8th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Hon.J.M. Chanter) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Motion (by Mr.Charlton) (by leave) agreed to -
That leave of absencefor one month be given to the honorable member for Werriwa, (Mr. Lazzarini ) on the ground that he is undergoing medical treatment.
Mr.RILEY.- Has the Acting Prime Minister seen the cablegram published in lastnight’s and this morning’s press in which it is stated that Mr. Larkin, the general manager of the Commonwealth Steamships, has resigned? Has the right honorable gentleman had any commun- ication from the Prime Minister on the subject?
– I had a communication from the Prime Minister announcing the resignation, and promising a further statement later.
– Will the Acting Prime Minister inform the House when hewill make a statement as towhat is to be done towards appointing further Judges to the Arbitration Court?
– The whole mattoris under consideration, and is not quite so simple as it looks. We are trying to obtain asatisfactorydetermination, and I hope that that will not take more than a few days. The soonerthematter is dealt with the better,so faras Iam concerned.
The following papers werelaid upon the table; -
Repatriation Commission-Rulings of the Commission under the Australian Sol- diers’ Repatriation Act 1920 and the Regulations.
Public ServiceAct -Regulations Amended- Statutory Rules1921,No. 111.
The following papers were laid upon the table of the library: -
Copies of cablegrams sent to Canada with a view to ascertaining the price of agricultural machinery there.
Non-payment for Land.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation what he proposes to do regarding those cases - in New South Wales alone there are quite a number - in which returned soldiers have purchased land on the faith of the promise of the Government that they would be settled on it, and now find that no money is available to pay for it?
– The Commonwealth Government does not deal with individuals, nor accept applications from individuals in regard to the settlement of returned soldiers; it deals in that matter solely with the Governments of the States. In compliance with an arrangement come to at a Conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers, this Parliament setsaside money to provide for the settlement, within the financial year, of the quota of men which each State has undertaken to settle. Obviously, neither the Commonwealth nor the States could provide for all the returned men within one year, just as it is impossible to provide them all with Wax Service Homes within a year. But the requirements of each year are anticipated, as nearly as possible, and money appropriated to meet them. The Commonwealth has so far found money for the payment of every certified claim made in accordance with the arrangement with the States to which I have alluded.
– To-morrow I shall mention a dozen cases in which that has not been done.
Mr.LIVINGSTON.- Is the Minister aware that, in New South Wales, estates purchased in 1918, and allotted to soldiers in 1919, have not yet been paid for by the Government?
– The acquisition of land for soldier settlement is entirely a matter for State administration, asis also the settlement of the returned men onareas which are subdivided. The Commonwealth is not directly concerned in any purchase of property, nor does it deal with the individual applications for land made by returned men.From information which has come to me in this chamber and outside, I gather that in New South Wales there has been an over purchase of land based upon the anticipation of funds being available to pay for it beyond the appropriation made by, Parliament. The Commonwealth has honoured all its obligations.
Mr.FENTON.- Is the Australian
Board of Trade in constant communication with the British Board of Trade; and, if so, has it received information as to the progress made in Great Britain in the production of power alcohol, and the provision of a denaturant which enables the industry to thrive?
– It cannot be said that the Board of Trade here is in constant communication with the British Board of Trade, though communications have passed between the two Boards through the usual channels. I understand that the British Government have not altered their regulations regarding the denaturants for power alcohol.
– Is the Acting Prime Minister able to alleviate the anxiety of those affected by the suspension of work at the dockyards on Cockatoo and Garden Islands by saying when operations willbe started there again?
– All I can tell the honorable member is that the instructionhas been given that work is to be resumed as soon as possible. I understand that the Board of Control is now arranging with the Navy authorities to take over the dockyards, and the moment that hasbeen doneI see no reason why work should not be started again. At this weekend, I saw, in Sydney, the Minister in charge of these matters, and he told me that everything was expected to be ready for the final decision by to-day.
– Will the Acting Prime Minister make available for honorable memberscopies of the agreement entered into by the various States on the question of immigration?
– The honorable member will find all there is to be ascertained on this subject in the reports of the Inter-State Conferences. These, I understand, are State papers having already been laid on the table of the House. Outside the decision of those Conferences there is no agreement that I am aware of.
Convention Hall: Unemployment
– Is the Minister for Works and Railways yet prepared to lay on the table of the House a report in connexion with the designs and plans for the proposed Convention Hall at Canberra ? I understand these have been under consideration for a month or two.
– I will do so as soon as the matter has been finally dealt with by the Cabinet.
– Can the Minister say if any work is available at Canberra for the unemployed? A considerable number of men at present unemployed in Sydney are appealing to me, and, no doubt, to other honorable members, and have asked if there is any opening for them at Canberra.
– I am sorry to say there is no work available for unemployed at Canberra. At present we have there all the men that are required. I understand there are between 220 and 230 men engaged on the works there.
– In view of the Acting Prime Minister’s statement in the press concerning the Wheat Pools, I should like to know if it is necessary that, before the Commonwealth Government become associated with the pools, there should be complete unanimity amongst all the wheat-growing States, or whether a pool may be formed if the majority of the States are in agreement?
– The conditions laid down by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) for the future pooling of wheat are the same as those applying to the recent pool, namely, that there shall be a ballot of the wheat-growers and unanimous acquiescence on the part of the
State Governments. The conditions, so far as I understand the position, have not been varied in any way. All I have done is to express the hope that the growers of wheat will be able to look after themselves, and, if possible, relieve the Commonwealth Government, so far as they are concerned, from this never-ending trouble of being a party to the control of these various undertakings.
– In view of the fact that the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) is not very much overworked at the Imperial Conference in London, will the Acting Prime Minister consider favorably a suggestion that he undertake the High Commissioner’s duties, and also control the merchant shipping for the Commonwealth ?
– Little things like that are quite easy.
” UNOPPOSED “ MOTION.
– As a matter of privilege, I call attention to the fact that on to-day’s notice-paper, immediately following the noticesof questions, is a notice of motion marked “unopposed.” I should like to know how any member can obtain such a position for a motion, and thus secure for it precedence over notices given by other members weeks earlier?
– It is the usual practice, not only in this, but in other Parliaments, and particularly in that of New South Wales, with which I am acquainted, for an honorable member desiring to have an urgent motion considered by the House to communicate with the Government, and ask if they are prepared to regard it as an unopposed motion. If the Government acquiesce, it is then placed upon the noticepaper as the first business of the day, after questions, as an unopposed motion, and as.such it cannot be debated. If it were debatable, it wouldbe placed upon the business-paper in the ordinary way. As an unopposed motion, it takes precedence, and is placed first for decision of the House by a vote, and by a vote only.
We have no particular standing order dealing with this matter. It is determined by our practice and usage. Precedents have been established by several Speakers, including the first Speaker, the late Sir Frederick Holder; and, for the guidance of honorable members, perhaps it would be just as well if I quoted shortly the circumstances in which the late Sir Frederick Holder laid down this rule. This question was raised by Mr. Thomson, the then member for North Sydney, on the 10th July, 1901, in the first Parliament, and Hansard thus reports the debate : -
– The position is this: That if any honorable member desires to debate an unopposed motion it must at once stand over until private members’ business is called on.
Mr. Thomson. May 1 ask if the rule that there shall be no debate doesnot necessarily exclude amendments? If amendments are proposed, they cannotbe considered without explanation and debate. That is the very thing to be avoided,because it involves the delay of business which is on the business-paper.
Mr. Barton. May I say aword on this point? The understanding on which the Government consents not to oppose a motion is that the motion remains in the same form. If the motion is amended, or a proposition of amendment is made, it becomes then a question whether the Government can, on its own motion, maintain the question in that form. We should let in debate on amendments if that understanding were once departed from. That would be a very serious question - it is one that was raised earlier in the session - because tit might lead to the consumption of a great deal of valuable time on Government days, although the matter couldbe properly dealt with on private members’ days. In order to save any trouble, I will say that if the honorable member who raised the question about new paragraph (4a) will withdraw his motion and hand it to me in writing. I will have the return prepared so as to include the particulars he wishes.
Mr. Reid. Will the Prime Minister explain whether there is any standing order which governs questions unopposed?
Mr. Barton. Standing order 113 is the only one.
Mr. Reid. What does it mean unopposed by the Government, or unopposed by the House?
Mr. Barton. I think the standing orders refer to motions unopposed by the Government. There is, in the State from which I and the right honorable and learned member for East Sydney come, a preceding form of ascertaining whether a motion is opposed - it is just as well to mention the matter now - under which the Speaker goes through the business-paper and through the list of notices of motions, no matter how many notices there may be, and ascertains whetherany are objected to. Those not objected to are passed without debate, and the others remain for discussion.
– Perhaps it is just as well to settle the matter now. With the approval of the House, in the future, whenever an honorable member rises to debate or amend a motion on the unopposed list, the debatewill at once stand adjourned.
– Would it be competent for any honorable member to object to a motion ?
-I have just said that if a member rises to debate or amend a motion, that motion will at once stand over and lose its position as unopposed business. The Standing Orders do not define what is “ unopposed business,” and there is some difficulty in exactly interpreting this particular standing order. But for the future it will be interpreted in the way I have indicated.
There is a precedent laid down, and, in accordance with that precedent, and with the intention of the Government to allow this motion to go on the business-paper as an unopposed motion, it has been given precedence.
– Perhaps I may be able to clear this matter up.
– May there be any debate?
– I do not wish to debate the question.
– I wish to point out a fact that has been overlooked. If I cannot do so at this stage, I shall rise on a point of order whenthe motion is called on.
– I wish to explain why the Government allowed this motion to go unopposed. As honorable members will recollect, this question has already been debated this session, with somewhat novel and startling results.
– You do not wish to run any more risks?
– I think we are quite safe this time. This motion deals with a very important matter affecting profoundly all the importers in Australia who are interested in making the journey between here and the Mother Country as short and cheap as possible. Moreover, this matter is one to be discussed at the Imperial Conference - the question of communications and facilities therefor between the various portions of the Empire. That Conference is now sitting, and the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett), is naturally anxious - and many communications I have received show that graziers and others up and down the country are equally anxious - to have this question discussed at the Conference if possible. As the motion indicates, the honorable member desires to support any attitude the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) may take at the Conference by an expression of opinion of the House that some Empire arrangement should be made which would cheapen the present ocean freights. It was on that understanding, and that alone, that the Government decided to let this go as an unopposed motion. The motion cannot be debated; if there is any attempt to debate it, even by the honorable member himself, it loses its place automatically. Therefore, the only way of dealing with the motion is to allow it to pass as suggested; and I hopeit may do some good.
– I should like to know whether I would be in order in moving an amendment, and, if so, at what stage that may be done.
– As already intimated, no amendment of any sort whatever can be permitted.
– Can we add to the motion an instruction to the Prime Minister to oppose the Japanese Treaty?
– That would be equally out of order.
– Can we not add to the motion an expression of opinion that the consideration of the matter be deferred until after the Government have established the Federal Capital at Canberra?
– I do not know whether I can, at this stage, secure the object I have in view. I do not know whether you, sir, will permit any debate on a point of order. I am not opposed to the motion, but I am strongly opposed to the procedure.
– There is no point of order.
– There will bewhen the motion is called on.
– “ Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.”
– One important fact seems to havebeen overlooked. No doubt the Government have the power, when an honorable member is moving for a return, to intimate that they will not oppose the motion, and that was the kind of motion before the House when the late Mr. Speaker Holder gave his decision.
– Order ! I am loath to intervene, but–
– I will raise the point on the motion.
– On the point of order–
– There is no point of order.
– Then, on the point of procedure raised by yourself, sir, may I suggest that the practice in the Federal Parliament, the New South Wales Parliament, and, I believe, in nearly all the Parliaments of the British Dominions, is that if a motion is opposed, or if there is any suggestion of opposition, there is nothing to prevent the Government adopting it, and thus throwing it open to debate, as the Government, and the Government alone, control procedure.
FLINDERS ISLAND MAIL. SERVICE.
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
Will he inform the House what arrangements are being made to maintain the mail service between Launceston and Flinders Island now that the s.s. Dolphin has been detained by the Launceston Marine Board?
– Inquiries are being made, and a reply will be furnished as early as possible.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Who is responsible for the rules and regulations pertaining to, and printed in, the Commonwealth Savings Bank book?
-The regulations printed in the earlier issues of Commonwealth Savings Bank pass-books were approved by the Governor-General in Council under the authority of the Commonwealth Bank Act 1911. The passbooks now being issued do not contain a copy of these regulations.
Rulings and Decisions
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
Are the rulings and /or instructions and /or circular letters issued by the Hepatization Commission under the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act iS 1920 available at the Government Printer’s office; if so, as from what date have they been available?
On the 2nd June the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Blundell) said that he understood that the Repatriation Commissioners had issued a book setting forth their decisions under different classifications, and asked whether I would see that every honorable member received a copy’ of it. I then promised to submit his request to Senator Millen, and see if it could be complied with. I have now a copy of the rulings and decisions, which I lay on the table as a paper.
Expenditure on Re-afforestation.
– On Thursday last the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) asked what amount had been made available for the Queensland Government for re-afforestation work, and I supplied the figures up to that date. To-day I desire to add that a further sum of £12,850 had been made available, of which £10,742 is by way of loan to the Queensland Government, and £2,108 is a contribution by the Repatriation Department for re-afforestation as reserve employment for returned soldiers.
– On the 4th May the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) stated that returned soldiers who are not members of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia could’ not obtain supplies of tweed manufactured by the Government Woollen Mills at cheap rates. I replied stating that the Department was not aware that such was not the practice, when the honorable member then suggested that I ask the Ballarat branch. I am now informed by the general secretary of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia that the
Ballarat sub-branch have replied to the effect that it is the custom of that branch to issue suit lengths to all returned soldiers.
” UNOPPOSED “ MOTION.
The following, “unopposed” motion being called on,
That this House desires to direct the attention of the Eight Honorable the Prime Minister of Australia to the excessive and crushing rates of ocean freights now being charged upon tha exportable products of Australia. Also, that this House requests the Prime Minister to use his best endeavours to obtain the cooperation of the Imperial Government, also of the Governments of His Majesty’s other Dominions, to secure a very substantial reduction upon the ocean freights now being charged upon the exportable products of His Majesty’s Dominions.
– I submit that this motion is not properly before the House. Standing order 113 provides that a member may place on the businesspaper a motion calling for a return, and that that motion may be regarded as unopposed. I submit that in specifying that a particular class of motion may be brought before this House in this way, the Standing Orders exclude any other motion being brought before the House in the same way. If the intention of the House was that general business could be brought before the House in this way, there would be no special standing order defining motions as privileged motions. The subject-matter of the previous ruling was a motion calling for a return, which came properly under standing order 1.13. In giving that ruling he stated that the procedure here was the same as in New South Wales. I need hardly remind you, sir, that it is entirely different. In the New South Wales Parliament, at every sitting notices of motion are called on, and every honorable member has au opportunity of saying whether a motion in his name is formal or not formal, and also the right to say at what date he desires that a motion in his name shall be considered. No such procedure is followed in this House, and no member of this House has had an opportunity of saying whether this privilege shall be extended to the honorable member for Grampians or not. The reply is that any honorable member may get up and object to the motion in the name of the honorable member for Grampians. I do not object to the motion, but I do object to any member of this House being given special privileges which may not be availed of by other honorable members having motions on the business-paper. The Senate passed a certain resolution, which was forwarded to this House for its ‘concurrence, and it has stood on the business-paper for months and months. In all human probability, unless the Government affords special facilities for its consideration, it will not be debated here at all. There are also private members who have motions on the business-paper.
– I rise to a point of order.
– The honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Hector Lamond), I understand, has risen to a point of order.
– I wish to raise a point of order on the honorable member’s speech. I wish to know, sir, whether the honorable member is dissenting from your ruling. I understood you to give a ruling.
– The Deputy Speaker did not give a ruling. The honorable member does not know what the procedure is.
– To put the matter in more regular form, I suggest that the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett”) should be allowed to formally move his motion; and then, if a seconder is found for it in the ordinary way, an honorable member may raise a point of order on it, and that can be discussed. I shall then be prepared to give a ruling directly on the point. “What I have done, so far, is to inform, honorable members as to the opinion of another Speaker in regard to such a matter.
– That procedure would allow the honorable member for Grampians to put his opinions before the House.
– No, it would not.
– I have a point of order to raise before the motion is moved by the honorable member for Grampians. I wish to ask how it is that the honorable member’s motion is designated “unopposed” on the business-paper, because, in my view, it is not unopposed. I intend to oppose it, or, at least, discuss it.
– I have already dealt with that point in reply to a question put to me.
– I am sorry that I had not the advantage of hearing your statement.
– I move–
– I rise to record my objection to the motion.
– The motion is not before the House until it has been proposed and seconded.
– Then I move-
That this House desires to direct the attention of the Right Honorable the Prime Minister of Australia to the excessive and crushing rates of ocean freights now being charged upon the exportable products of Australia. Also, that this House requests the Prime Minister to use his best endeavours to obtain the co-operation of the Imperial Government, also of the Governments of His Majesty’s other Dominions, to secure a very substantial reduction upon the ocean freights now being charged upon the exportable products of His Majesty’s Dominions.
.- I second the motion moved by the honorable member for Grampians.
– I desire that this motion shall be discussed.
– It cannot be debated in any form. The question is that the motion be agreed to.
– The motion cannot be debated except by leave of the House, but there is clearly a misunderstanding in connexion with it.
– We want to amend it.
– The only form in which the House can deal with the motion is to consent to it, or oppose it, or adjourn the debate upon it. It cannot be amended.
– Then I move -
That the debate be adjourned.
– Do I understand you, sir, to say that the motion, having been proposed and seconded, if any honorable member objects to the motion being proceeded with, it being an “ unopposed “ motion, it automatically goes on to the paper as private members’ business?
– That is so. I have made several suggestions to honorable members. I quoted the ruling of Mr. Speaker Holder and the remarks of eminent men in Parliament at the time the ruling was given, such as the late Sir George Reid, the late Sir Edmund Barton, and others. I have quoted the discussion in which the House agreed as to what should be in future the course of .procedure in regard to such matters, , I have stated, as I now state again, that an unopposed motion placed on the paper with the consent of the Government binds the members of the Government but does not bind any other honorable member. If honorable members object to it in any form, or attempt to debate it in any form, the motion goes off the unopposed list and on to the private members’ list. If the debate upon the motion is adjourned it goes off the business-paper altogether.
– Then, sir, you will not put the motion?
– I have put the motion. Now that the House thoroughly understands what the position is, I give the ruling that the motion is’ on the business-paper in proper order in accordance with the usage of this and other Parliaments. I accept it as in order, and have submitted it to the House for a vote only, and not for any debate or amendment.
– That defeats our whole object.
– Unless there is objection to the motion.
– There is plenty of objection to it.
– May I, sir, be permitted to draw your attention to the fact that you have just now repeated what you said formerly, that in the event of any objection being raised to the motion it must automatically go over to the .private members’ list. The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) and others have objected.
– The honorable member for Batman did not intimate that objection.
– Yes, several times.
– There being an objection to the motion, it must go on the notice-paper as private members’ business in the ordinary way.
Consideration resumed from 21st Juna (vide page 9211). division x.- wood, wicker, and cane.
.- We shall have to give very careful consideration to the duties to be imposed upon timber. The rates in the schedule have been in operation for some time, but it is apparent that they are not as effective as is desirable in the best interests of those engaged in the timber industry. It may be urged ‘ by some that these ‘duties are adequate, especially having regard to the high cost of building, but we have to take into consideration the existing economic conditions. The circumstances to-day are altogether different from those obtaining fifteen months ago, and the timber industry, in common with others, has felt the change. The timber producer has had to pay increased wages awarded by the Courts in the endeavour to compensate the workers to some extent for the increased cost of living, which the wages never overtake, and, in addition, they have had to bear the burden of higher railway rates and steamer freights. All these things have increased the cost of production. To-day Oregon and timber from the Baltic States are being imported very cheaply. It is claimed that the timber is being dumped at rates so cheap as to interfere with the local industry.
