon is used. The fact that the use of hardwood reduces the fire risk to a minimum compared with the danger from the large quantity of resin contained in Oregon pine, as pointed out by Mr. Cornes, is, in the interests of mine owners and miners, of paramount importance. The Mount Morgan Co. have an unbroken record of freedom from any accident attributable to faulty timber. I hope, now that the time is approaching when the timber Tariff must be discussed, that you will let the full question of timber duties have that consideration the importance of the industry entitles it to.
Mr. Cornes’ report is as follows
As requested, I beg leave to submit the following notes on Queensland timbers, and the result of our experience for the last seventeen years in the practical use and adoption of the said timbers : -
Hardwoods. - Large quantities of local grown hardwood of various kinds and qualities have been tested and made use of since the discovery and development of the company’s mine, and from the commencement of our extensive buildings and plant. The approximate quantity for the last two years averaged 1,642,785 superficial feet sawn timber per annum, Ironbark (Cerebra) and Spotted Gum. (Maculata) being the hardwoods preferred, particularly the latter, as we consider it to be the best, strongest, and soundest timber we can obtain, both for mining and building purposes. Large quantities of mining timbers, after fourteen years’ service underground in the stopes, have been recovered, and are now being replaced in position in other parts of the mine. The said timber under pressure shows immense depression before fracture and on that account proves to be very safe to work under. The transverse strength of spotted gum (Maculata) 17,875 lbs. per square inch - lowest test. The average cost for sawn hardwood timber is 16s. per100feet, super measure, including shaping and dressing for mining purposes; hardwood sawn timber of all sizes for building purposes costing the same per 100 superficial feet. The whole of the machine and building frame-work being constructed of the aforesaid. Hardwood timbers since the inception of the company have given every satisfaction and still maintain their efficiency. Oregon pine has obtained favour in some parts of Australia as a mining timber; I have no reliable data for tests of this timber on hand, but judging from pines of a kindred nature, the transverse strength can be little more than about half of the timber we have adopted. Baltic red pine, similar to Oregon, shows only 4,890 lbs. per square inch transverse strength. Furthermore, the inflammable nature of Oregon or any other of the resinous pines, is a source of danger in dry and extensive workings that cannot be overlooked.
Queensland Pines. - Have been used exclusively in the internal erection and fittings of all buildings, residences, joinery, furnishings, patterns, and other appliances of a numerous and varied nature, from the beginning of operations up to the present date ; average consumption for the last two years being 163,645 feet superficial. W. H. Warren’s table on Australian Timbers, published by authority of the New South Wales Commissioners, contains full information re strength and strains of Queensland timber generally ; I therefore refrain from dealing further on this matter. For the purposes I have before stated, Queensland pines are quite equal to the pines of any other country, being remarkably regular in the grain, free from knots or sap, easily manufactured or worked, taking a fine finish. They are likewise free from odours of gum, resins, and turpentines which prevail in most other pines, which also prove so deleterious to susceptible foods or substances when enclosed in cases made for such purposes.
If Oregon, which is so much cheaper, were as durable and as good in other respects as is hardwood, would not the Mount Morgan Company have used it ? I cannot claim to have any personal knowledge of this question, but from the inquiries I have made I believe that although in the first instance hardwood costs considerably more than Oregon, it will in the end be found not only cheaper but very much safer to use. I hope the timber industry will receive the consideration to which it is entitled.
– The condition of this committee during the last few hours has been somewhat humiliating. We are discussing an item which affects not merely the interests, but the lives, of a good many working men, and yet we have only one Minister at the table, and empty benches behind him.
– There are more honorable members on the Government benches than on those opposite.
– Honorable members on the opposition side are not responsible for the government of the country, unfortunately.
– It is extraordinary that a certain function outside should prove more attractive than the business conducted in this chamber, which is of the utmost importance, and to which every honorable member was sent here to attend. I for one shall protest against the decision of an important matter of this kind by such a sparsely attended committee. I was rather amused at some of the extraordinary conversions which have taken place during the last few hours. Because the honorable member for Flinders has a saw-mill in his electorate he will vote for the duty upon timber - timber which is necessary for the protection of the lives of the miners of Broken Hill, Kalgoorlie, and other places.
– Not at Kalgoorlie.
– Yes. The right honorable gentleman has done his best to drive jarrah into the mines at Kalgoorlie.
– Not at all.
– Did not the Government of which the right honorable gentleman was the head, pass regulations enabling the Railway department to carry jarrah at the same rate as Oregon, although jarrah is five times as heavy as Oregon.
– We wished to encourage local industry, and also to help the minersby giving them better timber.
– The miner and the builder will, if left to themselves, select Oregon for most of their work.
– Oregon is not used much for underground work at Kalgoorlie.
– Perhaps not for underground work ; but it is largely employed for other purposes. It is not contended that if the people are left alone they will use hardwood instead of Oregon. The honorable member for Flinders has told us of the enormous strains which Australian hardwood will stand, but if he and other honorable members go on piling up Tariff burdens, we shall soon want to know how much more strain the people of Australia will be able to bear. The honorable member for Gippsland, experienced statesman as he is, lectures us because we are unwilling to give consideration to timber as one of the primary industries. We were twitted with not properly appreciating the fact that it was a primary industry ; but I am not prepared to protect even a primary industry at the expense of any other primary industry. The honorable member for Darling Downs told us about the danger to which various bush townships would be exposed if these duties were abolished. Many townships have disappeared from the map in New South Wales since the timber in their vicinity was cut out. I know of districts to the north of Sydney which have been absolutely depopulated because the surrounding country has been denuded of timber. Does the honorable member mean to tell us that the Tariff will keep townships alive after the timber in their vicinity has disappeared ? The honorable member for South Australia, Mr. V. L. Solomon, showed that the margin of profit upon the working of the Broken Hill mines is very small, and that some of the companies are not paying dividends, but are actually carrying on operations at a loss. If these mines are shut down there is no doubt that the miners and operatives now engaged in Broken Hill, Kalgoorlie, and other places will be driven into the large cities to compete with, the constituents of those honorable members who are now supporting this duty. Surely honorable members who represent labour constituencies in Melbourne and other large centreswill have some consideration for men who are living under the most unattractive conditions. Are they going to impose a duty that mayimpel the mining companies to reduce the wages of their employes? The honorable member for Darling, who speaks from practical experience, has shown the necessity for admitting Oregon free of duty, in order that the lives of the miners at Broken Hill may be adequately protected. The miners are being robbed at every point under this Tariff, and now it is proposed to establish conditions which may have the effect of murdering them. We shall be committing something little short of a criminal act if we impose a tax upon timber which it is necessary to use to insure the safety of the miners. We must not forget, either, that the course of trade may be seriously diverted by the imposition of a duty such as this. A statement has been furnished to me by a competent authority which shows that other industries will suffer if this tax is imposed. It is stated that-
American ships bringing timber from the Pacific coast, cany wheat and flour at ballast rates from Melbourne and Adelaide (from the latter port salt as well) to Sydney and Newcastle. In this latter port they load coal for American Pacific ports, and the prosperity of the Newcastle district may be said to depend upon these vessels being available. In the absence of the low freights thus provided, Newcastle coal could not compete in American ports, and the whole of this enormous export trade would be destroyed.
So that this duty will not only injure the miners at Broken Hill and Kalgoorlie, but those at Newcastle also. The writer adds -
The importance of this factor in the trade of Newcastle may be estimated from the fact that, at the present time, 18th January, 1902, not less than eight vessels having brought timber from America are loading coal in Newcastle, and not less than 44 such ships, having brought or bringing timber, are under charter to load coal in that port.
The miners have received no benefit from the Tariff, but have been loaded with burdens in every direction, and we should relieve them as far as possible of taxation, and encourage the mining companies to take effective measures for the protection of the lives of their employes.
– The honorable member for Oxley spoke as if the only people interested in the importation of Oregon were the mining companies at Broken Hill. It must be remembered, however, that over a very great part of Australia there is no timber which can take the place of Oregon. It is true that in the inland districts of New South Wales we are fortunate enough to have a native pine which is better for building purposes than is Oregon, because it is almost completely ant-resisting. Therefore, even though Oregon may be a little cheaper a large number of people prefer to use the locally grown pine for building purposes, and to that extent we may be said to be independent. This pine is; however, very rarely sent towards the sea-board, and in the coast districts Oregon is universally employed for building purposes, and for carrying on operations such as those conducted at Broken Hill. I do not say that those who use Oregon timber have a right, in view of our financial circumstances, to expect that Oregon shall be admitted free of duty, but a duty ranging from 15 to 20 per cent, is altogether too high to impose upon an article which is generally used, which cannot be dispensed with, and which is not likely to be superseded to any large extent by any local timber. Under the Tariff proposals of the Government no other primary industry will enjoy the protection of an import duty of 15 per cent. There was no suggestion that we should impose a 15 per cent, duty for the protection of the prospective iron industry of New South Wales or Tasmania. Any such proposal would not have found acceptance in this Chamber.
– The condensed milk industry is being protected to the extent of 15 per cent.
– I think the honorable member is mistaken. Seeing that Oregon enters into general consumption all over the continent, I do not think that the duty upon it should exceed 10 per cent. Of course I am aware that it is difficult to secure a proper valuation of the cargoes by the Customs, and that therefore an ad valorem duty is difficult to administer. Consequently, in most of the States, fixed duties have been adopted. That being so, it should be easy enough to ascertain what fixed duty is equivalent to a 10 per cent, ad valorem rate upon Oregon. Whilst I am prepared to vote for a duty of 10 per cent., I could not support any proposal for a higher rate.
– A 10 per cent, duty is practically equivalent to 6d. per 100 superficial feet.
– I think that the honorable member is correct. A duty of 10 per cent., or of 6d. per 100 superficial feet, would not represent a very substantial amount to the Broken Hill mining companies, which are admittedly the largest consumers of Oregon in bulk. The honorable member for Barrier estimates that a 20 per cent, rate would mean a tax of £10,000 per annum to those companies, consequently a duty of 10 per cent would exact from them a contribution of £5,000 per annum. Whilst that would be a sufficient amount for them to contribute, I do not think that they could justly complain. But in the present instance it does seem to me that the committee are asked to go beyond anything which the Government have previously proposed in connexion with the primary industries, and I do not see the slightest justification, for it, because the duty upon Oregon particularlywill continue to be a revenue duty. The quantity of Oregon which would be displaced in favour of local timber by the imposition of a rate of1s. per 100 superficial feet would be very small indeed. I. do not see how it is possible to carry out the suggestion of the honorable member for Flinders, to allow a rebate to be made in the case of timber which is used for mining purposes. If such a concession were made applicable to the Broken Hill mines only, it might be possible to effectively administer it. But when we know that there are hundreds and thousands of mines scattered over the Commonwealth, we can see how difficult it would be for the Customs authorities to trace the destination of all the Oregon which is imported. I trust that the Government will see the propriety of agreeing either to a 10 per cent, rate or to its equivalent, if they discover that an ad valorem duty is unworkable.
– This question has been exhaustively and ably discussed, and, therefore, I do not propose to contribute more than a very small quota to what has already been said. But I wish to dwell briefly upon one or two matters which struck me previously, one of which I mentioned when speaking upon the general question of free-trade versus protection. It has been very ably pointed out by the honorable member for Barrier that this is an exceedingly onerous tax upon the mining industry. It is not only a special tax upon particular industries, but it is open to very grave objection in that it is a tax which differentiates too much between State and State. I hold that we must not only consider whether a tax falls with unjust incidence upon particular classes in the community, but we must also inquire whether any particular method of raising revenue would be unjustly burdensome or unequal in its pressure upon individual States. In this connexionIdo not think that we can have more conclusive figures than those which have been supplied by the Treasurer himself. He estimates that the total revenue to be derived from these particular duties at £119,000. Of that amount he calculates that New SouthWales will contribute £52,000, Victoria £42,000, South Australia nearly £16,000, Western Australia over £6,000, Tasmaniamore than £2,000, and Queensland - which is asking fort his special protection - only £466. I say that the incidence of a tax of this sort is grossly unfair to the States. It is really ridiculous when we consider the position of Queensland, whose representatives are clamouring for the imposition of the proposed duty as against that of NewSouth Wales, which is to contribute £52,000 under the Government proposal. Of course it has been mentioned that under the State Tariffs of New South Wales and South Australia timber was admitted free. In all the other States, except Victoria, the duties which operated were much lower than those which are now proposed. I believe that if we examine other lines even the Victorian rates will be found to be much less than those which, we are asked to sanction. But certainly the proposed duties represent an actual increase upon those which prevailed in the other States. In Western Australia, for example, the rate which operated was 10 per cent., and the committee have been told by the honorable member for Bland that a 20 per cent, duty represents about1s. upon 100 superficial feet of’ Oregon. I have been informed, however that it represents 25 per cent.
– The duty in Tasmania and Queensland was1s. 6d. per 100 superficial feet.
