8th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Hon. J. M. Chanter) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Message recommending appropriation reported, and referred to the Committee of Supply.
– In view of the fact that the Board of Management of the Adelaide Museum has suggested the formation of committees to adviseGovernments as to the limits which should he placed on the exportation of Australian fauna, and that a deputation from the Australian. Institute of Anatomical Science has asked the Minister for Trade and Customs to -prohibit the export of certain kinds of Australian mammals, will the Minister say what the Government intend to do in this matter?
– The whole matter is under consideration.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Home ‘and Territories make available to honorable members the figures published in to-day’s newspapers giving census returns?
– I will lay them on the table of the House.
– Will the honorable gentleman also give the figures showing the enrolment in the various electorates at the latest date for which they are obtainable?
– Are negotiations proceeding for the taking over ‘by the Commonwealth of the Western . Australian Savings Bank; and, if so, will this House have an opportunity to discuss the terms ‘ before any agreement is finally reached?
– Sir Denison Miller is desirous of coming to terms with the State Governments with regard to these matters, but I cannot say whether negotiations are proceeding at the present moment for the taking over of the Savings Bank of Western Australia. The Commonwealth Bank has taken over the business of the Queensland Savings Bank, under conditions which are on record, and I think that some of the other State Savings Banks have also been taken oyer. If the honorable member will place his question on the notice-paper, I shall give him a definite answer.
– Has the Acting Prime Minister noticed the statement in the press, made by my predecessor in the representation of Wentworth, the Honorable W. H. Kelly, that, if an invitation to come to Australia were extended to the British Ambassador in America, Sir Auckland Geddes, he thought it would be accepted? Will the right honorable gentleman consider the matter with a view to bringing it before the Prime Minister?
– Yes. If Sir Auckland Geddes can see his way to pay Australia a visit, he will be heartily welcomed,
Mr.FENTON. - Invalid and old-age pensioners receive from the Commonwealth 15s. per week; but in some cases societies are endeavouring to assist them by giving them a little more. The Secretary to the Victoria Racing Club, Mr. Byron Moore, informs me that the club has a benevolent fund for the aid of aged and infirm jockeys ‘and trainers, some of whom are old-age pensioners. Because the club pays these pensioners a little tohelp them in the winter, and while living is high, the administrator of the old-age pensions makes proportionate deductions from their pensions. Could we not put the blind eye to the telescope, and not see that these poor old people are being assisted from outside?
– The honorable member asks me, in effect, to break the law in favour of a section Of the community, and I am afraid that I cannot do that.
– When will be the right time for me to move for the reconsideration of ‘ the duty on bananas, seeing that the promise made by the representatives of the banana growers has not been kept, . and that the price of bananas. has been increased to 8s. a case?
– I am not prepared to admit that there is a right time; but the honorable gentleman will, no doubt, be able to ascertain from the Chairman of Committees what actionhe can take.
– Adverting to the very impressive and well carried out naval manoeuvres in Port Jackson last Saturday, when the Governor-General reviewed the outward-bound fleet, I ask the Minister for the Navy if he will confer with the Commodore Commanding in order that a more suitable hour may be fixed for such manoeuvres,so that the people who pay may see their ships, and the rising generation may profit by the spectacle.
– The Naval Board and myself much appreciate the great interest shown last Saturday in the naval manoeuvres in PortJackson, and we regret that it was impossible, because of the short notice, to give effect to the wish of the honorable member, who telegraphed to me asking that a later hour might be fixed for the departure of the fleet. The vessels left Port Jackson early because the Commodore desired to carry out some exercises on his way to Jervis Bay. We have given consideration to this question, and, in future, we shall endeavour to meet the wish which has been expressed by the honorable member.
– I : ask the Minister for the Navy why members of this Parliament were not invited to attend the important function which took place in New South Wales lastweek?
– Having in mind the very strenuous time which honorable members experiencedhere last week, I felt that it would not be advisable for me to issue invitations to them to ‘attend the naval manoeuvres in question. I assure them, however, that, in future, I shall be most careful to see that their interests are conserved.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– I understand that my colleague, the Assistant Minister for Repatriation, intends to make a general statement upon the whole subjectto the House at a very early date.
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether the proposed further advance of 1s. 3d. per bushel on last season’s wheat is to be made net to the growers without any deductions ?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The information asked for by the honorable member is being obtained, and will be made available as soon as possible.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Australia. Steps were at once taken to eradicate the disease from the Northern Territory. Citrus canker has never existed in any other part of Australia. The American Government has been communicated with on the matter.
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice–
What action has the Government taken, or what action does it propose to take, in reference to the report of the Public Works Committee in connexion with the shipbuilding contract entered into with Messrs. Kidman and Mayoh?
– Default has been made by the contractors in connexion with the contract, and the Government has notified the contractors accordingly. The matteris now in the hands of the law advisers of the Government.
– Yesterday, the following question was asked on behalf of the honorable member for Bass : -
What arrangements are being made to maintain the mail service between Launceston and Flinders Island now that the s.s. Dolphin hasbeen detained by the Launceston Marine Board?
I promised that the information would be obtained; and the Deputy PostmasterGeneral, Hobart, reports that, pending official confirmation of newspaper reports that the s.s. Dolphin is unseaworthy, arrangements have been made to despatch mails by ketches trading to Flinders Island on every possible opportunity.
The following paper was presented : -
War Service Homes Act - Land acquired under, in New South Wales, at -
Alexandria, Tamworth, Waratah
Question - That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair, and that the House resolve itself into Committee of Supply - proposed.
That the debate be now adjourned.
Question resolved inthe affirmative.
In Committee of Ways and Means:
Consideration resumed from 22nd June (vide page 9263).
.- I trust that the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) will view the important timber industry from an allAustralian, and not from a parochial, standpoint. During the debate upon this item yesterday, the statement was made that some of the Queensland saw-millers had been unable to fulfil orders, and consequently it was argued that there was no need for the imposition of the proposed duties. But there are very good reasons why the millers were unable to fulfil their contracts during the period to which reference was made. It will be remembered that in 1917 there was a coal strike, as a result of which the Inter-State steamers were tied up for three months. Again, in 1918, the influenza restrictions were responsible for holding up the same vessels for a prolonged period. Then, in 1919-20, the seamen and marine engineers went upon strike, and once more InterState shipping was tied up. In 1921, the stewards struck, and upon that occasion the Inter-State steamers remained idle for a further term of three months. Under such conditions, how was it possible for the saw-millers of Queensland and Western Australia to send supplies of timber to the various places at which they had contracts to fulfil? There is a simple explanation of the complaint that has been made. During 1919, at Queenstown, Smithtown, and Burnie, in Tasmania, a large quantity of timber, estimated by competent authorities at 18,000,000 feet, was held up awaiting shipment. If it had not been for the stoppage of traffic, Australian millers would probably have been easily able to fulfil their contracts.
– Some orders from Adelaide have not yet been fulfilled.
– That may be, but, though South Australia may be concerned, does the honorable. member know that stringybark and Australian pine are being used there to-day for building purposes ?
– I am credibly informed that such is the fact, and, therefore, I cannot understand the strong opposition on the part of honorable members fromSouth Australia to an increase in the timber duties. One of my reasons for desiring to give the timber industry a fair chance is the great necessity we must all see for afforestation and reafforestation throughout Australia. In our forests we have immense wealth, which only needs fostering and developing, and which can be handed on from generation to generation. In parts of Australia timbers from other parts of the World might be introduced, and,if that be feasible, we should try spruce, and other trees from which paper pulp is obtained. Tasmania and other States are well fitted for such experiments. The question of afforestation is a large one, involving the employment of, amongst others, immigrants and returned soldiers; and the work is healthful, face to face with nature. If we visit the saw-mills of Australia, we there see some of the manliest fellows it, would be possible to meet; and this I put to the credit of the conditions of their employment. “When the general debate was in progress I said that I was prepared, in the case of our large natural resources, such as timber and wool, to give Australian industries every opportunity to develop ; and to that end I favour duties high enough to be effective. I am not at the moment prepared to say what duties would prove effective in the case of timber, and I await a lead from those who are in closer touch with the industry.
– Does the honorable member desire higher duties ?
– I certainly wish the Minister (Mr. Greene) to increase the rates he mentioned in his speech last night, for these I do not regard as effective in view of what is going on now in Australia. These duties represent nothing like the favorable treatment accorded to other industries not nearly so important or health giving; and I say that if we give Protection to any industries, we certainly ought to see that the timber industry does not suffer. The Australian timber producer, in many cases, is only a few hundred miles from where he supplies his commodity, and yet his freight and othertransport costs are as heavy, and frequently heavier, than those of the man who exports from America or Norway. That, of course, is a great disability to the Australian producer.We have many varied classes of timber in Australia, and I am sorry to say that someare fast disappearing, with no prospect, I am afraid, of being reafforested. Thereare certain pines, including the celery-top, the Huon,. andthe, KingWilliam, which, when cut out, will, I suppose, disappear from theface of the earth. They do not grow anywhere else in the world, and do not lend themselves to reafforestation, seeing that it requires 300 or 400 years to bring them to maturity. However, the lands where these trees now grow can be covered with others. Afforestation and reafforestation throughout Australia should be the duty of the, Federal Government, and not the duty of the States. Those States which areproceeding with reafforestation will not look beyond their own boundaries ; all sorts of drawbacks and hitches must occur in the absence of. a central authority, which has regard to the interests of the Commonwealth as a whole; and I have no doubt that a proper scheme of the kind suggested could be devised and carried out. Before the Commonwealth undertake this duty, however, the States must be prepared to give up the right to the. royalties, which should be properly funded and used for reafforestation purposes only. In my mind, reafforestation is closely associated with the fiscal phase of the question and the imposition of adequate duties. The quality of our timber is equal, and in many cases superior, to that of imported timbers; and Australians should be only too proud to utilize their own product. All these facts should weigh when we are considering what duties shall be imposed. We are not asking our people to use an inferior article; but, if the introduction of Oregon or other foreign woods is necessary to meet special cases, the Department of Trade and Customs might make an arrangement for their admission. This, of course, might lead to a certain amount of fraud; it would be possible for importers and others to purchase quantities oforegon, or other timbers, and to use them for purposes not strictly those for which they were brought in. However, I do not think there is much risk in that connexion, because the Department would very soon detect and stop that sort of thing. I have no desire to see Australia take up a “dog in the manger” attitude, and I think such an arrangement as I have suggested could be made without interfering with the Australian industry.
– There are no special purposes.
– Some people say that oregon must be used for special purposes. Very large buildings are being constructed at the present time, and it* is questionable whether we have a hardwood or any other timber in Australia as suitable for beams for such buildings as oregon is admitted to be. Again, if we have not an Australian timber suitable for butter boxes, I see no reason why arrangements could not be made for the importation of New Zealand pine for this purpose.
Mr. Bayley. We have any quantity of timber suitable for butter boxes.
– I have been given to understand that Queensland hoop pine is suitable, but that, if we except the “ tops,” it would be a waste of a good timber to use the Queensland hoop pine for making butter boxes.
If there is some specific purpose for which we cannot supply a suitable timber the Tariff might be manipulated to secure the admission of a suitable timber for that purpose from elsewhere without materially interfering with the interests of the Australian industry. I. find that in 1913 we imported 459,000,000 feet of timber valued at £2,838,000. In 1-919, we imported 145,400,000 feet, valued at £1,811,000. In 1920 we imported 150,000,000 feet, valued at £2,214,000 ; in 1921, so far, we have imported 203,500,000 feet, valued at a little over £4,000,000. These figures indicate that, a big trade is done with other countries in timber, and that a great deal of timber has been imported which, if supplied by our own millers, would have given employment to a great number of Australians. I think the figures also indicate that substantial protection is required for the Australian timber industry, and that the Government should not be mealy-mouthed about the amount of protection it affords.
– Surely the honorable member is not accusing the present Government of being mealy-mouthed in connexion with the duties they are’ I. proposing ?
– I do accuse them of having failed to give the same, m.easure of justice to this great national industry which they have ,’ “extended to many other industries. During the war, owing to the shortage of shipping, those interested in the industry in Australia had better opportunities than were given them before the war or than are open to them at present. As a result, I find that during the war the quantity of timber produced in Australia increased considerably. In 1917, Queensland produced 166,000,000 feet, and in 1920, 279,000,000 feet”. New- South Wales, in 1917, produced 115,000’0’00 feet, and in 1920, 380,000,000 “feet. ‘^-Tasmania, in 1917, produced 19,000,000 feet, and in 1920, 48,000,000 feet. I quote, these figures to show that when a favorable opportunity presents itself; and there is ho unusual interference with transport, .Australian saw-millers can -supply the timber re;quirements of Australia. They should be given reasonable protection- to enable them to do so. Even if we had to pay more for timber on that “ account, . we should get back more..than the increased price indirectly by having the money spent here in providing sound and healthy employment for a large number of our own people. Now, when the industry is faced with competition from overseas, the saw-mills in Australia find it very difficult to carry on. If present conditions continue, and the Government do not come to the assistance of the industry in a more generous manner- than they seem at present prepared to do, I am afraid that many more of our sawmills will have to be closed. Their expenses have been considerably increased. I have said that to reach the Australian market their expenses for transport are as high as those of saw-millers on the other side of the world. The wages of men employed in the industry have gone up 100 per cent., and in some,–if not all, of the States the Governments have increased the royalties on timber. .
– Is the duty to be increased to cover increases in the royalty?
– I think it should be, because if it is not the ultimate result will be that there will be no timber industry, and no royalty.
– Does the honorable member approve of the Queensland royalty on timber?
– Whether I approve of it or not, the saw-miller has to pay it, and it has to be added to the cost of carrying on the industry. There is one important feature connected with the industry which should not be overlooked. We have great areas of land selected for fanning purposes, and many of those areas carry very good timber. Although when they are cleared, the land is used for agricultural production and not for afforestation, there is no reason why we should not make use of the great wealth of timber on it. In the north-west coast district of Tasmania great quantities of magnificent blackwood have gone up in smoke. The settlers out their scrub, and when it is dry burn it off, and so great quantities of blackwood and other good timbers are destroyed. Of later years, and especially during the war, when conditions favoured the timber industry, a great deal of this wood was carted by settlers to the saw-mills. The selector in outback country needs this additional income to see him through the arduous early years of battling with the forest. Looking at the matter in that light, the timber industry is of really vital concern to many an Australian producer.