– Will not the proposed anti-dumping law prevent that?
– That remains to be seen. The result of the altered conditions in the timber industry is that a large number of employees are out of work. In my own electorate several sawmills have closed down, and honorable members representing other timber areas can give similar testimony. Even the Commonwealth Government have closed down their saw-mills in Queensland, not on account of foreign competition, but because of the large accumulation of supplies. In consequence of the diminished demand for the local article and the consequent increase of unemployment, it is necessary for us to consider whether we cannot provide some remedy by means of the Tariff. It is an undoubted fact that the price of timber is very high, and, in regard to this commodity, as well as to many others, the high prices are dae not so much to the cost of production as to the intervention of middlemen between the producers and the consumers. If we could devise a method by which the producers of timber and other commodities could deal direct with the consumer, we should be able to reduce the cost of them considerably. That is a field in which this Parliament could do good work, but, failing .parliamentary action honorable members might privately direct their energies to the introduction of some method by which the producer could supply the consumers at the minimum C03t and cut out a lot of the present unnecessary expense. That is a matter for future action. But for the present we must face the position as it is. The men engaged in the timber industry are not receiving more than a fair and reasonable wage, ‘and perhaps even that is not quite commensurate with the high cost of living. That being so, we cannot look to a reduction of wages to enable timber to be supplied from the local forests at prices equal to, or lower than, those of the foreign timbers that are being dumped at our ports to-day. We must maintain Australian industrial conditions at their present level as nearly as possible.
– Has the honorable member any evidence that timber is being dumped in Australia?
– As a member of the Public Accounts Committee, I have heard a lot of evidence to that effect, but I do not wish to disclose it now. I have always adopted the attitude that information which comes to my knowledge as a member of a Committee should not be used in the House’ until the Committee has reported. But other honorable members who are not connected with any Committee may have acquired the same knowledge from other sources, and if so they, no doubt, will give it to the Committee. The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Penton) reminds me, by interjection, that one boat arrived recently with over 3,000,000 feet of Oregon quoted at a ridiculously low price.
– That is entirely wrong.
– I do not wish to argue that point. Some honorable members may urge that we should conserve the timber resources of Australia as far as possible.
Honorable Members - Hear, hear!
– I thought that remark would be indorsed. I heard “Hear,, hears!” in the State Parliament of New South Wales years ago in support of a similar policy. I propose to show that Australia has ample timber resources, and that the only requirement is a proper system of afforestation and re-afforestation. With that in operation in our vast timber areas, there need bo uo fear of dearth of timber. According to the Commonwealth Year-Booh, there is in Australia 14.0,000 square miles of country carrying commercial timber. Making a conservative estimate of the area at 100,000 square miles, we have 64,000,000 acres of timber country, which, allowing 1,000 feet per acre, would yield 64,000,000,000 feet, equal to imports for 160 years, at an average of 4,000,000 feet per annum.
– Hardwoods are very much cheaper now than the imported timbers.
– I do not know that they are. Australia has vast tracts of timber country, and there are some areas untapped which should have been tapped ere now. If forests are allowed to grow unexploited until the timber becomes overmatured, a considerable value of timber is lost. The State Governments should adopt the system of opening up timber areas everywhere. It may be an expensive matter to build a railway line into forest country, but the returns from the timber taken off it very soon recoup the expense, and at the same time the timber interests of the future are conserved. There are thousands of acres in Australia where the timber is now becoming too mature through the absence of means of getting it away. If these untouched areas were opened up Australia would have abundant supplies. Of course, the majority of our timbers are hardwoods, but the breaking strain of our hardwoods is much higher than that of any imported timber. I am aware that the Broken Hill mines were using a great deal of oregon, but that was not because it was stronger or better suited for mining purposes than, our timber would be, but because it was easier to handle.
– It was used in preference to Australian timbers because of its weight, and also because of its high breaking strain.
– Our timber has a higher breaking strain.
– Not for carrying a vertical strain.
– I think it has. However, I have no doubt the opinion of experts will be quoted during this dis-cussion. All I need say for the moment is that our timber has a greater breaking strain than that of any imported timber. Mr. Delprat, when giving evidence upon the use of Oregon- in the Broken Hill mines, said that the imported timber was easier to handle.
– It was used because it cost half the freight payable on our own hardwoods.
– That is quite possible. I think it can be said that our timber can meet the whole of the requirements of Australia with very few exceptions. Then, why should we not use it to the full, thus finding employment for our own people? Why should men be obliged to leave our shores because they cannot get work here? Every time we stop an industry we throw so many workers out of employment, who must go elsewhere to get the wherewithal to support their families, or else remain here competitors for employment with new arrivals; thus preventing us from getting people to come to Australia. Let us first absorb our own people before’ making provision for ‘people to come from other parts of the world, and we can do this by keeping our industries going. It is an idle argument to contend that because an article is at a certain price it should be permitted to . come into the country free of duty, if by doing so we cause heavy unemployment in our own country, and provide work in other places, such as Norway and Sweden, where the conditions under which men work are not as good as they are here. How can we expect our people to compete with the workers in other countries, who get less pay and work longer hours, and still maintain the standard of conditions existing in Australia to-day? I have no desire to take up time in quoting figures relating to the quantity of timber imported. The main question is whether these importations are necessary, in view of the fact that we have ample forests of our own, containing timbers suitable for all our purposes. But if we hops to keep the timber industry going in
Australia there must be a considerable increase in the duties. After fifteen months’ trial, as the Minister (Mr. Greene)will no doubt admit, the existing rates have proved inadequate. It is our duty to make them effective, and prevent cheap stuff coming in from overseas to the detriment of the interests of our own people. On both sides there is a keen feeling upon this question. Some honorable members think that the duties ought to be increased; others again consider that they should remain as they are. The Minister would shorten the discussion if he made some announcement, for the guidance of the Committee, as to what he intends to do. I do not want to move an amendment, at any rate at this juncture. I would particularly like to hear the Minister’s views as to whether he will increase the duties, which are altogether inadequate.
– And kill everything else in the country.
– Of course, it will be argued that since the imposition of these timber duties the cost of building has considerably increased in Australia, but the responsibility does not rest upon the increased duties; it rests upon the circumstances arising out of the war. In every line a big rise in costs has taken place, and the increase in the price of timber is not confined to the demands of sawyers or timber mill-owners. The importers have also been charging high prices for all the timber they could get hold of, and they are still charging as high a price as they can get. Of course, they would like to get their timber in free of duty. They have no regard for the welfare of the country, but seek only their own advantage. However, it is useless to say that the price is very high, and that it ought to be reduced. We all know that we want to get as many homes built as possible.
– And the timber man should not be made the scapegoat.
– As the honorable member says, one section of the community should not be made the scapegoat. Our object should be to foster all our industries in order to keep our people employed under reasonable conditions.
– Apparently the object of this Committee is to foster secondary industries only.
– The honorable member is not aware of what we have done for the benefit of the primary producer during his absence from the chamber.
– This duty protects a primary industry.
– Yes; but members of the Country party are more interested in wheat and wool. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) made a very effective reply to some of his colleagues last night when he directed particular attention to certain duties which had been imposed to help the primary producer.
– We could have done without them.
– I am surprised to hear that, because I have received a letter from a primary producer, who says that some of the duties imposed are quite inadequate.
– That is quite possible.
– Members of the Country party are not the only representatives of primary producers.
– We are quite justified in asking for increased duties when the market is being flooded with certain commodities.
– The honorable member endeavours to make it appear that no concessions have been granted to the primary producers. Every time argument has been adduced in favour of giving support to our local industries, the members of the Country party say that the primary producers will have to carry the whole burden; but they are in the same position as other individuals, as all members of the community have to share the burden.
– What is the value of it when one compares the importance of the industries concerned ?
– Has the honorable member for Dampier (Mr Gregory) overlooked the concessions that have been granted by imposing duties on dried and citrus fruits, onions, millet, and bananas ?
– Order! I must ask the honorable member not to pursue that line of argument.
– We have to considerwhether the duties imposed on imported wood and wicker are adequate, and, if so, whether theCommittee will allow them to remain; but if they are not found to be adequate, I trust they will be substantially increased. My personal opinion is that they are not sufficiently high, and proof of that is to be found in the factthat men employed in the timber industry are either working reduced hours or being dispensed with. I have before me a letter from an employees’ union directing attention to the position, and saying that if something is not done many of their members will be thrown out of employment. I trust that the Minister will be prepared to make a statement on this matter, and that something will be done, so that this important industry will be able to proceed on a profitable basis.
.- It is very interesting to hear the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) directing attention to the necessities of the mining companies. I do not object to that; but I am more interested in the question of supplies for building purposes. While it may be possible to meet the honorable member in the matter of hardwoods, it is delaying the progress of the country to place high duties on imported soft woods.
– The honorable member for South Sydney (Mr Riley) cannot say that I was supporting the. interests of the mine-owners when I was speaking on behalf of those employed in the timber industry.
– The honorable member referred to the strength of timber required for mining purposes. I do not dispute the necessities in that direction, but we have not sufficient softwood in this country to meet our own requirements.
– That is nonsense!
– It is not. For building purposes, softwood is superior to hardwood, and any one will admit that the dressing and handling of softwood adds greatly to the cost of. constructing a dwelling.
– Why should the honorable member favour low duties on imported softwoods and high rates on imported galvanized iron?
– I am dealing with the question of timber. I think it will be admitted that softwood is most essential in the construction of houses, although hardwood is required for flooring joists and other purposes. I do not object to soft timbers being imported in the log, because in cutting them up employment is found for our own people; but when supplies are received dressed and cut in different sizes, thework is, of course, done elsewhere.
– Those working in the cities would be safeguarded under those conditions.
– I represent a metropolitan constituency, and I am speaking on behalf of those who work in the cities. If I were representing a mining constituency, I would probably have more to say concerning the hardwood required by mining companies. The honorable member for Hunter referred to the fact that saw-mills were closing down; but it must be remembered that this has been caused largely by the fact that the banks are calling in overdrafts, money is not being made available for building purposes, and the War Service Homes Department has temporarily ceased building operations. In these circumstances, it is easy to understand why the demand for timber has been reduced. We must also remember that boot factories and clothing manufactories are not working to the same extent, because people are declining to purchase their products until prices are further reduced. There is a slackness in every direction merely because money is not available at reasonable rates. The brickmakers in my district are stacking their product in the yards because there is no demand for bricks ; but that is not a reason why we should place a heavy duty on bricks.
– No one is importing bricks.
– Perhaps not; but the brick and timber industries are allied. I trust the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) will not agree to increase the rates on imported timber, as those at present imposed should be considered reasonable. During the war period, ships were not available to carry consignments of softwood from the Baltic. The hardwood merchants put up their prices. I dare say that the increases have ranged between 200 and 300 per cent. When we could not get softwoods we had to buy hardwoods for purposes forwhich we would ordinarily use the softwoods. All these factors have added to thecost of building. We realize, of course, that we have been passing through extraordinary times; but, now that overseas timbers are being imported in large, quantities again, and efforts are being made to bring prices down to a fair mark, we hear this outcry from the local people.
– Before the war the .price of hardwood was too low, in most cases, to pay for milling.
– I can quite believe that. I recollect that hardwood could be bought in my State for about lis. or 12s. per 100 feet.
– The larger sizes of rough scantlings.
– Yes; and the prices today are at least 100 per cent., and sometimes even 200 per cent., higher. I hope the Minister will stand by the rates in his schedule, except in regard to timbers coming in dressed and sized, upon which I hold that there should be some increase of duty. The higher we send the cost of buildings the more men we keep out of employment in the building trade, and the more people we keep out of the ‘homes for which they are looking. The whole problem has to be regarded in a national light, and not from any one special aspect. We have scarcely started to build up the Commonwealth yet.
– I am informed that Sydney needs about 9,000 more houses.
– Homes are practically unobtainable. People will pay pounds for the key of a house.
– There are huge quantities of timber all ready in Queensland, but nobody goes up there to buy.
– I was at one stage inclined to favour a reduction of the rates of duty, but I am now convinced that those set out in the schedule are fair. With respect to timber imported for the making of butter boxes-, that is, as I have just indicated, -another matter, and one with which the Committee should deal, at the proper time and in the right place, in the best interests of the farmers.
.- I support all that has been advanced by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton). I intend to devote a few remarks to the timber industry, specifically in Tasmania, concerning which I am to some extent familiar ; and I shall be content to leave the advocacy of the interests of the industry in other .States .+o honorable members representing the districts concerned. It has been remarked already in the course of the debate that numbers of saw-mills in Australia are closing down, first for the reason that they cannot produce against the prices of imported timbers to-day; and secondly, because, owing to the great increase of importations, there is now little demand for Australian timbers. I have been informed by representatives of the Tasmanian Saw-millers’ Association that between them all they could not place an order of even 10,000 feet at present. I have not the figures at my disposal concerning the Whole of Tasmania; but I know for a fact that, in the north of the island alone, forty-two mills are idle, which, four months ago, were actively working. Forty-two are closed down, and only thirty-four are still working. I have not the exact particulars concerning the number of employees put off, but I should say, speaking from memory, that there would be about twenty-four workmen engaged at each mill. Those would be mill hands actually working at the mill, and independent of men employed in cutting in the forest and conveying to the mill. In all probability there would fee at least forty men per mill. That means that more than 2,000 have lost employment. That state of affairs represents about £400,000 in lost wages per annum. And wages in the saw-milling industry are much higher than they were a little while ago. I do not complain of that, however, because I am of opinion that the man. who labours at saw-milling, particularly in the forest, is entitled to good pay, if any industrial worker throughout the Commonwealth earns it, he doss. The work is hard and dangerous, and the weather, at any rate in that part of Tasmania with which I am most familiar, is extremely bad during the winter months. The honorable member for South ‘Sydney (Mr. Riley) said he would be content to support the rates of duty set out in the schedule, for the reason that they would afford ample protection to Australian industry. I think, however, that the Minister, after considering the changes which have occurred since the rates were first imposed, will have come to the conclusion that a higher measure of protection is necessary. The honorable member for South Sydney has evidently not considered the Tariff in detail. I call attention, for example, to sub-item e, “ Timber, undressed, n.e.i., in sizes 12 in. by 6 in. The duty per 100 super, feet is ls., but that will not pay wharfage to-day. As a matter of fact, wharfage rates, as well as freights generally, have increased enormously during the last year or two, and especially within the last few months. The freights on timber between Tasmania and Melbourne to-day are greater than those on timber between the United States of America and Australia.
– That is a scandal.
– It suggests, as honorable members say, that something is wrong, but it is a fact which we must take into consideration when dealing with this industry.
– It costs more to carry timber from the north coast of New South Wales to Sydney than it does to bring timber from America to Sydney.
– I know that is so. The disadvantages under which this industry is working to-day are obvious. I have already pointed out that many saw-mills are closing down; they cannot continue, because there is not a sufficient demand for timber.- It has been said that there is practically no building going on. I do not know whether that is due to the stringency of the money market, or to a shortage of workmen, in the building trade; but, no doubt, the state of the money market to-day has had a serious effect on the timber industry as well as on other enterprises. When we compare the cost of producing timber in America and bringing it to Australia with the cost of producing it here and conveying it to the various cities where it is mostly used, we realize at once that, even with a normal money market, this industry cannot hope to continue unless adequate protection is granted to it. I have a considerable knowledge of the industry, having been associated with forestry and timber for practically the whole of my life, with the exception of a certain period during which I was working at another job, which at the time was of more importance to Australia and the
Empire. And my personal knowledge leads me to say without hesitation that our saw-mills will not be able to compete against the imported timber unless they have a reasonable measure of protection. I am satisfied that the protection offered by the Minister (Mr. Greene) is not adequate.
– What does the honorable member think we should substitute for the duty of ls. per 100 super, in respect of sub-item f ?
– If the present cost of producing timber in the log and of cutting, sawing, and conveying it to market is to continue, the duty should be 10s. instead of ls. per 100 super. I have come to the conclusion that what the saw-millers have told me is correct - that the cost of producing timber in Australia and of carrying it to our different cities is so great, that they will be at a loss of 10s. per 100 super, by the time they put it on the market. We cannot expect any industry to continue to suffer such a loss.
I am not going to ask for an increased duty in respect of every sub-item. Some honorable members have referred to me as a “shandy-gaff” Protectionist, but I believe that I am a true Protectionist. I do not favour the placing of very high duties on any commodity essential to Australia which cannot be made here, or the equal of which cannot be produced here. Some timbers which are essential to Australian users are not produced here, and it would be unreasonable, therefore, to place very high duties on them. A heavy impost in respect of any such timbers would amount, in effect, to a revenue duty, and would not be in the interests of industry generally. I may say at once that I am not prepared to ask for duties such as might be based on the figures that have been supplied to me by the various saw-millers associations.
– What is the honorable member’s attitude in regard to timber for fruit cases?
– Practically any timbermay be used for fruit cases ; but I am informed by people engaged in the butter industry that for many years it has been recognised that a certain imported timber is best suited to, and almost essential for, the making of butter boxes. I think, therefore, that it would be wrong to put on that class of timber such a duty as would be burdensome. Then, again, there is the sub-item relating to hickory. We have had an exhibition of Australian timbers in the Queen’s Hall, and I have been assured by gentlemen possessing a good knowledge of the quality of the exhibits that one of the samples shown is nearly the equal of hickory. I am of opinion, however, that for axe handles, and tool handles generally, no timber is equal to hickory; nor do we produce in Australia any timber that is as good aa hickory for making wheels, vehicle shafts, and other items relating to the coachbuilder’s and the wheelwright’s industry.
– The honorable member would not allow hickory in a finished state to come in free? He would only allow that concession to timber .in the log?
– There is a very low duty on hickory undressed.
– Quite so. I am not going to ask for an increase of the duty on hickory, because it is the very best timber for coachbuilding, and other purposes which I need not enumerate. The bringing in of such timbers free of duty makes but little difference to our timber industry. I do not say that there is no Australian timber that is suitable for axe handles, but there are not on the market to-day axe handles which are anything like equal to those made of hickory.
– Western Australia produces thousands that are quite as good as the imported hickory handles.
– I am glad to hear that good axe-handles are made in Australia. So far, the handles made of Australian timber, which are said to be of equal quality to hickory, are not on the market. I have not yet seen an Australianmade axe-handle that I consider worth putting into an axe. I do not want to belittle our timbers, and am only explaining why in regard to certain sections I am not going to ask for increased duties. It is absolutely necessary that we should have the very best article, and if it is not already proved that that article can be produced in Australia, I shall not ask for an increased duty, which would be to the disadvantage of those whose call ings make it necessary for them to use it.
Some who oppose the increased protection that we are asking for have said that our forests would be exhausted in a few years if we did not import timber. I am satisfied that there is sufficient timber in Australia, useful for general purposes, to last us for many years, and that if it is not utilized much of it will go to waste. As the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) has rightly said, a great deal of the timber in our forests to-day is matured, and much of it is decaying.
– Is that hardwood or softwood?
– I am alluding particularly to hardwood. I have very little knowledge of the softwood forests of Australia, but it is obvious to any one who has seen the trees in our hardwood forests, or some of the timber that has been cut from them, that it is ripe, and a good deal of it more than ripe. Unless we utilize it in the next few years there will be an enormous waste which the Commonwealth can ill-afford.
A good deal has been said about the necessity for re-afforestation. . It is undoubtedly important that we should soon have such a system in Australia. Otherwise the whole of our vast timber areas will be depleted, and there will be nothing to take their place; but if we are to have re-afforestation it is essential to cut out ripe and matured timber. So far as my knowledge of the hardwood forests of Australia goes, it is unnecessary to plant. All we need to do is to protect the young growth after the matured trees have been cut out, and then in twenty or thirty years’ time we shall have forests that will be of at least some use. Unless we start early to protect the young growth, it is evident that in the course of twenty or thirty years our forests will be depleted. Re-afforestation and saw-milling must go hand in hand, and as the Commonwealth has no control over this matter it is essential that the States should soon complete their arrangements in this direction. They must take control of the forests, and see that only ripe timber is cut, and that the younger trees are left to mature. Otherwise there will be enormous waste. It is assumed by some engaged in the industry, and by others who take an interest in reafforestation, that the only way in which the States can .deal with this important matter is by the Federal Parliament providing funds by means of a Protectionist duty for the purpose of re-afforestation. If sufficient duties are imposed, the receipts from royalties will be increased. I consider that we are justified in providing the funds which are necessary in that direction by means of a Protectionist Tariff. The industry should be selfsupporting. If it is necessary to renovate the forests, the timber industry of to-day should bear some of the cost. I am prepared, in dealing with the question on the Tariff, to take into consideration the necessity of providing funds, through royalties, for re-afforestation in the various States.