– At all events the Treasurer will agree that in two of the States timber was admitted free. In Western Australia the duty was less than half of that winch is now proposed, because the 10 per cent, rate applied only to some of the timber which comes within the scope of the Government proposal. A great deal of the timber imported by Western Australia was exempt from duty, so that upon the whole the present proposal represents a considerable addition to the taxation levied under the old State
Tariffs. The honorable member for Cowper has declared that Oregon is used in the Broken Hill mines because of its comparative cheapness. Not one other honorable member, however, supports that statement - not even a follower of the Government. From all that I have ever heard - and I have interviewed a few men who are interested in the timber industry upon the point - Oregon is used in those mines simply because of the greater security which it gives to human life, and of the ease with which it is worked. Therefore I regard the proposed tax as nothing less than a tax upon the insurance of human life in mining. Instead of encouraging insurance or methods of preserving human life we are asked to sanction the imposition of a tax which will operate as a deterrent to the adoption of such methods, although in. our State Parliaments during the past twenty years we have been enacting legislation prescribing how factories shall be worked, with a view to preserving the lives and limbs of the operatives, and passing workmen’s compensation Acts, which allow of claims for damages where, as the result of negligence, accidents occur in which limbs are injured or lives sacrificed. The present proposal runs counter to the principles which have hitherto been adopted in our State legislation. I know that the Treasurer’s estimate of the revenue which he will derive from this particular source has been challenged. He calculates that he will receive £119,000 ; but I have seen an estimate which puts the receipts down at nearly £400,000. Of course I would not accept that estimate in its entirety, because in some respects it is faulty. For instance, the amount which it was calculated Victoria would contribute duringthe last three months of 1901- taking the moneys actually received and those which would have been collected upon timbers which were bonded - was £35,000 as against an estimate for the year of £40,000. But as against that an allowance must be made for the fact that the Baltic timber comes in at the end of the year.
– In addition to which my estimate was for a normal year.
– But after making allowance for the fact that a great many shipments of timber arrive at the end of the year, it is easy to see that the Treasurer has largely under-estimated his revenue from this source. If that be so, then the burden of the tax is much greater than the figures printed in the appendices would indicate. The honorable and learned member for Darling Downs has quoted statistics to-day regarding the large exports of timber from Queensland. I find, however, upon looking at the Statistical Register for that State that during the past ten years the export of timber from Queensland shows a falling off.
– I only gave an estimate of the quantity of timber available.
– I do not attach much importance to the honorable and learned member’s quotation, because he stated that 11,000,000,000 of superficial feet of timber were available in Queensland. That word “ available “ covers a multitude of errors. It is like the estimate of lands which are put before the people of England, as available for settlement in Australia, when we know as a matter of fact that the area of land in Australia, which is suitable for settlement, is limited to a few million acres. Surely the honorable and learned member must have been referring to the total qualitity of timber that might be available at any time, from the shortest growth to the most matured timber. If we take the figures relating to the export of timber - which are the best guide as to the wisdom of imposing a duty to encourage exportation to the other States - we find that the exportations from Queensland during 1891 - taking the total for cedar and pine only, which are the two largest lines - were 1,500,000 superficial feet, whilst in 1901 they aggregated only a little over 1,000,000 superficial feet. The value of these exportations in 1901 was £12,000, as against £14,000 in 1891. Considering that in nearly all the States lower duties were operating in 1891, that in two of the States timber was admitted free, and that New South Wales was by far the largest consumer, how is it that Queensland, which, is regarded as the future supplier of the Commonwealth, has had a shrinkage in her exports during the past ten years ? As a matter of fact the imposition of a duty upon timber will benefit only the importers of Queensland, without in any way acting as a stimulus to production. There is another matter which I desire to mention. If we prohibit the importation of timber, ships which at present come here laden with timber will have to come in ballast.
– Higher steamer freights will have to be paid on exports.
– That is a point I was about to mention. If we stop ships coming here with bulk cargoes of timber, we shall have to pay additional freight on our exportations of wheat, of coal to America, Tasmanian hardwood to New Zealand, and salt from South Australia to New Zealand. The operation of the duty will, therefore, be to deter the development of commercial intercourse in connexion with some other of our primary industries. The salt question, for instance, has been discussed here, and we know that salt is taken from Australia as ballast by timber ships. The vessels go to Edithburg, and take salt in ballast to New Zealand, and the cheaper freights enable the exporters of South Australia to compete very favorably in the former colony. By imposing the duty we shall restrict the coming of timber, and, in consequence, increase freights on exportation. For that reason, viewing the matter from the State point of view, as well as from the Australian point of view, I can see clearly that my double duty is to oppose this tax.
– The optimism of Queensland members with regard to the possibilities of that State in timber production no doubt does them very much credit. I presume, however, that there are various degrees in their optimism, because last night one honorable member from Queensland was not very sure whether it would be advisable to institute this duty immediately, or to wait until it was discovered whether there were sufficient trees in that State to supply the demand, or, possibly, until the trees had time to grow. I am sorry to disabuse the minds of the Queensland members with regard to the possibility of their timber trade ; but I have an excellent authority to quote who indicates most conclusively that whatever is to be done in Australia with respect to the hardwood industry, will be done by the State I have the honour to represent. Baron von Mueller, who of course, is one of the best authorities I can quote, says of the Eucalyptus Marginala, which is the botanical name of the Western Australian jarrah -
It is destined to supply one of the most lasting of hardwood timbers for a long time to come, at the least costly rate to very many parts of the globe.
It is well known that large quantities of this timber are sent from Western Australia, and compete successfully in many other parts of the world. If itcomes to a question of supplying Broken Hill, for instance, with hardwood timber, there is not the least doubt that Western Australian can send sufficient to Port Pirie to prevent a single stick of the Queensland product being used. At the same time, it is worthy of note that the Western Australian timber producers generally do not want a duty on their product. They recognise that if they are able to hold their own in the markets of the world, they can hold their own in Australia. It is out of the question to regard even the possibility of hardwood being imported into Australia to any extent. The hardwood timber market is our own, and the question of the employment of Oregon pine in the mines resolves itself ‘into two very simple issues. If the Government want a revenue duty on Oregon, I contend that the proposed duty is too high.
– What is the percentage of the proposed duty ?
– It amounts to at least 20 per cent., and an impost of that magnitude on an article of the kind is altogether out of the question as a revenue duty. It is a duty which even a protectionist should not admit. If, . on the other hand, the Government intend this duty to be protective, - if, in other words, they intend to compel the use of hardwoods in mines where softwood is used at present, I contend, in view of what has been stated on behalf, not only of the masters, but of the men employed in the mines, that such a duty is nothing short of criminal. Under these circumstances, I’ cannot for a moment accept the proposal of the Government. I would suggest, however, that the proposal of the honorable member for Bland should receive the serious consideration of the Government, because I understand the committee are of opinion that it would be better to have a percentage duty.
– An ad valorem duty will upset the whole scheme. .
– In Western Australia percentage duties have been applied to timber, and I do not know that there has been any general objection to them.
– There are the varying sizes and other circumstances to be considered.
– The question of the varying sizes will be dealt with by the committee later on. Looking at the question all round, I think it will be best for the committee to agree to a compromise of 10 per cent.; and I shall certainly support such a proposal if the Government will accept it.
– I have looked into this matter pretty fully during the last two days, and I am. surprised to find the Treasurer putting forward the Government proposal in the form in which we see it. This was a question before the Victorian Parliament for many years, and it appears that the people of that State are quite satisfied that Oregon is not imported into this country to any lesser extent in consequence of the duty which has hitherto been enforced. In the year 1892 I find that the duty on Oregon was increased in Victoria, but it had notthe desired effect, and the people whoare interested in the saw-milling tradeasked for protection to hardwood. It has been found, however, that there has not been any increase in the output of hardwood in consequence of .the duty on Oregon, nor that the importation of Oregon has decreased. There has been a steady use of Oregon in all kinds of work, such as housebuilding, and the duty forms a very great tax upon the people who cannot carry on their business without the use of this particular softwood. I am not altogetherantagonistic to the stand taken by the Government if the duty be for revenue purposes, and not too high. The Broken Hill mines, which will suffer to the extent of” £10,000 a year, have produced somethinglike £20,000,000 worth of metal, of which £7,000,000 has gone into the pockets of the shareholders, and £13,000,000 to the carrying on of the works. If these hugeand wealthy companies are called on to pay, say, £5,000 a year, I do not think that that is less than should be expected. Wehave .heard over and over again that theduty may be the means of reducing wages ; but I think the men at Broken Hill will be found, as hitherto, very well able to take care of themselves. The companies are not desirous of reducing wages lower than those which are now being received. We have seen from the newspapers what action has been taken by the companies recently, so that we have every reason to believe that the men will be fairly dealt with, and that, if the duty has to be paid, it will be paid by the companies and not by the men. It is not necessary that I should go into this question fully. I have extensive notes, hut the longer a member sits here, the more of his material he finds used by others, so that, in all probability, anything I might say has already been said much better. Baltic timber, which is used for the lining and weatherboards of houses, has no competitor in the market, and to impose a duty would besimply to enforce payment of revenue. For that reason I think that 10 per cent, is quite as much as should be levied on the people, and I hope the Government will face the inevitable. The common sense of the Chamber will be sufficient to insist on the Government imposing a duty of 10 per cent, rather than 20 per cent, on this class of importation. The illustration submitted by the honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Glynn, shows conclusively that the cost of freight on our primary productions must be very much greater if there is not a trade in timber. But there is that “ if,” and , I feel satisfied that the duty will make very little difference in the importation of this class of timber from abroad, because it cannot be dispensed with. Something may be said in order to disabuse the representatives of Queensland ofthe idea that they are now advocating a great forest industry for that State. Their idea is absolutely a myth, both in regard tothe butterbox industry, and in regard to thetimber which is used in mines. According to the evidence of those who are capable of giving expert opinion to boards which have sat for the purpose of taking evidence on this question, Oregon timber will continue to be used at Broken Hill whatever duty may be imposed. I hope the Government will accept the suggestion thrown out to reduce this duty to one-half, which will be equivalent to 10 per cent.
– As one who spoke earlier in the debate,I do not want to unnecessarily take up time. I should, however, very much like to see such a proposal as that of the honorable member for Bland accepted bythe Government. The proposal of the honorable member for Bland is to impose a duty equal to 10 per cent, ad valorem, and I think that honorable members on this side of the Chamber would be disposed to accept that as a compromise. I am with the Treasurer in theopinion that it would be better to have a fixed duty, and that the general experience of the trade is that fixed duties are preferable to ad valorem duties ; but as the bulk of the timber imported will be Oregon, we can by fixing the duty at 6d. per 100 feet, obtain the 10 per cent, ad valorem duty which the honorable member for Bland suggests.
-How does the honorable member arrive at the percentage?
– Not by adopting my honorable friend’s method of valuing the timber upon its delivery at Broken Hill, with all charges added, but by calculating the percentage on the price at the port of shipment. The averageprice of Oregon at the port of shipment is from 40s. to 50s. per 1,000 feet, sothata duty of 6d. per 100 feet would be equivalent to an ad valorem duty of 10 per cent. Such a duty would under normal circumstances obtain a fair contribution to the revenuefrom the Broken Hill mines, and I do not think that much objection could be urged to it. I pointed out to the Treasurer last night that the difference between the duty of1s. 6d. upon the smaller sizes of undressed timber, and the duty of1s. onthe larger sizes of undressed timber is not sufficiently large to give any substantial encouragement to local saw-millers ; but the difference between1s. 6d. and 6d. would be a substantial margin, and I think that saw-mill proprietors who import and re-saw timber would view the suggested amendment with favour. The bulk of the timber imported into the Commonwealth will be Oregon. At the present time large quantities of kauri come into both Melbourne and Sydney, and perhaps the Treasurer will be able to tell us whether the New Zealand Government have taken any definite action in regard to the imposition of an export duty upon kauri ?
– I understand not.
– The New Zealand Premier has threatened-
– And that will be the end of the matter.
– I think that Mr. Seddon is quite alive to the interests of his own people, and that if this Tariff is passed as it stands, an export duty will, in the interests of the New Zealand saw-milling industry be placed upon the larger sizes of kauri, so that practically Oregon will be the only timber imported in large quantities. If the Treasurer accepts the compromise which has been suggested, I think that both sides of the Chamber will be willing to give him the reasonable amount of revenue which it will bring in, and the duty imposed will be quite high enough for revenue purposes.
– It is just as well that it should be fairly stated to the people who buy timber that the duty proposed by the Government will add only 10 per cent, to its cost.
– Is that a fair way to put it?
– What the people will ask is, “ How much more shall we have to pay if this duty is imposed ? “ I understand that Oregon costs 10s. per 100 feet landed on our sea-board, and a duty of1s. per 100 superficial feet will be equal to 10 per cent, upon that.
Mr. POYNTON (South Australia).It would be interesting to know what statement the honorable member for Wide Bay will make to his constituents about his action in regard to mining machinery. On the same line of reasoning he will have to tell them that the duty amounts to 60 per cent. As a matter of fact, the duty on undressed timber proposed by the Government is equal to about 25 per cent, on its cost. Last night the honorable member spoke about the duty being 7 per cent., but that is a misrepresentation. When a duty is spoken of as so much per cent, ad valorem, we mean that it is equal to so much per cent, of the original cost of the article upon which it is imposed. Queenslanders admit that they cannot supply the requirements of the Commonwealth at the present time, and as a matter of fact, they do not yet wholly supply their own requirements; but they ask the people in other parts of the Commonwealth to wait until they can supply them. I wish to impress upon the committee the fact that to-day the Broken Hill mines are directly supporting a population of over 30,000 people and many more indirectly. The men working in the mines last year numbered 4,862, and 1,250 more were employed at the smelting works at Port Pirie, 350 at the smelting works at Port Adelaide, and 300 at the smelting works at Dapto, or about 6,700 in all.
– Broken Hill also contributes one-third of the whole railway revenue of South Australia, so that one man out of every three employed in the South Australian railway service owes his employment directly to the Broken Hill mining industry.
– I was going to refer to the great importance of the Broken Hill traffic to the South Australian railways.