At the present rate of wages and other things in Australia, it is impossible for the timber-getters to compete with the cost at which some of the overseas timber can be landed here. I do not say thatit is dumped here. I would rather hope that this was the case, because, then it could be dealt with under the Tariff Bill which we shall pass, and not allowed in, although I do not see how we could frame a measure to call anything dumping unless the article were offered to us at a price which was lower than that at which it was offered to the people in the country of its origin. If this timber is not com ing here as the result of dumping, then it is absolutely necessary that our own people engaged in the timber industry should receive every consideration if they find it impossible to compete with the price at which foreign timber can be landed in Australia. In addition to the twofold increase in the wages paid to workers engaged in the timber industry, their working hours have been reduced from forty-eight to forty-four per week, and they must be paid for holidays and lost time. If the Minister will only have some regard for the difficulties and disabilitieswith which the local saw-millers have tocontend, and if he will cast his eye all over Australia and see the magnificent forests we possess, and the great opportunity that is presented to this Commonwealth to have a well-established timber industry with large forests available for generation after generation if they are only properly husbanded, I am satisfied that he will impose a rate of duty which will give the people who are working our forests an opportunity of getting a footing. ‘ If he is not prepared to give them more encouragement than he has already indicated he will give, itwill be necessary for me to submit further evidence to the Committee. I am prepared to support what may be considered by- some people to be high duties, but I do not regard them as too high, because I am prepared to give this timber industry generous support ; but if I cannot get a duty of 10s. on some items I shall take the best I can get. When I was speaking generally upon the Tariff I said that if I thought an industry was a real Australian industry, and was one for which Australia could supply the raw material, I was prepared to give it effective protection. That is my attitude;. but if the Minister cannot see his way clear to give more generous treatment to this industry, I shall be obliged to trespass a little further on the patience of the Committee.
– The Minister (Mr. Greene) has not made out a case for higher duties upon imported timber. In regard to other items in the Tariff schedule, he could make bricks without straw, and do his job well, but in this instance he has not done his job well. I have a great personal liking for him.
– Then why did the honorable member haunt me in all my dreams last night?
– I was also dreaming a little last night. I was sympathizing all night with the Minister because he had made out such a bad case for increased duties in this respect. In his speech, he said that he quite admitted that, to no appreciable extent, had we in Australia any substitute for oregon or Baltic. But possibly that statement of mine is hardly fair to the honorable member. When he was speaking I interjected, “ You cannot keep this timber out, whatever duty you put on,” and he said, “ That is very largely true.” .
– I said that there were uses for it for which, in my opinion, certain softwoods were indispensable ; but I said, further, that these softwoods were often used unnecessarily to displace Australian timbers.
– I accept the Minister’s explanation. I wish to deal with the Inter-State Commission’s report, and, first of all, to anticipate the remark that it is some years old.
– It is.
– I know it is; and, as I say, I want to anticipate that remark, because I propose to deal with their investigation from the point of view of the condition of the timber we are discussing. The recommendations of the Commission, which are based on evidence obtained in Queensland and elsewhere, prove that we cannot exclude foreign timber whatever duties we may impose, and that it would be bad business if we attempted to shut it out. Some of the mill-owners openly admitted the fact, and others said they were confident that if Baltic andoregon timber could not be imported they could not supply an appreciable quantity of the orders they received.
– The mill power has been nearly doubled since that report was issued.
– It must not be overlookedthat the Inter-State Commission was an independent body inquiring into the question of how Australian industries could be developed, and what duties, if any, were necessary.
– Has the honorable member read the Inter-State Commission’s report on South Australian fruit?
– I am not dealing with South Australian fruit or Queensland bananas, but with the allimportant question of timber. I do not want the members of this Committee to vote blindly, and I defy any one to prove that if high duties are imposed imported timber will not come to Australia. I want the Minister to say whether he is justified in imposing what is really a tax when it affects in so many, directions the public interests of this country. I desire to refer to the housing question, which is of paramount importance at this particular juncture. It has been stated over and over again that the saw-mills in Queensland and in other States are idle. I admit that. But what is the cause of their inactivity?
– No orders.
– Why are orders not forthcoming?
– There is too much oregon being imported.
– That is not the reason. That is not given as the reason, and the statement could be disproved by an investigation of the figures at the Customs House.
– Will the honorable member supply the reason?
– Unfulfilled orders have been standing with Australian firms for years.
– For hardwood ?
– For differentwoods. I can mention one firm in Adelaide which placed orders for 3,250,000 feet of timber with a Queensland firm fifteen or eighteen months ago, and up to date not one-half of that quantity has been delivered.
– Does the honorable member know why they are endeavouring to cancel contracts?
– This is not a question of cancelling recent contracts, as this one was entered into fifteen or eighteen months ago.
– They are cancelling contracts.
– For what reason ?
– Because they cannot obtain the timber.
– Is the honorable member for Wakefield referring to the Globe Timber Mills in Adelaide?
– At the moment I am not sure of the name of the firm, but I know from personal experience gained by periodical visits to the different Australian timber yards during the last four years that they have been unable to obtain supplies.
– I shall give the reason.
Mr.- RICHARD FOSTER. - And I shall be glad to hear the matter explained. The honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Mackay) says that the sawmills are idle because orders are not forthcoming, but that is not so. Does not the honorable member realize that within the last few months building in Australia has almost collapsed. Why has it collapsed? In the first place, there has been a suspension of building operations owing to the high rates of interest charged on borrowed money, and, secondly, because of the high price of timber. People cannot afford to build until the timber is available at a more reasonable price, and unless the money market becomes easier many of our sawmills will be idle for a long time. Last night the Minister quoted figures as to the number of houses that had been erected in Sydney and suburbs, which showed that the high-water mark was reached before the, war. Building activities then receded for about three years during the war period, and in 1919 and in 1920 the position improved. In 1921 the figures dropped to zero. This is accounted for by the fact that the public is expecting a big drop in prices, especially in timber, and whilst people are waiting for a reduction the saw-milling industry, as well as other industries, will be affected. For every saw-miller . and workman in the forests thrown out of employment owing to the conditions I have mentioned, twenty or thirty men in the cities are prevented from following their usual occupations.
– Does the honorable member suggest that for every man employed in the saw-milling industry there are thirty engaged in using the materials which he produces?
– If there are not thirty, there must be at least twenty. What isthe position with regard to housing? TheGovernment ought to know, in the light of their experience with the construction of War Service Homes. There is so much unemployment in the building trade to-day. because it is not a good venture to put up houses at present. Money is tight, and buildings, at present cost, are not a good security on which to lend money. I warn honorable members representing Queensland electorates that their proposed remedyfor the unhappy state of affairs would only intensify the trouble. That is the opinion of the members of the Inter-State Commission, even though, at the time when they expressed themselves, abnormal conditions were not ruling.
– Is not the honorable member aware that the Victorian State Bank authorities have launched an active building campaign and expect to erect 700 houses in a year, at reasonable prices, and that they are getting ample applications for them ?
– I know that the Federal Government have undertaken an expensive building campaign in respect of soldiers’ homes, and that, in some of the States, the costs are so heavy that there is not a margin of safety left.
– These additional duties will make soldiers’ homes still dearer.
– I am positive of it. The Government know that they will possibly lose a good deal of money over the whole venture.
– That may be; but timber has recently come down 4s. per 100 feet.
– The cost of buildings has not come down commensurately.
– There are other materials besides timber, and that is the point which the honorable member ignores.
– I have been informed by an honorable member that he recently called for tenders for the construction of a weatherboard house; but the prices were suchas to nearly frighten him into a fit. He pointed out to the lowest tenderer that he could not think of putting up a wooden house at such a cost,and that he had decided he must have a house of brick. He asked how much more a brick residence would cost, and the contractor said, “ I do not want one penny more. I will build you a brick house for the same price.”
– Did your friend specify Australian timber or imported?
– I am willing to bet that it was Australian timber.
– If I know the gentleman to whom the honorable member refers, my bet is that it was imported wood.
– I shall furnish the Minister with all the evidence; but the fact remains that timber has reached such a price that, in Sydney and in Adelaide, at any rate, one can put up a stone house more cheaply than a wooden one. There never was a time in the history of Australia when more houses were urgently required, especially- for the accommodation of artisans. And there never was such an unfavorable time as the present for artisans to secure homes, either by purchase or rental.
– Does the honorable member lay all the blame upon the price of timber?
– Upon the cost of all building, materials - timber, as much as anything else. As the Inter-State Commission states in its report, it is not according to true economics to pick out a section - and a relatively small one - and saddle the responsibility on the whole community. We have been supplied with glowing accounts of the inexhaustible ‘ resources of Australian timber. That is all fudge.
– The honorable member should travel, and he would learn that it is not all fudge.
– Igo to timber men for my information. I talk to saw-millers, Queensland men among them, and I say, as they have told me, that this talk about our inexhaustible supplies is, unhappily, not fact. The late Governor-General - now Viscount Novar - whose views concerning Australian forestry have been quoted several times during the debate, warned all the States that their timber wealth was shrinking. Had Queensland, New South Wales, and Tasmania been more diligent in regard to reafforestation, the situation, and our future prospects, would have been much brighter. There is another matter upon which I wish to comment. I allude to the royalty demanded by. the Queensland
Government. The amount has been very considerably increased, and to-day it forms an important source of revenue. Only about one-half of the fees collected by way of timber royalties is devoted to reafforestation; the other half goes to general revenue. The. Queensland Government look to this Parliament for protective duties on timber. If we agree to increase the rates, up will go the Queensland royalties, I suppose. The fact of the northern State having imposed such an extravagant royalty shuts them out, in my view, from any right to consideration at all. Does the Minister (Mr. Greene) think it is fair to -impose this duty on softwoods, which, no matter what the impost may be, will continue to be imported? It is only a revenue duty, and the Government should have so described it. Builders will have oregon,no matter what they have to pay for it, and it is wrong to try to force them to substitute Queensland hardwood for it.
– Why must they have oregon?
– Because it is better for certain building purposes than the representatives of Queensland say it is.
– For what part of a house is oregon better than hardwood?
– The honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Story), who is a practical builder, has told us, again and again, that oregon is better than any other timber for certain building purposes. Hardwood is double the weight, so that people in country districts who have to build their homes of hardwood have to pay, by way of freights, double what they would pay on oregon. The people of my State expect the Government to take that point, amongst others, into consideration.
– In most country districts, a hardwood house costs less than one built of softwood.
– In South Australia we build houses of stone, using softwood for roofing purposes.
– Is that why the honorable member is “ stone-walling “ now ?
– I am not “ stone-walling.” I am endeavouring to induce honorable members to think before they vote for an increased duty. I am standing up for the people, and it, is time some one did so in connexionwith this Tariff. So far, they have received at the hands of some honorable members very little consideration. The duties for which the schedule already provides are high enough.
– The duty onoregon at presentprices is equal to 21/2 per cent.
– Why do the Government propose to put on an additional duty?
– The honorable member has. been complaining of the high duties.
– I am complaining of the proposalto increase these duties; I shall have to stretch my conscience in order to vote for those already proposed. I appeal to the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney), who wants homes for soldiers, and who desires that every man shouldown his own house, not to vote for increased duties which will mean that our soldiers will need twenty years more in which to pay for their homes.
– If I had my way, every man would get a house for1s. a month.
– I know that ; but our returned soldiers will never get homes of their own if we increase these duties.
I come now to the effect of these duties on mining operations. A supply of oregon is vital to the Broken Hill mines. Honorable members know what. Mr. Delprat has said on this question.
– He has changed his’ views since he made the statement which the honorable member has in mind.
– He has not.
– I know that he has.
-I shall make inquiries and confirm or disprove that statement to-morrow. I know that Mr. Delprat’s company, at all events, has not changed its opinion on the question. The freights collected on timber carried by railway to the Broken Hill mines- represent a big item in the revenue of South Australia. When the war broke out, and Mr. Delprat could not get oregon for the Broken Hill Proprietary mine, he had to go. to the Adelaidehills for hardwood,, and he found that, because of its weight, the freights, on it were double those which the company had been called upon to pay out oregon. The additional freights in respect of hardwood have been a very big” charge on the. mining companies of Broken. Hill. Mr. Delprat also told the Commission that the miners did not favour the use of hardwood in the mines; they had a preference, for softwood, and one of the advantages of using it was that it alwaysgave the miners warning of any creep. Another reason why they preferred softwood was, he said, that it was only half the weight of hardwood. The Broken Hill mines use an enormous quantity of softwood. I dare say that three or four brains, carrying nothing but oregon, leave Peterborough for Broken Hill every week-
– I know the honorable member’s argument stands good so far as Broken Hill is concerned; but it does not stand for any other mining district inAustralia.
– I amspeaking only of Broken,Hill so far as the use of oregon; in mines is concerned. I ask the Government to pause before they decide to tax miners and builders in this way. The people complain that it is impossible now to get houses, and the raising of these duties will tend to aggravate the situation. It is idle for the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser)to say otherwise. In urging the Government to increase the duties, he is really doing an injury to the sawmillers of his State, because if, these duties are. increased the price of Australian timber will go up, and building operations will be still further restricted. The housing question is of the utmost importance, and every representative of Labour should keep in mind, what will be the. effect of increasing these duties so far as building operations are concerned..
.-Itis to be regretted that the Committee- has been asked to look at this proposed increase in the Tariff from the stand-point of, South Australia alone-, and not from, a national point of view. The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Richard Foster) has invited the Committee to view thisquestion only from a South, Australian stand-point.
– I said I was speaking for the whole of the people.
– The honorable member also went out of his way to criticise the Queensland Government.
– And I have heard the honorable member do the same thing.
– I shall continue to criticise them whenever they are deserving of criticism. The honorable member spoke of the increased royalties demanded by theQueensland State Government. He said as much as 25s. had been asked per 100 super, feet.
– I said up to 25s. - that is 15s. and 10s.
– How was that amount arrived at? The Queensland Government charged no such sum.
– They charged 15s.
– The timber was placed on the open market, and it was the buyers from the south, who were unable to secure supplies from overseas, that came into the Queensland market and sent up the prices.
– And the timber was put up to auction ?