It has also been assumed, with good reason, that the cost of timber is so great as to cause practically a cessation of building. It is fully realized that one of the main reasons for the great cost of timber, as in the case of various other commodities, is that the retailer is getting a big “ cut “ out of the industry. I have told sawmillers that it is their business in particular to take such steps as will prevent the distributors of their timber from getting an unfair price.
– Can the honorable member give any illustration showing the difference between the mill and retail prices ?
– I have some figures, but I do not know whether it is of any use to quote them, because the man who builds a house has to take into consideration the cost of the timber to him. It is of no use to tell him that the saw-miller is not getting it, and that the money is going to the retailer, or middleman,, or whatever name you like to call him by. I know there is a great difference in the case of certain timbers, and have some figures beside me. For instance, one line of Tasmanian hardwood, of which the price f.o.b. Burnie wharf is 18s. per 100 super, feet, is selling at 32s. retail in Melbourne to-day. The difference in that case is rather too much. In discussing the matter with those engaged in the industry, I have said to them, “It is your business to find a remedy. You can, at any rate, go a long way towards doing so.” I have been assured, in reply, that the associations interested are taking the necessary steps. They tell me they are prepared to take action, and have been considering it for a number of years, but they say the trouble is that unless their industry is stabilized they cannot afford to invest hundreds of thousands of pounds to take up the business of distributing their timber to the builders. They assure ‘ me that unless such protection is given to them as will assure them that they can carry on, it is of no use for them to think about doing the distributing as well as the milling. That answer of theirs could hardly be disputed, and I was not prepared to argue the question further; but if the saw-millers are ready to undertake the distribution of the timber it will go a long way towards reducing the price to the builder and lowering the cost of building houses.
Honorable members on the other side claim that the primary industries have been given a fair measure of protection. Speaking generally, I am not going to say that the primary producer has not been helped wherever it was possible to help him by increasing the Tariff. I have thought, when some items were being passed, that it was not in the interests of the primary ‘producer to put high duties on certain essentials; but here is an industry which is essentially a primary one, and which we can protect. We have the assurances given by honorable members on both sides of the Committee, that wherever it is possible to protect a primary industry they are prepared to give it an equal chance with the secondary industries. Therefore, I shall have very great confidence in moving that the duties proposed upon various timber items shall be increased. It is absolutely essential that protection shall be ‘ granted, to the saw-milling industry. If that industry were to close down to-morrow, hundreds of thousands of workmen would be thrown out of employment. During the initial stages of their existence we have to pay the price for protecting our industries, and in nearly every instance the process will prove a costly one to the consumer. But if we are going to protect one industry we cannot refuse to extend similar consideration to another. Everything that is used by the saw-miller has been protected, including his machinery, the tools which are used in the mill and in the forest, the harness used by the teams which draw the logs, and the steel which is used for tram-lines. Consequently, it is’ only right that we should give the saw-milling industry itself a fair measure of protection. The adoption of this policy will also he in the interests of the primary producer - the man upon the land, who grows hay, corn, and foodstuffs generally. It is to his advantage that the industry should prosper. In the far north-west portion of Tasmania the farmers are absolutely dependent upon this particular industry. They clear their land and cultivate it, but they are inaccessible to a market, and were it not for sawmills they would have practically no sale for their produce. Those who think that our primary producers are not concerned with the protection of the saw-milling industry generally need to be reminded of this fact. Indirectly, if not directly, the primary producers do benefit in the way I have suggested. I trust that I shall have the support of members of the Country party in according to this most important industry a reasonable measure of protection. I shall be glad if the Minister will tell us exactly what protection he is prepared to extend to it.
– I am not prepared to give 10s. per 100 superficial feet.
– I am quite sure that the honorable gentleman is prepared to give a larger measure of protection than is provided for in this Tariff. I appeal to him to take into consideration the increased cost of producing timber to-day, the increased wages which have been paid during the past twelve months, and the increased cost of everything that is used in connexion with the industry. If he cannot see his way to grant a protection of 10s. per 100 superficial feet upon the item with which we are now dealing. 1 feel sure that he will approach very closely to it.
– I trust that the Minister will stand by the Tariff schedule generally. In common with most members of the Opposition, I claim to be a Protectionist. I believe in protecting Australian industries. But I would point out that the timber industry does not stand upon the same basis as do other industries which we are endeavouring to protect by means of this Tariff. Take, for example, the iron industry. We can establish an iron industry in the Commonwealth. We have all the raw mate rials to enable us to manufacture all the iron and steel that is required in Australia. The same remark is applicable to many other manufacturing industries. But the quantity of timber in Australia to-day is very, very limited, particularly in the matter of softwoods. I ask honorable members to view this question from the stand-point not merely of the sawmillers themselves, or of the employees who are engaged in the industry, but of the people of ‘ Australia, and of the men who have to erect homes for themselves, or who have to pay rent for houses. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) has suggested that dumping is taking place in Australia. He affirms that it is in consequence of imported timbers being dumped here that it is necessary to increase tha duties upon timber in order that local timbers may be able to compete successfully with the imported commodity. I have evidence to show that there is no timber being dumped in Australia, and that ‘the importation of
Oregon and Baltic timbers is very much less to-day than it has been for a number of years. As a matter of fact, the importation of what we call softwoods to-day is only about one-half what it was in 1914. It cannot, therefore, be justly urged that there is any dumping taking place. I speak as one who knows something about the building trade, and I would remind honorable members that when the 1907-8 Tariff was under consideration in another place, I resisted the attempt which was then made to impose increased duties, particularly upon oregon and Baltic timbers. Upon that occasion I showed that hardwood cannot be successfully substituted for softwood in the erection of houses. In the first place, the carriage of hardwood is very much more expensive than is that of softwood, and the same remark is applicable to the working of it. Employers in the building trade find that their workmen have a rooted objection to working hardwood because it has the effect of blunting their tools. Honorable members must know that hardwood shrinks very much, so that it is quite unfit for building operations until it has been properly seasoned. When it has been thoroughly seasoned it is practically as hard as bone, so that a workman cannot work it in the way that he can work oregon, which is the only timber suitable for building purposes in Australia at the present time.
Honorable members have doubtless been supplied with copies of a circular signed by T. H. McVilly, and issued by the general Tariff executive of the sawmillers of Australia, in which enormously increased duties are suggested. Without the slightest hesitation, I say that we have no substitute in the southern States for
Oregon in the rough, and Baltic timbers, although Queensland possesses a very limited quantity of good pine. Later on, I shall produce evidence to show that the sawmillers of Queensland have always been unable to fulfil their orders from the south. That was the position when the 1907-8 Tariff was under consideration. Upon that occasion I produced documentary evidence to show that Moore and Company, timber merchants, of Melbourne, had had an order for a large quantity of Queensland pine standing for eighteen months,’ and could not obtain delivery of the same. A similar position exists to-day. The Queensland sawmillers cannot supply any demands outside their own local market. As a matter of fact, Queensland is importing hardwood from New South Wales at the present time.
– At what price? The New South Wales sawmillers had practically to give it away before Queensland would accept it. At what price was that hardwood bought?
– I cannot say.
– That is an isolated example.
– Queensland is importing hardwood from New South Wales at the present time. Possibly one reason for this may be found in the excessive royalties which are charged upon timber by the Queensland Government. That Government is charging enormous royalties upon all timbers cut within the State - the royalties being based upon the truck value of the logs. As a matter of fact, the Queensland Government will not allow the exportation of timber in the log - they will not permit logs to be sent from that State to Sydney.
Mr- Bayley. - Since when ?
– For some considerable time.
– That is not so.
– It is so. I am prepared to bring documentary evidence in support of my statements. I am in a position to prove everything that I am saying. The Queensland Government will not allow timber to be exported in the log. All timber must be cut up in Queensland. If a log upon a truck be valued at 25s., and the cutting and hauling to the truck costs 10s., a total of 35s., the royalty charged by the Queensland Government would be 15s.
– The honorable member has been misinformed.
– I am prepared to vouch for the accuracy of my statements. : In 1915-16, according to the Year-Booh of Australia, the royalty on hoop pine in Queensland was from 2s. 6d. to 6s. per 100 feet, according to size and proximity to trucks; but in 1920 it had increased to from 10s. to 25s. per. 100 feet. Any increase of the duty on Oregon and Baltic timbers will not force Australian timbers into substitution for them, but must increase the cost of building houses. A friend has estimated for me the additional cost of building a four-roomed weather board house if the rates asked for by Mr. McVilly are adopted. According to this estimate, under the present Tariff, the duty on the 6-in. by J-in. Baltic timber used in a four-roomed house, such as most Victorian workmen live in, comes to £1 6s. 10d., while the duty asked for would come to £7 6s. Id. ; on 6-in. by i-in. matchboard lining, the increase would be from £3 8s. 6d. to £21 8s. Id.; and on weatherboards for the outside, the increase would be from £1 9s. 9d. to £9 ls. 9d.
– These increases are based on the duty applied to dressed timber, not on that applied to undressed timber.
– Baltic flooring boards and linings are imported dressed. It would cost five or six times as much to dress them in Australia as to dress them where they are sawn.
– Does the honorable member suggest that weatherboards are Baltic pine?
– Yes; though in some parts of Australia, particularly in Queensland, hardwood weatherboards are used. They make a fine building; but are much more expensive than the Baltic pine. To obtain a cheap house in which workmen can live at a reasonable rent, these imported timbers must be used.
– Do you say that there is no Australian timber which can take their place?
– I do. The Queensland hoop pine is a very good timber, and has been used in place of Baltic pine; but that State needs all the hoop pine it grows for its own use, and the other softwoods of Queensland are nearly cut out. The evidence taken by the Inter-State Commission showed that the quantity of soft timber available in Queensland is so limited that there is no hope of that State being able to supply the Australian market.
– For how long?
– It cannot supply it at all. If Australia had to rely on Queensland for softwoods, and none were imported, there would not be a stick of softwood in the Commonwealth at the end of two years.
– How did we get on during the war?
– Very badly; and the cost of building greatly increased. Hardwood had to be substituted for softwood. I come now to another point. Official figures obtained through the consuls within the last fortnight show that wages in this industry in Norway, British Columbia, and the United States of America, are as high as in Australia. Timber-workers in Norway get a wage equal to 2s. 9d. per hour for eight hours a day. There is no cheap foreign labour rate about that rate of wage, and I should say that if the Australian timber-worker is not satisfied with 2s. 9d. per hour for eight hours he is setting up rather an extravagant standard. The average minimum wage for the timber-workers in the United States is 5i dollars per day - a pretty fair wage for eight hours. In British Columbia, the average for forestworkers is £1 4s. 9d. for eight hours, and saw-mill hands get £1 0s. 5d. for nine hours. These figures have been supplied by ‘the consuls for the various countries, and cannot be refuted. A statement has been made that timber is being dumped in this country. A photograph has been exhibited of a ship carrying, I believe, about 3,000,000 super, feet pf Oregon, which is said to have been landed in Australia, and an attempt has been made to make the people believe that it has been dumped here in order to bring down the price of local timber. But I have made inquiries and have ascertained from a most reliable source that the greater portion of this cargo was red-wood, and not oregon. It was bought eighteen months ago (at a price very much higher than rates ruling to-day. Where is the dumping about that cargo ?
– Can you say what price that cargo brought in the market?
– I have not that information, but I will get it and give it to the honorable member later. But I know it cost more than the present market rates, and I know also that it is suggested that it has been dumped here for the purpose of injuriously affecting the local position. In this morning’s Age there was a statement that the saw-mills at Hurstville had been closed down because the Victorian market had been swamped with oregon and Baltic timber. What are the facts? In 1914 the importation of oregon and Baltic into Victoria was 13,400.000 super, feet. In 1920 - I have not the figures for the intervening years, but the trade dropped off during war time - the average importation was 8,000,000 super, feet, and up till last month the importation was only 5,000,000 super, feet. In the face of these figures, how can it be said that the local marked is being swamped with foreign timber and that, as a result, Australian mills have to close down.
– There are other ports in Australia besides Melbourne.
– Yes. I have the figures for Sydney also. The price of timber used in place of oregon has risen so much that, although oregon is very high, it is possible to land it at Brisbane as well as at other ports at a lower cost than the local article. In 1913, oregon was selling in Sydney at 17s. per 100 super, feet; in 1914, at 18& 6d. ; in July, 1915, at 21s. ; in December of that year, at 22s. 6d. ; in July, 1916, at 25s. ; in December, at 25s.; in July, 1917, at 30s.; and in December, 1918, at 42s. It remained at this figure until July, 1919, when it rose to 43s.; in October of the same year it went to 49s. ; in December, to 54s. ; and in January and February, 1920, to 60s. ; in March, to 65s., at which figure it remained until December and February, 1921, when it came back to 55s. In April it dropped to 45s., and is listed at this figure to:day. If- Oregon can be landed in Brisbane at 45s., and is in the market there, the cost of the timber which it is going to replace must be higher; or else oregon must be more suitable for building requirements.
– Nobody will believe that. You do not want to quote the Brisbane figures.
– I will endeavour to get them. The same movement may be noted in regard to colonial pine. In 1913 it was selling at 28s. 6d. per 100 super, feet, and in July, 1914, at 27s. It remained at that figure until July, 1915, and in December it was quoted at 30s. In May, 1916, it rose to 32s.; in July, 1917, to 34s. ; in December, 1917, to 36s. ; in July, 1918, to 40s.; in December of the same year, to 45s. ; in July, 1919, to 48s. ; in October to 50s. ; and in December, to 58s. In June of the following year it dropped to 53s., but in March, 1920, it went up to 63s., and there it remained. Honorable members will observe that the price of colonial pine went up in sympathy with imported Oregon, and kept either just a little below or a little above the price for the imported timber during the whole of that series of years. The same thing applies, although to a lesser degree, to hardwood prices. The Sydney quotations rose from 20s. in 1913 to 35s. at the present date. I do not think we have any reason to doubt that if an increased duty is put on Oregon and Baltic shipments the cost of the Queensland pine will go up to about the same level, and the impost will seriously affect the State which I represent, because we either have to import either Baltic or oregon timber for building, or rely upon the Queensland product. If it could be obtained - and I contend that it cannot, but if it could - the cost of freight from Brisbane to Adelaide would add enormously, to the price of every house built in South Australia, without any corresponding advantage. I admit that possibly some individuals in Queensland will benefit if this duty is imposed, but the other States will suffer. Tasmania has a very limited quantity of suitable timber to replace oregon and Baltic. It is not quite as good, but it is an excellent substitute. There was a small amount of King William pine and celerytop, as well as some other kinds, the names of which I forget for the moment. But that has practically been exhausted, and Tasmania will have to rely on oversea shipments of soft timber in order to meet her requirements in the near future. I agree with the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. Riley),, that on timbers cut up in lengths we might impose duties higher than those in the schedule, but the position is quite different with regard to oregon and Baltic. In my opinion, Australia should not import any hardwood timbers for furniture making. Queensland possesses, I believe, the best variety of timbers in the world for cabinet making, railway carriage building, and similar work; and we might easily prohibit all importations, even in the log, of such timber. But we ought not, at the present time, to add to the cost of building houses. It has been said by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) that there is much unemployment at present in the building trade. The reason for that unemployment is not the high prices of timber,, although the prices are high, nor is it the cost of bricks and other material; it is simply due to the price of money, and the difficulty of borrowing for building purposes. Speculative building to-day in Australia is almost nil, because builders are afraid to invest, with the cost of material so high, and with the likelihood of it dropping in the near future. A man cannot borrow money on the security of a house in the course of building for less than 7 per cent., and that, of course, is sufficient to cripple many Building will be resumed when the financial situation straightens itself out; but if by increased duties we add £31 to the cost of a four-roomed house, £37 to the cost of a five-roomed house, and so on, we shall only all the more restrict building. The more we cheapen building, the more men will be employed, and the greater possibility there will be in the near future of some reduction of the present high rents. I ask even Protectionist members to view these duties from a point of view different from that they take with regard to industries which can expand. The banana industry, for example, is capable of expansion to any extent, because there is plenty of soil, and the fruit can be grown in one season. On the other hand, a tree from which to cut oregon or pine, takes not less than sixty years to reach its full development.
– It is less than that for pine.
– There is a variety of pine that grows to maturity in, perhaps, twenty-five years; hut while it is good enough for butter boxes, packing cases, and so forth, it is absolutely useless for building purposes. I refer honorable members to the report of the Inter-State Commission, the members of which had no other interest in the matter than to provide the best possible article for the general public of Australia. That report clearly shows that Australia does not possess, and cannot produce, softwoods necessary for general purposes.
– The members of the Commission did not know what they were talking about.
– The Commission took evidence from a number of Queensland experts, including leading timber merchants and the Conservator of Forests for the State. This latter gentleman informed the Commission that on the Atherton tablelands, where at one time a very large quantity of kauri pine was obtained, the timber has been cut out; and a significant fact is that in the whole of the area there are no young pine trees, some other variety taking their place.
– Atherton is not the whole of Queensland.
– It is the only place where there is kauri pine. This same peculiar feature is found in the magnificent jarrah forests of “Western Australia, where, when the trees are once cut out, they are replaced by a kind of bastard gum. As I have already said, it is impossible, as in the case of bananas, to increase the supply according to the demand. The supply is not nearly enough for the requirements of Australia, even if the whole were cut down. If mills were increased a hundredfold, and all the timber were cut down at once, Australia’s demand would not be met. It would take not more than two years to cut out the whole of the softwoods fit for building purposes, and we should then be more than ever dependent on outside supplies.
– That is only an argument in favour of reforestation.
– I am entirely in favour of reafforestation; but we ought to go further, and carefully conserve our present supplies.
– We can only use them once.
– The honorable member probably knows that in America, Canada, and Norway the supplies of timber which we are importing to-day are rapidly disappearing, and it will not be very many years before there will be no Oregon or Baltic for export. At present, in those parts from which the Baltic timber is obtained, the trees are so small that the cost of cutting them has largely increased. Let us use up the oregon of America and leave that country to go short if need .be, while we conserve our own timber. I have spent most of my life as a practical man in the building trade, and I know that hardwood cannot replace , oregon and Baltic. The hardwood is very much more expensive, and men who build houses would prefer to pay an increased duty in order to get the softwood.
.- I represent a constituency which is, perhaps, more than any other interested in the sawmilling industry, and I am persuaded that it is inadvisable in the interests of Australia to increase the duties. It has come to my knowledge - I need not mention the source - that there is a growing shortage of timber throughout the world. In America, for instance, the authorities ase “ getting their wind up,” and from official reports it is found that unless they vigorously pursue a policy of reafforestation they will find themselves without any timber in a very few decades. An increase of the duties is not going to improve the position of our saw-milling industry. Lt is the cost of timber to-day that is retarding the construction of nouses. People are waiting for prices to fall, and contracts are being held up. In view of the depletion of timber in those parts of the world from which it has come to us in the past, and considering that we have most excellent hardwood timber in Australia, I think that the cheap imported timber is a great blessing to us, because it enables us to conserve an asset for which generations may bless this Parliament. One of our chief duties to-day is to protect the great boon we possess in the form of our hardwood timbers. An intelligent man recently went round the world inquiring into the timber question, and he has expressed the opinion that our hardwood timbers will “ sell like hot cakes “ throughout the world in the present state of hardwood timber ‘famine. These duties seem to be another artificial “ dope” proposed in order to develop industries here. We have been told of the closing of mills, but that is not because there is not a higher Tariff. Mills close down, in any case, at certain periods of the year owing to snow, rain, and other climatic conditions.