The mining industry at Broken Hill also gives employment to producers of many kinds. The honorable member for Robertson spoke as if the mines were paying dividends, but as a matter of fact the dividends have now ceased, and during the last twelve months over 3,000 men lost their employment there. We must look at the conditions as they are, not as they have been ; and a number of the mines are now in such a state that it is very questionable if they will be able to continue operations. I am sorry that the statement that hardwood is a suitable timberfor mining operations at Broken Hill has been repeated to-day. No honorable member who visited the mines there would consider it suitable, or would believe that anything but Oregon can be used. I do not say that the imposition of this duty will bring about the closing of the mines, but, as it is necessary at the presenttime for the mine-owners to largely reduce their wording expenses, it will impose a very severe burden upon the industry. I can understand the representatives of Queensland making a big effort to obtain a duty upon sugar, because of the action taken by this Parliament in regard to kanaka labour ; but in view of the representations which have been made in this committee, I think they should agree to the proposal to reduce the duty on undressed timber by one-half.
– The Government must realize that this duty affects almost every industry in the Commonwealth, and particularly the building industry, which has hardly been mentioned during the debate. A large quantity of building timber is imported, and the sawing, planing, and shaping of it gives a great deal of employment to these who are connected with the building trades. That being so, I think that the proposition of the honorable member for Bland is a fair one. He suggests that the proposed duty of 20 or 25 per cent, should be reduced to 10 per cent. The honorable and learned member for South Australia, Mr. Glynn, pointed out what a large amount of employment is given to those connected with the shipping industry by the importation of timber. If the importation Of timber is stopped, that employment will cease, and a great many persons will be injured. The State of South Australia is very much interested in the prosperity of the mining industry at Broken Hill, and if the mines were closed down a blow would be struck at South Australia, from which she would not recover for many years.
– I would join in the appeals which have been made to the Government, and to honorable members who are advocating the claims of the timber industry, to seriously consider the effect which this duty will have upon the mining industry at Broken Hill. Although I hold strong free-trade views, I was impelled to support the claims of Queensland for a heavy duty upon sugar, and I trust that the representatives of that State will, now show some consideration for the miners of Broken Hill. The Barrier district, which is now carrying a large population, would still have been the home of the dingo and the crow but for the rich mineral discoveries there, and as far as one can f oresee, that portion of the country would revert to its original condition if the mines were closed clown. It has been conclusively shown by those who are qualified to express anopinion that it is necessary to use Oregon in order to cope with the peculiar difficulties which are met with at Broken Hill, and that this timber could not very well be replaced by hardwood. The honorable member for Kooyong has told us that hardwood was at one time used at Broken Hill, but that Oregon timber had to be substituted for it. The honorable member for Darling, who is a practical miner, and has a knowledge of the conditions under which mining is carried on in all the States, points out that the circumstances at Broken Hill are entirely dissimilar from those which obtain in any other part of the Commonwealth, and are such as to make the use of Oregon imperative. No matter what duty may be imposed , if mining operations are to be carried on there with safety, Oregon must be used. It has further been pointed out that if the use of hardwood for mining purposes were made compulsory, those interested in the Queensland timber industry could not expect to derive any great advantage, because the supplies for the Broken Hill mines would probably be drawn from Western Australia. This duty will not only fall upon the mining companies, but will also seriously affect the miners. If the cost of mining is increased, the result will probably be either a reduction in the number of men employed, or in the rate of wages paid to them. Within the last few months no less than 2,400 men have been discharged from the Broken Hill mines, and we may look for a still further reduction of the number employed if the position of the mining companies is rendered more difficult by the imposition of a heavy tax upon them. There is no chance of Oregon competing successfully against the native hardwood in the country districts, because owing to the prevalence of white ants, it is imperative that hardwood should be used, quite irrespective of price or any preference for other timbers. I shall support the honorable member for Barrier in his endeavour to have this duty remitted.
– Most honorable members will agree that the discussion of the details of this item has been almost exhausted. We have heard some very interesting speeches from honorable members who are experts, and from those who have studied the whole question, and a flood of light has been thrown upon the whole of the work we have been carrying out in connexion with the Tariff. At every point we are met with difficulties and contradictions. I know that it is not an easy matter, in framing a Tariff, to deal equitably with all the industries of the country ; but we have a right to expect that justice shall be meted out to all the States. When we were dealing with the tools and machinery used in certain industries in Victoria - tools and machines of a delicate and complicated character, that could not be made in Australia - every honorable member holding protectionist views demanded that they should be admitted free; and I fail to see the difference, relatively, between those tools of trade and machines and the timber which does not grow here, but which is absolutely necessary in order that operations may be successfully and safely carried on in one of the greatest groups of mines in Australia. I believe in equality, and I believe that our Tariff should be framed on broad national lines. In dealing with timber, which enters into all the ramifications of industrial life, we ought to be careful not to deal a deadly blow at any of our great enterprises. To hear some honorable members speak, one would imagine that if we impose a duty on a particular article, its production locally will be so stimulated that the needs of Australia will forthwith be supplied. The logical outcome of the expectations indulged in by some honorable members inregard to protective duties would be an increase of the population of Australia by 5,000,000 within the next five years. The position of the protectionists in this matter was made clear by an observation of the Minister for Defence. When he was told that it was necessary to use Oregon in the Broken Hill mines he replied - “Nothing of the kind.” That is the autocratic idea of the protectionist. The Minister for Defence says - “Letus pass a law that they must use jarrah in their mines.”
– Did he say that ?
– He did, in effect. Every honorable member knows that the expense connected with the training and cutting of jarrah would absolutely preclude the possibility of its use in the Broken Hill mines. One might just as well say that ironbark, which is probably well suited for railway sleepers, is also suitable for the boards of a room. We cannot alter nature. We cannot alter the character of our natural productions simply by a mandate of Parliament, and unless we intend to attract a large population to this country, we cannot create industries for which we are not ripe. What is the argument of the representatives from Queensland in this connexion? One honorable member allows that the timber-producingarea alongthecoast line of that State has rapidly diminished, just as in New South Wales one now has to go further away from its water carriage in order to obtain ironbark. Does any one suggest - even the most rabid protectionist - that it is our duty to impose a tax that will force the timber of the remote portions of Queensland to the further end of New South Wales? The idea is absolutely ridiculous and childish. This is essentially a practical question. Here is a mine situate in oneof theoutoftheway regionsof New South W ales, where there is practically no timber available - a mine, the working of which necessitates the use of a quantity of Oregon which is equal to the importation of that of a whole State. It is proved that it is the best timber that can possibly be used in that mine. Oregon is not produced within ‘the Commonwealth at the present time, and in this connexion we must remember that we are not talking of twenty years hence. We are discussing an industry of which we are all proud, and one which has added immensely to the wealth of Australia. At the present time, and for years to come, Oregon pine is the only timber which can be used by the Broken Hill mines, altogether regardless of what price they have to pay for it. Surely, therefore, if any duty is to be imposed upon Oregon it should be purely a revenue duty. I do not think it would be wise to differentiate between Oregon and other undressed timber. Of course if the Tariff had been framed upon broad national lines I should have been prepared to accept a small revenue duty upon every item enumerated in it. But honorable members upon this side of the Chamber have been forced into asking that certain articles shall be included in the free list on account of the big imposts which have been levied upon nearly everything entering into general consumption. I suggest to the honorable member for Barrier, that he should withdraw his amendment in favour of placing Oregon upon the free list. Let us recognise the principle that revenue must be raised. I believe that a rate of 6d. per 100 super feet is equivalent toabout 10 per cent., and would constitute a fair compromise upon this question. I know that Australia, in every primary production, must soon be one of the greatest exporters, relative to her population, in the world. Let us take the position of Queensland as an example. I do not know all the statistics of the world, but it struck me when I last looked at the exports of that State, which contains a population of only 600,000, that during the past ten years, in which it has had to struggle through most fearful droughts, they have probably been, in proportion to its population, the greatest in the world. In the same way Australia, situated as it is in the southern sea, with teeming populations around it in the east, must be destined to supply food to those nations. We must inevitably be a great exporting country. If we are to export we must have ships, and if we are to compete with the world we must have cheap freights. Timber ships from the Baltic and America have been the great carriers of what is called our “ rough “ cargoes. They have been the carriers of our coal, of our tallow, of our greasy wools, and they will be the carriers for many years to come, as against steamships, which charge higher rates. Are we going to strike a blow at the whole ramifications of this trade ? To do so would be suicidal. I do not wish this Parliament to exhibit that want of vision, that parochialism which we thought we had thrown aside when we left our own provincial councils. In all great questions such as this, we must not adhere to our little shibboleths andconfine ourselves absolutely to a very small range of vision. We must look at the whole question as it affects Australia, and I am sure that irrespective of whether we are protectionists or free-traders we believe in the commerce of the country. We hope yet to see the products of the Commonwealth taking their place everywhere in competition with the world. Mostinteresting speeches have been made upon this item, and a great deal of valuable information has been gained. It is only a broad view of the question that I desire to put before honorable members. I think that the Government might very well accept the suggestion to adopt a 6d. rate and thus avoid further debate. I believe that the committee favour such a duty. Even if we placed timber upon the free list our action would not affect the industry in Queensland one iota for the next five years. We know very well that there is a special trade in Baltic timber, and I do not believe that the imposition of a duty of1s. per 100superficial feet would stop that trade. While I consider that timber ought to be free, still I recognise that it might be difficult to secure more than the free admission of Oregon, and as it is always invidious to discriminate in that way I think it would be wise for the Government to accept the compromise which I have suggested.
– I do not purpose attempting to throw any new light upon this controversy. The case upon both sides has been fully and admirably stated by those who have a larger knowledge of it than I myself have. Nor do I intend to follow the acting leader of the Opposition through his freetradeprotectionist speech. He cannot help indulging in such remarks. But I would point out that he is inconsistent in telling the committee, in one breath, that for the benefit of our export trade we should encourage ships to come to Australia with timber, whilst declaring in the next that if we levy the duty which the Government propose, it will make no difference, as the timber will continue to be imported just the same. If the latter statement be true, the proposed duty would make very little difference to the coal freights from New South Wales.
Nor do I think that the proposed tax would strike a blow at the mining industry. The present discussion has largely turned upon the Broken Hill mines, and a gloomy picture has been drawn of the ruin which will overtake them if we impose this duty. Indeed, any one would think, from the statements which have been made, that the mines in question will have to cease operations altogether.
– Who said that?
– It has practically been said. Some honorable members have told us that the proposed tax represents the last straw. That has been statedby one honorable member.
– And it might be so.
– I think it would be very hard to convince the committee that this duty will prove the “ last straw “ in regard to the Broken Hill mines. We all regret very much that these mines are in their present position, and if it were not for the prevailing depression I do not, suppose we should have heard a word of complaint against this duty.
– I doubt it very much.
– The right honorable and learned gentleman does not understand principles.
– I do not understand the principles of the honorable member for Went worth. The discussion has, however, gone on the lines I have indicated. We are told by other honorable members that the duty may result in a reduction of the men’s wages, and the honorable member for Barrier hinted that it may mean that those who have the superintendence of this timber at the mines will keep down expenses with, possibly, dangerous consequences to the employes.
– It is very possible.
– I do not believe that any mine-owner or manager would dream for a moment of using timber of unsuitable quality, simply for the reason that they could get it cheaper. I can understand that a mine manager would use timber if he thought it suitable, and, under such circumstances, would naturally use the cheapest he could get. But the honorable member for Kooyong, who ought to be able to speak authoritatively on the question, has removed all apprehension that the imposition of this duty will lead to the shutting up of the.mines, or will prejudicially affect the men. I think, therefore, that we may dismiss that point from our consideration. We are told that we ought to do justice ; and that is what we are trying to do to the different States. There are varying industries in the different States, and the object of the Government is to give fair play to all those industries. Fortunately not much has been said about Victoria in connexion with this matter, seeing that Victorian manufacturers are generally- dragged into our discussions. In that State at the present time most of ‘the timber used by manufacturers is absolutely free, but not one of those men has attempted to complain about the duty. They are of opinion, I am certain, that a duty is in the interests of Queensland and probably Western Australia, -and that some reasonable protection should be given. One honorable -member from ‘Western Australia told us that the saw-millers there require no duty.
– Hear, hear !
– I do not know whether the honorable member for Perth knows the company of Messrs. Millar Bros. Limited, of Western Australia. Two or three hours ago my honorable colleague, the Minister for Defence, received a telegram from Sir Edward Wittenoom, who is the resident director of the company.
– No doubt the saw-millers of Western Australia will take as much protection as they can get.
– I only mentioned this company because it has been said that those engaged in the industry in Western Australia do not want a duty.
– It is a piece of very be- lated information which the Treasurer is about to give us.
– I can understand that the telegraphic reports of our proceedings have been published in Western Australia, and that the saw-millers there, while perfectly satisfied with the duty as it appears in the schedule, have become alarmed on seeing a proposal to altogether remove the duty. The telegram is as follows : -
If duty remitted, Oregon, &e., this States timber industry will be seriously injured ; probably many ruined, owing to the competition in local and Inter-State markets. About £3,000,000 capital invested in the industry, which employs thousands of workmen.
An Honorable Member. - Rubbish !
– The honorable member has no business to describe as “.rubbish “ a communication from people who know quite as much of this particular industry as he does. This is information sent by persons interested in the industry, and surely their views are entitled to some consideration ? Surely they have just as much right to be heard as those who want to get the material in absolutely free ? We are told by the honorable member for Wentworth that a large number of articles have been put on the free list to help Victorian industries. These articles were put on the free list to .help Australian industries, and it is a well-known fact that a large number of new enterprises are being developed in consequence of the introduction of the Tariff. It now seems that the Opposition have given up the position they assumed in the first instance, namely, that -all these timbers should be admitted absolutely free. They see that such a course would be an injustice. Some honorable members on the other side admit that if a uniform duty had been proposed, and no attempt made to give protection to saw-millers or others, they would have voted for it. The acting leader of the Opposition says that he would have voted for a duty on every line in the Tariff.