– It was put up to auction, and the price was run up by the southern buyers, who, in the past, when they could secure timber from overseas, did not consider the Australian miller, but were willing tosend their money overseas to bring in timber upon which they could make a greater profit. When the warbegan, freights became scarce, and they were unable to get the foreign timber in. Then they went to Queensland, where the milling capacity was such as to supply the demands of Australia along with the oregon and Baltic that was brought in prior to the war. What has happened since? As the result of theimpetus which the saw-milling industry of Queensland,andof Australia as a whole, obtained from the war, hundreds of thousands of pounds have been expended in enlarging already existing mills and establishing new ones. The honorable member for Wakefield, and those supporting him at this juncture, would see that machinery scrapped rather than give encouragement to a good Australian industry
– We should have the oregon whatever happens.
– I do not claim that the building trade of Australia can get on without oregon. I am willing to admit that, for certain purposes, oregon is essential in the building trade, tout in the past it has been brought into this country in such large quantities that it has been used in many instances in places where Australian timber could have been used. That is what I am out to prevent, if possible. I hope the Minister will see bis way to place on oregon such a duty as will compel every architect, contractor, and builder of a home to ask himself, ‘before either specifying or using oregon, “Is there not some Australian timber which could be used here with equal, if not better, effect?” It is nonsense for any honorable member to say that we are “ out “ to exclude oregon from this country; weare not. We are asking for a duty of 5s. or 6s. per 100 super. feet. The honorable member for Wakefield knows, as he has admitted, that that will not keep oregon out; but I do claim that it will have the effect of compelling men to consider whether they cannot use Australian timber in substitution for oregon where they have used oregon in the past.
– Have they not used it in times past when it has been higher than our own woods?
– Why ? Because ‘ the general public has been educated up to using oregon. As true Australians, we want to educate them in the use of Australian timbers. We have them here in abundance. I shall not attempt to speak to-day of the marvellous timber resources of Queensland, but every visitorto these shores, and members of this House who have had the privilege of visiting Queensland, have said that they had no conception of their wonderful range or immensity. Only yesterday the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Prowse) said it was a sacrilege for Queensland pine to be put to many of the uses in which it is now employed.
– Hear, hear ! And I say again that every bit of it ought to be put into furniture.
– What is true of Queensland pine is true also of our scrub woods and our hardwoods, as well as the hardwoods of other States. We have millions and millions of super feet of wood which, if the Tariff remains as it is, will never be marketed. The Minister (Mr. Greene) said yesterday that one of the peculiarities of the Australian hardwood isthat, shortly after at reaches a state of maturity, it begins to deteriorate,and piping results. In. North Queensland, from which district the greater part of our scrub timbers come, millions and millions of pounds’ worth have been burnt in the past. Settlers have taken up virgin land there, and have had to burn those valuable timbers off ruthlessly, because it was impossible to place them on the market. Cheap timber means only one thing, and that is burnt timber.If the prices in Australia are to remain as they were prior to the war, that timber will never be marketed.
– You are not going to bleed the people of Australia with that argument.
– We do not want to bleed the people. Surely no one could be more reasonable than I am when I ask the Minister to increase this duty from1s. per 100 super, feet to 5s. or 6s.? A duty of1s. is negligible. It offers no protection to the saw-millers of Australia. If it has given any protection at all, it has. been merely to the city sawyers - to those mills which are situated in the capital cities of Australia.
– By how much do you want the Minister to increase it?
– We do not want 10s. per 100 super, feet, as mentioned by the honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Bell), but a moderate increase to 5s. or 6s.
– People would think youhad gone stark mad.
– Why ? Because I am so reasonable? I simply ask for that degree of protection which will compel people to put on their considering caps and ask themselves if they cannot substitute Australian timbers for the oregon which they have been in the habit of using. The honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Story) said yesterday that the Queensland Government had placed an embargo on the export of pine logs from their State.
– Did they not do 30 ?
– The following letter, from the Queensland Forests Service, dated from Brisbane on the 10th June, 1921, is a complete refutation of that statement : -
Dear Sirs, -
The Queensland Forests Service is now in a position to supply pine, pine tops, . and hardwood logs, good quality, up to any quantity. If you are requiring any Queensland timbers, it may be to your benefit to give the above your attention. We have our own teams in operation on the State forests. We can guarantee immediate delivery, subject to shipping being available. All inquiries relative to quotes, &c., will receive prompt attention, and any further information may be obtained on application to the above address.
– June 10th, 1921.
– Just when the Tariff was coming on!
– That is unworthy of the honorable member. The letter clearly proves that there is no such thing as an embargo on the export of Queensland timber. The honorable member for Wakefield saw fit to criticise me because I said I would ask for a moderate duty of 5s.or 6s. per 100 super. feet. Why do I ask that the rate should be increased to that amount? Perhaps I can best answer that question by illustrating to the Committee the cost of bringing a pine log from Queensland to Melbourne. The cost of bringing 100 super. feet in the log to Melbourne from a place 120 miles from Brisbane by rail and 5 or 6 miles distant from the rail-head is as follows: - The cutting of the timber’ in the scrub costs from1s. 3d. to2s. 6d. per 100 feet super., according to the nature of the country, the cost being more where the country is rough and mountainous. The haulage charges from the scrubto the railway station are equivalent to 6s. per 100 feet super., the loading of the log on to the truck at rail- head to 6d., the freight by rail to the wharf at Pinkenba to 3s., the transfer from the truck to the steamer to 6d., wharfage and harbor dues to1s., and freight to Melbourne, if the log does not exceed 25 feet in length, 6s., and 7s. 3d. if it is longer. These charges on a log not exceeding 25 feet in length aggregate 18s. 3d. per 100 feet super. That is the sum which it costs to move 100 feet super of timber in the log to Melbourne from a point 120 miles from Brisbane, and only 4 miles from rail-head. On the other hand, we have been told that oregon timber canhe landed to-day ex wharf, Melbourne, for 12s. 6d. per 100 feet super. This sum includes not only the charges of transporting timber from Puget Sound to Melbourne, but also the value of the log ; the amount which I said was the cost of moving timber from Queensland to Melbourne does not include the value of that timber. It may be that the Queensland railway charge and that the coastal steamer charge are excessive, but in any case the costs which I have mentioned are incurred by the saw-millers of Queensland in placing timber on the Melbourne market. We ask that our timber industry may be given such protection as will encourage the men already engaged in it to continue their operations. In the past it has not been those engaged in saw-milling in Queensland and elsewhere who have made money, but those who have handled the timber after it passed from the millers.
– The saw-millers should have co-operated, and sold their timber themselves.
– The honorable mem ber placedthat suggestion before the Committee yesterday, and perhaps if the millers considered it, good might result; but we must deal now with? things as we find them, andI ask the Committee to give our saw-millers the protection they need.
– And desert the builders !
– Yesterday the honorable member spoke about the royalty charged on timber in Queensland, but he must at the time have overlooked what has been done by the South’ Australian Government in charging royalty. Many years ago that Government spent a large sum on afforestation, planting a big area with pinus insignis and other trees. For many years the expenditure was looked upon in the light of the upkeep of a white -elephant, and prior to the war a royalty of 6d. per 100 feet super. was charged for timber cut in the State forests.
Recently, however, it was found that the pinus insignia, though unsuitable for building, was eminently suitable for casemaking, and the South Australian Government thereupon increased its royalty from 6d. to 10s. per 100 feet super.
– But it had planted the trees; they were not being cut from a natural forest.
– As the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Mackay) has pointed out, the Queensland Government has spent much of the royalties it has received on timber in carrying out expensive afforestation, and on the forest service generally. These royalties go into the Consolidated Revenue; and of late the Queensland Government, which does not occupy an enviable financial position, has been glad to have money at its disposal; but their Director of Forests (Mr. Swayne) to whom reference has been made from time to time, has his heart in his work, and is determined to spend as much money as he can in afforestation. If he has his way, as there is every indication that he will, an ever-increasing amount will be placed to the credit of his Department, and as a result the quantity of softwood obtainable in Queensland will increase. We do not claim that there is’ in that State sufficient pine to supply the demands of Australia; but that is largely because pine is being used for many purposes for which other timbershould be used, and there are in our scrubs many timbers which could be advantageously substituted for it. If the StateGovernments as a whole will carry out an effective system of afforestation, there’ is no reason why Australia should not become, for all practical purposes, selfcontained in the matter of timber supplies. In conclusion, I ask the Minister if he will accept an amendment to increase the duty in sub-itemf, general Tariff, to at least 5s.per 100 feet super. From the opinions expressed, it is evident that the Committee favours a moderate increase in the Tariff on oregon.
.- I consider it my duty to the Committee, and to a firm mentioned yesterday by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Prowse), to give the facts concerning a contract of which he spoke. Most honorable members know Mr. V. B. Trapp, of 31 Queen-street, Melbourne, who is one of the largest dealers in timber. He has sent me the following letter, bearing to day’s date:-
I have just heard a remark that was passed in the House in which my name was mentioned as regards certain Queensland contracts. I would like you to give this a most emphatic denial., The Government, for war purposes, commandeered all our boats, and the timber could not be brought down. The firm that evidently gave this were sitting on a rail. For three months they would not hand in their specification, and were just waiting to see which way the cat jumped. Messrs. Anthony, the Globe Timber Mills of Adelaide, and two other firms, owing to the position, cancelled their contracts as it was thought trade was bad, and they could not possibly take the timber. Letters were repeatedly written to the firm that evidently has given the particulars, asking for their specifications, and it was not until the apparent shortage of timber took place that they then demanded their timber, and sent in their specifications, and signed their contracts. In the meantime the vessels which brought this timber were sent with our troops or as hospital ships for the war. The position was placed before the Attorney-General, and a Bill was passed through the Federal House to protect those who had made contracts and could not deliver owing to the Federal Government having commandeered all the vessels that brought this timber, for war purposes. I would strongly urge you to read this out in the House, as the information which was given was grossly and deliberately incorrect.
– I rise to order. I direct your attention, Mr. Temporary Chairman, to the statement just read, that cer tain information given to the Committee last night by the honorable member for Swan “was grossly and deliberately inaccurate.” That statement should be withdrawn. The honorable member for Wide Bay should not have read it.
– The contract that I read last night was signed by V. B. Trapp and Company,’ and was open to the inspection of honorable members. I have learned since that the operations of the War Precautions Act delayed the performance of part of the contract-
– I should like to know whether the honorable member for Swan. (Mr. Prowse) is in order in discussing something which is extraneous to the point of orderraised by the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) ?
-The honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) has pointed out that the honorable member for Wide
Bay (Mr. Corser) has quoted from a letter in his possession statements which reflect upon an honorable member of this Chamber. I must ask the honorable member to withdraw those statements.
– I have merely quoted from a communication which has been sent to me. However, in deference to your ruling, sir, I withdraw the statements in question. Another document I have received, which is from the City Moulding, Planing, and Saw-mills, and is signed by T. Anthony and Company, a’Beckett-street west, Melbourne, under date 16th January, 1917, reads -
Please cancel any orders you may have for us for Queensland hoop pine and maple.
That action was taken by the sawmillers because vessels were not obtainable to bring the timber down here. If honorable members will take the trouble to inquire into the matter they will find that this Parliament enacted legislation protecting these very people from any action which might ‘be taken against them on account of their non-fulfilment of contracts owing to vessels being commandeered by the CommonwealthGo vernment for war purposes.
– Other vessels were put on in their places.’
– Other vessels were not obtainable. If any bond fide agreement had been entered into, and the sawmillers had failed to honour) it, the injured persons could always have obtained redress by resort to an action in a Court of lawif the fault lay with the vendors.
– Why does not the honorable member tell us the facts?
– If the Government commandeered the vessels engaged in our coastal trade, and if the honorable member were an injured party, would not he seek to be protected against subsequent litigation? He would not be content to be penalized merely because he was prevented by the Government from carrying out his contracts. I might also point to certain statements which are to be found in a report by the Inter-State Commission some seven years ago. It was no part of the duty of that Commission to go through the enormous territory of Queensland with a view to discovering what areas of untouched scrubs it possesses. That body, when dealing with the fruit industry of South Australia and Victoria, stated that there was a Combine which compelled the purchasers of fruit from it to enter into an agreement that they would not purchase fruit from any other part of the world, otherwise the rebate would be abolished. “We do not grow that fruit in Queensland, but we have not objected to a duty of 105 per cent. being imposedupon that class of commodity.
– Upon what commodities?
– Upon raisins and all other dried fruits, which are produced at Mildura and Renmark. But some honorable members think that because certain classes of timber cannot be grown in South Australia, the industry in Queensland should not be protected. Had we dealt with dried fruits, salt, wine, &c, in that manner, I fear that the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Richard Foster) would have regarded our action as a very mean one. At the present time, we purchase from South Australia paint for building purposes, in addition to wines, spirits, and hops, all of which are highly protected. But we do not urge that those articles do not require protection because we do not produce them in Queensland.
It is easy enough to season timber in Queensland. At a large number of mills there, a drying process is adopted under which the timber is sent out in a perfectly dry state, so that it is not liable to warp or shrink. I can take honorable members to houses in the northern State which have been erected for thirty-five years, and I challenge them to point to any shrinkage which has taken place in the timber used during that period. I hold in my hand a letter from a recognised authority upon this question, who says that during the three years before the war we imported 452,474,812 super. feet of timber, whereas during three years of the war period we imported in Baltic timbers only 168,294,670 super. feet. The bulk of that great difference was supplied by Queensland. I have here a very interesting table showing the. weight, strength, and breaking power of all the different woods which are used for build ing purposes in Australia. Taking a beam of oregon 5 inches x 3 inches, 21 feet long, upon a span of 20 feet, the weight of the beam would be 71 lbs., and the load required to break it would be 2,028 lbs. A beam of hardwood of the same weight and of the same depth would be 21 feet x 5 inches x 1.7 inches, and its breaking load would be 1,623 lbs., or 19 per cent. less. Thus, weight for weight, with the same depth and span, a saving of 43 per cent. of material is made with a loss of 19 per cent. in strength. The table is as follows : -
– What is its heating capacity?
– We do not use it for firewood purposes to any extent. The figures which I have given refute the statement which has been made regarding the alleged advantage possessed by oregon over, hardwood on account of the extra weight of the latter.
– What kind of hardwood is the honorable member arguing for?