– That i3 not the reason.
– We have some of the finest timber in the world, and none realize that less than do the Australian people themselves. The softwood timbers of Queensland are as fine as any in the world, ‘ but they do not meet our requirements as do Baltic and oregon. From what has been said, one would imagine that an enormous amount of dumping, is going on in timber in Australia to-day, but if we consult the records of the importations we shall find that that is a fallacy. For instance, in 1914, the monthly importations of timber to Victoria were 13,400,000 super, feet; in 1920, the importations had fallen to 6,000,000 super, feet; and in 1921, so far, they represent only 5,000,000 super, feet. There are certain timbers held up here to-day, very largely because the people who hold them have been led to believe that the present sympathetic high Tariff Government are going to give them an increased Tariff on the softwood timber already in Australia. Another matter which must be considered by honorable members is the wages to be paid for forty-four -hours weekly, as decided recently by the Arbitration Court. The awards of the Court must have a wonderful effect on the costliness of the production of timber in Australia. I speak in this matter conscientiously as an Australian. I am not looking for votes, because, as I said at the outset, I represent a district in which there are as many timber mills as are to be found in any other part of Australia. I do not think that the State which I represent would really be benefited by the imposition of a high Tariff on timber. Honorable members are trying to bring about rent-fixing boards, and yet by their action in supporting increased duties on timber they are increasing the cost of houses. They cannot “ blow hot and cold “ in this way. We cannot expect to continue in this insular way in Australia, excluding from our consideration all other countries. We have timbers to export, and those timbers will represent one of our principal assets, and one of the- means by which we shall be able to liquidate our financial obligations to the outside world. In the circumstances, to adopt a policy of the kind here suggested would be detrimental to the best interests of Australia. It cannot be contended that in this industry in Australia we are incapable of competing with other parts of the world because of the wages which are paid in other countries. In Norway, for instance, for an eight-hour day, men employed in the timber industry are paid 2s. 9d. per hour. In the United States of America the average minimum wage for an eight-hour day is 23s., or 5J dollars. In British Columbia the average wage for forest workers is £1 4s. 9½d. for eight hours, and the average wage for saw-mill hands and others engaged in the industry is £1 0s. 5d. per day. Conditions due to the war have been responsible for many things that are abnormal. Amongst others, they were responsible for an oversupply of saw-mills. This was necessary possibly for a time, but the conditions responsible for it have not continued. During a recent railway strike in Western Australia I happened to be in a remote district, and was obliged to stay there and put up with such conditions as were possible without the convenience of railway communication. T got on very well, but it will not be contended that on that account I should be prepared to dispense for all time with the advantages of railway communication. The costliness of water carriage, due to war conditions, naturally prevented considerable importations of these softwood timbers during the war. We were obliged in the circumstances to use substitutes for those timbers. I believe that there are some of our timbers which might take the place of imported softwoods in building operations, and they should be substituted for them where that can be economically done. Where, however, the substitution of our timbers for imported softwoods in the building of houses add to their cost the substitution is not warranted.
Our hardwoods are more costly to handle, and are too heavy for roofing as compared with the imported softwoods. In view of the price quoted for Baltic and oregon timbers there seems to me to be no necessity for the proposed increase of duties. The price of Baltic to-day is 29s. 6d., and the price oforegon is 40s. In 1914 the price of redwood was13s. to 14s., in 1917 it was 16s. 6d., in 1920 26s., and in 1921 it is 26s. 9d. per 100 feet. These figures do not seem to indicate a big. drop in the price of redwood, which is essential for building operations in Australia, particularly in districts which are troubled with the white ant. The material should not be further loaded. Why should the people of Australia be denied the opportunity to use this timber? We have reason to fear, what has already taken place in connexion with wheat, that other countries will set up reprisal Tariffs against us. We want to trade with those countries, and we should be in a position to exchange our hardwoods for their softwoods. But some honorable members appear to be so insular in their views that they would prohibit the people of other countries from trading with us at all. In view of the prices charged for imported timbers at the present time, there is no reasonable competition withwoods in Australia, and I intend in the circumstances to vote against any increase of the Tariff as it now stands.
– I have been rather astonished at some of the statements which have been made, and can only conclude that honorable members who made them have been unable to procure information of a reliable character. The honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. Riley) said that we have no softwoods in Australia. To disprove that statement I must refer to a few figures, and in this matter I shall deal with Queensland alone. We have, approximately, 236 saw-mills in Queensland. The number of workmen employed in them is 5,100, and the wages paid annually amount to £1,350,000. The earnings of timber getters and haulers amount to about £1,000,000 per annum. The railage paid to the Queensland Railway Department on log and sawn timber in 1920 amounted to £262,765. The quantity of pine produced to the 30th June, 1920, was 183,950,000 super feet; of cedar, 875,000 super, feet; and of hardwoods, 95,200,000 super, feet, or a total of 279,025,000 super, feet. The value of the log timber cut in 1920 amounted to £3,500,000, and the value of the timber exported amounted to £312,000. The value of sawmills and plants in existence in Queensland is estimated at £1,800,000. The mining timber produced amounted to 690,000 lineal feet; piles, girders, and telegraph poles, 880,000 lineal feet; posts and rails, 175,000 lineal feet; and sleepers for railways and tramlines, 250,000. The wages per hour in the industry were in 1908, 7½d. ; in 1914,1s. ; and in 1921 they have risen to 2s. l½d. An honorable member has made a statement as to a fabulous rate of wages paid in British Columbia; but, according to the latest information, taken from the West Coast Lumberman, I find that a reduction of wages in the industry has taken place in 1921 and they are now 8s. 9d. per day.
– Where did the honorable member get that figure from ?
– From the latest issue of the West Coast Lumberman.
– That is very much out of date. We have the latest figures.
– The honorable member cannot have anything later than the latest. I find that in Japan, China, and Siberia wages in this industry have come down to vastly below what they are in Australia. Let me further inform honorable members that the retail price of oregon in Melbourne in 1913 was 17s., and to-day it is 65s., per 100 lineal feet. The retail price of Baltic per 100 lineal feet in Melbourne in 1913 was11s. 6d., and it is now 32s.
– That rather supports my contention.
– I want to give honorable members the facts. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Prowse) has suggested that we should hold up our Australian timbers and preserve our forests by importing timbers. I point out that we have timber in Queensland ready for cutting, and becoming too old to be used. We have hundreds of millions of super feet of timber in Queensland, and it appears to me to be a most unwise suggestion that we should refuse to make use of it in order that we may obtain timber from other parts of the world.
– It would be sacrilege to put some Queensland timbers into buildings for which Baltic and oregon are now used.’
– There is no timber, including Baltic or oregon; that is better than our Queensland pine.
– I have just said that it would be sacrilege to use it as a substitute for Baltic or oregon.
– I want to refer to the absurd ideas some people have concerning the area we have under timber in Queensland. I refer honorable members to the official Year-Booh No. 13 for 1920, page 402, where I find the following statement made: -
Allowing the very moderate estimate of three trees, each containing 1,000 super, feet to the acre, we have in the Commonwealth at least 286,000,000,000 super, feet of timber of almost endless variety.
– We have a great deal more than that.
– Of course we have. Three trees of the size mentioned to the acre is indeed a very moderate estimate. The article from which I quote continues : -
If we estimate the quantity of timber just mentioned at the merely nominal value of 4s. per 100 super, feet, we have here a national asset of £572,000,000, or nearly three-fourths of the national debt of Australia.
– - And yet the Queensland Government have commandeered it.
– Not exactly; but I shall deal with that directly. In this White Australia there is 150,000 square miles, or 96,000,000 acres, of forest. Those figures can be verified by reference to the Year-Booh. In refutation of the statement that Australian requirements in timber could not be supplied locally during the war, I submit to the Committee the following certified statistics; from the Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics : -
Honorable members will see that during the three war years quoted the imports of timber were considerably less than in the three pre-war years.
– Building operations fell off proportionately.
– That is not so, because the Wai- Service Homes scheme was in operation during 1918. Is it not better in our present financial stress that the money spent in previous years on imported timber should now be spent within the Commonwealth ? Honorable members representing industrial constituencies have asked for the protection of not only the basic industries, such as iron and steel, but also the subsidiary industries, and we have conceded that. We have also placed “high duties upon wines and dried fruits produced in southern States, but South. Australian members are opposed to increased duties on timber because their State has no timber Resources. Queensland produces very, little wine and no dried fruits, hops, &c, but we supported the duties on those articles in justice to other States. The duty on dried fruits is 105 per cent.., and on hops over 100 per cent., whilst the duty on jams also is very heavy. We did not claim that because we were not producing those articles to any extent in Queensland, we should be able to buy them as cheaply as they were, obtainable from overseas.
– Timber is not allowed to be sent out of Queensland.
– There is n0 truth inthat statement; my honorable friend has been, misinformed. Timber is not prevented from being sent out of Queensland. It can be bought in the log by other States, but application has to be made to. the Department of Forestry, which imposes, I understand, a. penalty of ls. per 100 super, feet. The timber can be obtained either sawn or in the log. A number of the mills in Queensland are overstocked with pine, and are ready to supply the requirements of other States if they are given the opportunity. I have seen millions of feet of pine trees destroyed because they could not be taken to market. One of the conditions of land selection was that a certain quantity of land must be cleared each year, and many selectors have felled large pines, some of which contained three logs, and carted them to the roads in the hope that in time the railway would be built near ‘enough to enable the timber to be taken to’ market. It has been left lying on the roads for two or three years, until through exposure it has become unsaleable. Millions of feet of pine have been wasted in that way. People who have not seen the enormous areas of scrub that still remain untouched cannot form any idea of the quantity of timber available in Queensland. A great deal of the timber is getting too old for commercial use, but the difficulty has been the lack of railways to take it to market. There is enough pine in Queensland to supply the whole of the requirements of Australia for years to come. Of hardwoods, also, that State has an unlimited supply. Unfortunately, millions of feet of hardwood are destroyed as land settlement proceeds. The timber is simply ringbarked, and then burnt off. A protective duty which would keep out of Australia the cheaplyproduced timbers of other countries, would encourage the people in Queensland to send the timber on their holdings to market, instead of destroying it. I know that in the near future an attempt will be made to import a large quantity of timber from Siberia. Companies have taken up enormous tracts of timber country there, some of them- comprising 350,000 acres of pine scrub, on which they pay little, if any, royalty. There will be plenty of vessels seeking cargo to Australia, and they will carry the Siberian pine cheaply, and dump it in this country at prices with which the local article will not be. able to compete. I contradict the. statement made by some honorable members regarding the royalty imposed on timber by the Queensland Government. With the exception of where the Government have control of small timber lands near a railway, and get the timber cut and sent to a- * siding, tenders are invited from all’, saw-millers, and the highest tenderer gets the timber at the sidings. Further, an area of scrub which may be available may not contain sufficient timber to meet the requirements of .all the a’djacent saw-millers. Consequently these men, afraid that they may not get enough to meet their needs, compete with one another in their offers of royalties, so that some time ago in some cases the return to the Government was, as some honorable members have said, as high at 25s. per 100 super, feet.
– That occurred when pine was bringing a very good price.
– That is so. At present the public will not tender for that timber. Many mills have closed down. One saw-milling firm in my district, Sims and Sons, which has been working for a very large number of years supplying timber throughout the north of Queensland, has closed down, because it is unable to get sufficient orders to keep going. Other saw-millers tell me that unless something is done to protect their interests they must close down and discharge their employees. The Queensland mills also supply part of the requirements of New South Wales. McKenzie and Company, Sydney saw-millers, who took up land on Frazer’s” Island, and erected four saw-mills, cannot now get sufficient sale for. their output. I am afraid that unless we provide additional protection practically all the Queensland sawmillers will before very long cease operations or reduce trade because of the dumping of ‘ timber in Australia from countries where it can be obtained at- very little cost. Honorable members representing city constituencies, who are - most ardent Protectionists in regard’ to city industries, are, apparently, prepared to turn down the interests of primary . industries, and even of secondary industries, established in- other parts of the. Commonwealth outside their cities-. The honorable- member for South .Sydney (Mr. Riley) is one of those members. The attitude of honorable members who represent Victorian, South Australian, and “Western Australian constituencies where pine does not grow is that they want softwood as cheaply as possible, and are quite prepared to allow the primary producer, who is outside their immediate circle, to be penalized. The horse is of a different colour when they are dealing with an industry located in their- own electorates. The honorable member for Swan’ (Mr. Prowse) says quite distinctly that pine is not grown in Western Australia, and that the people of that State must have softwoods as cheaply as possible, no matter where they come from.
– The Queensland people could not fulfil their own contracts.
– There have been times during strikes when shipping was not available, or when the timber could not be got down to the mills because of trouble among railway employees, when, perhaps, it was impossible for the Queensland saw-millers to supply the requirements of the honorable member’s constituents; but the fact that pine does not grow in the honorable member’s district is no reason why the people of Western Australia as a component part of the Commonwealth should not assist an industry established in .another part of Australia, as we in Queensland are now called upon to assist industries established in other States. If the people of South Australia or Western Australia can be supplied with softwoods from Queensland, where they are milled under White- Australia conditions, they ‘ ought to purchase them in preference to softwoods cut, milled, and shipped elsewhere under much cheaper wage conditions than those which apply in Australia. Honorable members have advanced similar arguments for affording protection to other industries. Why should an exception be made in the case of timber? One honorable member says that we must not have a Protective duty on softwoods because they are used for making butterboxes. As I mentioned yesterday, unfortunately, many people in Australia have a prejudice against using anything except that to which they have been accustomed. Queensland had to put up a strenuous fight against the embargo placed upon the use of Queensland pine for mak ing butter-boxes. Every possible test wasmade by the Government experts and1 others, demonstrating that no better timber than Queensland pine could* be used for making butter-boxes.. Ten butter factories established ‘ inthe Wide Bay electorate use Queensland pine butter-boxes exclusively,, and there is never a word of complaint* The pine is cheaper than the New Zealand timber, which was used prior to the: breaking down of the prejudice against the Australian wood. At any rate, the price is perfectly satisfactory to those who use it, and the butter produced in the Wide Bay electorate fetches just as high. a price on the London market as does butter from any other district. All butter factories in New South Wales and Queensland, with the exception, perhaps, of a few conservative companies which will never make a change in respect to any article to which they have been accustomed, are using butter-boxes made of Queensland pine, because they know that it is as good as any, if not the best for the purpose. Having been in the Queensland timber districts from the time the first saw-mill was started in them in the sixties, I know exactly what has been done with the timber, and how the trade has been built up, notwithstanding all with which it had to contend. It is folly to say that the timber is not there. I can take honorable members to scrubs which have not yet been touched because there are no railways near them. While I was a member of the Queensland Parliament, legislation was passed preventing the alienation of that timber land until railways were in close proximity to it. We did not wish to see a continuation of the enormous destruction of valuable timber that was taking place year after year because settlers had to carry out the condition imposed upon them to clear so much land per annum. I shall probably have something more to say upon this subject at a later stage.
.- As honorable members know, if I had my desire I would accept the Tariff in globo, and get to the question of dumping under which this matter could very well be discussed. Therefore, I shall not weary the Committee with much talk or with many figures. But I was very much struck with the remark of the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Story) that we should keep our forests intact for use by-and-by, in the meantime buying timber that can be produced more cheaply from other nations, his idea being that, very shortly, the timber of other nations will become cut out.
– Timber that grows old may become useless.
– I am well aware of that fact. The honorable member for Boothby also told us that pine could not be grown for household purposes under sixty years ; but I have seen pines planted forty years ago in Gippsland which are now 6 feet in diameter. If they are not good enough for providing timber for household purposes, I do not know what is. Men who should know what they are talking about have assured me that if our hardwood is properly seasoned, there is no shrinkage, and, as we all know, it has a straining point equal to that of Oregon of double the thickness. I think we ought to do all we can to utilize our own timbers. In many parts of Gippsland the young forest can be seen coming up again replacing the old. Fine saplings can be seen growing 10 miles north of Healesville. We ought to follow the example of Germany, which led the world before the war with regard to forest re-planting. France was an able second.. We of the British race in Australia, possibly through the operation of laws passed with lack of knowledge, have been very much behind in this respect. Forty-six years ago I was set down with others in the heavy forest of Gippsland. We put that “circle of death” known as ring-barking, around those splendid trees, and tried to bring them down, but found that we could only get rid of them by burning. We were burning day and night for four solid years, but could never quite clear off the big logs. There were twenty-five of them on 1 acre, with diameters ranging from 8 feet to 15 feet. We had huge bonfires ; but what a wasteful destruction it was! 1 suppose that, through destructive fires lit by the hand of man, far more good timber has been destroyed in Australia than the mills have turned into commercial use. Looking back on the years that have passed, I recall with regret that, with the assistance of others, I was responsible for the destruction of 200 acres of growing timber. But later, when I purchased a block, I said to my son, “ Do not destroy any timber. It is the most important and richest crop you will ever get from the land.” The honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Story) has some doubt concerning four mills in the Healesville district having closed down. They have closed down, and I am sure the honorable member will accept my assurance on that point. There are other mills that are also likely to close down. With reference to the remarks of the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Story) about roofing timbers, if any arguments were needed, I may ask if it is not within the grasp of the genius of man to make from our wonderful raw materials an alloy sufficiently light to enable us to dispense with timber for construction purposes?
– They are doing it now. .
– The materials I am speaking of would be lighter than those used at present. When I went on to the block, to which I have referred, I remember two dear old Irishmen saying that the dwelling should be thatched to make it warm and comfortable. It would have made it comfortable for insects and vermin, as any one who has had experience with such roofings will admit. Following the old thatched roofs came the bark and shingle coverings ; and now we have iron, tiles, and slates. So long as I am a member of this Chamber I shall always support high duties when the products on which we impose such duties can be manufactured in this country. I cannot understand honorable members who will on some items vote as a city man, and on others as a country member. Such persons are neither Protectionists, Free Traders, or revenue Tariff supporters, but real humbugs. I have great faith in our timber resources, and I ask the Government, if any increased duties are imposed, to make them sufficiently high to enable those industries which we have in the Commonwealth to operate on a profitable basis. May I conclude by quoting the following, which has been supplied to me:-
In connexion with the dressed timber, it is well to note that the duty on undressed timber is 3s. 6d. per 100 feet super.; on dressed it is 4s., or a difference of 6d. per 100 feet super, for dressing. The average Baltic would be 6 by½, and this goes 400 feet lineal to 100 feet super. Divide the 6d. by the 400 feet, and we get l½d. per 100 feet lineal for dressing. Any local list will show that the charge for dressing is 2s. to 2s.6d. lineal per 100 ft., so that the foreigner is being subsidized to the extent of the difference, between l½d. and 2s. 3d. on every 100 feet lineal of dressed timber that we import. In view of this fact, it is no wonder that the timber is not dressed in Australia.
To me that is infamous. I would not allow any timber to be imported except in the form of logs, or in large sizes that can be worked up in our own mills. I believe that the saw-millers in the cities, or the sellers of timber, are not playing the game with the millers in the country and the men working for them; and if that is so,, I trust the millers in the country will send their representatives to the city to deal direct with the contractors, and thus dispense with the middleman. If those directly involved cannot come to some equitable arrangement, I shall, whenever I am able to record an effective vote, help to give the saw-millers in the country districts and the men whom they employ, every encouragement.
– I trust the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) will express his views on this important question as early as possible, so that honorable members will know what his intentions are. No one could have taken more trouble than the Minister has to ascertain the facts in connexion with this industry, and after hearing the views expressed by members of deputations and by others through personal inquiries, I feel sure that he is in a position to do justice to the timber industry. As a representative of large timbers interests in my district and quite a large number of saw-millers, I urge the Minister to give the industry something approaching the protection that has been asked for. Notwithstanding the remarks Of the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Story), I believe that no fair-minded person can have any doubt concerning the timber resources of Australia, and particularly those of Queensland. It is, indeed, an education to inspect the very fine display of Queensland timbers now exhibited in the Queen’sHall.
– And which arenot being used to any extent.