– If the Government had “ run straight,” and kept to the Maitland speech, the Opposition would have done so.
– We have heard too much about the Maitland speech.
– The Government will hear more.
– I hope so, and I hope that we shall hear my honorable friend in the next Parliament. The Opposition now appears to be limited to an effort to have a duty of 6d. placed on Oregon.
– No; -on the lot.
– Now we understand each other. I understood the proposal of the honorable member for Bland to refer to Oregon only.
– That was undoubtedly so. The honorable member for Bland considers that a duty of ls. is fair in respect of other classes of wood, but on Oregon he is of opinion that the duty should be reduced to 10 per cent which would mean about 6d. I look on this commodity as a fair subject for revenue taxation, as I am sure do honorable members opposite. But I also think that the duty proposed by the Government will give a considerable amount of protection to industries in the various States. If we were to apply the lower duty to all kinds of wood, Oregon would come into competition with a large number of the local productions, and therefore the Government think it not unreasonable that protection should be given to the extent they propose. If the committee decide that there shall be only a revenue duty I admit at once that the Government proposal is an unfair rate. But the Opposition seem now determined to fix the duty on all classes of wood at 6d. I am perfectly certain the committee will not consent to that. It would be very hard to differentiate, and say that Oregon used for mining purposes shall pay one rate, and Oregon used for other purposes shall pay another rate. Therefore I think that whatever rate we fix for Oregon should be uniform. I had hoped that the discussion would be limited to the one .question whether Oregon only should pay a reduced duty.
– Why should there be a higher rate of duty on other woods than Oregon ?
– Because Oregon is the cheaper kind of wood.
– What is the difference between the cost of Oregon and the cost of Baltic i
– The honorable member knows that there is a difference.
– New Zealand pine is cheaper than Oregon.
– The object of honorable members is evidently to assist the particular industry at Broken Hill, and I do not wish to enter into a discussion of the general question. We seem now to be limited to the issue whether or not the duty should to be 6d. or ls. We having discussed the matter from all points of view, and, having made up our minds, nothing that can be added would change a single vote. I am always glad, if I can see my way, to meet honorable members. It is said by many that I go too far in this direction ; but, if I saw any sufficient reason, I should endeavour to meet the
Opposition in this case. I do not, however, see sufficient reason; and I ask the committee to take a division on the question whether the duty shall be 6d. or ls.
– The remarks of the Treasurer bear out the assertion which has been made on this side of the House that any representations made by working men, no matter how numerous they may be, are always ignored. As one reason why this higher duty should be imposed the Treasurer has produced a telegram from Sir Edward Wittenoom - no doubt a very estimable gentleman - who desires to put a certain amount of money into his own pocket. That desire is not stated in plain words, but that is clearly the object of the request. If any representations are listened to it should be those of something like 80,000 miners who require this particular class of timber. It may be argued that .ill these miners do not use Oregon ; but whether that be the fact or not, the same indifference would have been shown to their claims. (Committee counted.) But while the Government cannot listen to the representatives of the miners, they appear always ready to listen to any one who calls himself a manufacturer. I submit that the miners, when they point Out that the imposition of this duty will make the timbering of mines more expensive, and thus reduce profits, and consequently wages, should be listened to. In New South Wales there are at least 3,000 men engaged in the timber industry, while about 2,000 men are engaged in the industry in Queensland. They are employed in the hardwood trade. But no duty can cause hardwood to be used where softwood is better. Had the protectionists said - “ Oregon is not, and cannot be, grown in Australia, and as it is the raw material of the miners, amongst others, we propose to admit it free,” they would have been consistent ; and I hope that those who have used that argument in regard to other matters will see that it is applied here. The probability is that, if it were agreed to admit Oregon free, it would be found unwise to differentiate, and all classes of timber would be allowed to come in at the lower rate that has been suggested. The timber chiefly imported into the Commonwealth is, in the first place, Oregon, and then kauri, New Zealand white pine, and Norwegian pine - timber which cannot be grown here, and which should, therefore, even according to the protectionist theory, be admitted free. But we have heard the curious argument used that softwood enters into competition with hardwood - an extraordinary proposition, seeing that no man who required softwood would use hardwood in its place if he could get both at about the same price, whereas, as a matter of fact, hardwood is nearly always a great deal dearer than softwood. That this duty is not needed in New South Wales is shown by the fact that 8,000 men were employed in the timber industry there before any duty was imposed atoll. Neitherdoes itappear that it is needed to prevent timber from being imported into Queensland, because the Treasurer estimates that the revenue which the duty will return from the importations into Queensland will amount to only £466, whereas he looks for a return of something like £52,000 a year from New South Wales, and £42,000 a year from Victoria. It must be remembered, too, that the cost of carrying timber by rail is so great that what may be a fair duty to the people living on the sea-board is a most unjust duty to those living 100 miles inland. The railway charge for the carriage of timber from Port Pirie to Broken Hill is something like 4s. fid. per 1 00 feet, so that the people of Broken Hill are to that extent worse off than the people of Port Pirie in regard to the timber they have to purchase. However, the whole question has been so thoroughly thrashed out by other honorable members that I shall not detain the committee further. The Treasurer says that the duty has been imposed partly for protective purposes ; but I have shown that only a very small amount of revenue would be obtained from Queensland, and, as the other States have to contribute something like £120,000 a year, Queensland has no right to object to the proposed reduction. It must not be forgotten that once timber is used underground in mines it is gone for ever ; and therefore it is better, if possible, to employ the cheaper than the more expensive kinds of timber in that.work. For the reasons which I have given, and for reasons which have been mentioned . by other members of the committee, I shall support the amendment.
– We We all recognise that the fundamental basis of civilized government is protection to human life, Nowadays very few mines are paying - I have to meet a good many calls myself - and the probability is that if we increase the price of the timber used to protect the men who are working in the tunnels and under the greasy heads and broken stopes of our mines, they will not be so well looked after, and we shall then be morally responsible for the death of every man who is killed by a fall of earth. Therefore, as a democrat, I think that Oregon should be admitted free. There are many bad points about the Government, but I think there are more good ones, and therefore I am prepared to vote with them on most occasions ; but I think that in this instance they have not received the true light of knowledge - they have not got salvation - and it is the duty of their friends to hold up to them the electric light of truth, intelligence, and investigation. I desire to vote in favour of admitting Oregon pine free, but apart from that I shall support the Government.
– I wish torefer very briefly to the dramatic little incident to which we were treated a short time ago in connexion with the telegram producedby the Treasurer. The right honorable gentleman was a little ill. at ease when he was trying to find a satisfactory explanation, and his suggestion that it was possible that people interested in the timber industry in Western Australia had no idea that certain steps would be taken in the direction of reducing the duty was a somewhat lame one. Those gentlemen were perfectly well aware of the fiscal ideas of the large majority of their representatives in this Chamber, and that it would be my duty, and that of most of my colleagues, in carrying out our pledges to the electors, to endeavour to secure a reduction of the tax. If they had felt that their representations would be of any value they certainly would have done their utmost to persuade us that the timber industry was deserving of some consideration. But what are the facts 1 The telegram produced came from a gentleman who, as plain Edward Wittenoom, was sent Home by the Minister, for Defence, when he was Premier of Western Australia a few years ago, as Agent-General for that State. He was knighted when in England, and some of us have been wondering ever since why such an honour was conferred upon him. He has only recently returned from England.. He may have an interest in the Millar Jarrah Company. I have no doubt that he has. A good many others connected with the old regime were also interested in that particular company, which is only one of many jarrah timber companies. It is singular that no intimation has come from any of these companies, except the solitary telegram produced by the Treasurer. There are many gentlemen who are much more capable than is Sir Edward Wittenoom of expressing an opinion upon the matters connected with the jarrah timber industry. I know that many of those interested are absolutely indifferent regarding the duty. If they were asked whether they had any objection to a-duty, their reply would be somewhat like that of the big Cornishman, who, on being asked why he allowed his insignificant little wife to beat him, said - “It pleases she, and it don’t hurt me.” They would take, the view that the duty, if it did not do the industry any good, would do it no harm. I am certain that this is not a spontaneous telegram.
– As far as I know it is ; and I have the assurance of- the Minister for Defence that he has not communicated with any one on the subject.
– The Minister for Defence may not have communicated with Sir Edward Wittenoom, but others may have done so. In any case the telegram expresses only an individual opinion, and does not come from any one in authority. It only indicates the methods which have been very much in vogue in Western Australia, and which should be exposed in order to show their utter worthlessness.
– The interests of Queensland seem to have come into conflict with those of the Barrier, and of the States of South Australia and of Western Australia; in connexion with this duty. The honorable member for Barrier has made out a remarkably good case. He has mentioned that the duties imposed on timberwill represent an additional cost to the Broken Hill companies of £10,000 per annum. It has been stated that the machinery duty will involve an additional outlay of an equal amount, whilst other duties will represent £15,000 or £20,000 more. If Broken Hill can stand all these additional demands, it must be a wonderful place. I admit that those engaged in mining at Broken Hill are deserving of some consideration, and if it is clear that they will continue to use Oregon timber, even though a duty of 15 or 20 per cent, is imposed, we might very well reduce the impost upon that timber..’ I do not, however, feel disposed to impose nominal revenue duties upon all kinds of timber, and thus permitthe imported articleto be brought into unfair competition with our local timbers. Viewing the matter from a protectionist stand-point we may look upon Oregon as one of the raw materials used in building, and other operations, and if we cannot produce any efficient substitute strong claims might be advanced for placing it upon the free list. Apart from that I have a sympathetic feeling towards the miners of Western Australia and the Barrier, and if it is shown that the duty will impose a direct tax upon them we should be prepared to make some concession. Perhaps, under all the circumstances, it would be fair to reduce the duty on Oregon pine to 10 per cent., but I am not prepared to extend the same treatment to all classes of timber.
– I cannot give a silent vote on this subject lest my action should be misunderstood. I shall have a perfectly clear conscience in supporting the Government in this proposal. The honorable member for Barrier has ad-, mitted that this duty is not protective, but purely a revenue impost.If he succeeds with his amendment, we shall be called upon to forego revenue duties. We are told that there is a danger that the great Broken Hill mines, which we boast of to strangers as amongst the finest and bestmanaged in the world, may be compelled to shut down, if we impose a duty of an eighth of a penny per foot upon timber. The idea is preposterous. Some honorable members have stated that the duties proposed by the Government have robbed the miners, and one honorable member has gone the length of telling us that by imposing a duty on timber we shall be murdering the miners outright. We are told that there are 6,000 miners employed at Broken Hill. Consequently the duty proposed by the Government would represent a contribution of the enormous sum of 8d. per week from each miner. I regard this duty as purely a revenue duty. A good deal of jeering- has been indulged, in concerningthe position, which has been, taken up by Queensland representatives holding, free-trade views upon this question. I wish to tell the committee plainly that if my eight colleagues had opposed this proposal I should still have been found supporting it because it is an absolutely fair one. I have made inquiries concerning the wages received by the miners at Broken Hill, and I am assured by one honorable, member who has an intimate knowledge of the facts, that they ale the best paid workmen in all Australia. I think, therefore, it is clear that they could well afford to have their wages reduced to the extent of Sd. per week, even if they had to pay the whole of the tax. I support the Government proposal.
– I should not have risen again to address the committee but for the remarks of the honorable member for Gwydir. Before alluding to them, however, I wish to correct the statement of the honorable member for Capricornia that a duty of ls. per 100 superficial feet is admittedly a purely revenue duty. The honorable member for Barrier did not say that it would be merely a revenue duty. What he did say was that as far as the Barrier mines were concerned it would be a revenue duty only, inasmuch as those mines would continue to import Oregon. His argument was that the imposition of the tax would simply add to the cost of the operations of the Broken Hill companies. In reply to the statement of the honorable member for Capricornia, I wish to say that the proposed duty will not be a revenue duty, if. the claims of his colleagues from Queensland are correct, because the imposition of this tax is sought, to enable Queensland timbers to supersede some of the timber which is now imported. It cannot therefore, be regarded as a revenue duty, and if it operates at all it will be an exclusive duty. If it does not operate we shall be simply penalizing some of the industries in the Commonwealth which ought to be as free from taxation as possible. For that reason I do not agree with the honorable member for Gwydir, who said that we should differentiate between Oregon and other timbers. Why should we do so 1 It is true that by that means we might to a certain extent relieve the Broken Hill mines.. But what about the other industries ? The honorable member for Barrier did not attempt to speak for the whole of the industries in the Commonwealth. His remarks werelimited to putting the case of the Broken Hill mines. But I and other honorable members have Spoken of the effect of the proposition upon other industries. If we are going to consider the mining industry by imposing a lower duty upon Oregon than upon other timbers, why should we not consider other industries which are of equal importance to the Commonwealth -1! Other timbers are used in the manufacture of tallow casks-, meat casks and cases, fruit and jam cases, and butter boxes. Ought we not to consider these great exporting industries ? Are we going to add to the cost of these industries, which already find it difficult enough to compete with other parts of the world, and especially with the Argentine ? No one would for a. moment seriously consider- a proposition to levy an export duty upon the produce of those industries. Yet by maintaining the higher tex upon timbers other than Oregon, we are practically doing that. I am, therefore, absolutely opposed to any such distinction. To give a preference to one class of timber, which can be used interchangeably with other timber, is objectionable. The committee have consistently endeavoured to avoid imposing differential duties upon articles which can be used interchangeably. Indeed, in the Customs Act, pro-1 vision is made under which the Government can charge a dutv upon an article which is not named in the Tariff, if it can be used interchangeably with some other article that is specified there. I think that our best course is to determine upon the duty which is to be applicable to all timbers of a similar character in regard to which no great difference in price exists. Strange to say, the more expensive timbers are exempted ‘from duty. Ash, hickory, oak, and walnut are included in the exemptions. The other cheaper pines are to be taxed. For these reasons we should give relief not only to the mining industry of Broken Hill, but also to the other industries of the- Commonwealth, especially our- large exporting industries.