– Ironbark, bloodwood, and a number of timbers of that sort.
.- I have listened with much surprise to some of the statements which have been made during this debate. The utterances of the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Story) and the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster) certainly disappointed me. Ever since I entered this Chamber, recognising their great knowledge and experience, I have attached a great deal of importance to their opinions. But evidently they have failed to realize that the forest areas of this country are one of its greatest national assets, and that we owe an important duty to future generations in respect of this industry. That obligation can be efficiently discharged only by extending to the industry a further measure of protection. Hitherto, the timber industry has been the most neglected of our primary industries. The reason for that may be found in the fact that it is the one industry which does not return the seasonal sovereign. In Australia, during the early days, men destroyed great quantities of mature wealth in order to obtain the immediate sovereign in the form of grass. We know the result. Last night the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Prowse) referred to the wages paid in America in the timber industry; and in this connexion I give the following extract, from an American newspaper, the West Coast Lumberman, of the 5th April of this year : -
In the lumber industry of the South, wages for common labour range from 90 cents to $1.75 per day for ten and, in some cases, eleven hours,’ the average wage being about $1.25 (about 6s.).
In Australia the wages are worked out on the basis of £3 18s. per week of fortyfour hours. I congratulate the honorable member for Oxley (Mr. Bayley) on his excellent speech, in which the case for further protection was put in an unanswerable manner. , I appeal to the Minister (Mr. Greene) to agree to higher protection than he indicated last night.
. -I made an assertion last night that orders for Australian timber remained unfulfilled, and that if we had to rely on our own market it would be impossible to supply requirements. I should now like to give some further facts and figures in support of that and other statements I made. I have here a short list of contracts made by a well-known firm, Messrs. H. M. Beecham and Company, timber merchants, Melbourne, accompanied with figures showing how far they have been carried out, and how far they remain uncompleted. On the 27th June, 1916, this firm ordered 100,000 feet of 1.in. Tasmanian hardwood, and in the present month 47,000 feet is still undelivered, although five years have elapsed. On the 18th February, 1919, 500,000 feet of similar timber was ordered, and the quantity undelivered at the present time is 142,000 feet. On the 6th November, 1919, another 500,000 feet was ordered, and of that there is 413,000 feet now undelivered. On the 31st August, 1920, 250,000 feet of similar timber was ordered, and 216,000feet is still undelivered. The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) last night said that hardwood is used for weatherboards instead of Baltic, and here is an order, dated the 1st October, 1919, for 100,000 feet of Tasmanian hardwood weatherboards which remains unfulfilled to the extent of 28,000 feet. On the 6th November, 1919, 100,000 feet was ordered, and 28,000 feet is still undelivered. On the 31st August, 1920, 275,000 feet was ordered, and 166,000 feet remains undelivered
– What werethe terms of the contracts? All depends on that.
– The terms of the contracts were for prompt delivery. And now as to Queensland. On the 27th March, 1917, 1,400,000 feet of flooring was ordered from Queensland, and after nearly five years, 40,000 feet remains undelivered.
– On account of the shipping.
– We had shipping last year. If necessary, I could read quite a sheaf of correspondence showing that after the Queensland millers had kept the merchants waiting they wished to have the contracts cancelled, because they could not fulfil the orders. On the 30th April, 1917, 240,000 feet of Queensland flooring was ordered, and 100,000 feet of that is still undelivered. The honorablemember for Wide Bay said that there is any quantity of timber in Queensland which can be delivered.
– So there is.
– Then why is it not delivered ?
– For all we know,’ there may be disputes as to the contracts
– Is it contended that the Queensland millers cannot deliver 40,000 feet of timber?’
– In that contract the timber has not been delivered after five years. One would think that if these millers were anxious to fulfil their contracts they would carry the timber down on their backs to its destination. The following is a letter from Messrs. Beecham and Company to the Enterprise Saw-mills, Warburton, dailed 1st June, 1917: -
Please book the following hardwood: - > 500,000 feet super. 7-in. x 1-in. hardwood, full out 7 inches wide, free from gum veins, lengths 12 to 20 feet preferred, quarter sawn, at 13s. 6d. super., Arden-street Siding; less our usual discount. 1,000,000 feet super. hardwood; delivery and specification from time to time, at to-day’s list prices, less our usual discount.
That means that the timber merchant would send up from time to time the sizes he required, and the arrangement was that the price had to be the current price when the. timber was delivered. The result was the delivery of 20,000 feet of the 1,500,000 feet. Yet we are told that saw-mills are closing for lack of orders.
– Why not give the order to Queensland, where there are many mills to choose from?
– The honorable member may interview the firm concerned, charge them with issuing a false document, and take the consequences in a Court of law. I also said yesterday that, for manypurposes, hardwood is not suitable. As honorable members are aware, a considerable amount of building is done in reinforced concrete; most of the large places in our principal cities are thus constructed. Now, the only timber that, serves satisfactorily for this work is Oregon ; no other timber can be used successfully; and, as we may imagine, it takes an immense amount of oregon to supply the requirements in connexion with all the concrete building going on in Australia to-day. Any increased duties on oregon must have the effect of making reinforced concrete building so much dearer. The following letter, dated 23rd June, 1921, is from the Reinforced Concrete and Monier Pipe Construction Company to Messrs. Beecham and Company : - -
Re Hardwood Timber.
Replying to your inquiry, we beg to say that we received a quantity of this from you and others for the purpose of experimenting with it in connexion with our operations. We regret to say we find hardwood quite unsuitable for concrete forms, the reason being that after the hardwood has become saturated with water from the wet concrete it buckles, i.e., will not keep its shape in drying, and consequently can only be employed once. In our experiments with hardwood for this purpose, our treatment has been sympathetic, as we were exceedingly anxious to use it if possible. We find that the only timber we can economically employ for making forms is oregon, which does not distort in drying, and, . consequently, can be used time after time. Another feature which makes the oregon more adapted to our work is its lightness as compared with hardwood, which, of course, facilitates its handling and cutting. As you are aware, we use a very large quantity of timber for forms in. our reinforced concrete constructions, and, consequently, it is a matter of great importance to us that suitable timber is obtainable at a moderate price..
If I thought it would have any effect on the Committee, I would read dozens of communications from different firms to similar effect.
– What does all this prove?
– It proves that whatever duty is placed on oregon will not assist the local timber industry in any way, but will merely add to the cost.
– What the honorable member has said proves that the South Australians know where to go for good timber.
– The only timber suitable for concrete work and for wood piping is oregon. The manufacture of wood piping is becoming a considerable industry in Australia. We are to-day making wood piping of from 3 inches to 3 feet in diameter, and immense quantities of oregon are required for this purpose. I remind honorable members that whatever duty is imposed on oregon by this Tariff must add so much to every foot of wood piping made in Australia. That is why I am endeavouring to induce the Committee not to load up the duties on timber upon which so many other industries depend. I might refer to coachbuilding, and the manufacture of drays and spring carts, in addition to the other industries I have mentioned.
– Queensland can supply timbers for those purposes.
– Of what use is it for the honorable member to persist in saying that we can get the timber’ we require from Queensland when it has been proved that Queensland cannot supply our requirements? When the Tariff of 1908 was introduced the position was exactly the same as it is to-day, when Moore and Company gave an order to Queensland firms for the supply of 1,500,000 feet of hoop pine, and could not get delivery. I object to the absurdly exaggerated statements made by the honorable member for Wide Bay. The Queensland people cannot supply the timber required, nor can the Victorian sawmillers, as I have just proved. If people in South Australia must be dependent on Queensland or Victoria for the timber they require, then it is a case of “God help them!” At the present time freight from America to Port Adelaide is lower than from Brisbane to Port
Adelaide. Hardwood is very much, more expensive to use thanoregon, and because of its weight the freight on hardwood is three times as much as the freight on oregon. We have honorable members coming from Queensland endeavouring to force upon the people the payment of high duties on the imported timber which they must have in order to benefit at the most a few hundred people engaged in the timber industry, and that only for a short time, because, as I have previously pointed out, the quantity of timber is so limited that it must in a comparatively few years be exhausted.
. -I should be very glad if honorable members would enable us to reach the first sub-item, which it is desired to amend. I do not propose to agree to the alteration of any of the sub-items down to sub-itemf, which is the first sub-item in connexion with which I have intimated to the Committee that I propose to agree to an increase of duty. If honorable members are prepared to vote on these sub-items down to sub-item f I shall then submit an amendment to that sub-item, which, I think,. will meet with their acceptance.
– I am very sorry that the Minister cannot see his way to agree to some increase in the duties upon sub-item c. I would like to say, first of all, that I should much prefer to have afixed duty rather than an ad valorem duty imposed in connexion with this subitem. I am prepared to. move that the fixed duty be per 100 super: feet, British, 4s.; intermediate) 4s.; general, 5s. Perhaps the Minister will, say whether he will agree to that..
– I am afraid I cannot agree to that.
Mr.BELL. - In the circumstances, as the Minister seems determined. not, to accept any amendment on any of the subitems down to sub-item f,. I am afraid I must let sub-item c go as it stands.
:- During the general discussion on this item 2,91, the Minister (Mr. Greene) said that he was prepared to agree to an increase of the proposed duty on sub-item f, and I think that he said he was prepared to accept a duty . of 4s., I doubt very much whether that would be adequate.
– It is a considerable jump from1s. to 4s. per 100 super, feet.
– I move-
That the item be amended by inserting after sub-item (f) the following:-“ And on. and after 24th June, 1921, per 100. super, feet,.
British, 5s.; intermediate, 5s.; general, 5s.”
Mr.Fenton. - Why not make the duty 6s. per 100 super, feet?
Mr.CHARLTON. - I do not wish to be unreasonable. There is no occasion torenew the discussion on the item, which has already been discussed very fully. I think that the debate has shown that there is a consensus of opinion in the Committee in favour of a substantial increase in the duty on this sub-item. I feel that, in proposing that the duty should be 5s. per 100 super, feet,. I am under-estimating the duty which a majority of honorable members would desire to impose.
.- I shall support the amendment, though I should have preferred a duty of 6s. per 100 super, feet. Many weeks ago, after going into the matter very thoroughly, I came to the conclusion that 6s. per 100 super, feet would be a fair duty, and, perhaps, the lowest which ought to be imposed under sub-itemf. I do not wish to ask that the duties under these sub-items should be increased by 6d. more than is absolutely necessary. Representatives of theindustry have informed me that a duty of 6s. per 100 super, feet under sub-item f would be insufficient. They havesupplied me with figures, whichI cannot dispute, which show that, in view of thecost of producing the timber and putting- it on the market, a duty of less than 10s. would be inadequate.. I am of opinionthat any duty less than 6s. will be inadequate ; but I shall not oppose the amendment for the sake of ls.per 100 super., feet. Ithink that, the honorable member for Hunter (Mr, Charlton) is right in proposing a minimum duty, inasmuchas he will have the assurance of the support of the majority of the Committee. It is unnecessary to debate the matter further, as it has been discussed from every aspect. I admit that, astheMinister (Mr. Greene) said last night, it is very difficult indeed to decidewhat can be done to protect this industry without doing, some injustice to the mining and other industries, using, timber largely. I have no desire toprevent the importation of- Oregon for purposes for which it is specially suitable; and taking everything into consideration, I think a duty of 5s. per 100 super, feet under sub-itemi f will be acceptable to those engaged in the timber. ‘ industry, in Australia ; and I hope the Committee will support the amendment.
– I should like the- Minister to make- a definite) statement on the amendment;
– I wish to say that, after giving the matter very careful consideration, since I spoke- last night, I am prepared to- move an amendment making the duties, on- sub-item f, British, 3s. ; intermediate,. 3s. ; general, 4s.,
– Will the preferential Tariff apply to Canada?
– It will not unless we make a definite reciprocal treaty with Canada on these lines. But- it, will afford us an opportunity of making such a. treaty. If we have the rate of duty in all three columns the same, we shall not have that opportunity. There is a considerable amount of Oregon in Canada.
Mr-. Richardfoster. - What about Baltic?
– The duty on Baltic in the rough would be 4s.
– Would the Minister consider a proposal to make the. sizes undersubitem 12 in, by 12 int. instead, of 12 in. by 6 in., with, the duties he haa suggested?
-I should like to hear the views of honorable members as. to whether such an adjustment of the sizes is desirable. I do not suppose that the larger sizes would make any material difference,, except thai they would provide more work in this country. As1 I intimated last night, I think -the balance of the argument is in favour of an increased duty, but I do not feel disposed to go to the- length to which a number of my friends, have asked me- to go-. In the circumstances, the duty I suggest is a f air compromise.
.- We are anxious to meet the Minister (Mr. Greene). Therefore, I suggest for his, consideration two alternatives- - either to alter the size from 12 inches by 6- inches, to 12 inches by 12 inches, or tomake the rates: - British, 3s.; intermediate, 3s.; general, 5s.
– I will not: go beyond the 3s., 3s., and 4s.
– Then will the Minister agree, to alter the size to 12 inches by 12 inches?
– No,; it is a ridiculous proposal..
– I -am, asking the Minister, who. is in charge of the Tariff.
– The Committee is in, charge of it.
– I. am aware that the Committee has everything to do with it, but I am submitting my proposal to him because an alteration; in the- size would create a great deal more work inAustralia. If he is not prepared to> make this alteration,, or if. the. Committee i3 opposed to- it, I wauld.be agreeable to. make- the rates; 3s-., 3s., amd 5s.
-. - Would the honorable member for Boothby (Mr.. Story) object to making the. size 12 inches by 7 inches.?.
Mr:Fleming. - That would be an awkward size.
– I do not think it would beanawkward size. At any rate, if we could come- to ‘some common understanding after a short discussion uponi the matter it would be a good thing for’ all.
.- Those who are listening to- this debate would, perhaps, imagine that it is simply a duel between Queensland and South Australia. The argument of the . honorable, member for Boothby (Mr: Story) is. that because some_ merchant, in the south sent an order for timber to. Queensland, and after- many years still had 40.000 feet, undelivered, we should not give effective protection- tothe timber industry. I want to point out to the, honorable member that this1- is not a parochial- question, but is one which affects Australia as a whole, and that other States are entitled to have a say in the matter; I also take this opportunity of- reminding the honorable member- for- Swan (Mr. Prowse) and his fellow-members who. have- had so much to.. say during this debate on behalf of the industries in which they’ are intimately concerned, that it is necessary to regard these matters from an Australian point of view, and that unless we have men employed in various industries it will be impossible for the honorable member for Swan to get a decent price for his wheat and flour.