– Unfortunately, that is so. It is regrettable that such large quantities of Australian timbers have been wilfully destroyed in the past. Queensland has been particularly wasteful in this respect, as up to within the last few years I have known of, not agricultural farms, but timber farms, being thrown open for selection at 20s. to 30s. per acre. Fortunately; the policy of the Queensland Government at present is to endeavour to improve the position, and I feel certain that their efforts in this direction will be appreciated in the years to come. On the Mary Valley line, in my electorate, millions of feet of softwoods is held in reserve by the State Government. There is no doubt that in Queensland, as well as in other States of the Commonwealth, a large number of important saw-mills have been closed down. In March last I was speaking to the proprietor of a sawmill, who informed that he had £10,000 worth of sawn timber on hand, of which he could not sell a single stick. During 1917, 1918, and 1919 the sawmillers in Australia supplied the requirements of the Australian people, although they were handicapped by the absence of shipping facilities, and at present - as has been asserted this afternoon - there is ample timber offering from the Queensland mills. No one can say it is because of the shortage in supplies that Queensland timbers are not supplying the southern markets. It has been stated that a considerable quantity of foreign timber is being dumped here, and I am sorry to say that such is the case, not only in the southern States, but also in Queensland, as quite recentlylarge consignments of oregon have arrived in that State. The imported timber could not legitimately compete with timbers grown and sawn in Queensland, and it is quite evident that, timber isbeing dumped in large quantities. I desire to direct the attention of honorable members to a paragraph ap- pearing in the 1918 report of the Queens- l and Forestry Department, written by Mr. E. H.F.Swain, theDirector of Forests, who accounts for themanner in which timber is being sent to Australia in this way-
Two-thirds of the vast American lumber resources are in the hands of private companies, whose concern isnot to sustain the yieldin accordancewithforestryprinciples, butto realize immediately on their investments in order to pay interest and taxes. In view of the fact that much of the capital invested in lumber holdings has been borrowed on lumber bonds, carrying 6 per cent, to 8 per cent, interest, the necessity for early liquidation of the asset is obvious. In most cases the forests were acquired originally m concessional forms, and there are now so many anxious sellers that the stumpage value (cost of production of the forest) is not a factor in the selling price; the holdings are used merely as the bases of sawMilling ventures. The consequence is that a thick crop of large timber mills, with an aggregate milling capacity of 100,000,000,000 superficial feet per. annum, has sprung up all over the country. The maximum local, consumption for any ohe year, however, is less than half the milling capacity. Excessive timber output inevitably involved millers in cut- throat competition. Milled timber was sold at rock-bottom rates, lumber manufacture Was found unprofitable, timber bonds fell into disrepute, and Anally first-class or “Australian quality” Oregon has been dumped on Australian shores before the war at less than cost.
It is quite apparent that owing to the concessions that the millers abroad are working under they are able to sell their timber at the prices which have been ruling.
– - Is the honorable member quoting from Mr. Swain’s latest report?
– I have others here which I intend to quote.
– The figures of the Government Statistician show that the imports into Australia for the years 1913 to 1921 were- -
It will be seen that, although we imported a> smaller quantity in 1921, the value was considerably greater. T do r.rtthink that foreign1 timber is’ coming into Australia at the risk of the importers, but that there- is’ an arrangement’ under which millers abroad ship supplies to Australia for sale; and; consequently,.- the timber is a serious competitor with the products of Australian saw-mills. In order to direct -attention to the importance of this industry, I may mention .that, according to the latest Year-Boole figures in connexion with the saw -milling industry, there are 1,575 factories, employing 22,756 hands. The land and buildings are valued at £2,086,166, and the plant and machinery at £2,784,355- The wages paid per annum amount to £2,870,214, and the output is valued at £9,829,000. Those figures prove conclusively that the industry employs a very large number of men, and is one in which a large amount of capital has been invested. One need not deal at length at this juncture with what is being attempted in the various States in the matter of reafforestation. The people in Queensland have realized their responsibilities in this direction, and are doing perhaps more than any other Slate in the Commonwealth. I again urge the Minister to- take the earliest opportunity of explaining to the Committee what his intentions are, and I sincerely trust that he will see his way dear to meet the requests which have been submitted to him from time to time.
.- I am surprised to hear so many Australians crying “ stinking fish “ in regard to their country’s timber industry. There appears to be a desire to give as little employment as possible to their fellow Australians, and to send as much money as possible overseas to provide employment for foreign workers. No one can say that the greater body of the men engaged in saw-milling in this country are undesirable capitalists, or that they have asked for anything more than is fair. The great majority of the millers are5 practical working men themselves, while the log-fellers and carters, and the cutters in the forest are the ordinary wage-earners;- the teamsters, also, are generally of the average labouring type, ‘ even though numbers of them own their teams,- and ‘ a number are farmers who work at log-drawing when their cropsare in. The value of the industry is enormous, . and is of such importance that it should be not only heartily’ supported, ‘but should r receive the greatest consideration. The question of the1 conservation of our f orests isi one which’ demands most careful study by all the State Governments. As for the contentions of honorable members in favour of the use of oregon for the building of Australian homes, my experience has been that the man who builds with the imported timber does not need to live many years before he regrets it, especially if there are any white ants in the neighbourhood. The reason why so much imported timber is used is that the majority of builders are of the speculative class, who merely put up places in order to sell them quickly and be well rid of them. Their main concern is to give a house an attractive outward appearance. It matters not what happens to the materials .of which the house has been constructed, after they have sold it. To the speculative builder of a jerry-built house,
Oregon is, of course, the right medium. He has rid himself of his responsibilities long before any faults develop. It is the wage-earner who has bought the place who suffers, and learns to know the true value of oregon as against Australian woods. There should be far stricter building inspections than there are today, in order, for instance, to insure the use. of proper roofing materials. As the years go by, the occupiers of many jerry-built homes will regret that they have oregon timber over their heads. I would refuse to have any of it in any house of mine. So far as white ants are concerned, Oregon makes an excellent tooth -sharpener, and, if there are none of these pests about, the timber has but a comparatively brief existence. Australian forests can provide all the timber necesnary for the requirements of Australia’s 5,000,000 people. If it were only to assist in paying off the cost of Australian railways, we should foster the Australian timber industry. Many millions of capital are locked up in our railways. During the past few years, numbers of these lines have been largely engaged in the transport of timber from the forest mills to coastal ports, thus helping to swell revenue and repay capital costs. In my electorate there is a saw-mill - not a large one - which has been employing ninety hands regularly for the past three years. Latterly, owing to the dumping of oregon - and it is known that further big shipments are due to arrive during the next few months - this mill, among numbers of others, has had to restrict activities. Instead of ninety men being engaged, there are now only nine, and the services of these must be dispensed with unless this Committee provides the protection necessary to enable the Australian industry to cope with the dumping of foreign shipments* One can quite understand that the American timber merchant wishes to cut his losses. The bottom fell out of the American timber market, and it is stated that, while 7s. per 100 super, feet was paid for logs at Seattle, after cutting, the timber was sold at the rate of 6s. per 100 feet at the ship’s side. Against such facts, and the .subsequent dumping at our own ports, the Australian saw-miller cannot hope to compete. It is impossible to transport our own woods to any Aus5tralian seaport town from the interior mills at a lower rate than 25s. to 30s. per 100 feet of dressed timber. The Americans did not give us cheap timber during the war years. They exploited this country to the limit, and now, in order to cut their home losses, they are dumping on Australia’s shores. I understand that it is possible to land oregon here to-day for about 17s. per 100 super, feet. It is our duty to encourage and maintain Australian industries in the best interests of the Australian people. I hold that it would be wiser to pay £2 per 100 feet for cypress pine than 10s. per 100 for oregon. Houses built of the former timber will be standing long after oregon-built homes have tumbled down. The house in which I live was built thirty-five years ago, at a cost of £300. Its value to-day is more than £600. The cypress pine of which it was constructed is as good now as ever. All the agitation for low duties emanates from the big importers. The gambling element enters largely into the whole business. Shipments are bought and sold, and change hands again and again. There is no such scope for the timber , speculator when dealing with the product of Australian forests. Any one can deal direct with the local saw-millers. It is a. fact beyond argument that when the interests of Australia are balanced against the profits the importer goes for the latter every time.
I was surprised in listening to the arguments of the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. Riley). He does not want adequate protective duties on timber because, he says, the result will be dearer homes. The honorable member is a Protectionist when this Committee is dealing with manuf actures in his electorate, but he is a Free Trader where the interests of other electorates are concerned. Some time ago, with the honorable member, I visited a factory in his electorate where bedsteads were being made. Honorable members are prepared to give the honorable member for South Sydney any reasonable duty he cares to ask for in the interests of his bedstead factory. He would be greatly surprised, however, if we were to say that the public could get cheaper bedsteads with Free Trade. There are also furniture factories in South Sydney. This Committee has been willing to grant adequate protection upon the output of those factories, but when we are dealing with the raw material, namely, Australian timber straight from the forests, we do not get the honorable member’s support in return. The giving of adequate protection to our saw-milling and timber industries will not result in the building of one house less than before.
– That seems an extraordinary statement. Has the honorable member any facts to support it ?
– I have.
– The increased duty will add £34 to the cost of an average wooden house.
-How many weatherboard houses are built in Sydney? As for country houses, these duties will not involve any increased cost.We are getting our timber to-day at absolutely bedrock prices owing to the competition amongst our small saw-millers.
– As a matter of fact, country houses are nearly all built of Australian timber.
– But there are people in my constituency who cannot obtain timber for building purposes.
– That is certainly a remarkable statement to make. Our honorable friends who are opposed to us in this matter say that a high duty on oregon will put a stop to the building of houses. During the last three or four years the price of Oregon has been higher than ever before, but that has not stopped the building of houses.
– It has.
– I differ from that view. There is not an abnormal demand for timber for building purposes to-day; and we claim that Australian saw-millers can fulfil the whole of the requirements of the country. Is it not ridiculous to suggest that this vast continent, with its great timber areas, and with a population of little more than 5,000,000, cannot satisfy our building requirements and that we must obtain supplies from America?
– Our returned soldiers cannot get homes.
– That is not because of any lack of timber, but because the Government cannot finance the scheme.
– But the honorable member would add another £30 to the cost of an average wooden house.
– Not at all. If we destroy our timber industry we shall not be able to procure American timbers at the rate at which they are being offered to-day. Oregon is being dumped in Australia, but once the importers destroy the local industry up will go their prices. I know of men who have put their all into the leasing of timber areas and the erection of up-to-date saw-mills, but to-day their mills are idle, their men are out of employment, and they themselves are face to face with big losses because of the dumping of American timber in Australia.We read in American newspapers of the keen desire on the part of builders there to obtain Australian hardwoods for building purposes. The same desire is shown in other countries, and yet we have in our midst people so disloyal to the best interests of Australia that they are prepared to advocate the bringing in of soft American timbers for building purposes here while our own hardwood is exported to other countries. I cannot understand the attitude adopted by such men.
– What quantity of timber do we export?
– Large quantities are exported from Australia to America, where it is used for piles and railway sleepers, as well as for flooring and -other building purposes. An honorable member told us this afternoon that almost every house in Canada that he entered had floors of Australian hardwood. He was told by the owners that Australian -hardwood was more durable than the American timbers, and that floors made of our hardwoods could be beautifully polished, and so gave less trouble to the domestics employed. Yet we are told by some honorable members that oregon is preferable to Australian hardwood.
– Does the honorable member suggest that we should . prohibit the export of timber?
-HAM. - No ; but members of Parliament should-try to educate the people to a proper appreciation of the value of their own. products.
-S -So they do.
– The honor. “ able’ member is prepared to do so in some cases, as, for instance, -by wearing a £5 suit of ‘ Australian tweed. But when it comes to protecting the interests of backcountry men as against those of the big capitalistic importers who want to gamble in ,timber. some honorable members take up a very different attitude. I hope that the Committee will not adopt’ the suggestion of our illogical and inconsistent friends who want Free Trade for every other section of the community but who want ‘ Protection for their own. In so far as . anything that we can produce is concerned, I am a Protectionist to the point of prohibition. It is the duty of the Parliament to set up machinery that will protect the consumers from exploitation. ‘Manufacturers and others who -receive the benefit of a Protective Tariff should lay all their cards on ; the table, or, ‘in1 other words, throw open’ their boobs for inspection by Customs officials. The Minister’ (Mr: Greene) has told us -that he intends to set up machinery for that purpose. In framing a Tariff, our object should be to encourage industries in Australia, and so to provide employment for our people. We should be prepared ito protect our own industries, if necessary, to. the point of prohibition, in order to give more employment. 1 The honorable- member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett), inquired, a’ few . moments ago. what i “quantity >of timber - was exported from Australia. I find that last year we exported 22,000,000 super, feet.. Those figures show at a glance the appreciation that other countries have, for Australian hardwoods. We should educateour people as to the value of Australian timbers; but we find some honorable members so disloyal to Australian interests that they endeavour to show that it is far better for us to use cheap imported timbers than to stand by our sawmilling and timber-getting industries by building our homes of Australia’s splendid hardwoods.
Sitting suspended from 6. SO to- 8- p.m.
.Thereis no doubt that some items are introduced into a ‘Tariff in order that ‘the Government may secure sufficient revenue to carry on the., affairs of the , Commonwealth, and that » ‘this applies particu- larly to what are .called; luxuries. Still, -we have .striven right through this schedule to protect -the industries ( that have been, built up in ‘this country duringthe . days of war, and the people should be satisfied with the’ Tariff in ‘the main as - submitted to this Committee and aspassed so far. We are not concerned, .inconnexion with the item now before us,. with the question of how many , inches go to a foot of timber, nor are’ we much concerned to decide whether it is better to build a house of hardwood or of Oregon, but I feel that ev*ery honorable member is concerned ‘ to promote the prosperity of this great Commonwealth. ; In; this itemwe have an opportunity of protecting an industry, a great national asset, which! will be the means> not only of providing- further employment for our men folk, but also of showing to . the great, world ‘the class of timbers that we> can .produce. The .building of a four-roomed cottage has been referred to this, afternoon. , In. discussing that matter, we can start right at. the foundation. We all know that it isnot necessary to use imported.. timber for that purpose in building a wooden house. Above the stumps or blocks, the ordinary bearers and floor joists would be .hardwood also. After putting in . the .plates, there may be some advantage in using
Oregon studs for the outside or inside walls-,-: but: that advantage is a mere begatelle as. compared with the importance of. the great industry which some of us are striving to protect to-night. The great percentage of the weatherboard houses that have been built in Australia for the last five, six, or seven years have been made of Australian hardwood. Above the studs we come, to the ceiling joists and other timbers. Any man who says that Australian hardwood is not suitable for ceiling joists, or even for rafters or for anything else in the building of a weatherboard house, knows nothing at all about the timber industry.. It has been said that the reason for .the insufficient protection proposed on this item is that the Australian mills are not only not able to supply the increased demand that must necessarily follow in the days that are to come, but are not even able to cope with the demand of the present day. Most business men, and all members of the House, know that the slight falling off in the building trade has not been caused by the prices of timber or by the. wages paid to the workmen. The present position of the building trade, especially as regards house-building, is due to the financial conditions of the Commonwealth. Any firm of agents, or any contractor who has been during recent years supplying ordinary houses running from £800- to £1,000 each, can testify that building has been restricted simply because the banks and other financial institutions have seen fit, possibly wisely, to shut down for a brief period on advances. That is and has been the only reason why the building trade to-day is not as brisk as it was even during the war. It is all “piffle” to talk about the building trade having been slack throughout the war, because men were engaged in building operations, and houses were being put up almost by the street, while the Great War was in progress. There is to-day a larger demand for houses than there has ever been before, and there must be, of necessity, an- even greater demand in the immediate future. We have heard much argument, both inside ‘and outside the House, and from statesmen on public platforms, about the necessity for immigration. We have heard them tell us that it is our duty to “Produce, produce, produce”; but unless we amend this Tariff we shall not be encouraging our people to produce to. their fullest capacity. It has been said that the mills cannot supply orders for Australian hardwoods; but I am authorized to say that they can supply all the Australian hardwood direct that the Commonwealth Government, or any other user, desires t«j buy, at a reasonable price which will show only a fair margin of profit to the saw-millers. I am further authorized to ‘say that, if the saw-milling industry is given sufficient protection to warrant it in proceeding, the millers will not increase the price of hardwood to the consumer. It would pay me very well, from my constituents’ point of view, to put the case of the timber merchants, because I have several of them within my boundaries. The middleman has, I must say, been reaping a very fine profit out of the timbers he has been selling, whether imported or local, during the war. We must not blame the producer for that state of affairs. The exhibit in the Queen’s Hall shows that our timbers will stand comparison with any that the world can produce. This Parliament now has an opportunity to encourage the industry by granting a small increase in the duty. I am not advocating a 10s. increase,, or any other unreasonable amount. I simply want the Minister (Mr. Greene) to tell the Committee that he is prepared to grant some increases on the duties now submitted.
– No hope I
– From that interjection, I am to understand that the numbers are up against an increase. We can only do our best. It is not my fault, because I am going to advocate to the best of my ability an increase, if it is only a slight one, in order that we may give the protection which is absolutely essential for this great Australian industry. I heard the ex-Governor-General, Sir Ronald Munro Ferguson, when he was here, say that Australia was blessed with the finest timbers the world could produce. He waa an authority on timbers, particularly those used in the manufacture of furniture; and when he returned to the Old Country, he told the. Royal Society of London that Australia was blessed with finer timbers, and a greater range of them,, than any other country in the world, but that he regretted that we did not value them as we should, and that we were destroying one of the most valuable assets that any country could have.
– What can you do if you want to clear the land?
-I will tell the honorable member. Sir Thomas Tait, when he was Chief Commissioner of Railways in Victoria, drew the attention of the people, not only of this State, but of the Commonwealth, to the fact that Australian timbers were of great value for decorative purposes. Other men, equally sincere, and who have devoted many years of study to the subject of forestry, affirm that under existing conditions we are sacrificing an asset which would stand us in good stead if we would only grapple with the problem which confronts us. We have now an opportunity of giving effect to our White Australia policy by subjecting foreign timber to such duties as will provide avenues of employment to our own men. We know that the conditions of employment in Australia differ greatly from those which obtain in other countries. We were told this afternoon that Norway and Sweden are paying higher wages to the employees^ in the timber industry than are being paid within the Commonwealth. If that be so, it is only quite recently that such conditions have been brought about. In any circumstances, I desire to see- our own workmen placed upon an equal, if not a better, footing than that of the workmen of foreign countries.
A great deal has been said about the acreage which is devoted to afforestation in Australia, It is quite true that there are 100,000,000 acres available from which may be cut timbers which would prove most useful for building purposes. The War Service Homes Department, the operations of which have imparted a stimulus to the building trade during the past two years, will continue for some considerable time, and I am sure that honorable members generally desire that the homes which are to be erected for our soldiers shall be built of Australian materials throughout. It is ‘ interesting to recall that when the lastTariff was under consideration a good deal of opposition was offered to the increased duty upon timber which was then sought. Upon that occasion it was urged that the imposition of such a duty would hamper building operations. But whereas in 1913 we imported 458,927,000 super, feet of timber, which was valued at £2,800,000, for the nine months ended 31st March of the year 1920-21 we imported less than 203,553,000 super, feet, of a value of £4,000,000. In other words, for less than half the quantity of timber imported during nine months of the current financial year we paid nearly double the amount of money. During the same period we imported 62,560,344 super, feet of the timber comprised in sub-item f of this item, of a total value of £982,240. As freight has increased to £6 per 1,000 super, feet, an increase of about £4 per 1,000 super, feet, the amount represented under this heading is, roughly, £250,000, thus making the value of the 62,560,344” super, feet approximately £1,132,480. I have quoted these figures merely to expose the fallacy of the argument that the imposition of a duty will prevent the importation of foreign timber, and thus hamper building operations. That is the only argument which has been used by those who have spoken in support of the present Tariff proposals. Seeing that in 1913 we imported 130,810,396 super, feet of timber, valued at £588,000, we know that the difference between that sum and the value of the 62,560.344 super, feet has gone entirely outside the Commonwealth.
– Our own prices have doubled.