Mr. SYDNEY SMITH (Macquarie).I realize- that this matter has been well discussed, and that sufficient facts have been presented to enable the committee to arrive at an intelligent vote upon it. I join issue with the honorable member for Gwydir; however, when he urges that we have been -bestowing too much attention upon the Broken Hill mines. He pointed out that those mines have paid large dividends. No doubt they have, but as the honorable member for Kooyong showed last evening, out of £20,000,000 which had been won from the earth by the Proprietary mine, £13,000,000 had been expended in wages and the local manufacture of machinery. Therefore the miners have benefited considerably. To ray mind, we should avoid interfering with the success of these mines, by imposing a duty upon timber. Such a course may result in diminishing either the number of men employed, or the rate of wages paid to them. One reason why we should extend consideration to the mining industry is that under the Tariff the miners are heavily taxed. Moreover, mining machinery has been subjected to a heavy impost, whilst the machinery used in other industries has escaped taxation. Everything, indeed, has been done to harass the miners and those engaged in our primary industries. I think that the honorable, member for Barrier has consented to a fair compromise, and I hope that the committee will agree to reduce the duty to 6d. per 100 superficial feet.
– I understand that a telegram from Sir Edward Wittenoom has been read in reference to the proposed duty on Oregon timber. In the course of that telegram I believe that the late Agent-General for Western Australia states that many persons in that State will be ruined if this duty be remitted. That would lead honorable members perhaps to suppose that the imports of this particular timber into Western Australia are enormous. But from the West Australian Statistical Register for 1900, I find that the total imports of Oregon, unworked and hewn, were valued at £9,850 - that is, so far as this publication enables one to identify the import. It is exceedingly reprehensible that a gentleman occupying the position of Sir Edward Wittenoom should attempt to influence this House with regard to this duty, especially in view of the fact, which is notorious, that he is largely interested in this particular industry. I do not propose to say more, seeing that the honorable member for Perth has very effectually dealt with the pretensions of Sir Edward Wittenoom ; but the committee should know that his opinion does not carry much weight in Western Australia. He is a gentleman who administered the Mines department of that State for some years, and the less said about his administration the better for his reputation. If Sir Edward Wittenoom, or the Minister for Defence were here, I would say something stronger, but I shall let the matter pass with the remark I have just made.
– From a great deal that has been said, it would appear that the thanks of the Queensland sawmillers are due to me. We have heard a great deal about the enormous timber resources of Queensland, information of which most honorable members were not previously possessed. I am very glad to know that Queensland has such forests. I have made my home in Australia, and expect to live here the rest of my life, and, as I look forward to its being the home of my children also, I rejoice to know that we have such great resources in Queensland, or in any part of the Commonwealth. The honorable member for Wide Bay twitted me with the remark that whilst I was looking after the interests of Broken Hill, I somewhat failed to realize a Commonwealth outside that district. But after that statement, the honorable member devoted nearly the whole of his attention to the people who are carrying on the timber industry in Queensland.I venture to say that the mining community of Broken Hill is as large, and their interests are as extensive as are the community and interests involved in the timber industry. The honorable member told us, with justifiable pride, that the saw-millers of Queensland gave £68,000 a year to the railway revenue of Queensland. There happens to be a small private line running from Broken Hill, and I am sorry it is privately owned, because I should like it to belong to the Government. However, that makes no difference as regards the revenue derived from the line, and it may surprisethe honorable member for Wide Bay to know that the Broken Hill mines pay £130,000 a year to the proprietors of that railway, and £400,000 a year to the railway revenue of South Australia. Considering how Queensland members have spoken of an industry which contributes a railway revenue of £68,000, what would they have said had there been in Queensland a mining district like Broken Hill, contributing the amount of railway revenue I have mentioned, and in serious danger of being interfered with ?
– That £68,000 is for timber alone.
– At Broken Hill the whole of the railway traffic I have mentioned depends on the mining industry, just as the traffic in Queensland depends on the timber industry. We have been told that the 51 members of the Queensland Parliament signed a petition in favour of the retention of these duties. But if there had been a mining centre in Queensland similar to Broken Hill, paying the same amount of wages, and contributing the same amount of railway revenue, I should think that, instead of 51 members, the whole of the members of the Queensland Parliament would have signed the petition.
– Do not forget that there is nothing calculated in the £68,000 but the actual carriage of timber.
– But the figures include the carriage of imported timber.
– We are dealing with railway revenue, which is the outcome of the timber industry; and I am quite willing to double it if the honorable members from Queensland like. We are told that there is no timber which can compare with that in Queensland, and yet in the face of that statement a request is made for a protective duty. Surely if Queensland has so good an article, it can. be sold on its merits without a duty. There is an open market, and if Queensland has timber to sell, the people of Broken Hill have, up to the present, ready money to pay for it.
– The Queensland people have every opportunity of tendering.
– As to thenumber of hands employed in the timber industry in Queensland, we have the information supplied from those engaged, and I presume the information is correct.
– No, it is not.
– But I suppose the facts are not understated. It is said that there are 2,797 people employed in and about the saw-mills in Queensland.
– The joinery hands are also reckoned.
– I see from the Statistical Register that in New South Wales there are 3,294 people engaged in the saw-mills, which is 500 more than the number employed in Queensland.
– There is nearly three times the population in New South Wales.
– In New South Wales there are other industries besides, and the honorable member for Wide Bay has told us that the timber industry is one of the biggest in Queensland. It is a fairly good industry in New South Wales, but the representatives of that State have not come here whining for a duty.
– New South Wales imports nearly 60,000,000 feet of timber per annum.
– If thatbe so, New South Wales exports something in exchange. Commodities arenot imported unless theNew South Wales people imagine they receive something more than the value of the exports, or something better than the article which can beproduced on the spot. Timber is not imported to lie on the wharves, but is used in building houses, ships, and in other work of the kind. I regret that so much has been said about Broken Hill during this discussion. I dealt with the question from the stand-point of Broken Hill, because I felt that I could speak with more confidence and authority owing to my knowledge of the district, leaving it toother members to deal with the timber industry as it concerns their constituencies or other parts of the Commonwealth. This is a matter which affects not only Broken Hill, but the whole of the Commonwealth ; and so much having been said about the Barrier district, I should like to refer to one or two very peculiar statements that have been made, especially by the honorable member for Richmond, from whom I expected better things. That honorable member contended that because the Broken Hill Companies have in the past paid £20,000,000 in working expenses and dividends, they are in a position to pay this duty. But of that£20,000,000 which has been paid away, £7,000,000 has gone into the shareholders’ pockets; and there is not much chance of getting any of that money back in order to carry on the mines. If the mines had paid £70,000,000, they would very soon shut down unless they could at the present time practically pay 20s. in the £1. The Proprietary Company has earned as much as £1,200,000 in twelve months, though for the last half-year they earned only £43,000. In order to make that profit of £43,000, which means about 3s per ton, they had to deal with 305,000 tons of ore ; and no doubt that is a fair margin of profit. But a company which has paid, as much as £600,000 in six months, and now makes a profit of only £43,000, is running very close to the wind, especially in view of a fluctuating market. Those engaged in the saw-milling industry have to compete only with white men - with the Oregon and timber which comes from countries where the men employed get higher wages than do the timber-getters of Queensland. If what I have heard be true, the Queensland workmen in this industry-are not being paid very high wages; indeed, I have heardthat in some cases they are paid verylow, sweated wages. The mines of BrokenHill, on the other “hand, have to compete in the markets of theworld.If Broken Hill had to depend on the lead it can sell within the Commonwealth, not one mine wouldbe atwork, the local market not being worth a moment’s consideration. They are dependent on markets outside, where they come into competition with the produce of the cheapest labour in the world. The argument that because big profits have been made in the past, the mines canwell afford to pay the proposed duty, was not applied to the - nail industry. It was proved that there are only about 38 men and three boys employed in two or three nail manufactories in Victoria, and that one of these manufactories, which employs, ten or twelve men made a profit of £16,000 in a very- short time. Butit was not suggestedthat that industry should be carried on out ofthe profits made in the past, and we imposed a duty to protect it. I venture to say that the profit made by the Denton Hat Mills is larger in proportion to their turn-over than isthat of any of the Broken Hill mines, but nevertheless the committee imposed a duty upon hats. I recognise,however, that if I press my amendment to a division it willnot be agreed to, and as I do not wish to waste time I shall withdraw it, and subsequently proposethe reduction of the duty to6d. Personally it would suit those whom I represent if anyreduction that was made applied only to Oregon, but I think it’ would be equitable to apply it to all timber. We all recognise that the Treasurer is a fair-minded man who is willing to do his best to reconcile conflicting interests, and I on my part want to do what is best, notfor Broken Hill -alone, but for the whole Commonwealth ; and I trust that those who have defended the interestsof the timber merchants will do the same.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment (by Mr. Thomas) put -
That the words “and on and after 28th February, 1902,6d.” be added to the duty- “Timber, undressed . . . per 100 superficial feet,1s.”
The committee divided.
Majority … … 13
Question so resolved in the negative.
That the words “ and on and after 28thFebruary, 1902, 9d.” be added to the duty “Timberundressed …. per 100 super, feet.1s.”
The committee have refused to agree to a duty equivalent to 10 per cent, ad valorem, and as there are some professed free-traders who have voted against the proposal, I intend to give them an opportunity ofshowing whether they think 15 per cent, is the highwater mark for a duty for either revenue or protective purposes. To my mind, any honorable member who looksat this matter from a financial point of view, should not vote for a duty above 15per cent.
Question- That the words proposed to be added - beso added - put. The committee divided.
Majority … … 13
Question so resolved in the negative.
Amendment (by Mr. Thomas) put- -
That the following new duty be inserted “ Timber undressed, being Oregon, in sizes of 12 inches by six inches (or its equivalent), and over, per 100 super, feet, on and after 28th February, 1902. . . 6d.”
The committee divided.
Majority … … 3
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment agreed to.
Mr.CONROY (Werriwa).- The reasons which haveinduced honorable members to vote infavour of the last proposal should also incline them favourably to a reduction of the duty on Baltic pine Baltic pine cannot be produced within the Commonwealth ; so that even from a protectionist point of view it ought to be the subject of some concession. I move -
That the words “and Baltic pine” be inserted after the word “Oregon” in the duty “Timber undressed, being Oregon …. x … . per 100 super feet, on and after 28 February, 1902, od.”
Sir WILLIAM MCMILLAN (Wentworth). - I think it would be better for my honorable and learned friend not to press the amendment, because apart from the reasons which have been stated by the Treasurer, there is not the slightest chance of it being carried.
– Probably the honorable and learned member for Werriwa would not have submitted the amendment had he known that Baltic timber is never imported in sizes of 1 2 inches x 6 inches and over. Baltic timber is always imported in smaller deals, and the amendment, therefore, if carried, would be inoperative. I therefore join with the acting leader of the Opposition in asking him to withdraw it.
Mr. CONROY (Werriwa).- In deference to the wish expressed by the honorable member for Wentworth, I shall not persist in the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
– I desire to move that the words “ for use in mining operations” be inserted after the word “ Oregon.”
– At this stage the honorable member cannot do that, because the committee have already decided that the words used in the Tariff shall stand. He will, however, have an opportunity of bringing the matter forward when the exemptions are under consideration.
– Then I will move for the insertion of another line.
– The standing orders make provision that when the committee have decided that words shall stand those words cannot be amended.
– I would point out that the committee have decided that timber for mining purposes shall carry a lower duty. But for that consideration the vote would have gone differently. I ask you, sir, to assist me in securing the insertion of the words which I desire.
– Before the question was put it would have been competent for the honorable member to move the insertion of the words “for mining purposes only “ after the word “ Oregon.” He did not do so, however, and the committee have therefore decided that the words in the Tariff shall stand. The standing orders prevent any interference with them on the part of the committee, and the only possible way in which the honorable member can achieve his object is by securing the recommittal of the item.
– Do you rule, sir, that I cannot add words to those already passed by the committee ?
– Yes. Of course an addendum could be made, if it did not interfere with the principle which has already been decided by the committee. But the words which the honorable member wishes to insert would interfere with that principle.
Mr. CONROY (Werriwa).- I see no reason why a difference should be made in the duty charged upon undressed timber of different sizes, and therefore I move -
That the words “and on and after 28th February, 1902, ls.” be added to the duty “ Timber, undressed, …. per 100 super, feet, ls. 6d.”
– I desire to draw attention to what appears an anomaly in regard to the duties on dressed and undressed timber. The duty on undressed timber of certain sizes is 2s. 6d. per 100 superficial feet, and I desire to show how that will work out, as compared with the duty on dressed timber, which comes in in the form of flooring boards. These boards measure 6 inches by, and are made from rough timber measuring 6½ inches by 1 inch, the difference being wasted in the making-up. The undressed timber at 2s. 6d. will mean a duty of 2s. 8½d. on the 100 superficial feet, whereas the flooring boards of dressed timber, at a duty of 3s., will pay 2s. 7½d. per 100 superficial feet. The position is that those who believe in protection are putting the industry in such a position that the rough timber will actually pay a higher duty than the dressed timber. This dressed timber was admitted free into New South Wales, but paid a duty of 1s. 6d. in Queensland and1s. 6d. in South Australia.