– Do not worry about that.
– I am worrying on behalf of the wheat-growers in my own district.
– The wheat-growers want silos, but are not prepared to assist others.
– And they require timber for those silos.
– In regard to requiring timber, let me read the following for the benefit of the Committee -
The Director of Forests., Mr. G. F. Swaine, (Queensland, takes a very serious view of the prospect of the timber industry in Australia. He points out that owing to the financial crisis in the United States of America 45,000 timber mills operating there on 800,000,000 acres of forest have been left with huge supplies of timber, and they are forced to sell below cost. Millions of feet of such timber are being dumped in Australia at prices so low as to threaten to extinguishthe saw-milling industry in Australia, and since a reduction in wages is undesirable, the only alternative is an ‘ adequate Tariff, protective, but not prohibitive, which will not increase the price of timber.
– The only fault with that statement is that it is not correct to say that prices are low at the present time.
– The slump in building is occasioned by the fact that they are too high.
– That is bunkum. Many houses are built of bricks and concrete. To a very large extent, the financial stringency, the cost of labour, and the go-slow policy are contributing factors to the present slump.
– The cost of the timber used in a brick house would not amount to more than 15 per cent. of the total.
– Then what would that 15 per cent. amount to at the present price of timber ? The Committee has simply gone mad on Protection!
– Well, if the Minister -has gone mad, it is in the right direction - that of giving employment and promoting industry in this country. Let us get down to facts. As this Tariff was imposed fifteen months ago, we have had experience of how it works. In this regard the Minister (Mr. Greene), who is the best informed, because he has at his command the advice of his responsible officers, tells us that when he fixed this particular duty at1s. all the mills were working, and the millowners were prosperous. To-day those mills are idle and the workmen who were employed in them are looking for employment elsewhere. Their work has gone to the United States of America, or elsewhere. There were other things the Minister could have told us last night. He could have told us that the ships which were carrying our timber are now tied up to the wharfs.
– And the honorable member is anxious to tie them up for a longer period.
– No ; we want to get the mills going. When honorable members talk about freight charges, let them realize that the freight from America to Australia is lower than it is from Tasmania to the mainland. I. am reminded by an honorable member that this is not an isolated question. It is true. It is our duty to find employment for our own people, at a living rate of wage, and to keep our industries going. Are we prepared to do this or are we to send our money across the seas ? The main issue in discussing this or any other industry is the question of advancing our own industries and providing employment in this country, and that is the view I have been putting forward for thirty years past in Parliament: Unless we. are prepared to find that employment for our own people in our own country we confess ‘that our workmen are not as good as those of Finland, Sweden, America or Japan. But on the field of battle and every day in industry, our men have proved that they are not only as good as, but superior to, the foreigner. I cannot understand the anxiety of some honorable members to send Australian money outside to feed men elsewhere, while our own people suffer. I am tired of listening to those croakers who can see no good in their own country, but have faith in every other country. I propose to follow the lead of the Government, and the Minister, who has the best advice at his command. He tells us that there are huge stacks of timber in the different ports,, and we know that ships are tied up, and that everything is stagnant, all of which facts prove that the duty as it appeared in the Tariff fifteen months ago is not sufficient to-day.
– If there are big stacks of timber, why do not the people usethem?
– Because they cannot get the freight for moving them.
– No; the reason is that the price of timber is too costly.
– The honorable member knows that his facts are wrong.
– I have proof of what I have said.
– You have not.
– All I can say is,, “You are another.” There are some industries worth protecting, even if they do not flourish in South Australia. There are other States besides South Australia. There is no need for the honorable member, who always stands up so ably for his own State, to abuse the representatives of other States, and tell us that we are liars when we are making statements which are obviously correct. I regret that the honorable member has become so provincial during this debate that he cannot see anything beyond the boundaries of his own State. We have already heard a representative of South Australia, a Government Whip (Mr. Story), attempting to bargain with the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) across the table on behalf of the Minister. I have never heard of such a thing before.
– The Tariff is absolutely a non-party matter.
– I do not desire to deprive the honorable member for Kalgoorlie of his opinion ; but I think that the Minister is right and the honorable member is wrong. I am not going to be ridiculed by South Australian members without replying, because no man attacks me with impunity. I am going to say what I think.
– The honorable member for ‘Wakefield (Mr. Richard Foster) did not say that the honorable member was a liar.
– He as good as called me one; and if he hadbeen within reach there would have been trouble. It is painful to think that men representing Australian interests in their varied aspects should treat such an important question in this manner. If they were to go back into the forests in my electorate and see the timber workers - who are compelled to live in shades - out of employment, and realized that large sums of capital are lying idle, and that business is declining, they would see the seriousness of the position. These men are anxious as to what Parliament intends doing, and I would like to know how they would feel if they thought that their position and living were being jeopardized merely because a merchant in South Australia could not receive the goods in an order for 40,000 feet of timber placed with a Queensland saw-miller.
– I referred to an order for 3,000,000 feet.
– Did they send a cheque with the order? Perhaps that was the reason- why the timber was not supplied. It is ridiculous to contend that there was no timber available. Is the Australian! timber industry, to be penalized in this way merely because one order was not executed ? What does it mean if the Australian timber industry is not given fair play and adequate protection? Orders will be placed in foreign countries, with the result that work will be found for people living abroad, whilst our own men are compelled to remain idle, making business stagnant. I have no patience with men who adopt the attitude of the honorable member for Wakefield. If employment is found for our own workmen, the demand for clothes, boots, milk, meat, and even bread, will be greater, and a state of general prosperity will prevail. This is merely one link in the chain. Where are those honorable members who said that we should not build ships in Australia because they could be purchased cheaper in Japan and other countries ?
– Who said that?
– That is the opinion of the honorable member for
Wakefield, who said that we should go to other countries to get what we require.
– I did not say that we should obtain ships from Japan.
– What did the honorable member suggest?
– I said that they could be purchased at about half the price they were costing us to construct.
– Does the honorable member think that good policy?
– I believe in paying a living wage, and have faith in our own people, whom we should employ when and wherever possible. This is a typical Australian industry, because Australians are a bush-loving people. Let us consider the condition of the timber workers, who have not the ordinary privileges and pleasures of civilized men. They have no picture palaces or palatial hotels, neither have they the ordinary conveniences of life to which they are entitled, and yet we are telling them that if they cannot produce timber cheaper than the men who work for a starvation wage we are going to allow the Australian consumer to purchase the timber he requires across the seas. It is “ bunkum “ to say that our timber is of an inferior quality, because, in my opinion, it is the best in the world. If certain light timbers are Dot produced in this country, those who prefer to use them should be prepared to pay a little more, rather than crush an industry which is of such importance to the Commonwealth. It is not a question of the interests of New South Wales or any other State being safeguarded. Whilst I am a Protectionist, Free Trade may be advantageous in some directions. I recognise that, but I do not see any good in stamping out an industry when it means rendering a large number of our people idle. If there is one class of the community that is entitled to consideration more than another, it is those who toil in the back-blocks of Australia, and who are making the path over which others have to travel more attractive.
– I listened with interest to the harangue of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Austin Chapman), and desire to take this early opportunity of saying that I did not charge him with stating an untruth. I said that his statement was incorrect, and I adhere to that.
– Why did the honorable member make that statement?
– I will tell the honorable member something he ought to know. I was a member of the Select Committee appointed by the Government to inquire into the question of freights, and, as the result of our inquiries and recommendations, the whole of the timber in Queensland awaiting shipment was cleared up.
– There are other places besides Queensland.
– The honorable member was referring to Queensland.
– I was referring to my own district.
– I am referring to every State.
– I was also a member of that Committee, and know what happened.
– The accumulations of timber in every State were cleared up.
Honorable members interjecting,
– Order! I ask honorable members to refrain from interjecting, and to allow the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Richard Foster) to proceed without further interruption.
– I have had experience with Federal and State Tariffs over a period of twenty-eight years, and have never known of such a strange Government attitude. As a rule honorable members are usually given information which supports to some extent the attitude the Government adopts; but in connexion with this Tariff we have had revelation after revelation. The duties which the Government propose will be a staggering blow to the people of Australia. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro said that we were anxious to destroy an Australian industry. We do not wish to do that, neither do we even wish to attempt anything in that direction. We are dealing with timber that must come in.
– Why must it?
– I will tell the honorable member before I have finished. The Government are taxing the people almost out of existence; the proposed duties are a tax upon thepeople, and nothing else. This is not a Protective item at all. This is practically the same Government that instructed the Inter-State Commission to investigate the timber position in every State, and recommend what duties, if any, should be imposed.
– It was not the same Government.
– Then, what Government instructed the InterState Commission to make inquiries into this matter?
– It was not this Government.
– It was practically the same Government. It was a Government with three members who were Free Traders, and who are members of the present Cabinet. What do the Government intend doing? Is there no one who is prepared to stand up for the people on whom this tax will fall? These duties will not protect the Australian industries, even in the slightest degree. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro will talk Protection to extremes, and endeavour to involve the Government in unnecessary expenditure, as he has done very often. Reference has been made to the fact that ships are tied up in Melbourne; but that is the position also in the other States. The builders and saw-millers say that they are compelled to throw men out of work. Why ? Because there is no demand for the material ; people will not build at present prices. It is about time we looked to the future and began to realize what is ahead of us. I was never so disgusted with any Government as I am with this one. I have been as faithful to this Ministry as any member on this side of the chamber; but I shall, both in this House and on every public platform, tell the people very plainly where I stand in this matter. I shall let the workmen know who is responsible, and I shall tell those who are requiring homes and cannot get them that the Government and some of their supporters are the principal offenders. What is the position of those unfortunate returned soldiers who cannot secure dwellings? The time has arrived, irrespective of consequences, when one is compelled to speak the plain truth.
– We need a change of Government.
– That might not be amiss; but not a change from that side to this. The Government are presuming on their security, and it is about time they were told how their loyal supporters feel on this matter. I cannot be held responsible for what is ‘happening, and I am not going to be. This is not a question of protecting an Australian industry, but of placing a burden upon the whole of our Australian people for the benefit of a small section.
– A large section.
– What of those engaged in the building trade? What of those who are driven into flats because ordinary dwellings are not available ? I am going to resist the proposed unnecessarily high duties to the bitter end.
– I was rather surprised to hear the speech just delivered by the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster); and I think when that honorable member reflects upon what he said he will realizethe injustice of his remarks.
– I do not think so.
– It is really a question of figures. The honorable member for Wakefield referred to the immensity of the tax upon the people. Has he paused to consider what it really is?
– I have.
– For a comfortable cottage, approximately, 8,000 feet of timber would be required, and if the whole of the duty on that quantity were passed on-
– Plus profits.
– If the whole of the duty were passed on it would represent about £12.
– Why impose that additional tax? It costs about twice as. much to. build a house to-day as it did previously.
– Yes ; but I am dealing with this particular duty: If a man builds a house after the proposed duties have been imposed the additional cost will be about £12, and the probability is that the house will last him thirty years. If we divide the £12 by 30, how much is it?
– Yes; but the man who purchases may pay down the full amount.
– Including interest, the additional cost would not be more than 10s. per year. The honorable member for Wakefield said that we are placing an enormous tax upon the people of Australia.
– So you are.
– The duties that have been imposed on imported currants and raisins cost the average householder in Australia three times more than these duties represent. However, I am not grumbling at those duties.
– The Minister’s argument is merely one which is intended to show that we can become a prosperous people by plundering each other.
– That is the old” Free Trade argument. I have heard it so often that I know it by heart. I ask honorable members to adopt a reasonable standpoint. Last night I intimated to the Committee the direction in which my mind was working; and, at the time, the honorable member for Wakefield made no special representations to me or to any member of the Government.
-I did not. I could not get near you.
– I wish the honorable member had succeeded in doing so. It would have been a much preferable course to that of making the speech to which the Committee has just listened. The fact is that on a cottage in which there are 8,000 feet of timber, the proposed duty - even if the whole of the tax were passed on - would amount to only a very small consideration. I cannot follow the arguments of the honorable member for Wakefield when he suggests that the Government are imposing an unreasonable tax upon the people I’ endeavoured last evening to give the Committee some indication of the circumstances leading up to the formulation of the Government’s proposals. They are these : When the Tariff was drawn up there was a shortage of tim. ber supplies. Every mill was going for all it was worth, and turning out its maximum. ‘Prices were high, and we felt that it was not then the time for the Government to deal with timber duties; so the rates were not interfered with. Within the past’ few months, however, there has been a marked change. Many of the mills have found it necessary to close down. Much of the machinery installed during the war has stopped running. Hundreds of men have been thrown out of work. They have flocked from the forests and the mills in the country to the cities, adding to the already alarming amount of metropolitan unemployment. The Government felt, in the circumstances, that it was necessary to do something to try to restore a normal state of. affairs. It has been well known to honorable members for a considerable time that the Government have been approached, in respect of timber duties, from everyside.The only reason why honorable members have not been previously informed of anything that was in the mind of the Government is that it has been an unbroken rule that if variations of duty are contemplated the fact is held to be an absolute secret until the right moment for its public announcement.
– I did not expect to hear anything outside of this Committee; but I do consider that honorable members should have been informed of the facts here.
– I endeavoured to make clear our intentions last night. I ask the honorable member for Wakefield to view the whole circumstances fairly. He has no just cause for complaint concerning the course of action which I have adopted generally in handling Tariff matters. God knows, my task has been difficult enough!.
– Hear, hear! My complaint is against the Government ; not against the Minister individually.
– The whole trouble arises from the impossibility of giving honorable members private information beforehand regarding proposed alterations of duties.
– We did not want it or expect it.
– I gathered from the remarks of the honorable member just now that he considered himself aggrieved because the Government had not intimated what they proposed to do.
– I was simply going. upon the statement of the Minister himself, that he did not know, at one period, whether there should be an increase of the rates or not.
– I said that, in the difficult circumstances, I found considerable hesitation concerning what one ought to do. I ‘think the timber items form the most difficult division of the whole Tariff, and for very special reasons. When honorable members examine the proposed duties from the sole point of view of Protection, I admit that the rates do not form a high protective duty as we understand such a thing. They are, in the circumstances, exceedingly moderate. The duties imposed on ordinary manufactured goods would not be considered, as applied to timbers, to be anything more than revenue duties.