– That may be so. But it is much better that that money should be retained in Australia than that it should be sent to Norway, Sweden, or any other country. Putting the matter in a nutshell, we paid during the nine months of the present financial year ended 31st March last £3,792,969 for timber which in 1913 would have cost us less than £1,000,000. In 1914, oregon was quoted at 17s. per 100 feet super., and in 1921 it cost 65s., but the increase cannot be said to have hampered building operations as the want of adequate duties will hamper the local timber industry. However, if the Minister will not increase the present duties, I must not weary the Committee in vain by going into this matter further. I shall merely add that the country is threatened with the dumping of foreign timber, which must enter into competition with our own timber, and this must result in the throwing idle of mills, which stood us in good stead during the war, and in preventing many men from getting employment. But while there may be something to be said for allowing oregon to come here, because of its lightness and the ease with which it can be worked, I think that there is nothing to be advanced against the imposition of duties which will cause our furniture manufacturers to use local woods, such as those of which specimens are now being exhibited in the Queen’s Hall. Such duties would not penalize the buyers of furniture, because they would not affect its price very materially, the quantity of timber used to make a suite of furniture being small. I should like also to persuade the Minister to increase the duty on dressed timbers.
– That would not protect our saw-millers.
– We have machinery for dressing timber, and men to whom the operation would give employment. As to our hardwoods, no floor could be superior to one made of jarrah or other Australian hardwood. I hope that honorable members will vote to insure that this great national asset - our timber resources - shall be fully used, instead of being destroyed in the interests of foreign sawmillers and importers.
.- I rise to submit a few more facts for the consideration of the Minister (Mr. Greene), and have been prompted to do so largely by certain remarks of the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser). The statements of those who ask for higher duties on timber are contradictory. In thereport of the Queensland Department of Public Lands for the year 1919, there is a foreword penned by the State Minister for Lands, which contains these words : -
Perhaps the most obvious, yet the most obscured, aspect of the forestry question is that forestry is land settlement, pure and simple. Men must “ go on the forests “ as men must “ go on the land “ ; wells must be sunk, paddocks grassed and fenced, roads made, timber felled, and a crop sown, grown, harvested, and marketed. What matter if the seed sown produce trees instead of wheat - the operations are identical and the results the same.
Had the obvious been recognised, then the policy of forest development would have achieved popular favour equal to that of agriculture. But in the rush of pioneering, the place of the tree in the scheme of things was overlooked, the reckless doctrine was preached that forests were encumbrances on the face of the earth, and we proceeded with good heart to demolish a vital resource.
Nowhere in the world has forestry been more unfortunate than in Australia. The Japanese were silviculturists 2,000 years ago. Modern European forestry is 400 years old. But, because we learned, as Britishers, to expect the lumber resources of the Baltic to be laid at our. door at our behest, we forgot, as Australians, the lesson of self-reliance, and we are now at. the mercy of foreigners, who threaten to cease supply.
On the 29th June, 1920, the Queensland Parliament passed an Act restricting the exportation of timber from the State. The honorable member for Wide Bay twitted me with opposing the timber duties because Western Australia is too far away to get timber from Queensland, and, having none of her own, wishes to import Baltic timber. But the Queensland Parliament has, in a most un-Federal fashion, restricted the exportation of Queensland timber.
-If you send an order to Queensland for 3,000,000 or 4,000,000 feet of timber, you will get it filled at once.
– Let me read the particulars of a contract for the supply of Queensland timber which was made on the 31st March, 1916 : -
We have this day sold, as agents, to Messrs. John Sharp and Sons Limited, the following hoop pine: - 250,000 feet lineal, 6x, T. and G. floorings, first quality, at 15s. 3d. 250,000 feet lineal, 6 x, T. and G. floorings, second quality, at l1s. 9d. 250,000 feet superficial sawn boards, on the basis of 27s. 9d. for 12 inches wide. ( Specification to be given by the 4th April. )
With the following option to be declared by the buyers on or before the 30th September, 1916, a further - 500,000 feet lineal, 6 x, T. and G. floorings, first quality, at 15s. 9d. 500,000 feet lineal, 6 x, T. and G. floorings, second quality, at 12s. 3d. 350,000 feet lineal sawn boards, on the basis of 28s. 9d. for 12 inches wide.
The buyers to have the option of selling all or part of the above quantity to any of the States of the Commonwealth outside of Queensland. The difference in freight, if higher, to be paid by the buyers; if lower, the buyers to be allowed the difference. It is agreed on the signing of the contract, the Brisbane Timber Merchants Association, Timber Corporation, and Brooklana Timber Company to raise their pricesof these -
Floorings,1s. per 100 feet lineal.
Sawn boards,1s. 6d. per 100 feet superficial.
Delivery of the first sale to be within six months, and if the option is declared, the balance within nine months from 30th September, 1916. All deliveries will be subject to freight space available at time of shipment by the Inter-State steam-ship companies, and if at any time during the currency of the order shippers have the opportunity of freight direct from Brisbane to Melbourne, buyers to take delivery of the quantity or quantities so shipped, and subject to any difference in freight, either higher or lower, as per the above clause.
Timber is sold ex wharf,’ subject to Harbor Trust regulations, and delivery must be taken in accordance therewith.
Special lengths, 2s. per 100 feet superficial extra.
All timber under 1 inch will be charged superficial face.
Freights. - Any advance on present InterState steamer freights will be on buyer’s account.
Orders accepted only on behalf of the Brisbane Timber Merchants Association, Brisbane Timber Corporation, Brooklana Timber Company.
Wharfage. - Any advance on the present wharfage rates during the currency of order Will be on buyer’s account.
Cash, less 24 per cent, in thirty days, or approved bill at four months from arrival of vessel.
Honorable members will be interested to know how that contract was carried out. The first order of 250,000 feet, at 15s. 3d., was supplied; of the second order of 250,000 feet, at lis. 9d., 105,474 feet were supplied; of the third order of 250,000 feet, at 27s. 9d., 158,655 feet were supplied; of the optional order of 500,000 feet, at 15s. 9d., 489,076 feet were supplied ; but of the fifth and sixth orders - for ‘ 500,000 and fori 350,000 feet- no delivery at all was given.
– That is what I wish to know. The timber was to be delivered at wharf, and all extras were to be met by the buyer; but the .Queensland Government, realizing that it had an asset of value, resolved, in its usual fashion, to keep it for its own people. The honorable member for Wide Bay has pointed out that, by permit, these logs can now be shifted. The very operation of the Act, like the operation of’ the duties on bananas we recently passed,, will teach Queensland that the trade will decrease rapidly. Bananas five for ls. will not be largely consumed in Australia.
– I beg your pardon, Mr. Bamford. The preamble to the Act of 1920 clearly indicates what has already been stated here by myself and others: that there was a forecasting of a shortage of this excellent pine. I have already said that it is sacrilege to use it,, in building houses. It is an excellent cabinet timber, and no better doors can be ‘ made from any other. The preamble of the Act is as follows : -
Whereas by reason of the continued existence of the present war, and the shortage and expected shortage in the supply of logs of hoop pine and bunya pine, it has become necessary to take such action as appears most conducive towards safeguarding the interests of the public. . . .
And so the’ necessary amendment was attached to the Sugar Act, by the following proclamation :-
Whereas by the Sugar Acquisition Act of 1915 it is provided, among other things, that the operation of that Act may at any time, and from time to time, be extended by the Governor in Council, by proclamation published in the Gazette, so as to authorize the acquisition by His Majesty of raw sugar to be manufactured in any future year, or of any foodstuffs, commodities, goods, chattels, live stock, or things whatsoever (in that Act referred to as “commodities”) in such proclamation mentioned: Now therefore I, William Lennon, the LieutenantGovernor aforesaid, by and with the advice of the Executive Council, do, by this my proclamation, hereby extend the operation of the Sugar Acquisition Act of 1915, so as to authorize the .acquisition by His Majesty’ of all logs of hoop pine and bunya pine being within the said State or hereafter to come or be within the said State.
Yet the honorable member for Wide Bay complained that I take my present attitude because there is no softwood in Western Australia. The Queensland Government are determined that- we shall have no softwood there, and they wish us to protect the vast but diminishing excellent asset in Queensland by depriving the people of Australia of buildings at a reasonable price. The houses in which the working people are living to-day are five times the price they were twenty-five years ago; and although, as I intimated before, when I went to Western Australia nineteen years ago, jarrah was selling at 7s. 6d. per 100 feet, it has been suggested by some here that the duty should be 10s. per 100 feet, or more than the former price. We know that war conditions sent up the prices of many things, but the world is trying to get back to normal conditions. It is of no use endeavouring to maintain that, because under the abnormal conditions created by the war, many mills, unnecessary in normal times, crept into existence, we are justified in taxing the people in order that they may be continued abnormally.
– What about the price of wheat ?
– The wheat-growers enjoyed some of the abnormal conditions, butthey are governed by the normal settling of the world’s market; and on that point I do not wish any misunderstanding.
– Just now you said there was a contract in existence. Have you seen it?
– I have a copy of it, which I have read.
– Have you seen the signatures on the contract? I defy you to produce a contract with signatures.
– There is a signature on this contract - that of V. B. Trapp and Company.
– Those are the purchasers. There are no signatures of the vendors.
– The honorable member may try to make out that the document I have is a forgery–
– I say there was no contract.
– Some of the timber has been delivered under the contract.
– There was some delivered, but not under a contract.
– That must obviously be regarded as a quibble. If the honorable member were properly informed he would recognise that a practice indulged in for long, or not long, becomes binding, and insures the validity of the contract. The excessive price of Baltic and oregon timbers has been referred to, and it is still well in advance of that of our hardwood timbers. If people can really do without the Oregon and Baltic, they will, of course, have the cheaper timber, but Baltic and oregon are necessary, and we do not wish to deplete our forests.
– Softwood is necessary for lath-plastering work.
– Hardwood laths are sometimes used in Western Australia, but they shrink so much that it is impossible to keep the walls in decent appearance. Of course, hardwood laths can be used when others are not available. They are better than nothing; they may be substantial enough, but they continually break and crack the plaster.
– That is not the experience in Queensland with the hardwood laths.
– The Queensland State Government took up an insular attitude, and were compelled, as it were, to remove the restrictions by granting permits. That Act, however, has never been repealed, and is still in force. Finding themselves in a difficulty, in consequence of the insular attitude adopted - such a difficulty as the country will find itself in before long in consequence of its insular attitude as reflected in the Tariff - with a superabundance of logs far beyond its own needs, the Government had to give permission for their export to other States. Queensland has many valuable timbers, including hardwood timbers. The exGovernorGeneral, who was certainly a good judge, expressed the opinion that we have the very finest hardwoods in Australia, and when this is the case, I cannot see why it should be necessary to impose such high duties on imported timbers. I have already mentioned that importations of timber from other countries have considerably decreased.
– They are increasing again.
– The Queensland people have ruthlessly destroyed their red cedar. They have as fine red cedar in the Atherton district as is to be found in any part of the world, and in that district houses are weatherboarded with it. In my opinion, we could occupy our time to much better advantage than we are now doing by trying to devise a policy for the reafforestation of Australia, and the proper use of its timbers. I should like to see this country competing in the markets of the world with furniture made from Australian timbers. We should not be afraid of the importation of timbers like Baltic and oregon, that are so necessary, because of their lightness, strength, and cheapness for the building of houses. Honorable members opposite are continually crying out against the high cost of living, and yet any proposal to increase the duty on imported timbers must mean an increase in the cost of building and an increase in rents. The slump in timber to-day is not due to the introduction of Baltic timber, because Baltic timber is stored away here, waiting for the Minister to impose a high duty on it, so that those who have imported it may obtain more money for it. One of the reasons why so many sawmills sprang into existence in Australia was the demand for timber due to the operations of the War Service Homes Commission. There has been a comparative cessation of its operations, and there is not much timber changing hands at present. At this time of the year, also, saw-milling cannot be carried on as economically as at the other seasons of the year. The present state of affairs may be regarded in the light of a temporary depression. It should be remembered that the abnormal condition of affairs which has grown up during the last four or five years has affected, not only the timber industry, but many other industries. It is quite impossible for us to expect to maintain abnormal prices during normal times. I hope that the Minister (Mr. Greene) will not be induced to increase the duties proposed on timber. I, personally, do not see the necessity for any such duty. I am prepared to admit that, in all probability, a number of persons in my own State have asked for these duties, but I am not looking for votes in this matter. I believe that in order to get back to normal and reasonable conditions it is not in the interests of Australia that there should be any increase in the duties on timber. I do not happen to rent a house, but I recognise that many people must do so, and we cannot expect that rents will come down if we impose duties on imported timbers which exceed in amount the cost of the timbers fifteen or twenty years ago.
– I have listened to the debate on this item with a good deal of interest, because I know of no item in the Tariff that is more baffling. So many things have to be considered in connexion with the timber industry, its ramifications are so great, and the interests involved so large and varied, that study as one will, to give to each interest its due consideration, it is extremely difficult out of the tangled web one has succeeded in weaving to formulate the right policy for Australia to adopt.
– The honorable gentleman is like Pilate when he asked, “ What is truth?”
– The honorable member is talking about truth. At the moment I was not talking about truth. I do not know of any subject in connexion with which representations have been made to me which appear to me to be so wide of the truth in some respects as do some of the representations I have received in regard to this particular item.
– Who from?
– I am speaking broadly. Some gentlemen have come to my office and have told me that hardwood timber is unsuitable for the framework of a cottage. That is a sample of the sort of statement that has been made to me over and over again.
– The Canadians floor their houses with hardwood.
– One wonders at the statements that are made. It does not assist the unravelling of a very difficult subject to have it clouded, as this has been, by many statements which, as I say, are wide of the truth. When the Tariff was framed, the conditions under which we were living were entirely abnormal. They are far from normal to-day, butat that time the position was such that every saw-mill in Australia was working at high pressure. So far as I know, there was not a single wheel in any saw-mill in Australia that was not turning, and in many cases the mills were working more than one shift. The great difficulty at that time was for the mills to fill the orders that were flowing in from every part of Australia.
– They have been working under this Tariff for fifteen months, and most of them are now closed up. That shows the effect of the Tariff.
– I was about to. say that I did not,for that reason, alter the Tariff from what it hadbeen. That is to say, this Tariff, with one or two slight exceptions in regard to timber, is what the Tariff has been since 1914, and for the most part since 1908-11. One of the considerations which I do not think the Committee can afford to lose sight of is the fact that, so far as its basis in Australia is concerned, the timber industry is a great rural industry. It is one of those industries which employ a vast number of men in the country. Honorable members must bear in mind that every 1,000,000 super feet of timber imported into this country means that we are refusing employment to our own citizens in the country districts of Australia and are giving it to people in country districts elsewhere, and increasing our city population at this end. I speak of the particular class of timber of which we have an abundance in this country, and which is suitable for the many purposes for which it is used.
– Can we not produce it as cheaply as it can be produced in other parts of the world?
– I say, unhesitatingly, that we cannot. No one who has worked in the forests of Australia and who has any idea of the conditions under which timber-getters have to work where our principal timbers are found in quantities could for a moment hesitate to express an opinion as to the impossibility of turning out that timber as cheaply, at per 100 super, feet, in Australia as it can be turned out when cut from the softwood forests of other countries. One of the difficulties that surround this question is that no one who gives fair consideration to the matter can hesitate to express the opinion that some of the softwood timbers we import are eminently suited to and are superior to Australian timbers for certain uses.
– And would be imported in any circumstances.
– Some of them would be imported, no matter what duties were imposed, because they are the best for certain purposes. I am not saying a word against the local softwoods; they are magnificent timbers, and could be used for those same purposes but that they are too good, or very much more expensive to work.
– Could not they be excepted ?
Mr.GREENE. - The trouble is that if we try to discriminate between timber and timber, we are immediately confronted with the fact that, whilst the imported woods are suitable for particular purposes for which the Australian product is not so suited, they cannot be followed into consumption, and they are utilized for other purposes for which the Australian timbers are eminently suited. Consequently, if we put a high protective duty on Australian timbers, we place a revenue duty on some of the imported timbers, do what we will.
It has been stated that the resources of our forests are not equal to Australia’s requirements. I do not think that can be truthfully said of hardwoods. There is abundance of hardwood in the Commonwealth for all our requirements ; and if our forests are properly handled by the State Forestry Departments, I have no doubt whatever that the supply of timber will continue for all time. The general experience of those who handle the hardwood forests is that they rapidly reafforest themselves ; and with a little care and attention on the part of the authorities that re-afforestation could go on uninterruptedly, and we could always maintain an ample supply of timber. The honorable member for , Swan (Mr. Prowse) suggested that for the time being we should import all our timber requirements.
– I spoke of softwoods only.
– I understood the honorable member to say that we should draw on the world’s supply, which is getting short, and conserve our own resources.
– And, in the meantime, a lot of our timber would be going to waste.
– If the honorable member for Swan had had experience of working in the forests, he would know that once a eucalypt has reached maturity it deteriorates far more rapidly when standing in the air than when cut. Any man who has handled hardwood has only to look into the heads of the trees to be able to tell, as he walks through the forest, how many of them have a “ pipe “ that would make them practically worthless for commercial purposes. I think the honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Bell) will agree that a lot of dead wood in the head of a eucalypt indicates that the tree has passed its maturity and has big pipes filled with dry rot or wet rot, and that the timber will probably be riddled with the borer or other pests, and, consequently, be useless.
– Utilize the trees as they become mature, but do not cut them down ruthlessly, as is done to-day.
– To do that, there must he continuity of output, and a regular overhauling of the forests, in order. to remove the mature trees and leave the immature.
– We - cannot have, any of these things without an efficient Tariff.
– I was about to say that if the enormous importations of prewar years continue; it will not be possible to get a thoroughly satisfactory system of afforestation, or anything else.
The honorable member has suggested that this Parliament would do well to lay down a thoroughly sound Forestry policy. In the first place, this Parliament cannot do that, because the control of the forest is with the States. But we can help; and I think one of the chief ways will be to endeavour to insure, within reason,, that Australian timber is used for the purposes for which it is suitable. If honorable members will consult the statistics, they will ascertain to what extent imported timbers have been used in Australia in years gone by. In 1913 we imported, approximately, 23,500,000 super, feet, in logs. Of white pine and rimu, we imported 50,000,000 super: feet; timber undressed, n.e.i., in sizes 12 inches x 6 inches, nearly 131,000,000 super, feet; timber . undressed, n.e.i., 7 inches x 2 inches, or its equivalent, 77,500,000 super, feet; timber, undressed, n.e.i., less than 7 inches x 2$ inches, 82,597,000 super feet; timber, undressed, for making boxes, 3,500,000 super, feet; timber, dressed, for making boxes, 1,300,000 super, feet; timber, dressed, n.e.i., 82,5.00,000 super, feet; ply woods, nearly 2,00.0,000 super. feet; and laths, 46,500,000 super, feet.
– The total is- 458,000,000 super, feet. .
– And I will undertake to say that probably three-fourths of that quantity displaced Australian timber that could have been used, representing loss of employment for 2,000 or 3,000 men in our country districts,,, and of a certain quantity of hardwood timber which was ready to cut, but which, through not being cut, deteriorated. In these circumstances, I cannot help feeling that we should try, as far as we can within reason, to see that Australian timbers are used. I have had a great deal of information given to me from both sides on this question, but I do not propose toweary the Committee with a lot of detailed figures. It is true that the price of timber has increased very materially since the time spoken of by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Prowse), when jarrah was 7s. 6d. per 100 super, feet.
– T - That was nineteen years ago.
– At that time, wages were probably a third of what they are to-day.
– And house rents were about one-third of what they are to-day.
– We must deal with things as they are, and not as they were. I do not want to go back to the time when the labourer worked for 2s. 8d. a day. We have to pay a very much higher rate of wages now, and cannot produce timber , for 7s. 6d. per 100 feet. In addition to the higher cost of labour, each State has increased its timber royalties. We have heard that Queensland has done so.
– Yes; for reafforestation purposes.
– Yes; and they put half of it into the forest.