– Undressed timber was exempt inVictoria.
– Exactly ; but now it is made dutiable, and this seems a peculiar way in which to encourage the industry. The calculation I have given is one made by the trade, but the Customs authorities will tell the Treasurer that it is absolutely correct. It will be seen that the duty will have the very opposite effect to that desired by protectionists, while as a revenue duty it will prove a serious impost. Taking the Commonwealth as a whole there is nothing to recommend this duty of 2s. 6d. ; but I do not intend to move an amendment, as the honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Glynn, has been desired to move in the matter.
– I move -
That the words “ and on and after 28th February, 1902,1s. 6d.” be added to the duty - “Timber, undressed, . . . per 100 super, feet, 2s. 6d.”
My attention has been called to this matter by importers in Melbourne, Adelaide, and Sydney, so that we have a consensus , of opinion opposed to the proposed duty. So far as authority is concerned a good case can be made out for reducing this impost.
– By reducing the duty bigger protection will be given to the people who prepare the timber here.
– I am told by a Melbourne timber merchant, who employs about 200 hands, and who is, I think, a protectionist, thattheduty of 2s.6d. will prove prohibitive. The idea of the Government is to have the wood imported in the bulk and worked up within the Commonwealth ; they desire to prevent timber under the sizes in question being imported as cut timber. The honorable member for Dalley has already mentioned the principal reason which is urged against this duty, namely, that owing to the waste in cutting the timber up the duty will be ineffective. The duty may be a deterrent, and, therefore, not even revenue producing ; but, at any rate, sizes suitable for cutting up here will not be imported. Oregon, I believe, is the timber chiefly affected, and that timber is of better quality in the smaller than in the larger sizes, the cost of importation in sizes suitable for cutting being exceedingly great, duty having to be paid on the waste as well as on the timber actually used. Another anomaly is presented in the duty on dressed timber, n.e.i., which, of course, includes kauri, and pays 3s. per 100 superficial feet. The rate on undressed timber under 7 inches by 2½ is 2s. 6d., but hitherto that timber has come in free, or at a lower rate in some of the States. The difference between the duty on dressed timber and undressed timber is only 6d., and I am informed that it will be brought in as dressed, with the result that local employment will not be increased, but actually diminished, and the very object of the Ministry in proposing this differential duty will be defeated. Previously in New South Wales this line was free, in Queensland the duty was1s. 6d., and in South Australia it was1s. 6d. per 100 superficial feet, and 2s.6d. for 40 cubic feet measurement. In Tasmania the duty was also1s. 6d., and in Western Australia 10 per cent., 5 per cent., and free.
– In those States there was no differentiation as to sizes.
– On the whole the rate was much lower in Western Australia than the rate proposed by the Government. It is somewhat significant that in New Zealand - where, having so much local timber, they might have favoured protection, if they adopted the argument put forward in favour of that policy in the Commonwealth - this timber is admitted free. In Canada it is also free ; and we have the precedent of all the States, except Victoria, in favour of a low rate of1s. 6d., such as I propose.
– This timber is free in Victoria.
– I was not aware of the fact.
– A lot of timber which was free in Victoria is being made dutiable now.
– As a matter of fact, in every State the duty was lower than that proposed by the Government, and in most States the maximum was1s. 6d.
– No ; it was 4s. in Victoria.
– I have just been, informed that that is not so. From what has been advanced, and what will be advanced later on by other honorable members, it will be seen that there is a strong case for the amendment I have moved.
Mr. F. E. McLEAN (Lang).- In fixing this duty the committee ought to take into consideration what has already been done in reducing the duty on the larger Oregon timber to 6d. That reduction certainly alters very considerably the measure of protection given by the duty of 2s. 6d. In New South Wales, when there was no duty upon Oregon, we had mixed cargoes brought in, the size of the timber ranging from pieces 18 in. x 6 in., to pieces 3 in. x 2 in., and even battens ; but there was not a very large quantity of the smaller sized timber, because the mills in America would not accept orders for it.
SirGeorge Turner. - Practically none of the smaller sized timber has been imported into Victoria.
– I believe that that is so. There was a duty of 4s. upon, all the sawn timber of the size we are speaking of, and that was practically a prohibitive duty, because the sawing does not cost more than 2s. per 100 feet.
– If we reduce this duty too low, will not the smaller sizes be imported, instead of being cut out of the larger sizes after the timber has been landed here ?
– If the duty were reduced to1s. 6d., therewould not be any great quantity of the smaller-sized timber imported. When there was no duty on timber in New South Wales, not more than 20 per cent, of the Oregon imported was less than 7 in. x 2½ in. A duty of1s. 6d. wouldbe quite high enough on such timber.
– Would not the difference between1s. 6d. and the duty of 3s. upon dressed timber be too large a margin? I do not mind making the duty in this case 2s;, and leaving the duty on dressedtimber at 3s.
– I was in favour of having a uniform duty throughout; with a small additional duty for dressed boards. A duty of 2s. 6d. is altogether too high in this case, when we know that practically the only timber imported would be Oregon.
– What about. Baltic pine?
– Baltic pine is imported in sizes ranging, from11 in. x 3 in. to 9 in. x 3 in. and 7 in. x 2½ in., but not very much under 7 in. x 2½ in. comes in, except dressed flooring and lining boards, which are subject to another duty.
– If. there is not much of this timber imported, the rate of the duty cannot make much difference.
– No ; but it would simplify the Tariff considerably, and facilitate the operations of. those who deal in timber, to have the duties as nearly uniform as possible. We have fixed the duty upon Oregon at a very low rate, and have imposed a duty of1s. 6d. per 100 feet upon undressed timber in sizes between 7 in. x 2½ in. and 12 in. x 6 in. What it is desired to do is to provide revenue, and incidentally give protection to the local saw-milling industry, and if the duty in this case were, reduced to1s. 6d., both objects would be attained, because these sizes, as well, as the sizes between 7 in. x 2½in. and 12 in. x 6 in., will be cut out of larger pieces which will come in under a duty of 6d.
– There seems to me to be a good deal in what the honorable member says, but I should think that the better thing to do from a revenue point of view would be to increase the duty on dressed timber.
– The duty on dressed timber is already very high.
– As I am glad to be able to meet my honorable friends opposite occasionally, I am prepared to reduce the duty that we are now considering from. 2s. 6d. to 2s.
– But that will leave a margin of1s. 6d. in favour of the local saw-millers. We might reduce the duty upon dressed timber.
– I cannot consent to that.
Me. BATCHELOR (South Australia).It seems to me that too much protection is being given for. the sawing, which employs very little labour. It is a concession to reduce the duty from 2s. 6d. to 2s., but I thinkit would do no harm to reduce, it still further. If there were a difference of only 3d. the timber, would be sawn, here. Whatever duty we impose, the consumer will be called upon to pay it, because there will be no competition.
– Honorable members opposite want to reduce this duty to 1s. 6d., and then to reduce the duty on dressed timber.
– To reduce the duty upon dressed timber would be quite another thing. I am not prepared to admit that that should be done. What we desiretodo is to secure by our protective duties the greatest amount of employment for our own people, and it seems to me that the proposal of the Treasurer will give more, protection to the sawing, process than to the more expensive processes of planing, and dressing.
Mr. THOMSON (North Sydney).- In this case the protection given by the duty apparently operates in favour, of the outside manufacturer, which is a worse protection than that operating, in favour of the inside manufacturer. Kauri was free under the Victorian Tariff, but there was a duty of1s. 6d. on flooring, lining, weather and shelving, boards, the two timbers used for making those boards being kauri and Baltic pine, though Baltic was used to only a limited extent. The position then was that flooring, and lining boards practically came in free in the form of undressed kauri, and the protection as regards the dressed timber was1s. 6d. per 100 superficial feet. It has been pointed out that 7 x 2½ inch timber will have to be imported to make flooring and lining boards, because it will, not pay to cut clown the larger sizes for these purposes.
– The honorable member for Lang said that the timber would be cut down here.
– The honorable member was speaking of the cutting down to 7 x 2½ inches for other purposes than flooring and lining. It would not pay to import the larger sizes and cut them down in order to produce flooring and lining boards, but timber of 7 x 2½ inches or under, which is best suited for turning into flooring or lining boards at the least expense, wouldbe introduced.
SirGeorge Turner.- It is strange that we did not import’ these sizes into Victoria.
– The reason they were not imported into Victoria previously was that New Zealand pine, undressed, was admitted free of duty in all sizes, and was cutdown and dressed here for use as flooring and: lining boards. Now, however, a duty is charged on all undressed timber, and the inducement to import the smaller sizes, will be increased. The duty on the smaller sizes is so high as practically to exceed that on the dressed timber, when the fact is taken into account that the dressed compared with the undressed timber is less bulky.
– I see that, but my difficulty is to. decide whether the duty should be1s.6d. or 2s.
– That is a matter for the Treasurer to consider. One and sixpence was allowed previously under the Victorian Tariff for the dressed timber, and under the present proposal far too much margin is given for sawing, which is a very simple process, whilst too little is allowed for the more complete processes of dressing, tonguing, and grooving.
– The honorable member says that these boards will not be sawn here, because they will be imported in the smaller sizes.
– The boards will be sawn here, but not for flooring boards. All the timber that can be. profitably imported in the larger sizes will be sawn down here to7 x 2½ inches and. under ; but lining and flooring boards will not be sawn down.
– Are not these flooring boards imported ready dressed ?
– Yes; Baltic flooring boards are imported ready dressed, and will continue to be so introduced ; but kauri timber, which has been used most largely for flooring purposes has hitherto escaped duty by coming in undressed, and being dressed here under the1s. 6d. margin. All I wish to show the Treasurer is that if the duty is retained as in the Tariff the outside manufacturer, instead of the local timber merchant, will be protected.
– I quite coincide with the remarks made by the honorable member for North Sydney. A mistake has been made in allowing too large a margin for the mere sawing of the timber. I believe that a duty of1s. for all sizes over 12 by 6 inches, and1s. 6d. for everything under that would be quite sufficient. Two shillings is too large a margin to allow for the mere sawing of boards into smaller sizes. In point of fact it will introduce a disturbing element into the whole timber business. No difficulty has been experienced in Victoria hitherto, because the great bulk of the flooring timber used in the southern States has been kauri pine, which has been imported undressed and sawn into sizes suitable for dressing. This class of timber will be entirely shut out from the market by such a duty as that now proposed. A marin of1s. 6d. between the dressed and the undressed timber would be quite sufficient to protect those engaged in the dressing.
SirGEORGE TURNER. - I understand from my honorable friends, who have a better knowledge of this matter than I have, that there ought to be a margin of1s. 6d., and I shall have no objection to reducing the duty to1s. 6d., leaving the duty on the dressed timber at 3s.
– It occurs to me that it is just possible for timber in much smaller sizes than 7 x2½ inches to be admitted under this line, and that if we reduce the duty it may conflict with those relating to laths, palings, and pickets.
– The honorable member for Yarra need not fear any such result, unless the importers are prepared to make false entries and declarations. The reduction of the duty to1s. 6d. is desirable from my point of view as a protectionist. I have carefully studied the circulars that have reached me from various quarters, including one from the Timber Employes’ Association. The risk of the loss of employment in sawing would be far less with the reduced duty than the risk of loss of employment in dressing would be if the duty were allowed to stand. Of the two risks I choose to take the former.
Amendment agreed to.
– In connexion with the line “ timber dressed, n.e.i., per 100 superficial feet, 3s.,” I desire to point out that a heavy duty is imposed upon Baltic timber, which is largely used by residents in the country districts for constructing their dwellings and for other purposes. The present duty represents a large increase upon the rate previously imposed, and it will press heavily upon our farmers and others. It is almost impossible to procure suitable hardwood weatherboards, because fully six months must elapse after they come from the mill before they are fit for use. The duty upon dressed timber will impose as heavy a burden upon thesettlers in thecountry districts as will be borne by those engaged in the mining industry in connexion with the duty on Oregon. I would like to know if the Treasurer can see his way to put in a separate line Baltic timber at 2s. per 100 superficial feet.
– That would allow a difference of only 6d., and it would never do.
– I think that might be done, because the timber is an absolute necessity to people who cannot use Queensland and Western Australian timber.
– But would not that have the effect of creating a demand for Baltic timber to the exclusion of other kinds of timber?
– To a very great extent, I admit, ‘ but I do not see why we should force a struggling settler to build his house of kauri pine. It is the cheapness of the Baltic timber that I am considering, and I think the settlers should have an opportunity of using it.
Mr. TUDOR (Yarra). - I sympathize with the appeal made by the honorable member for Corangamite, but I think Baltic timber should be placed on the same footing as other timbers. We have decided to-night that undressed timber, over a certain size, shall pay1s. per 100 superficial feet. If the honorable member desires that there should be a fresh line, proposing a different duty upon Baltic deals, it might be considered in that way, but I think we should carry all dressed timber in one line. We might propose that Baltic deals of a certain size might be admitted at a lower duty as that would give employment here in the dressing of the timber, and for Baltic timber under that size we could charge a higher duty. I think we can afford to go very little below a duty of 3s. for anything under 7 inches by 2½ inches, but we might make a fresh line for Baltic deals over that size at half-a-crown per 100 superficial feet. That would be as far, I think, as the Treasurer could go, and as the committee has already made one alteration in connexion with undressed Oregon timber they may be prepared to make this difference of 6d. between Baltic deals and other dressed timber.