– It is very unusual for- such revenue duties to be imposed at a time when the cost of building is already too high.
– The situation is scarcely such as the honorable member describes it. The cost of building is falling, and has fallen very materially during the past six months
– The Minister means that the price of houses has fallen.0
– No; I refer to the cost of building’ them. Contractors to-day are prepared to take jobs at considerable reductions on prices ruling a little while ago. The honorable member for Wakefield is scarcely just in saying that the Government are placing an unsupportable burden on the community.
– That is my honest opinion.
– I cannot agree with it. If the honorable member could show that,- with respect to a cottage containing 8,000 feet of timber, the tax proposed is utterly unreasonable, there would be room for argument. But, even supposing that the whole of the added cost were passed on - and in ninety-nine cases out of 100 it would not be - it would represent an actual cost addition of only about £12. Will the honorable member describe that as unsupportable? The Government found it impossible to give honorable members prior notice of their proposals, and I took the only course open when I indicated in general terms last night the lines on which my mind was formulating. It was at that stage opportune for the honorable member for Wakefield, and for any other honorable member; to make such representations of protest as he pleased.
.- I am .disappointed that the Minister (Mr. Greene) cannot see his way clear to accede to the request of the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton). The proposals of the Minister amount to but a very poor degree of protection.
– The duty of 4s. in the third column, namely, that relating to the general Tariff, is the one that matters.
– We always put the duty on the column that matters. Within the last eight months I have had the exceptional privilege of visiting the forests of Queensland in all their magnificence, and some of the very finest hardwood forests that we have in Victoria. I saw working in the industry some of the best type of men to be found in any part of the world, and a very large number of them were returned soldiers.
– The proportion of returned soldiers working in the industry is not as large as the proportion wanting houses.
– The honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Fleming) and others who have Free’ Trade proclivities are obsessed with the idea that the granting of a measure of Protection to an industry necessarily increases the price of its product to the consumer. History, however, has proved that protective duties properly imposed and administered do not increase the cost to the consumer. If we follow the timber industry through all its ramifications - the felling of the trees in the forest, the cutting of the logs, the carrying of the timber by rail to the factory and its conversion there into the finished article - we find that it employs no end of labour. I, therefore, say that in encouraging the timber industry of Australia we shall do an immense service to the public. We shall, for instance, provide considerably more freights for the railways, which are owned -by the people. The benefits which will accrue to the people are almost innumerable. Already large planing mills are being set up, and seasoning plants are being erected. What is needed is that timberseasoning works should be established throughout Australia, in order that the best use may be made of Our hardwoods. It is the shrinkage that takes place where green timber is used that sometimes creates a prejudice against hardwood. We have a concrete example of the fact that the pessimism of some honorable members in regard to the building trade here is by no means general. Last session the Victorian Parliament passed a measure extending the powers of the Victorian Savings Bank Commissioners, more particularly in connexion with its Credit Foncier system, with the result that the Commissioners have launched a scheme under which, according to last night’s Herald, a building programme of 7,000 houses per annum is anticipated. The applications received in Melbourne alone for the building of houses by. the Commissioners are coming in at the rate of fifty per week, and Mr. Emery, the InspectorGeneral, who has had a vast experience of the working of the Credit Foncier system, believes that the Bank will be able to fully cope with the demand. He states that contractors are now coming forward, and that tenders for the erection of houses are being readily submitted.
– Then there is really no need to increase these duties in order to encourage the industry?
-That is not so. I am endeavouring to reply to the . honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Richard Foster) and others who have said that the imposition of increased duties will hold up building operations. Some people may regard me as a rabid Protectionist, and I may say at once that if I had my. way, in respect of anything that we could supply for ourselves, I would place a barrier against competition from any other part of the world. The Minister (Mr. Greene) has told us that he intends to introduce two measures - an Anti-Dumping Bill and a Bill providing for* the appointment of a Tariff Board. The Anti-Dumping Bill, I believe, will mean increased protection for our industries. In view of a recent decision of the High Court, I think that we have full power to prevent any one from fleecing the public. That being so, users of either local or imported timber, with the appointment of a Tariff Board, will be perfectly safe. The honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Story) says that the only duty that matters, so far as this item is concerned, is thatimposed under the general Tariff. I agree with him, because our chief competition in this trade comes from the United States of America and Canada. If I had my way, the duty under the general Tariff would not be 4s. per 100 super, feet, as proposed by the Minister, but 6s. or 8s. per 100 super, feet. I suppose we shall have to be content with the Minister’s proposition ; but if the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) pushes his proposal for a duty of 5s. per 100 feet super., I shall support him. I do not know why so much heat should have been engendered over this question.
– Of course, it does not matter that, in some cases, five or six families are sleeping in the one building.
– The honorable member is one of those who think that every duty means an increased cost, whereas we have absolute proof that the contrary is the case, both here and in America. If some millers or. timber merchants take advantage of this slightly increased duty, the Minister will have power to deal with them through the Tariff Board. He will be able to tell the Parliament that these people, who are enjoying the benefit of our Protective policy, are not doing the fairthing, and suggest that we should not give them the measure of protection that we have extended to them in the past.
. -I regret that the Minister (Mr. Greene) has agreed to accept a proposal to increase the duty under the general Tariff to 4s. per 100 super, feet. Such a duty is altogether too high, and I shall divide the Committee on it. Had the honorable gentleman compromised by making a proposal to fix the duty at 3s. per 100 super. feet, he might possibly have given greater satisfaction. As it is, this will be only a revenue duty. Advocates of more protection for the timber industry have not furnished any proof that if we grant this protection Australian timber will replace the imported softwoods now used for building purposes, nor have they shown that a full supply of the necessary timbers is available. Facts have been adduced showing that we have no Australian timber which can take the place of oregon for certain purposes. Oregon is the only timber that can be used for certain specific building purposes. The duty, whatever it may be, as finally agreed to, will be of a purely revenue character and will not assist our timber industry.
There is one point to which, perhaps, the Minister has not given full consideration. I think I am perfectly safe in saying that there are in stock in Australia at the present time hundreds of millions of feet of oregon. What a magnificent present this Committee will make to the holders of that oregon- by increasing the duty under the general Tariff to 4s. per 100 super, feet! Experience teaches us that by the imposition of duty the price of an article is increased, and that merchants or shopkeepers who have a stock of that article sell ‘at the increased price, on the ground that their stocks will have to be replaced at the higher rate. We may take it for granted, therefore, that with the passing of this increased duty the timber merchants of Australia will add 4s. per 100 super, feet to the price of the Oregon. I am informed on the ‘best authority that in one timber yard in Sydney alone there is a stock of 10,000,000 feet of oregon.
– Eleven million super, feet.
– And in respect of every 100 feet of it an additional charge of 4s. will be made on the passing of this increased duty. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) has suggested that the sizes mentioned in this schedule 1 should be altered from 12 in. x 6 in. or its equivalent and over to 12 in. x 12 in., and another size, namely, 12 in. x 7 in. has also been suggested. I am afraid that the honorable member has been advised, so far as that matter is concerned, by some one who desires to trick the Committee. The stock sizes in which oregon is brought in are 12 in. x 10 in., and, 12 in. x 6 in. It is brought in in those sizes because it can then be cut without any waste to the sizes usually required for building purposes. If we provided for 12 in. x 12 in., or any other abnormal size, considerable waste would occur in cutting up the timber. No advantage is to be gained by adopting the honorable member’s suggestion. I would point out to the Committee that we have already passed one sub-item providing for a duty of 10 per cent, on “ spars, in the rough.” That sub-item relates to timber 12 in. x 12 in., or of larger size, so that while we have provided for a duty, of 10 per cent, on the very best quality of oregon of longer’ lengths than come in for building purposes, we are asked now to put a duty of 4s. per 100 on the smaller sizes used by builders. No matter what may be said by those who are trying to help their own local industries, the duty, whatever it is, will be simply added to the cost of building in Australia, and house rents will go up. Builders are not going to build at a loss simply because we put a Tariff on. Another big building organization which will feel these duties is the War Service Home3 Commission, which has to build thousands of houses. The Minister says that the extra cost will do only £12 a house. Twelve pounds on a cottage is not much if you say it quickly, but when a struggling man finds it difficult to pay the present cost of the house, an additional £12 is something worth talking and thinking about. An extra £12 in the cost of a house that is going to be let will mean another ls., or perhaps 2s., per week added to the rent which has to be paid by people who already find a difficulty in getting together the necessary money. 1 am astonished at members of the Opposition, who no doubt have the welfare of the working people at heart as much as I have, and desire to improve their conditions, taking action ‘which will only make the cost of living go up.
– The honorable member knows that so far as the soldiers’ homes are concerned we have our own mills, working our own forests under special conditions, so that this duty will not affect them.
– Other timber besides that which the honorable member refers to is used. None of the timber from the mills he mentions is used in South Australia. That timber is used in some States, but in any case the War Service Homes Commission will have to use millions of feet of oregon and Baltic.
– How much do they estimate that those houses will cost,, and on what price-list have they based their estimate 1
– That has nothing to do with the question. My point is that the Commission will have to use millions of feet of oregon and Baltic, on every 100 feetof which they will pay the increased duty which will be imposed if the proposal before the Committee is carried. That must necessarily increase the cost of building soldiers’ houses. The fact is indisputable. Every house that costs more to build is dearer for the man who has to purchase it.
– We do not have to pay more for soldiers’ homes in Queensland.
– Queensland is not the Commonwealth, although it seems to have a powerful influence in this Chamber. If the duty is raised on this line to the extent proposed, it must be raised proportionately on every other line, and so the cost of all the smaller lines must go up proportionately. When he said that the extra cost would be only £12 per cottage, I presume the Minister meant a brick and stone cottage. He must remember that in a number of States houses are being built entirely of timber.
– I said a cottage that consumed8,000 feet of stuff.
– That would be no good for a cottage that was all wood.
– How much timber do you put in a cottage of four rooms.?
– I will give the Minister the figures presently. I quite agree with the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Richard Poster) that this is an entirely unnecessary burden to place on the people of Australia. If I could be convinced that it was going to benefit the timber trade of Australia, I would support it; but I am absolutely certain that it will have just the opposite effect, raise rents, cause unemployment, restrict the operations of builders for a considerable time, and cause men who follow building industries to remain out of work. Could not the Minister agree to make the duty 3s. in the three columns? Even that would be quite an unnecessary imposition; but I believe all of us who intend to fight this proposal would be prepared to accept a duty of 3s. in the general Tariff.
.- There has been quite a breeziness about this debate on timber which is refreshing and somewhat reminiscent of older times, when more interest was shown in Tariff debates than has been exhibited in. this one up to the present. I have been somewhat amused in listening to the arguments put for ward to-night. One honorable member expatiated upon the bravery of our soldiers at the Front, and from that deduced that we ought to put a protective duty on timber. I was not quite able to see the connexion. Another honorable member suggested that, because we had put 100 per cent, protection on the dried fruits of South Australia and Victoria, we ought to concede something to the timber industry of Queensland. It seems to me that, in suggesting protection for timber from the dried-fruit analogy, an unfortunate illustration was chosen, because it so happens that the driedfruit industry sends its surplus - dumps it, I suppose it would be called - into New Zealand and other countries, with the result that, for some years, under the high protection given to that industry, the people of Australia have been paying about double the price for their dried fruits that the people of New Zealand have paid. That, I think, is an indication that some such legislation as the Minister proposes as a kind of antidote to the evils of Protection, should be’ introduced after this Tariff at the earliest possible moment.
The Minister (Mr. Greene) endeavoured to secure the assent of the Committee to the increased proposals that he now submits, onthe ground that the duty after all is comparatively harmless and insignificant. If it is so harmless and insignificant as the Minister suggests, what good is it going to do the Australian timber industry? The Minister knows that there will be much more than the apparent effect of it to contend with.
– I do not see why there should be.
– The duty will be charged by the importer to the wholesale man, with a profit on it; and the wholesale man will charge his profit on the price plus the duty again; and so it will go on, until by the time the consumer has to pay that duty, it will be pretty well double what it was when it started. Mr. Corser. - It is not likely to be all passed on.
– Yes, it is. If it is not all passed on, then all the argument in favour of it is absolutely futile.
Mr.Mathews. - The same thing happens with all profits.
– Undoubtedly, it does; but that is no reason why we should put a. duty on a product when no advantage is going to arise from it.
Let me come to what is, undoubtedly, to me, the strongest argument in favour of the increased duty. We are told that a great many men have been thrown out of employment in the Australian mills. Speaking as an old parliamentary hand, I believe it is by no means an event that has never happened in Australia, just before a Tariff was .being brought down, for an artificial crisis to be created in order to stimulate Parliament into giving a duty, or to increase a duty.
– I could conceive of that where there were one or two manufacturers of a special article; but this is. a thing common, to all the States, and is most pronounced in the small mills run by two or three or half-a-dozen men.
– Quite so; but the Minister must remember that there is a very strong organization controlling the timber interests of Australia generally. That organization has been very much in evidence - to my mind, too much in evidence^ - round this chamber during the last few days. The argument that appeals to me in this connexion is that there are many men being thrown out of employment, and that if the increased duty is put on they will get back to work. I would go a long way, even against my theoretical convictions, to give men employment and bread to their children, but I doubt very much whether, in the immediate future at any rate, any kind of duty will give, in the timber industry, that employment which the men enjoyed during the war. During the war we. had money to spend and play with. It was borrowed, and it was circulated. We were able to pay big wages and big prices, and were all having a really good time. That has now come to an end. There is a scarcity of money, and a high rate is being paid for it all over the world. The result is that production is being brought to a serious position, not only in Australia, but everywhere else. There has been a big decrease in the demand for timber all over the world, and undoubtedly in America at the present time they are trying to get rid of their timber in other countries, and some of it has been coming here.
– The cost of building is too high, and people will not build houses at the present rates. I suppose the same thing is true in America.