– I wish the honorable member would get Queensland, and Western Australia out of ‘his head and think of Australia. I am trying to think of the interests of Australia as a whole. The States have increased their royalties because they are” turning their attention to forestry, and they think they ought t» make it pay for itself. Furthermore, steamer freights and railway freights have .risen since the time of which the honorable member spoke. I suppose that steamer freights have increased threefold. In addition, the increased costs caused by the war have hit the saw-milling industry as they have hit every other industry in the country. Therefore, it is utterly impossible to produce timber at anything like the figure at which it could be produced nineteen years .ago. To-day things are still far from normal. ,It is true that mills are being closed up throughout all our country districts, causing unemployment to a large number of people, and that timber is being piled up at the mills and at our ports. But this is not entirely due to the fact that imported timber is replacing our own timber. It is due, to $ large extent, to the industrial depression existing in the Commonwealth.
– And to the excessive cost of erecting buildings.
– It is due very largely to the financial position. I do not agree with the honorable member that it is due to the excessive cost of building^ A return handed to me to-night, taken from the New South Wales Statist’s figures, snows that, in 1914, when the war which broke out that year did not materially affect the situation, there were 8,548 houses built in Sydney and suburbs; and that in 1920, when prices were right at the peak, the number of houses built was 8,667. The increase of 119 houses shows that the high prices ruling last year were not in themselves a detriment to the building of houses.
– This year building construction is down to zero.
– Exactly. I was pointing out that I believe the slump in the timber tra.de is largely due, not to the price of timber, but to the financial depression which we know exists. That has been proved by the figures I have quoted showing that a larger number of houses were built in Sydney and suburbs in 1920, notwithstanding the increased prices, than in 1914. I believe that a moderate increase is warranted, although I do not think we should agree to the. duties suggested by the honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Bell).
– The Minister must admit that, he cannot exclude foreign timber.
– I know that a certain quantity will always be imported.
– And yet you are placing a burden on the people who have to build houses.
– I do not think the actual additional cost of the timber would place a burden on a great majority of the people.
-This is a question, of housing the people.
– In any, case, Australian timber to-day, so far as I am able to learn, is being sold at a cheaper rate than imported timber.
– What does that show ?
– I believe that such is the case.
– Can the Minister specify any particular kind of timber that is being sold cheaper than oregon or Baltic deals ?
– I believe Australian timber is being sold cheaper than oregon. I am not referring to pine timber. If it is a question of cheapness in construction, I believe that a house could be built of Australian timber for less than it would cost to construct one of imported material.
– Baltic timber has dropped a good deal in price.
– Yes, it has dropped1 considerably since the Tariff was framed; but I believe it is selling to-day at a price which is higher than Australian timber. In constructing a house qf Australian timber, the owner would have the advantage of knowing that it would last pro- bably twice as long as one built of imported timber.
– The builders will reply to that statement.
– Why use the imported timber if that produced in Australia is cheaper?
– Nobody iB likely to say that a house covered with Baltic weatherboards will last as long as one made of hardwood boards.
– If Australian timber is cheaper, what effect does the Minister- expect from increased duties?
– They will further encourage the use of Australian timbers. I shall be glad to hear further from honorable members on this matter; but at this juncture I merely desire to indicate that I believe that a moderate increase in the circumstances is justified.
– How much?’
– Taking the basic amount of ls. for undressed timber, I think if we make it 3s. or 4s., and then increase the duties proportionately throughout the schedule, the position will be met. I am not advocating the rates suggested by the honorable member for Darwin, but I believe that a moderate increase is justified. If we agree to an increase on this item, it will have to be carried throughout the schedule, which is a balanced one, and increases granted at this stage will have to be carried through the items which cover the various stages of manufacture.
– I am not surprised at the attitude adopted by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Prowse), because I believe that he does not want anything Australian. There are honorable members in this House at whom I am surprised, because when high duties suit them they are Protectionists, and when the reverse is the case they are Free Traders. Unfortunately, we “have such men on this side of the chamber. If there is one industry in Australia that has been sacrificed more than another it is the timber industry. One could dilate for hours on the manner in which our forests in every State of the Commonwealth have been ruined, and very little attempt, if any, made to re-establish them. In Victoria in particular we heard of reafforestation having taken place forty years ago. In the Otway forest country hundreds of millions of pounds’ worth of timber has been ruined, and no Victorian Government has attempted to replace the trees in those denuded areas. The Committee has been informed this evening that the Queensland Government has ‘been devoting half its timber royalties to reafforestation. That is good; but if justice were done to posterity by the State ‘Governments of to-day the whole of the royalties derived from the working of our forests would be earmarked for reafforestation purposes. Honorable members have displayed considerable interest in Australia’s iron industry; but is it really any more important than the timber industry? Is not timber a basic requirement of civilization to-day? One of the great difficulties of life, in the larger Australian communities, at any rate, is due to the high cost of houses, arid it is the poor working man who is the greatest sufferer in this respect, I might say here that it would best serve my interests if I were not to say too much in advocacy of higher timber duties. There are very few, if any, forest workers in Port Melbourne. On the other hand, there are in my electorate numbers of timber yards and hundreds of employees. The latter are probably not much concerned about Australian timber resources or the need for conserving them. Despite that, I am bound to regard the subject in a wide and truly Australian light. We are told that it is the high cost of timber which is making homes scarce, and that the price is high because the Australian forest worker is demanding such high wages. I assure honorable members that if we Could buy our timber for half the present cost houses would still be too dear. And why should the employee in our timber forests and mills be blamed, while all other parties and factors go scot-free? We should look much further afield to discover the true reason for the expensiveness of building to-day. Are there not other costly adjuncts in the construction of a home, and are these not capable of being reduced in price? What about the item of importers’ profits? Is there no scope for paring these down a little? And what of wages in the building trade? Could I not take the view of an employer and argue that they are too high?
I could not, and I would not; but surely they are as much a factor “as the wages paid to employees in the forests and at the mills. Why single out the latter, solely ? We know that, with timber, just as with any other commodity, when there is over-production in any part of the world there is recourse to exporting overseas. And are not the importers of timber just the same kind of gentry as importers of every other commodity? Have they not all battened on the public during the years in which the latter have been at their mercy? I do not know whether honorable members appreciate the nature of the lives led by workers out in the woods. They have never yet received the wages they really earn. A little while ago the Assistant Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Rodgers) remarked that he had been “fairly staggered” by the- claims of the timber workers before the Arbitration Court. They have asked for wages which they reckon they have earned ; and, if they have aimed at a high rate, it is because they know that in future, no matter how high wages generally may go, they will not be able to get anything more than they may now secure from the Court. Can any one blame them, in the circumstances, for trying to obtain the basic wage at this stage? The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) has hinted that he intends to go for increased duties. If what he may ask for is not given him by this Committee, I shall be bound to say that this is not a Protectionist Parliament. We are told that hardwood is unsuitable for certain parts of buildings. I know that the engineer of the Footscray City Council decided that hardwood ceiling joists should not be used, giving as his reason that they shrank and caused the plaster to crack. He admitted, however, that if hardwood were properly seasoned no objection could be taken to it. Well-seasoned hardwood must be very difficult to work; but many builders have urged that this difficulty can be overcome by putting up the framework of a house and allowing it to stand for some time, and thus to become seasoned before the weatherboards and laths are put on. Surely we in Australia have brains enough to devise a scheme that will overcome the difficulties of working properly-seasoned hardwood. We have been importing far too much timber, while, at the same time, we have been denuding our forests. Afforestation is a matter of such vast importance that the Commonwealth should take it in hand. The State Governments say that they have not the funds necessary to enable them to proceed with a proper system of afforestation, and their failure in that direction is so lamentable as to constitute one good reason why they should no longer exist. If they cannot handle their timber resources, the Commonwealth should be allowed to deal with them.
– And handle them as the Commonwealth Government have handled Cockatoo Island Dockyard?
– The honorable member (Mr. Mc Williams) was not satisfied with a Labour Government, and he is not satisfied with the present Administration; and yet he is helping to keep it in office. Our saw-millers have been remiss in failing to keep direct control over their timber from the time it leaves the forest until it reaches the builder. Instead of allowing the importers to handle their timber, they should deal direct with those who require it for building purposes. The banana growers should market their own bananas, the woollen manufacturers should market their own woollens, and our timber-getters should also deal direct with the consumers. Their employees would have nous enough to do that if theyhad the opportunity. When the saw-millers allow their hardwood to be retailed through the agency of timber merchants who are importers of softwood, instead of dealing directly with the people who require it, they cannot expect to reap the full benefit of their industry. I know of a sawmiller some 30 miles from Melbourne who, I am told, sells all his output direct to the users. There is nothing to prevent the saw-millers in Victoria from establishing city timber yards instead of selling their material through merchants who are also importers.
– As a matter of fact, the importer, in many cases, has been careful to establish saw-mills in country districts.
– That is so. Hundreds of saw-millers, however, are not associated in any way with the sale of imported timbers, and they should join in establishing city timber yards for the sale of Australian hardwoods.
– Most of the fruitgrowers in the Huon district buy direct from the millers the timber they require.
– And they ought to do so. If that practice were more general throughout the community, we should hear less concerning the high price of timber. The timber merchant is no more a philanthropist, so far as his business is concerned, than is any other man in the community ; and I do not know that there are many honorable members who would hesitate to do a little bit of exploiting if the opportunity offered. If the people are exploited, it is their own fault. If I am to be exploited at all, I would rather suffer at the hands of a local timber man than be exploited by timber people overseas. We can get at the local exploiter by means of taxation, and in other ways. We must encourage the use of Australian timbers. If some honorable members are going to say that we must have cheap imported timber in order that we may have cheap houses, then I shall point to twenty directions in which, for the same reason, we should have reductions. I was told by a man this afternoon that the importers already had here millions of feet of Oregon, and that if we increased the duty they would at once raise the price of that timber.” My answer was that they Would increase their prices even if there was no duty in operation.
– But the honorable member is proposing to give them a better opportunity to raise prices.
– the honorable member would not give any Australian industry a chance. I have never known him to do so.
– That is severe; but the honorable member deserves it.
– The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) has also been somewhat remiss in regard to Tariff matters. We have been told of the high price of building materials for War Service Homes.. The British Government have had a similar experience, and have reduced their vote for the building of homes because of the high cost of construction. One would think, to hear honorable members speak, that the high cost of houses was singular . to Australia, and that this and Ireland were the only countries where the landlord was a robber. The people of the United States1 of America are crying out that the landlord is robbing them. I cannot understand why .the people have so many friends on this occasion who advocate cheap houses for them, when we have had in other directions so many opportunities of helping them which have not been availed of. We know that the brick-men of Victoria have robbed the people for years, and made them pay more for, their houses. So have those who handle cement and lime, and so have the ironmongers who have sold the ironmongery required in the building of houses. Yet honorable members now pick out the unfortunate timber man to make him an example, and wring his neck, and make him lose all the money he has invested in his industry, and turn out all his employees into the streets, apparently for no other reason than that he is an Australian timber man. I feel hurt because so many have slipped on this item. I do not know why it should be so slippery, but I hope that those who slip on timber will get so many splinters that they will not forget it for a long while. I trust the Minister will give us an opportunity to test the Committee. It is not a question which involves the fate of the Government, and it is very desirable that we should ascertain whether this is really a Protectionist Committee or not. When We are told that the numbers are against us, I do not believe it. I will not believe until the division has been taken that a majority of this Committee will make a scapegoat of the timber trade. I intended to move for a certain increase, which I know is essential, but I am sure that I could not carry it, and so I shall not make a farce of the proceedings by moving it. The small increase which the Minister has promised can surely be carried as some measure of help towards establishing the timber industry in Australia, so that we shall not use imported when we can use Australian timber.
.- I have never heard the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) put up a lamer case than he did in support of the increase which he proposes to make in this item. I am satisfied that in Australia protection is wanted for our timber industry, but it is not ‘protection against the outside world so much as against the ravishers of timber. In the early days of Victoria, when land selection was very easy, people were given a certain acreage under exceptionally favorable conditions, which have been imitated to a greater or less extent by many of the other States that have since gone in for a land settlement policy. In all the States which have, given land to the people on these advantageous terms, one of the conditions was that they should do certain clearing. They cleared the land, and in making it worth, perhaps, £10 per acre when cleared and fit for the plough, they did about £50 or £60 and up to £100 worth of harm per acre. After the lessons we have had in the administration of the land Settlement and forestry policies of the States, it is our duty to save Australia from theravishings of these men in the future. They are not only of one class, but of every class. Every honorable member who has spoken on this question has addressed himself to it purely from the point of view of how it affects bis own State. Some who . have been ardent Protectionists and high Tariffists on everything else have shown themselves Free Traders or low Tariffists on this. I do not say that that is inconsistent, because if a member represents an industry and sees that it will be better served by a low than by a high Tariff, it is incumbent on him to vote for low duties, no matter what he is called. This is not a bread-and-butter question so far as my electorate is concerned, but it is a bread-and-butter question to Australia. It is said that the forests of Victoria are almost denuded, but that is not so. Many places in this State have been denuded, which, if they carried timber now, would pay their owners better than agriculture does. Right from Marysville to the foot of the Baw Baw Ranges the timber is practically not touched. It has not been marketable. Then from Bairnsdale, thirty miles north, right through to Sheep Station Creek, and almost to Omeo, there is excellent timber.
– They are working the Baw Baw now.
– Not the timber I speak of, from Warburton to the foot of the Baw Baw Ranges. . In the Gippsland country scarcely any of the timber east from Neerim is being worked. All that timber is an asset to Victoria which, if properly used, would go a long way towards paying off the national debt.
– Away in East Gippsland, further off still, there is an area of 600,000 acres of new forest thatthey did not know they had.
– Yes. East from Bairnsdale, past Orbost, and right through to the New SouthWales border, I have seen vast forests of good marketable timber.
Most of the timber anywhere in those ranges, with the exception of red gum. and ironbark, is fit only for superstructure work - the kind of work for -which, in many instances, oregon would be used at the present time, becauseoregon is of no use in the ground. In New SouthWales they had some beautiful timber, and made fencing posts of it when it should have been used for cabinet making. The honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) knows that all along the coastal line of New South Wales excellent timber was wasted.
– What do you mean by “wasted”?
– Burnt. The exhibit in Queen’s Hall shows us the possibilities of Queensland timber, and the wonderful range of it. South Australia is a country practically without timber compared with the other States, while Tasmania has the same class of timber, particularly blackbutt, as grows in much of the range country of Victoria. There is very little timber in Australia that will stand in the ground! for any length of time. The Victorian Government have realized that to a great extent during the past few years. When I was cutting sleepers in Gippsland before going to Western Australia, the Victorian Government would only purchase sleepers of grey box, yellow box, red box, red gum, and iron bark. To-day they will take messmate and stringybark sleepers. The estimated life of a messmate sleeper in theground is from six to eight years. The Government of this State used to pay 2s. 9d. each for 10 inches x 5 inches ironbark sleepers; but, of course, they have to pay bigger prices for them now. Assuming that at the present time they can purchase messmate sleepers for 3s. 6d. or 4s., and that their life is eight years in the ground, if jar rah sleepers can be obtained from Western Australia with a life of twenty years in the ground for less than double the prices mentioned, it is certain that they will be purchased: Some people will probably say that it will be a good thing for Western Australia. But it will not be such a good thingunder present conditions. In sawn timber there is 35 per cent, of jarrah which is wasted, as against 28 per cent, in karri.
The cut may he accounted for as follows : -
The “Western Australian average means that they are annually cutting 161,296,000 super, feet there, which represents in the log about 483,000,000 super, feet. We are getting only about 35 per cent, of the timber which is contained in those logs. Thus if Western Australia procured the whole of the sleepers which are needed for the Victorian railways, she would be little better off from a forestry point of view, because the timber which is going over the fire chutes of that State is what should be providing the profit which should accrue to Australia from an Australian product. We should be using that timber instead of using much of the timber which is being imported at the present time. If we exhibited true Australian sentiment by affording our sawmillers an opportunity to season their timber thoroughly, in ten years’ time we should have a bigger asset than any member of this Committee ever dreamed of. In 1914, we produced 699,814,000 super, feet of timber in the Commonwealth, and during the same year we imported 234,206,000 super, feet. In 1915, we produced 522,211,000 super, feet, and imported 330,558,000 super feet. In 1916, we produced 454,364,000 super, feet, and imported 260,697,000 super, feet. In 1917, we produced 440,952,000 super, feet, and imported 205,119,000 super, feet, and in 1919 we produced 561,055,000 super, feet, and imported 145,431,000 super, feet. Had each State taken up this question in an earnest endeavour to develop its timber areas, we should not be crying out for the imposition of’ high duties upon timber as we are doing today. During the war period it was essential to grant some measure of protec- tion to wheat, because it was not possible for our farmers to get rid of it. I am speaking on behalf of a State which guaranteed to the producers of wheat 9s. per day. That was not sufficient, but at least it enabled them to live and to build up an asset for themselves. Western Australia also gave them a standard price for their wheat when it was not possible for it to be exported.
– Do not say that it was not possible.
– Had it been possible to send that wheat away, so much of it would not have rotted upon our wharfs.
– We received only 3s. 8d. per bushel for it here.
– Irrespective of the amount which the farmers received, they were certainly protected, and in a great many instances they appreciated our action. A similar condition should obtain in regard to the timber industry, which has done a great deal towards the development of Western Australia. We have mills working there at the present time, though a few others have closed down. I told the Minister who controls the Forestry Department in Western Australia that I would put the position before this Committee, as it affected, not only the Government of that State, but every other producer of jarrah and karri timber. There is a big need for the granting of protection to this industry. I desire to see it protected, but before the duty is finally dealt with I would like the Minister to satisfy me as to whether the measure in regard to the dumping of goods into Australia, which he has promised to submit for our consideration, will give those who are engaged in it the relief which they require.
– The Dumping Bill will not affect, importations sold at the home consumption price.
– In a telegram which I have received from the Western Aus-, tralian Minister for Works and Industries, that gentleman tells me that he has been advised that there is a great deal of dumping; other gentlemen, in whom with reason I have every confidence, tell me that there is no dumping at the present time.
– There is no dumping, of timber now, so far as I can see.
– According to to-night’s Melbourne Herald, the market quotation oforegon is 40s., and of hardwood 27s. 6d. That being so, and if, as the Minister says, there is no dumping, on what does he rest his proposal to increase the timber duties? I would like, also, to know the reasons of those who oppose the Minister’s proposals. The evidence before the Committee at present is not sufficient to enable an open-minded man to vote intelligently on the questions at issue. Throughout the consideration of the Tariff we have been inundated with contradictory information. I have here two statements, by reputable men, which are diametrically opposite.
Mr.Richard Foster. - Would you not accept the findings of the Inter-State Commission ?
– Yes, but not holus bolus. If, by this Tariff or in any other way, the Commonwealth Government increases the price of timber to the users of it, it will be its duty to help the State Governments to conserve the forests of Australia. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews) said that if the States cannot control forestry, they should go out of business. Well, a great deal has been done under the Western Australian Forestry Act; but does not the honorable member know that the ‘ forested area of that State is twice the size of Victoria? If the States generally undertook reafforestation, with the help of the Commonwealth Government, a great deal of good would be done. Every Tariff takes money out of one set of pockets to put it into another set, and we should see that all interests are properly conserved. I should like to know from the Minister if he thinks that the Dumping Bill will secure for our saw-millers and timbergetters fair returns and remuneration, and for our users of timber fair prices. It must be borne in mind that ‘the cost of getting timber to the market has greatly increased of late years. In support of that statement, let me direct the attention of honorable members to the following figures, which apply to the operations of the Western Australian State sawmilling : -
Increase in mill cost, 1917-20- -30s. 7d. per load of 600 feet.
Increase in 1921 on account of decreased hours -6s.11d. per load of 600 feet.
Increase in 1921 weekly wage as against daily wage - 4s. 5d. per . load of 600 feet.
Increase in railages and wharfages - 9s. per load of 600 feet.
Increase in railages to Perth District -11s. 6d. per load of 600 feet.
Increase in cost of handling in Western Australia1s. 6d. per load of 600 feet.