– ! hope the committee will not agree to the suggested alteration. Special reasons were given for the exemption of Oregon timber, because it was contended that even with competition it must come in because it was specially required for the Broken Hill mines. It has been demonstrated clearly that Queensland can supply timber required for building purposes. Specimens of .the Queensland timber are to be seen in this building, and any one who inspects them will admit their suitability for the purposes here referred to. The request of the honorable member for Corangamite ought not to be acceded to, and I trust the committee will have some regard for national interests.
Mr. EWING (Richmond).- At every stage of the discussion upon these items we have the same sort of argument. We arc asked to consider the interests of the consumer, and the argument is that if Australian labour and Australian material is used it will mean an increased cost to the consumer, who should not have to pay that price. Now we go a step further and we find that the miners who claim to be protectionists and to be interested in the labour of the community, sa)’ that if they used Australian timber prepared by Australian labour they would have to pay more for it. We learn now from the honorable member for Corangamite that even the farmer who wants a duty upon butter, bacon, cheese, and everything he produces desires a reduction of duty upon this article, which he consumes. If protection means anything at all it means a fail” thing being clone by every one. It is useless for me to claim for the farmers in my district whatever protection they desire, and then to refuse to give to the timber-getter the extra cost involved by Australian labour and Australian material in the building of their houses. If we are not prepared to accept the sacrifices of protection we had better abandon the whole thing. If the farmers of Corangamite believe in a national policy of protection they must be prepared to pay to the timber-getter the extra cost, if any, in the building of their houses involved in the use of Australian timber prepared by Australian labour. I do not propose entering upon a dissertation on the value of protection to the farmer. He knows it himself, and he is not so ineffably mean and is not so bound up in his own immediate demands as not to be able to see that we must be fair all round. The timber-getter has a harder life than the farmer or the miner. It will be admitted by honorable members who know the work of the cedar and pinegetters in the coastal districts of Australia, that the men generally end their work at 45 or 50 years of age, crippled from the continual exposure they have to undergo. Surely they are worthy of consideration? In the interests of the wealthiest mine in Australia we have already cut down the timber-getter by throwing open almost the whole of the trade of Australia in timber of a certain size to the United States of America, which sends into New South Wales alone £160,000 worth of Oregon yearly. In order to save a few thousand pounds to the wealthiest mine on the continent, we have broken down almost to that extent the protection to the timber trade. The next proposal is that we should break it down in favour of Baltic timber, and I presume that that will be followed by a proposal, to break it down in favour of New Zealand timber. But I would appeal to the committee not to establish the principle of protection, and then destroy it, so that those who much deserve it, and, perhaps, who have been heard less from here than have other sections, should not be sacrificed to other interests. If honorable members intend establishing a national policy, let them not sacrifice the timber-getter to the miner or to the farmer, but give him the protection which they have determined to give the others.
– It is very refreshing to find the honorable member for Corangamite taking this course. I think it is quite right that those who live in the country should be helped if possible ; but hitherto small land-owners have not been helped by the Tariff in any way, although a number of Victorian industries have been helped b)’ it. This industry cannot be helped by the Tariff, but it can be left alone. If by imposing a lower duty or charging no duty at all, you could induce people to go on the land and remain there, I should advocate that policy. With regard to the Queensland timber being.used,.if Baltic timber is practically prohibited,Ican assure Queensland members that in the western district of this State we have plenty of hardwood timber which can be used in the building of cottages in the electorate of Corangamite. Although there are many saw-mills in. my district, not for. one moment would I encourage a saw-mill proprietor to. live at the expense; of other people. Ithas been the general policy of the committee to tax a certain portion of thecommunity in order thatothersmay benefit,butthatisnot the view which I hold. I advocatethe imposition of duties for revenue purposes only. This duty is imposednot forrevenuepurposes only but for protective purposes, and so far as it is a protective duty I am against it. I wish to disabuse the representatives of Queensland ofanyidea that it will benefit by this tax. Not only the honorable member for Gippsland but the honorablemember for Flinders will bear witness to the fact that hardwood can be got here without going so far as New South Wales or Queensland for timber with which to build farmers’ cottages. If it costs more to build with Victorian timber than with. Baltic timber, then the builders -will get the latter.
Mr.F. E. McLEAN (Lang).- There was an understanding come to on this side to vote with the Government on this item of dressed timber, if the rate on the last section were reduced to1s.6d. While I should very much like to vote for the relief of farmers, whommy honorable friend opposite represents, we are bound to abide by that understanding. This is not giving a preference to our own people, but is asking us to give a preference to foreign people. I can understand the honorable member asking us to give a preference to our Canadian and New Zealand brethren ; but I do not think we should go out of the way to allow Norwegian timber to come in at a lower rate than New Zealand timber. There is a great deal to be said in favour of a preferential Tariff, so far as the British Empire is concerned ; but,. Ithink, we ought not to begin our preferences by making them in favour of foreigners. I also think that the country settlers can find all the timber they require for building purposes inside the Commonwealth ; and if outside timber has to be used, I do not see how it is possible for us to make a preference in favour of a particular kind of timber, grown in a particular country. Some remarks have been made- about the large preference given to dressed timber. After an. allowance is made for the waste in dressing, the protection amounts to only 1s. far the processof dressing.
Mr. MANIFOLD. (Corangamite).- As I understand that a certain kind of agreement has been entered into as to the amount of this duty, I do not wish to press my proposal.
Mr. CONROY (Werriwa); - A duty of 5s. per 100 lineal feet on architraves is rather high; though I do. not think any would be imported if there were no duty. It scarcely matters, except that it affords a pegtohang a very bad hat on, and therefore I objecttoit. I move -
That the words “and on and after 28th February, 1902, 3s.”’ be added to the duty “ Architraves,&c;; per 100 lineal feet, 5s;”
Mr. CONROY (Werriwa). - I think that the duty of 15s. per 1,000 on palings might be struck out. No palings have been imported into the free State of New South Wales, and it is of no use to impose a duty.
– It would not do any harm.
– The only good it can do is to enable a Government supporter to step before a body of people and say “ We put a duty of 15s. per 1,000 on your palings,” but he will neglect to inform his audience that no palings were imported, even into New South Wales, when- they were free. As a very wrong use can be made of the item, I move -
That the words “ and on and after 28th February, 1902,. os.” be added to the duty “Palings, per 1,000, 15s.”
Mr. CONROY (Werriwa).- Surely 4s. per 100 on pickets dressed is an extraordinarily high duty to impose on an article which will not be imported. It amounts to 50’ per cent.
– Twenty per cent.
Mr.F. E. McLEAN (Lang).- The only reason I have for not opposing all. these duties upon timber is that, as far as I can estimate, they are framed upon the same basis as the timber duties we have already passed. As they are in harmony with the duties already adopted on dressed and undressed timber, I can see no objection to them.
– In regard to undressed pickets, I find theyare imported largely for the purpose of being cut up into laths, and the rate we have imposed was. fixed under a misapprehension. I therefore move -
That the words “ and on and after28th February, 1902, . 1s.” be addedto the duty “ Pickets, undressed, per100,. 2s.”
Mr. CONROY (Werriwa.).- In regard to shingles, I think the duty of 3s. ought to be reduced by onehalf. I therefore move -
That the words “ and on and after28th February, . 1902.1s. 6d.” be added to the. duty, “ Shingles per 1,000. . 3s.”
Mr. THOMSON (North Sydney). -I think that the Treasurer: might very well agree to this reduction. Shingles are not used in Victoria, butareused in . some of theother States of the Commonwealth. Theduty might very well be reduced by onehalf.
Mr. F. E. McLEAN (Lang). - Doors are articles upon which a considerable reduction of duty ought to be made. I understandthat very high rates have prevailed in Victoria?
– We have proposed a 25 per cent. reduction on the Victorian rate.
– Stilltherates proposed are very high, in some cases amounting to as much as 50 per cent. ad valorem. I believe it will be found that they are the highest rates in the Tariff on manufactured goods. Take- the largersized doors, upon which the-duty is 7s. 6d. At theverymost the timberin such a door would not pay a duty of more than.1s. The duties have been scaled atthe highest possible.rate. My own opinion is that the duty on the larger sized doors ought not to be more than 2s. In New South Wales, the duty was 2s. prior to the introduction of the Reid Tariff, and the demand now is to have doors admitted with a duty of not morethan 2s., which would amount to. as much as 25 per cent., though in. the case of the larger doors it would be considerably less.. I move -
That the words “and on and after 28th February, 1902, 2s.” be added to the duty “Doors, each 7s. 6d.”
– The Treasurer is very fond of quoting the example of Tasmania in regard to duties. I hope he will adopt the Tasmanian rate in this respect. I have it on the authority of the Victorian Timber Yard and Saw Mill Association that duties from1s. 6d.. to3s. are equivalent to the Tasmanian 20 per cent. It is hereproposed that the dutyshall be 2s. all round: Even that duty will amount in the case of some doors to a heavy ad valorem rate. I shall entirely support the reduction, and hope the Treasurer will agree to it.
Mr. CONROY (Werriwa).- In New Zealand where there is plenty of wood, the duty is only2s. a door. That duty amounts to over 25 per cent. One would, have thought that was quite sufficient even from the point of view of the ardent protectionists.
Sir WILLIAM McMILLAN (Wentworth). - The onus is upon , the Government of showing that any great injustice would be done to those who are interested in the manufacture of doors by the reduction of the duty to 2s. Some of the old duties were imposed under very different conditions from those now prevailing. Some of them were “ whacked on” and intended to be absolutely prohibitive. I do not think we ought to be- guided by that fact now. We are framing a Tariff in which 25 per cent, ought to constitute the high-water mark, even from a protectionist stand-point. We have no right to discriminate between people who are interested in this industry and people who are interested in others.
Mr. THOMSON (North Sydney). - I would point out to the Treasurer that the duty of 3s. 6d., which it is proposed to levy upon the smaller sized doors - and these are the doors which are chiefly imported - represents about 40- percent, on thef.o.b. cost, whilst the rate of 7s. 6d. upon the largersized doors is equivalent to about 58 per cent. The reduction moved by the honorable member for Lang, even from a protectionist point of view, will leave a very considerablepercentage. It would amount to nearly 25 per cent. upon the bulk of the doors imported. I wish further to point out how the distinction which has been made In regard to the duty imposed upon doors of different sizes has worked out. In the Sydney market doors were formerly introduced in the ordinary stock sizes. But since the amount of the duty charged upon imported doors has been regulated by their size the1¾-inch doors have been reduced to 111-16th inch to secure their admission at the lower rate. If we retain the larger duty, practically no revenue will be obtained, because almost the whole of the doors will be brought in under the 3s. 6d. rate.
Mr. TUDOR (Yarra). - I trust that the duty proposed by the Treasurer will be carried. In this connexion, I would point out that New South W ales practically imports all the doors which are used in that State. In 1900 she imported no less than 60,000. In my judgment, the rate of 2s. which has been proposed does not represent anything like the percentage it has been stated to represent. The duty which we have passed upon undressed timber is equivalent to about1s., upon each door. I trust that the committee will adhere to the original proposal. This particular trade provides a good deal of employment, and the men engaged in it will get a fair measure of the protection which is bestowed.
– I would point out to the committee that the three classes of wooden doors enumerated in the Tariff are taxable at fixed rates in nearly all the States. In Victoria, when the material was admitted free, the duty upon those three classes of doors was 10s., 7s. 6d., and5s. respectively. In South Australia the same rates operated, and in Western Australia, where, as a rule, very low duties prevailed, the rates were 5s., 4s., and 3s. The proposal to reduce these charges to a uniform rate of 2s. is one to which I hope the committee will not agree. I have received more complaints that the proposed duty upon these articles is not sufficiently high than I have received in regard to any other item.
Sir WILLIAM McMILLAN (Wentworth). - Perhaps it might be advisable to compromise a little more upon this matter. To impose a duty of 60 per cent. upon an industry in which certain people are engaged, and of 20 and 25 per cent, upon industries in which others are engaged, is an absolute outrage upon the equality prescribed by the Constitution. Even the Treasurer cannot justify it. All he can do is to say in a mechanical way that certain duties have been operative upon these particular articles in the different States. It is perfectly sickening to listen to these mechanical comparisons when the state of things which formerly prevailed has been altered by the accomplishment of federation. Are we framing a Tariff for the whole of Australia or are we merely striking an average duty from the old State Tariffs ? Every one knows that those Tariffs were framed upon altogether different local principles. The committee should recollect that a compromise of 3s. 6d. would represent from 30 to 35 per cent., and it will be for those who oppose such a compromise to justify to the citizens of Australia this wretched, unscientific, and unequal Tariff. I ask the honorable member for Lang to amend his amendment by providing that the rates upon doors of the three classes which are here enumerated shall be 3s. 9d., 2s. 6d., and1s. 6d. respectively.
Mr. McCAY (Corinella). - It isquite entertaining to hear the acting leader of the Opposition declaim against the mechanical methods of the Treasurer whilst suggesting that the duty upon these different classes of articles should be determined by the simple process of dividing the rates proposed by the Government by one half. If the Treasurer’s method is mechanical, that of the acting leader of the Opposition is more so. The latter gentlemen asks us whether we are making a Tariff for Australia, or whether we intend to continue to be provincial. Surely he does not think that the duty on wooden doors was imposed by each State as against other States. As a fact, the duty was imposed against doors made outside the States altogether, and, consequently, such remarks are entirely wide of the subject. The duties imposed in the various States are some guide as to what the Commonwealth duty should be. It is true that the proposed duty is higher than that which has prevailed in any other State, except Victoria and South Australia, and, in general terms, it is also perfectly truethat the importation of doors into those other States has been much higher. The honorable member for Lang, by taking the very cheapest class of doors, has made the duty appear to be high, but it is very misleading to say that the duty represents about 100 per cent.