– Exactly; but I remind the Committee that American timber is not coming into competition in price with the Australian article. It still stands at a substantially high figure above the price quoted for Australian hardwood, so that I fail to see the danger of competition in that direction. We are not going to stimulate employment in this industry by means of a duty. Not until money becomes more plentiful, interest becomes a little cheaper, and the workman himself realizes that he must, in many instances, give better value for his wages than, he has been giving in the past, are we likely to come back to what ought to be the normal activity of a country like this. I am sure that the duty will be only an increased tax on the users of timber to the extent to which the Committee may impose it, and I therefore propose to adhere to the schedule as brought down by the Minister in the first instance, or, failing that, to the lowest possible figure above it. In doing that, I feel sure that I am serving the best interests of the country. If we increase the prices of timber, even to the extent of the rates of duty now proposed, we shall injure a great many subsidiary industries,, in which more capital is invested and more labour employed than in the timber industry. If members will look -the -situation fairly and squarely in the face, and put aside the suggestions of interested parties that have been made during the debate, they will realize that, for the present at any rate, their duty to the country demands the imposition of only a very low rate on the sub-item under discussion.
.- I said last night that I had an open mind in regard to the protection to be accorded to the timber industry, though I. realized that the industry needs protection, and the arguments that I have heard since have not made me think that the proposed rates should be lowered. I take the view that the timber industry should be protected in order that Australians may be compelled to use the timber resources of the Commonwealth to the fullest extent, or ‘that when they choose between
Australian and imported timbers, the latter may be fairly handicapped. As
Oregon is quoted at £2, and hardwood ‘at 27s. 6d., there should be no need for a very high Tariff. But it must be remembered that it costs nearly three times as much to get timber to the mills in Australia as it costs to get timber to the mills in. British Columbia, where, when a tree is felled, it can be floated down a river. Western Australia has a wealth of timber, and the State Government has started to conserve its forests scientifically, and to. reafforest; but during the war hardly a stick of scantling could be sent out of the State for lack of ships,, and the people of other States had to import timber from other places. At the present time, 35 per cent. of the Western Australian timber is cut into sleepers and exported, and the rest is wasted, because builders, architects, and others, will not use Australian timber. This is not fair to the country. They are not good Australians who will not use the natural wealth of the country. But what guarantee have we that if the duties are increased Australian timber will be more used than it is now? It has been objected to the use of hardwood that it is more difficult to work than softwood, but except where very big spans are required, necessitating the use of a large timber like oregon, there is no better wood for structural work than jarrah or karri. Jarrah can be bought to-day for 27s. 6d., and oregon costs 40s., yet builders and others use oregon in preference to jarrah. The shipping companies have not made it easier for the public to use Australian timber. For many years the freight from Western Australia to South Australia and Victoria was 21s. per ton, and it is now £21 2s. a ton. These companies want us to help them, and, before doing so, we should ask them to make a return to the public. I feel that if I could force the people of Australia to make more use of Western Australian timbers, which are admirably suited for every class of work, it would be my duty to do so. In seeking information about the timber industry, I have not gone to one side only, I have asked for it in every quarter. The manager of the State Sawmilling Department of Western Australia, the State Conservator of Forests, the Timber Workers Union. Millar’s
Karri and Jarrah Company, the Mill Employees Union, and representatives of private companies, all assure me that the industry needs protection. Unfortunately, the Minister (Mr. Greene), when questioned by me on the subject last night, could not definitely declare that the Dumping Bill which he intends to introduce will do what I desire shall be done. There is another Bill to be introduced for the protection of the consumer against the protected manufacturer who unduly increases prices; but neither Bill will, in my opinion, give the consumer the protection that he needs. I have stated that I would be willing to allow the Minister to give a rebate on big sizes of oregon required for mining, because that is a primary industry which we should carefully foster. But the Minister tells me, and my own information is to the same effect, that the Constitution will not empower him to follow timber after it has left the bond for, say, Broken Hill, or some other mining field, and to give a fair rebate on it if necessary. I understand, however, that he could follow it into a timber yard, and that there would be a possibility of the sawmiller getting a rebate. If we cannot properly protect the primary producer, it would seem that something is wrong with our Tariff policy.
Sitting suspended from 630 to 8 p.m.
– I am sure that those who have been privileged to listen to this debate must have been, very much impressed by the views and the facts which have been placed before the Committee by honorable members. That impression may, perhaps, be tinged with a little regret that occasionally there has been sounded a note of provincialism.
– Unfortunately, that note is never absent from debates in this Parliament.
– It is exceedingly unfortunate that, perhaps, every one of us is prone to forget for the moment that he is an Australian, and to remember that he is a Victorian, or a South Australian, or a Queenslander.
– But the honorable member is a man without a constituency now.
– My honorable friend has alluded to the fact that, according to some press writers, statisticians, and mathematicians, I am about to meet the fate of the man who has the ground cut from under his feet. Should that prediction prove true, and should Victoria in the re-distribution of electoral boundaries lose one electorate, and that electorate the one which has returned me to this Parliament, a large number of people will be greatly distressed. But I cannot imagine a more dignified way of leaving the public life of this country. Should fate decree that I shall thus disappear from the political arena, nobody will be able to say either that my constituents turned me down or that I abandoned them.
I wish to emphasize that this is a Commonwealth Parliament, which is representative of all the people of Australia, and not merely of those of South Australia, Queensland, Tasmania, Victoria, or any other State. Consequently, I enter my protest against the exceedingly provincial note which has been so frequently struck during the course of this debate-
– During the course of all debates.
– The honorable gentleman may hold that view, but I do not share it; and, as you, sir, will insist upon my confining’ my remarks’ to the item which is under consideration, I cannot dream of entering upon the fascinating path into which the Postmaster-General would beguile me. I regret exceedingly that during this discussion, either by way of interjection or reply, some honorable members have imputed motives to others - a course of action which is beneath the dignity of this Chamber and to the people who. are so ably represented by distinguished members of it. Personally, I believe that every honorable member who has addressed himself to this question has been actuated solely by a desire to enlighten the Committee, and to put before the electors of this country only the soundest of views. I shall endeavour, therefore, not to follow the example which has been set of imputing motives to those who do not agree’ with me. If we are going to discuss this question in a dispassionate and useful manner, we must recognise that there are two sides to it. If any honorable member entertains a doubt in that connexion, the throng of visitors which he encounters in the lobbies and within the precincts of the chamber ought effectually to dissipate it, as ought also the tons of literaturewithwhichheis deluged. It was a pathetic picture which was presented last night when the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) rose and said that the mass of information which had been so courteously and gratutously supplied to him was almost bewildering. The use of the word “ almost “ saved the situation, because we cannot conceive that any information, no matter how voluminous, could bewilder the honorable gentleman. After having been deluged by arguments and statements from both sides of the chamber, we are now left, like Pilate of old, to discover for ourselves what is truth.
– Does the honorable member favour the higher duties or the lower ones?
– We have to consider, not merely the interests of those who are engaged in cutting timber in Australia, or of those who are absorbed in the highly profitable industry of buying timber from the saw-millers and selling it to those who require it-
– I am informed, that the buying and selling of timber is a more lucrative business even than that’ of selling wool.
– I have heard that statement previously, and now that it has been confirmed by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, I cannot fail to believe it. But we have also to consider the interests of the great majority of the people of Australia who, so long as civilization lasts, will require houses in which to live. It has been suggested that dwelling in tents is something very delightful, and that, therefore, people ought not to make such a fuss about the increased cost of the building of houses. Speaking as one who has dwelt in tents, I think that the interests of those who require houses in which to live have not been adequately recognised. Last night, whilst the Minister was bewailing the accumulation of unsold stocks of timber, I ventured to interject that they were unsold because of the excessive cost of building operations. Thereupon the honorable gentleman supplied us with some very valuable statistics as to the number of houses which had been erected in’ Sydney and its suburbs during the last few years. Unfortunately, his figures, like a great many of the statistics upon which we have to rely, were a little behind the times. They were not up-to-date, though I am convinced that they were the latest figures which the honorable gentleman could obtain.
Mr.Hector Lamond. - They were not his own figures, nor the figures of his Department.
– They were the figures of the Commonwealth Statistician; but I did not extract them from his official publication.
– No doubt, the figures of the Commonwealth Statistician are the best in the world. But, unfortunately, they disclose a most deplorable state of affairs, to which I think it is necessary to draw the attention of the Committee. A few years ago New South Wales was almost the only Australian State in which the capital city and suburbs did not contain more than half the population of the State.
– They do now.
– Perhaps that is so. The figures disclose that in the year 1920 there were 8,667 houses built in Sydney and suburbs, 961 in Newcastle and suburbs, and only 3,859 in the fortythree country towns. That means that out ofa total of 13,487 houses built in New South Wales, 9,628 were in Sydney and Newcastle; and I think it would be found on inquiry that the same enormous disproportion obtains throughout Australia as regards the much greater number of houses built in the great capital cities than are built in the country.
– Timber is at a higher price in the country.
– Timber-getters are being driven to the cities.
– The figures are most striking evidence of the drift of population from the country to the cities. In 1913, when, apparently, the maximum was reached, there were 9,342 houses built in New South Wales as against 8,667 in 1920. It will thus be seen that in spite of the great increase in population, and the large drift from the country, there were fewer houses built last year than in 1913. This, I think, fully establishes the truth of my interjection that sufficient houses are not being built for the people of Australia on account of their excessive cost. I should now like to quote some figures, which are official and up-to-date, in order to emphasize a point which I think has been very largely disregarded throughout this discussion. I refer to the effect - for I believe it is a matter of cause and effect - of the excessive increase in the cost of building. I here desire to have the attention of the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton), because what I am going to say refers to a State school which it was, and is, proposed to build at Essendon, in his electorate. I am informed on reliable authority that nine years ago this school could have been built for £5,080. This was not done, and a few years later a vain attempt was made to get the work done for £7,000. Efforts have still more recently been made to provide the school for £10,000, but it is now found that the lowest cost is considerably over that sum.
– That is principally a brick proposition.
– But this is an illustration of the excessive cost of building.
– Is it not a fact that there were alterations made in the specifications? .
– That is not my information, but I have no doubt that the honorable member for Maribyrnong will be able to give us all the facts.
– This school, as now outlined, is a building on modern lines, right up to date, provided with more accessories than were contemplated nine years ago.
– I am delighted to think that the people of the Maribyrnong electorate, when the cost of building falls, will be able to provide a State school worthy of themselves and of their children.
– Does the honorable member propose to connect hisremarks with the item before the Committee?
– Yes; this State school will contain a large amount of timber of the very class on which it is proposed to place these duties. I have some further information which, I think, will be of great help to the Committee in arriving at their decision.
– How are you going to vote?
– The honorable member knows very well that he and I seldom part company, and it is possible we may be found on the same side; though that, of course, entirely depends on what particular proposal the vote is taken. However, I now wish to relate to the Committee the experience of the Education Department of Victoria, which has to build a large number of State schools.
– Does that Education Department use imported timber ?
– The Department has to use the same timber that is used elsewhere in the erection of such buildings, and no doubt in some cases some portions of the timber are imported. As we all know, there are certain portions of buildings, such as the supports of roofs, which every architect in the world insists require a particular kind of timber. It may be, of course, that such timber is procurable in Australia, and I should be delighted to know that it is so.
– It is procurable in Queensland.
– I have little doubt that there is a great deal of that kind of timber in Queensland, but it is also stated on good authority that it is impossible get it from Quensland in sufficient quantities ; and this impossibility makes it imperative on the people in the southern States to use other kinds. I am giving information which I believe to be absolutely accurate. Some of my facts are, apparently, being challenged by the honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Bell, but I trust that honorable member will not cast any reflection on those I am about to relate.
– I merely say there is good timber in Victoria; that is not disputing your facts.”
– I donot see that the interjection has any bearing on the question before the Committee.
– I take it that the honorable member believes in using Australian timber wherever possible?
– Of course; but what is to be done when that timber cannot be procured at the place where it isrequired ?
– Can it not?
– I am told that it is practically impossible to procure in Melbourne sufficient quantities of those suitable Queensland softwoods of which we have heard so much. However, I wishto read the following report from the Education Department of Victoria: -
As a result of tenders publicly invited for works during the eleven months ended 31st May, 1921, the final result shows under 37 per cent. having been accepted, notwithstanding that in some cases tenders were re-advertised on three separate occasions. This unsatisfactory state of affairs is, it is -believed, primarily traceable to the following causes: -
Fluctuating cost of materials.
Lack of materials.
Cost of labour.
Scarcity of labour.
Artisans’ disinclination to go to the country.
Unstable labour conditions.
It is noted, however, that within the last few months there is a perceptible, if not very pronounced, increase in the number of tenders received. This keener competition is said to be due to the fact that there is a considerable cessation of private building operations; but as yet there is little evidence of any reduction in the cost of building operations.
I draw the particular attention of the Committee to the closing words of that quotation. That report fully supports my contention, that the reason why timber is unsaleable is because people are deterred from building houses owing to the excessive cost of building them. For tome years past people in every part of the world have been living in a fool’s paradise. They have seen costs of production, transportation, and distribution piled up in connexion with every industry that could be named, and in every case the preposterous and extortionate costs have been passed on to the consumer.
– And during the period referred to, the honorable member and his friendssaid not one word against the increase of prices.
– I am glad to hear the interjection, because there are honorable members of the Committee who will testify that I have raised my voice over and over again against these increased costs, and against the combinations and Trusts that have been responsible for them. It may be that the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) was not present when I have spoken in that way.
– I know that when I have denounced high prices I did not get the honorable member’s support.
– I do not believe there has been a single occasion upon which any honorable member advocating a reduction of high prices has not received my support.
– I ask the honorable member- to confine his remarks to the item.
– I am dealing with the industrial and financial tangle in which Australia, in common with the rest of the world, has become involved. The considerations to which I have referred, have a very important bearing upon the duties to be imposed on timber. The colossal increase in costs and prices to which I have referred have hitherto been passed on to the consumer; but we have now reached a stage at which the consumer here and elsewhere is unable, or unwilling, to pay them.
– I might have permitted that line of argument in the discussion of the whole item; but I remind the honorable member that there is an amendment of a particular sub-item now before the Chair, and he should confine his remarks to that.
– I shall endeavour to do so.
– The honorable member should not make an electioneering speech.
– I have so often listened to such speeches from the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West) that it is difficult to restrain myself from imitating the honorable member’s example. I am, however, speaking now with a view to assist the Committee to arrive at a just decision as to the duties to be imposed on these undressed timbers. Preposterous and extortionate duties on the timber included in this sub-item have been suggested.