Increase in wages per man per day - 4s. per day.
Increase in sea freight to eastern States - 1914-17 - 5s. 6d. per load of 600 feet. 1917-21- 13s. per load of 600 feet.
It is estimated that the amount of retrospective pay due under the latest award will amount to £100,000 in Western Australia. A saw-miller who started in 1914 supplies the following : -
Taking the year ended 1915 and comparing it with costs for this year, there is an increase of 771/2 per cent., mainly due to wages, weekly pay, and shorter hours. Railage freights have increased from 17s. 2d. to 29s. 3d. per load on jarrah.
For the ten years prior to the war, Western Australia averaged a cut of 161,296,000 feet, and exported 108,797,000 feet. It will be seen that the trade is almost wholly export. Dealing with this, an authority states: The cut of 161,296,000 feet equals in the log about 483,900,000 feet, and 322,604,000 feet is therefore wasted. Of this waste, half is permissible, representing saw-dust, &c. The remainder, which obviously is equal to the total output, should readily be saleable, except that the population of the State is too small, and oregon is too cheap in. the eastern States to permit of this timber being exported at a profit. During the war, when the import business practically ceased, Western Australia put jarrah and karri on the markets of the eastern States, and established them in favour of the public, and the waste over the fire shutes at the mills was reduced. To-day the eastern markets are flooded with oregon at a price with which it is impossible to compete. From the forestry stand-point it is essential that the importation of oregon be so hampered that it will become a commodity used only by the very rich. In this instance, freight to Adelaide has increased from 21s. in 1914 to 42s. to-day. Western Australian forest revenue, 1918-19 - £41,015.
I would like the Minister (Mr. Greene) to appreciate what these figures mean. In the past we had splendid forests throughout Australia, but , they ‘ were denuded of their best timber. A fortnight ago, in Gippsland, I went over countryand paddocks where I cut ironbark sleepers years ago, and one could scarcely notice any difference in the growth. My opinion is that we cannot have reafforestation in Australia solely with Australian timbers. We might do so in some remote parts of the country, but we shall have to take timber from other countries, as in South Australia,, and, to a greater extent, in Western Australia. If we were to reafforest with marketable pine timber, I believe that would do the industry more good than will any high duties. The Government should assist the States in this direction, but only if the States assist themselves by introducing the necessary legislation, though not, perhaps, on the same lines as the Act in Western Australia, with which there is something wrong.
– Are not all the States doing as the honorable member suggests?
– All the States are not doing so; and I should like to see the Federal Parliament extend some assist- ance to the States,, and. to receive an assurance from the Minister that action will be taken in the direction I have suggested.
.- I wish to give the Committee some evidence that the imposition of increased duties can have no other effect than that of increasing the cost of building, making rents higher, and causing unemployment. The Inter-State Commission, the members of which, it may be assumed, had no “ axe to grind,” but had only the welfare of Australia atheart, recommended, after taking evidence in every State from saw-millers, timber merchants, and others, that the duty on oregon in bulk should be 6d. per 100 feet. The Minister (Mr. Greene) has increased that suggested duty by 100 per cent.
– I did not increase it; I propose the same duties that were in operation.
– Well, the Minister has indorsed the action of his predecessor, who framed the Tariff of 1914. It is purely a revenue duty, and as such I have no great objection to it.
– It represents 21/2 per cent, on the present price of oregon.
– I wish to quote the following paragraph from the report of the Inter-State Commission, showing how this question ‘ affects people living in the country districts -
Amongst the arguments used in ‘ opposition to increased duties it was stated that country consumers, if compelled to use hardwood, would pay fully 100 per cent, more to get their supplies. Baltic averages 1,000 feet to the ton, oregon 800 feet, and hardwood 360 feet, and as a consequence the freight per- 100- feet carried is higher for hardwood than for the other, timbers. It was stated (page 78 Appendix) that “ the country business will need tobe considered very seriously in the next few years Owing to the cutting out of the cypress pine,, oregon is going into the country districts more’ and more every year. The same applies to, Baltic-
Referring to the evidence of a gentleman who was a member of the Saw-millers’ Association and the owner of hardwood saw-mills with an output of 13,000,000 feet per annum, the Commission mention the fact that he said-
We are in entire sympathy with the association’s attitude not to ask for any increased, duty. We do not consider that it would help us in the hardwood.
This witness stated -
If duties are increased to any great extent, I fear substitutes will be found for timber. Even at present steel sashes are being used, and fibrous cement. There is a tendency now to develop the substitutes for timber in the way. of steel, &c. That is largely owing to the growing feeling that the timber is being cut out everywhere.
In respect to the relative uses of timber this witness said -
With regard to oregon the stand we take is that we have no substitute for it, and whatever the duty placed upon it, we will still have to import it. I do not think that applies, to Baltic. Almost any of our pines could be used in place of Baltic, but I doubt if we could get the quantity.
This witness - and I specially direct the attention of the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) to the fact -also said -
Baltic is more suitable for exposure and outside work, where our pines are unsuitable.
– In Queensland we use hardwood for outside work, and we have any amount of that timber.
– That is all very well for Queensland, but I am concerned, not only with Queensland, but with the other States as well. The honorable member cannot see beyond the Queensland horizon. He is a Free Trader on one item and a Protectionist on the other where any advantage is. to be secured for some Queensland interest.
– That is not so, because I have supported duties for the protection of industries in the other States.
Mr.STORY. - In one very interesting paragraph of the report the Inter-State Commission says -
Ordinarily, it is the demand which encourages and regulates the character and volume of the supply, and it is very difficult to suggest any rational means of realizing the’ desire of the hardwood millers that compulsion should be exercised by means of the Tariff to enforce the use of hardwood for purposes for which it is not only unsuitable, but also more costly than other materials. Any attempt to attain that end is economically unsound, and cannot possibly prove successful. It will inevitably result in a diminution of output and -a lessening of the demand for labour employed in the industry.
That should concern the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews), who is so anxious that saw-mill employees shall continue in employment. Further on the Inter-State Commission reports -
It is questionable whether, if the present duties were doubled, such a course would have any appreciable effect in increasing the output -of hardwood in substitution for softwood.
Dealing with the supply of softwood timbers, the Commission, who were conducting their inquiry in 1913 or 1914, quote the following evidence given by Mr. N. W. Jolly, Director of Forests in Queensland -
My figures show a lifetime of twenty years of the present timber on Crown lands.
That is to say, Mr. Jolly estimated that in twenty years from 1914 the timber on Crown lands in Queensland would be exhausted. The same witness, dealing with a matter to which I have referred earlier in the day, gave the following evidence : -
The almost complete absence of young kauri in the Atherton district, and the very scattered distribution of the old and magnificent specimens, seem to show that this tree was being gradually exterminated by a natural process, and that it will require more than an ordinary amount of help in the keen struggle for existence so peculiar to tropical scrubs.
The honorable member for Wide Bay asserted, very confidently this afternoon, that Queensland could easily supply the whole of the requirements of Australia for softwood. I have to inform the honorable member that seven years ago Mr. Joseph Gore, a timber merchant and sawmiller, who in 1913 was chairman of the Associated Timber Merchants of Queensland, said in reference to the application of the association for largely increased duties -
I do not say that every point is absolutely necessary in max present application. The in dustry here does not make the imposition of the proposed duties indispensable. We always have a difficulty in the timber trade here owing to our second class timber.
– What is the date of that report ?
– Nineteen hundred and fourteen. But my argument is that if the supply were short then, and if during the war more Australian timber was cut than during any other period of Queensland’s existence, it must naturally be shorter to-day.
– There is no shortage now.
– Here is another point mentioned by the Inter-State Commission, which, I think, is characteristic of some of the Queensland representatives -
Another reason advanced by Queensland witnesses was the disadvantage occasioned to the State industry by the shipment of large quantities of logs to the southern States. In regard to this, Mr. Gore stated, “ We want to prevent logs being sawn in places like Sydney and Melbourne and have them sawn in the places where they are produced. We want to prevent logs being exported from Queensland, but there is no power.
Since that time the Queensland Government have taken power to prohibit the exportation of any logs from Queensland -
Another Queensland witness, a saw-miller and timber merchant, said: - “I would not suggest seriously that we could supply an important part of the consumption of oregon and Baltic. None of us could think that; but we could supply a very great deal morethan we do at present. We do not now supply an important portion of the Commonwealth requirements, I admit, but we do not think it is fair that the New Zealand white pine and rimu should come in at6d. per 100 feet.”
That evidence shows that the honorable member for Wide Bay was not quite correct in some of his statements this afternoon. Mr. R. D. Hay, Director of Forests in New South Wales, said, before the Inter-State Commission, in 1914-
Our supply of softwoods has always been a limited one. It is being depleted more rapidly than the hardwood, as it grows on land that is being devoted now to agricultural purposes. I do not think we have fifteen years’ supply of softwood. They are now hauling softwoods a good deal longer distances than could be done a few years ago.
I intend to give a couple more quotations from this report, so that honorable members who are not biased, and wish to give an intelligent vote, may have their minds informed upon this subject.
– That Commission reported six years ago, and in the meantime the whole of the conditions have changed to such an extent that the Commission’s conclusions are falsified.
– The changed conditions have not altered the fact that the supply of Australian timber, which could possibly replace oregon and Baltic, is very much less now than it was then, when it was admitted to be entirely inadequate for Australian requirements. Another witness said -
No matter what the duty is on Baltic, people will have it. Baltic has been proved to be the only timber that will stand well in the hot, dry climate of this State.
That remark applies particularly to the State of South Australia, although the witness was not referring to that State -
Most of the timber which is imported dressed is Baltic. . . . This witness also stated that Baltic could not be dressed here for less than ls. 6d. per 100 feet, and that the extra freight on the undressed timber and the loss in dressing would make, the total cost of dressing locally 4s. per 100 feet.
I mentioned that figure this afternoon and said that the timber could be dressed in the country of origin at a cost of 6d. per 100 feet-
Another timber merchant stated that in order to make it pay to import Baltic timber undressed, and dross it locally the duty on the ‘ dressed timber would need to be 3s. 3d. above the rate on undressed timber.
I now come to the recommendation of the Inter-State Commission -
In regard to the timber duties generally, the Commission is of opinion that, with the minor exceptions referred to later on, it is neither desirable nor necessary to increase the present (1908-1911 Tariff) rates. For revenue purposes any increase would probably fail in its object, since, by increasing the cost; of construction, as well as the indispensable raw material for many of our important and flourishing secondary industries, there is a grave danger of lessening the demand for timber’ and ‘employment to the disadvantage of industry generally.
One industry that will be affected injuriously by a duty on Oregon is the manufacture of wooden pipes. For that purpose no timber but oregon is suitable. These pipes are used very largely ‘for supplying water to towns and irrigation, and every penny of increased duty on oregon will add to the cost of wooden pipes, and thus increase the cost of public works in many parts of Australia. I have some further information which I shall use to-morrow in opposition to any increase in duties on oregon and .Baltic timber.
– I would be obliged to the Committee if we get a vote on some of the main items to-night. The reason is obvious. I do not wish to see the revenue suffer.
– We do not want you to increase the duties.
– The honorable member will have an opportunity of voting against any proposed increase.
– The Minister will be lucky if he gets a vote to-morrow night.
– I am not anxious to force the Committee- to continue sitting to-night.
– How will the revenue be affected? There are probably no shipments coming in to-morrow.
– But my officers have just informed me that there is a great deal in bond, and if a vote on a proposed increase is not taken before 9 o’clock tomorrow morning, the probability is that cheques will be tendered in payment of the duty, and the timber will go out of. bond. We can avoid that by coming to a vote to-night.
– You will not get a vote to-night.
– I ask honorable members to consent to pass one or two of the principal items to-night.
– Very well; we will go on for a while.
.- According to quotations in to-night’s paper, the retail price of hardwood is fi 7s. 6d. per 100 super, feet, and that of Oregon £2. But I am informed that the people who have control of the oregon trade in other portions of the world by using their own boats are in a position to land their timber here at a cost of about 16s. per 100 super, feet. Is this a fair deal to the consumer, who is called upon to pay £2 per 100 super, feet? I want to know from the Minister (Mr. Greene) whether his proposed Tariff Board will be in a position to give the Australian consumer some redress in similar circumstances.
.- The proposal is to give the Tariff Board powers of review in regard to Australian manufacturers which are protected by the Tariff. For instance, if Australian saw-millers charge too much under the Tariff, the Board will have power to make certain recommendations to this House, but we have no constitutional power or means by which we can control the prices charged for imported material. It is possible, as the honorable member says, to land oregon in Australian at 16s. per 100 super, feet, and, according to the figures quoted to me, the average price at which it can be landed in the merchant’s yard is about £1 2s. 6d. per 100 super, feet, but when the merchant adds his handling charges and profit .the retail price is about £2.
.- We have already, seen the effect of passing amendments through this House without sufficient consideration, but we cannot properly realize the’ result of making huge increases in the ad valorem rates. I want the Committee to be quite satisfied that any proposed increase or reduction is in the interest of the country or of some industry. The Minister (Mr. Greene) has spoken of the tangled web into which we have gone, and I think the public are beginning to realize that it is a tangled web. Goodness knows where we shall finish ! At the first blush I felt inclined to vote for these highly increased rates simply in order to accentuate the position. Have honorable members looked at some of the claims which have been put forward? Surely they could only have come to hand after the Minister so quickly responded to the invitation from Queensland to increase the duty on bananas.
– The request for an increased duty on timber came before the request for an increased duty on bananas.
– Well, they have kept it very quiet. They are asking for a duty of 5s. per 100 super, feet on butter boxes, and 20s. per 100 super, feet on undressed timber.
– Who are “ they “ ?
– I am quoting from a circular handed to me to-night, issued by the Central Tariff Executive of the saw-millers of Australia.
– Has any one in this Committee suggested that those rates should be asked for?
– No, but this is what these people suggest.
– It will be time enough for the honorable member to discuss a request for an increased duty when some one in this Committee has put it forward.
– But increases of 400 and 500 per cent, have been suggested by honorable members here to-night. Are such high duties required in connexion with an industry of this sort, when we have our own timbers? We produce the best hardwood in the whole world, and for some time we have been large exporters of this particular class of timber. During the period when we were exporting enormous quantities of hardwood, we were, importing softwood; and if the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) will peruse his Customs returns for the year 1914-15, he will find that we exported 106,000,000 super, feet of hardwood. During the period of the war, the quantity decreased, as “the figures during that period were 49,000,000, 35,000,000, 19,000,000, and 20,000,000 respectively. The reduction in the quantity exported was owing to war conditions and the scarcity of freight; but I am hoping that we are going back to the time when we shall be able to supply, not only our own requirements of hardwood, but shall also be exporting; on a large scale. In Western Australia, and also in Victoria, attention is being given to the question of reafforestation. The magnificent hardwoods of Australia have a world-wide reputation, and I am hoping that, before very long, we shall again be able to build up an extensive export trade. We are frequently being confronted with the prevalence of dumping ; but I regard that as absolute “ bosh “ and “tripe.” Arguments .of that kind are adduced here merely for the purpose of gaining points. According to a report in the newspaper Pacific Ports, of 1920, dealing with the oregon trade of the United States of America, it is stated that the total cut of lumber in 1919 was 30,000,000,000 feet, of which only 1,300,000,000 feet, or 4.4 per cent., were shipped abroad. We know the demand there was for timber, especially of this description, at that time, owing to the devastation caused by the war. Even in the United States of America, with its wonderful output, the quantity exported was less than 5 per cent. The report continues -
The banner year for United States lumber exports was 1913, when S per cent, of the total cut of 44,000,000,000 feet were shipped to foreign countries. In 1917, the value of lumber and wood products imported by the United States was nearly -$99,000,000 as against exports of $71,000,000.
They imported more timber in that year than they exported. I think it would be better if we had the opportunity of debating the’ different types of timber on separate items, because the arguments that would apply to Baltic timber are inapplicable to oregon.
– The Minister gave the imports.
– The finest argument that could be submitted is contained in a statement by Mr McVilly, who says -
If there is a shortage of softwoods, we could, to some extent, use hardwoods. The quotation continues -
In 1919 the figures were: Imports, $111,378,988; exports, $136,786,663. The ^principal competitor of the United States in the Trans-Pacific lumber trade is Canada, which has a forest area of 799,000,000 acres. The forest area of the United States is estimated at 545,000,000 acres.
Of the enormous quantity of Oregon America produces, very little is exported to other countries. It is absurd to talk of dumping.
– »It is not true, because the figures are against it.
– I will prove that it is so.
– The question has little to do with the main facts of the case, and we know very well that this is merely a little fight because the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) is anxious to keep up the price of Queensland pine.
– I want a fair deal.
– We have not had a fair deal from the beginning; and the honorable member knows it. Royalties jumped up and prices increased when material was required for soldiers’ homes: and when we could have expected or demanded timber to be supplied at reasonable rates. What consideration was shown? Every advantage was taken of the shortage existing, and we are now being asked to perpetuate this by imposing abnormal duties which may prove destructive.
– Let us have a division, !
– I do not want a division to-night. I have never visited Broken Hill, and am not, therefore, in a position to speak concerning the requirements of mining companies there; but probably the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Story) and other South Australian representatives are conversant with the position. I have always been under the impression, however, that
Oregon was used in the Broken Hill mines because the freight over a long distance had to be considered. The freight on softwood would be much less than on hardwood timbers, which are double the weight.
– Half sizes would be just as good.
– The honorable member knows perfectly well that as standards hardwoods would be all right; but I would not like to use them as bearers.
– What about ironbark?
– We have not enough of that for sleepers.
– -What of red-gum?
– We are nearly out out of red-gum, and very little is available for sleepers. An inquiry was held on this particular matter some time ago, and it was shown that it. was becoming very dimcult for the Railways Commissioners to obtain sufficient supplies to meet their requirements. Surely we are not reaching the stage where we must do the same as in the Old Country, and use softwoods for ties and sleepers for our railways! When we were exporting large quantities of hardwoods we were importing heavy supplies of softwoods. Each timber has its own particular use and great value. It is preposterous to try to force the use of hardwoods for unsuitable purposes. In saying this, I do not wish to decry tha wonderful value of our hardwoods. I believe that our people will become educated to their valuein directions in which they are not used to-day. There are very handsome houses . built of jarrah weatherboards, which, when oiled, have a splendid appearance, and there are homes, in which there are specially prepared and altogether excellent hardwood floorings.’ We hear of the everincreasing cost of building soldiers’ homes. But it is not only in respect of timber that the cost has been enhanced; and, instead of trying to diminish the cost of these structures, we are increasing it in every direction by adding to the duties upon every commodity used. I have not. the slightest desire to Bee duties placed upon any timbers unless in the way of revenue duties. As for the rates being increased upon timbers for the making of butter boxes, it would be scandalous to do so. No further increases should be agreed to until every avenue of inquiry and consideration has been exhausted. I understand that efforts are being made to utilise local timbers forthis purpose, but until we are satisfied of the efficacy of the local wood we should be most careful not to place a further burden upon producers by adding to this specific duty. I trust that honorable members will vote solidly against the imposition of inconsiderate rates, and that they will certainly not agree to any increases.
Workmen’s Houses at Lithgow.
Motion (by Mr. Greene) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- Has . the Minister for Works and Railways Been paragraphs in the press to the effect that the houses built at Lithgow by the Commonwealth Government for housing Workmen employed at the Small Arms Factory are very inconvenient owing to water-coveredroads and yards?
.- My attention having been drawn to this matter, I have had inquiries made. I know personally that nearly all the sites for residences in the employees’ village at Lithgow have. beencarefully selected, and are not at all low-lying. During themonths of March, April, and May there were phenomenal rains - more than double the average. These, with the failure of the Municipal Council to construct the street channels and kerbing. as arranged, have caused the roads to be wet. TheCouncil has promised to construct culverts at road junctions, and the Works and Railways Department is arranging to put in an earth channel to divert surface water from the hills; also, to put in agricultural drains around some of the houses. I am advised that other parts of Lithgow have suffered just as much in respect of the winter conditions as has the factory village.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.17 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 22 June 1921, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1921/19210622_reps_8_95/>.