Mr.F. E. McLean. - I said the duty was 60 per cent., but that if it were 100 per cent. all importations would be excluded.
– Is 60 per cent, a fair ad valorem duty under the circumstances ?
– I think it is a fair duty under the circumstances, and I intend to support the Government proposal.
Mr. WILKS (Dalley). - I desire to draw attention to an anomaly in connexion with the duty on doors, and to show that the people engaged in the trade may find an easy means of evasion, and that the Treasurer will run a great risk of loss of revenue. The trade will order doors made of wood of 1 11-1 6 th inches.
-The trade is doing that now.
– I am told that what I have stated is being done nowin order to evade the duty, and that forms another reason why the Treasurer should accept the suggestion made from this side. Surely the Treasurer does not wish the Customs to be simply hood-winked, and the general public called upon to pay an enhanced duty of 7s. 6d., while the trade is paying only 5s.
Sir WILLIAM McMILLAN (Wentworth). - I do not think that we ought to take a vote to-night on an important question of this kind. Importations to New South Wales alone, amounting to £20,000, are involved, though I know that when I speak about importations, I am out of sympathy with a large number of honorable members. Importations mean, however, the trade and commerce of New South Wales ; and I think it would be better to leave the decision until to-morrow morning.
– Not many members have gone away without pairing.
– I should like to know whether the members of the committee who have gone away would incold blood vote for a duty which means at least 50 per cent. If so, considering that they have decided on duties of 25 per cent. in cases in which there is no difference in principle, they would vote for anything. If we take a vote now, it will reduce the principle on which we are voting to a farce or a fraud.
– I said last night that I intended to ask the committee to sit later. I intended to take the item of wicker-work to-night, but I am willing to adjourn after this item has been dealt with. (Committeecounted).
Sir WILLIAM McMILLAN (Wentworth). - I do not intend to oppose the taking of a vote now, but I am sorry that there are not more members present, and that we have not had an opportunity to ventilate our views more fully. I suggest that the duty should be reduced by one-half, and made 25 per cent.
– With the permission of the committee, I desire to amend my amendment by substituting 3s. 9d. for 2s. The honorable member for North Sydney can quote invoices which show that the proposed duty is equivalent to 59 per cent., and I think it must be generally agreed that 25 per cent. is as high as duties of this kind should go.
Amendment amended accordingly.
Mr. CONROY (Werriwa). - In my opinion, thedutyupon doors should certainly not exceed 20 per cent, ad valorem. If we agree to a fixed duty, the ad valorem charge upon cheap doors may amount to 50 or 60 per cent., while the ad valorem charge upon expensive doors may be very little indeed. We have agreed to an ad valorem duty upon furniture, and the Customs authorities will be as well able to determine whether imported doors have been properly valued as to determine whether imported furniture has been properly valued. Therefore, if the honorable member for Lang will withdraw his amendment, I shall move to make the duty 20 per cent., though I am afraid there is no hope of carrying it.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Mr. CONROY (Werriwa).- I move-
That the words, “and on and after28th
February, 1902, 20 per cent, ad valorem,” be added to the duty “Doors . . . each, 7s.6d.”
I do not wish to press my amendment if the Ministry have any proposal to make. I object to a specific duty when the result of it is to conceal entirely from the public the actual amount of duty paid. On the ordinary class of doors the duty proposed by the Government would amount to 60 per cent., while the amendment suggested by the honorable member for Lang would mean a duty of 30 per cent. As a compromise, I should feel myself bound to accept the decision of the committee if thelower duty were adopted, although I should think it was too high. If the Government will accept the proposal made by the honorable member for Lang I shall not seek to divide the committee further.
– It is admitted on both sides of the committee that this ought to be a specific duty. There is. no justification for the attempt to make it an ad valorem duty, and I shall have to vote against any such proposal, no matterwhat the amount may be. My honorable friends of the Opposition have gained their object in pointing out what is the alleged rate of the duty. It is competent for the committee to decide whether they will. have a duty of 7s. 6d., or a . lower amount, but I hope we shall adhere to a fixed rate, and not introduce an ad- valorem duty when we have. allthroughthis item provided for fixed duties.
Sir WILLIAM McMILLAN (Wentworth). - I would advise the honorable and learned member for Werriwa to accept the proposed reduction of the duty to 3s. 9d. If an amendment with that object in view were lost, he would still be able to carry out his object byproposing a duty of 35 per cent. in order to show the public that such a duty was too low altogether for honorable members” who talk about protection and revenue combined. Seeing the turn that events havetaken, I would much prefer that the public should know that aproposed compromise equal to a duty of 29 per cent. was rejected. Unfortunately the fixed duties cover up the real. facts. In view of the fact that in one State having 37 per cent. of the population of . Australia these doors have hitherto been allowed to enter : free, it may be well for something to.be put on record showing that even a duty of 35 per. cent. was not considered to be sufficient by the Government. I have spoken very calmly upon this matter, but I believe thatany such duty is an absolute blot on “the Tariff. Wehavehad cases argued out in which the fixed duty really covered up an enormous rate. In those cases the common sense of the. committee disagreed with the Government ; the composite duties were removed, and ad valorem duties substituted. The whole thing is absolutely inconsistent, : and an absolute breach of that consequential arrangement which wemight have expected having decided on certain duties on a- certain principle. It is this want of scientific arrangement - of an understood principle for which the committee is not to blame - that has delayed the Tariff.
Mr. SYDNEY SMITH (Macquarie).It is rather too much to expect the committee, at this time of the evening, when thereishardly a quorumin the Chamber, to decide upon a duty ranging, as high as 70 per cent. A. number of honorable members have left theChamber; never dreaming that we should have made such progress, and I am sure that some of “those who have paired in favour of the Government would not be prepared, if they were here, to support a duty equal to an ad valorem impost of 70 per cent, upon any class of timber. In all fairness I would urge the Treasurer to submit to an adjournment at this stage, so that the division may be taken in a full committee to-morrow morning.
Sir WILLIAM McMILLAN (Wentworth). - I am quite willing to leave this matter in the hands of the Treasurer. I recognise that during the week he has acted every fairly towards the committee, and as hishealthis not very goodIamanxious for that reason alone thatthere should be no unreasonable delay. I shouldprefer to adjourn at this stage, and take a division to-morrow morning, without any discussion beyond ashort statementfrom myself, which wouldnot occupy more than a few seconds
-There is no doubt thatif we postpone thedecision regarding this duty until to-morrow, we shall have further lengthy discussion upon it. The honorable gentleman will make certain statements, and then otherhonorable members of the committee will wish to reply tothem. It will be remembered that Imentioned last might that we oughtto sit a little later. It isnotunreasonable to ask honorable members to stop here until 11 or a quarter past 1 1 o’clock, and ifthey will go away before that time I cannot help it. Under the circumstances, Imust ask the committee to finish this item, and I will be very glad if honorable members will take a vote upon it at once.
Mr. CONROY (Werriwa).- The more this matter is discussed themore clear it becomes that the Government desire to impose a duty anthis instance which amounts to something like ‘60 per cent. There should benomidnight discussion upon such a proposal, and we shall be neglecting our duty if we do not make perfectly clear to the people whatthe proposal of the Government is. I protestagainst thepassing of a 60 per cent. dutyinso thin.aHouse. It seems to me- that in this casetheGovernment are deliberately choosing toput on a specific duty forthe purpose of concealing the real incidence of it. We are bound to accept that view of it. It has been show that if doors of a certain size areintroducedwith a duty of 7s. 6d., by themere fact of shaving a sixteenthofan inch off them, they may be introduced at a duty of 5s. The Government ought not to press a proposal which may lead to subterfuges of this sort. It is possible that the higher rate of duty may be paid upon the first few doors introduced, but it is quite clear that as soonasthe timber merchants. saw that such a rate of duty as this wastobeimposedtheywouldcable instructionstothesawmillersattheother end to cut down the doors so that they might be introduced at a duty ofhalf-a-crown-less. Clearly it would be verymuch better to havean ad valorem duty, when the value of the door is so little affected by being shaved to that extent. I have been informed that the bulk of these doors are made fromsugar pine, which is worth, f.o.b., from 20s. to 25s. per 100 feet. It has been argued that, because thereis a duty of1s. per 100 feet on timber, we ought to impose a high rate on doors, but that I think would be very unfair, because as a rule a door would not containmore than 30 feet of timber, and it would be subject to a duty of about 6d. If the contention of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports is correct, that the imposition of a duty cheapens the cost of an article, then they are getting their timber for still less than they did. Therefore we need not extend any consideration to them on that account.(Committee counted.)
Sir WILLIAM McMILLAN (Wentworth). - I think the honorable and learned member for Werriwa might allow me to say a word. I do not know whether he was in the Chamber when I asked honorable members to allow a vote to be taken on the item in the morning. I left the matter in the hands of the Treasurer with a very clear understanding that, as far as one honorable member can pledge a body ofmen with whom he is associated, I was voicing the views of those behind me. I do not see that any good can.be derived from a further discussion of the item. I am still willing toabide by the decision of the Treasurer, and take a division to-night. But I appealto the honorable and learned , member for Werriwa as to whether any good can be derived from further debate. We havemadeour protest. If there is any member of this committee who has won, by his candour and courtesy, a position amongst honorable members, it is my righthonorable friend the Treasurer ; and I should be sorry if the kindly feeling which has been engendered of late should be disturbed. I appeal as an older man to the honorable and learned member for Werriwa to leave it absolutely in the hands of the Treasurer, either to take a vote or, if he will be good enough, to adjourn till tomorrow.
Mr. F. E. McLEAN(Lang).- I temporarily withdrew my amendment to enable the honorable and learned member for Werriwa to test the feeling of the committee in regard to the imposition of an ad valorem duty, but I had no idea that we should be so. long in arriving at a decision upon the matter. I move -
That the words “and on and after the 28th February, 1902,4s.” be added to the duty, “Doors” …. each 7s. 6d.”
Mr. CONROY (Werriwa). - I should like to know what rate the Ministry consider the proposed duty really represents ? If one imports a valuable door whichiis worth £10, a duty of 5s. upon it would be equivalent to only2½ ,:per cent. What greater difficulty is there in ascertaining the ad valorem rate upon a door than there- is in determining the ad valorem rate upon a picture frame? The more I consider this matter the more I feel convinced that the committee acted unwisely in rejecting an ad valorem duty. But because the acting leader of the Opposition favours the.imposition of a specific duty, I am willing to support theproposalof the honorable member for Lang, which, I understand, is equivalent to about 30 per cent. Should that. proposal be rejected I wish to know if it will be competent formetomove that the duty be not more than . 20 per cent.?
– Let us take a vote. We have done our duty, and it is recorded in Hansard.
– Supposing the amendment that the duty be 4s. is reject ed, will it be competent.for me to move further that an ad valorem duty not exceeding 30 per cent, be imposed?
– If the honorable memberchooses to pursue that course he will not strictly be out of order, but I understoodthat the committeehad decided totakethe division on ibis. previous amendmentas a:test of the question whether or notthereshouldbean advalorem duty.
-I never understood that that was the intentionof the committee.
– So long asIunderstand that it is in my power to. move in the direction I have indicated I am satisfied.
Question - That the words “ and on and after 28th February, 1902.4s.” be added to the duty. “Doors, …. each 7s. 6d.” - put. The committee divided.
Majority … … 12
Question so resolved in the negative.
Mr. CONROY (Werriwa). - I understand that the amendment which has just been negatived, would have meant a duty of 30 per cent., and we ought now to know how far the committee intend to go. In order to have it placed on record that certain honorable members are in favour of a duty much higher than 30 per cent., I move -
That the words “and on and after 28th February, . 1902, 35 per cent.” be added to the duty, “Doors . . . each, 7s. 6d.”
Mr. CONROY (Werriwa).-I called for a division, and to cover up the fact that there was not a sufficient number of members present to form a quorum, the Chairman gave his decision without having a record taken of the number of members present. I shall not be a party to that sort of thing, and I protest against it.
Sir WILLIAM McMILLAN (Went worth). - I would point out to the honorable and learned member for Werriwa that we have done all that we could be expected to do, and that his amendment to fix the duty at 35 percent, was clearly defeated. I ask him, therefore, to let the matter stand at that. I urge him not totakeany coursewhich may do a real injury to the party to which he belongs, and the cause which he has at heart. The rules governing our procedure are very liberal, because they are of a temporary character ; but we have no right to abuse their liberality. My honorable friend is very anxious to preserve freedom of debate, but his conduct may be made a reason for forging the chains which restrict our action much more tightly when the permanent rules come to be framed. The honorable gentleman is new to parliamentary life, and the course which he wishes to pursue would render parliamentary government impossible. No one man can defy the whole committee.
Amendments (by Mr. Conroy) negatived -
That the words “and on and after 28th February, 1902,4s. 6d.” be added to the duty “doors . . . each 7s. 6d.”
That the words “and on and after 28th February, 1902,” 6s.,” be added to the duty “doors . . . each 7s. 6d.”
That the words “and on and after 28th February, 1902, 4s.” be added to the duty - “Doors . . . each 5s.”
That the words “and on and after 28th February, 1902, 3s.” be added to the duty”Doors . . . each 3s. 6d.”
Item, as amended, agreed to.
Royal assent reported.
House adjourned at 12.22 a.m. (Friday).
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 27 February 1902, viewed 7 November 2016, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1902/19020227_reps_1_8/>.