– What were they?
– I say that a duty of 10s. per 100 super, feet on this sub-item would be preposterous and extortionate, and such a duty was suggested, although it was not formally moved. The argument in support of excessive duties under this sub-item has been that the people who sell Australian hardwoods to contractors will be unable to obtain a sufficient price for them if this undressed timber may be imported for the moderate duties now proposed. My investigations have led me to believe that it is not the actual cost of producing Australian hardwood timber that makes it so difficult for those who wish to build houses to obtain it. The real trouble, and the -explanation of the numbers of people who have thronged the parliamentary lobbies for the last ten days, is to be found in the undue profits made by’ those through whose hands it seems to be essential that Australian timbers must pass before the builders can obtain them.
– Is that not the trouble in other countries, as well as in Australia ?
– I believe that it is, but we shall not solve the problem by adding to the profits of these middlemen by means of undue increases in the Tariff. We shall not solve it by giving larger profits than they now derive to those who sell Australian timbers to the persons who must build houses. If I knew of any way in which to prevent the passing on of these excessive duties to the consumers, the men and women who marry and raise families in Australia, I might, perhaps, cheerfully subscribe to any duties that might be proposed. I agree that it is in the highest degree desirable that,, if possible, houses should be built in Australia wholly of Australian timber, but no one contends that, it is possible.
– It is impossible to build, a brick house with Australian timbers, but you can build any wooden house with them.
– That is a point upon which there is considerable difference of opinion amongst persons who have a right to be regarded as experts in the building of houses. Whether it is theoretically possible or not to build houses in Australia without imported timber, it is beyond a doubt that there is not sufficient suitable timber now being . produced in Australia to meet our requirements. That is admitted by the Minister for Trade and Customs, and by practically every one else. The excessive cost of building during the last, few years has deterred people from building houses, and they have been waiting until that cost is reduced. There is, at the same time, a general desire that, so far as possible, houses should be built in Australia of Australian timbers. What is necessary is that we should impose such duties on timberas will make it possible to build houses at a reasonable cost; and, in all the circumstances, I havecome tothe conclusion that the duties proposed by the Minister for Trade and Customs may have to be accepted.
– They are toohigh.
– I agree with the honorablemember; but we. cannot all get our own way, and wecan only legislate in a spirit of generous and sympathetic compromise. My own idea is that a duty of 2s. 6d. per 100 super. feet on this undressed timber would be quite sufficient ; but if itbe not possible to induce the Committee to accept a lower duty than that which the Minister for Trade and Customs has proposed, I shall be prepared to support his amendment.
.- I have hoard during this debate some rather extravagant statements concerning the timber possibilities of Australia. I have never been inclined to decry the resources of this country. On the contrary, I have spent quite a lot of time in trying to convince our own people, and others, that the resources of Australia are not sufficiently understood and appreciated. But some of the statements which have been made concerning our timbers may lead us into very grave difficulty if they are not replied to, because supplies of timber in Australia are far from being inexhaustible. It must be admitted that, for its size, Australia is a comparatively lightly timbered country. Our friends from Queensland have unbounded faith in the future of their timber areas-, but I am afraid that in some cases they have permitted local prejudice to distort their vision. Quite recently Professor Wilson, of the Harvard University, United States of America, and a great authority on the timber question, . visited Australia to investigate its timber resources, and he has expressed the following opinion : -
While Australia had some first class timber, there certainly was. not the quantity ones had been led to believe from published reports. There was much that had been accounted first clans timber that was really but fourth or fifth class stuff. . To a noticeable extent the. forests would be unremunerative, and provide . little timber that was. good enough for firewood. The jarrah forests of Western Australia were short by million’s of acres of the total area that State was believed to, carry.. .
Although this highly qualified expert. appears to me to have taken too pessimistic a view of the situation, there. not the. slightest doubt that we must pay some attention to such an opinion, especially when itis fortified by reports furnished by other qualified men, such-, forinstance, as the evidence given by Mr. Jolly, Commissioner of Forestry, before the Inter-State Commission on the . question of rents, that the life of the New South Wales pine at the then rate of cutting was only eight years. Since then the rate of cutting has inoreased. One could quote other evidence to. show that our forest resources can easily be depleted while we are doing nothing to build them up again. I have taken some interest in the forestry question and recently got one of the New South Wales forestry experts to look over a small coastal property of mine in New South Wales with a view to seeing what I could do there in the way of afforestation . I was firmly convinoed that the man who set about growing timber could not make much profit out of it, but that it would . he one of the best investments he could make for his family. The advice this officer gavemewaa that it was a good thing for a man to plant timber if he were prepared to wait anything from thirty to sixty years for a return, and that, in any case, he could not think of beginning to make a profit out of it within at least twenty-two years.. There are not many people in Australia going in for afforestation– the wait is too long; and, as our Government Departments are doing very little, in this! direction, our timber resources must become depleted. In these circumstances, I think -we ought to . bring from oversea that timber which has proved . to be of . more value for building purposes than our own timber, not with a view of displacing the latter, but in order to use the two, in conjunction, to the very great advantage of both. Every building erected in an economical fashion, and with a view to obtaining the best results, has. in it a large proportion of Australian timber combined with a small proportion of imported timber. We oan only get the full value of our forests by using imported timber in its. proper place.We have heard a lot of tali in this. Committee abouttheterribledetructionof timber that is proceeding in Australia, and we have had literature, if one can honour it. by applying to it that term, quoted by those who favour, an increase in the duty and by those who are against an increase,one side pointing out that an .increased duty will protect our timbers and the other side claiming that only by means of a reduction in the duty would we be enabled to continue building operations. Some arguments have been, to a certain extent, convincing, but one claim put forward by those who advocate a higher duty isabout the most ridiculous that could possibly be put forward. After having gone to the trouble of proving to their satisfaction the fact that millions of pounds’ worth of timber exists in Australia, those who make this claim have declared that nothing can be done with it unless other timber is prevented from coming in, that is to say, putting the matter, somewhat crudely, our timber is worthless unless we can shut out a product that could take its place, and which we can get much more cheaply. I believe that a lot of good could be done by using both timbers- our own and imported - in their right place, and this can be done by establishing reciprocal trade with Canada During 1920 we imported over a million feet of timber from four countries only - Canada,5,766,398 super. feet; New Zealand, 66,470,627 super, feet; Japan, 6,6,362,400super. feet; and United States of America, 70,976,919 super, feet. These timbers were all softwoods. Australia’s production is chiefly hardwoods. If we were working in a proper manner, making. thebestuse of our own resources, and taking advantage of the resources of the rest of the world, we would be sending away hardwoods in place of the softwoods we import. By entering into a reciprocal treaty with Canada we could do this. When I was passing through Canada I was taken to see an exhibit in Vancouver, where’ a square had been laid down with some of the picked hardwood’ timbers of the world in order to prove their value for street-paving purposes, and I noticed that our Australian ironbark stood out absolutely ahead, of anything else. The people of Canada would be quite prepared to use a great deal of our ironbark if wecould afford to send it to them, but as we have so little of it we cannot afford to send much of it away.
-Whatwere our exports of timber last year? .
– We exported 63,466,799 super. feet, of a value of £500;148.. Ifwe had thetremendous resources that some honorable members say we possess, and could produce timber at a cost which would enable us to compete with the rest of the world; we. would be sending away at least as much as we import, because, ‘ while we can use soft timbers to. great advantage other countries can use our hardwoods to great advantage also if we could only supply them; But we have not the supplies to send away at the present cost of. production. If we could only produce the. timber at a reasonable rate, there would be an unlimited market for it. Oregon is. used, not only for building purposes, but also for mining. I have with me a statement made by Mr. Delprat when he was giving evidencebefore the Inter-State Commission. I think honorable members will admit that he is an authority on the subject.
– His evidence Was given seven years ago.
– Hesays the same to-day.
– I am quite sure that he would do so.He has held a responsible position for many years and men of his standing do not make statements without weighing them well. His evidence was- -
I would not. saythat oregon is the only timber that can be used. Localtimber could be used; but oregon ie lighter and - easier handled. . On the financial side oregonper 1,000 feet on trucks . at Broken Hill costs £6 5s.1d.; Tasmanianstringybark costs’as £9 18s. Id.
The imported timber costs a littlemore than half the cost of the local timber. Our mining industry at the present time is in a rather precarious position, and if we continue piling up costs as this Committee has been doing what isto happen to these primary industries? Sooner or later they must break’ down by the enormous weight piled on to them. I have drawn the attention of the Minister to thisstatement by Mr. Delprat because it has been said to-night that the timbers under. discussionare onlyrequired for building purposes,for which our woods are quite as . good But the use. oforegon is not confined to mining or building purposesIt is required for the very important work of building concrete silos. It is un safe to use Australian timbers in building a concrete wall because of the shrinkage. Oregon is the best of all timbers for plaster and concrete work because by using it one can be sure to get the best results.
– Cannot Australian timbers be seasoned and used for the purpose?
– Yes, but the honorable member for Hunter, who has had experience of mining, knows that Australian timber will shrink and warp even after being thoroughly seasoned.
– Western Australian jarrah. which I have used, is equal to any other timber in that regard.
– I do not pretend to know much about jarrah, but in any case there is a limited supply, of it, and it is a long way from the eastern mines. By the time it gets to the east coast it is a very expensive timber. The honorable member knows very well that coal miners would be very seriously handicapped if they were prevented from getting timber which they consider the best for their purposes.
– The quantity of sawn timber the coal mines use is infinitesimal. They use mostly round stuff from the bush.
– But they also use imported softwoods for their overhead work, and also for some of their operations underground. No doubt most of their timber is cut out of the bush, and that is another reason why we should conserve our timbers for their proper use. We cannot go on indefinitely cutting our -own timbers, and shutting out woods that will relieve the burden on our forests. By using our own timbers indiscriminately in positions where we can do better by using imported wood, we are cutting away a very valuable asset for Australia. The chief argument advanced in this Committee when increased duties are proposed is that an increase will mean increased production, and, therefore, later on, a reduction in costs; but that argument has not been advanced in regard to this proposed increase, evidently because it could have no effect. Why should we destroy our own .forests by using our own timber in places for which it is not suitable, instead of making use of all we can with advantage, thus conserving our own valuable timber, and using in conjunction with it other material that comes from overseas? The Minister stated this afternoon that about 8,000- feet were required in an ordinary cottage, and the imposition of the proposed duties would add only £12. In the first place, I challenge the Minister’s figures in connexion with the estimated quantity required in such a structure. Even assuming that his figures are correct, it must be remembered that by the time the consumer pays the amount it would include a sum. at least double the duty imposed. Any one who has constructed a house or has made improvements to a structure knows that it is very much cheaper to handle oregon and other imported timbers than our own. It has been admitted, even by those who are in favour of higher duties, that by imposing higher rates we will not prevent the importation of oregon. It must be used for certain work, such as the erection of silos and for mining purposes, irrespective of the cost.
– At Mount Morgan they use only Queensland timber.
– That may be so, because the timber is right on the spot. It has been said that millions of pounds’ worth of timber has been destroyed; and that leads up to another point. When I was a boy, in the back country I saw 14,000 kangaroos killed in one yard in a’ fortnight. At that time the skins were worth at least 10s. each, but because of the distance from a market they could not be disposed of, and £7,000 was thrown away. The skins were rendered valueless ;< but the kangaroos had to be killed because they were destroying the feed required for stock. The same argument applies to timber too far away .to be profitably transported to a market. It is sheer nonsense to speak of the value of timber in some of our back country, because it is valueless until railways are constructed or some other means of profitable transport to a consuming centre are devised. The value of a product is governed by its distance from the point at which it can be profitably disposed of. I trust the Committee will decide to accept the lower rate3, because it is admitted by men who have studied the matter, including those who advocate higher duties, that if we impose the higher rates it will not mean increasing our own production, or . preventing the importation of timber that is so valuable for building purposes, but will result in adding to the cost of buildings to be erected. The prospect of increased rates is arising at a time when returned soldiers and others were beginning to expect that there was a possibility of homes being erected at a reduced cost; but now the Government come along with a proposal that will result in the present cost being maintained or even increased. In effect, the Government are saying that they will not allow prices to come down, and the natural consequence will be that the shortage of dwellings will continue. We will be doing a great injury to the Australian people if we adopt that attitude, because we will not only be imposing an additional hardship on those who are anxious to build, but will in no way benefit the Australian timber industry; neither will We prevent the importation of foreign timbers.
– Listening to the arguments that have been adduced one would conclude that we have quite a number of timber experts inthis Chamber. At the outset, I desire to say that I believe our Australian timbers are equal to any in the world, particularly our hardwoods. During the course of the debate, an honorable member said that hardwood could be used for roof construction in place of oregon; but I do not think a sane builder would use hardwood if he could obtain oregon at a reasonable price, because, in 99 per cent. of the cases in which roof timbers have warped, it has been found that Australian hardwood has been used. Of course, hardwood used for this purpose could be strutted to prevent buckling, but that would mean incurring additional expense. Every one desires our Australian industries to be safeguarded by imposing adequate Protective duties; but, as I stated in connexion with the iron and steel industry, I am not prepared to support increased duties if they are to be passed on to the consumer. In endeavouring to protect our Australian industries, we have to consider the interests of the greater number, and in this connexion should remember that increased housing accommodation is urgently required. But we appear to be placing every obstacle in the way of providing additional accommodation by making the prices of many of the commodities required prohibitive. In New South Wales, the shortage of houses has been very acute for a long time, and the present difficulty is that the people who desire to build are prevented, owing to the stringency of the money market and the prohibitive price of timber. It has been stated that 11,000,000 feet of oregon stacked in one Sydney yard could only be obtained at a prohibitive price, and rather than reduce the price, the price of hardwood was raised so that the oregon could be disposed of. Is that safeguarding the timber industry? If two mills were handling timber, one the local product and the other ‘ the imported article, I would always give my support to the former. When yards are handling both imported and local timber, they control the’ prices of both, and the purchaser is placed in an unfortunate position. If we are to have a repetition of what has occurred in the past when increased duties have been imposed, it will be found that’ prices will rise in keeping with increased duties. The Minister has said that it is the intention of the Government to appoint a Tariff Board to protect the manufacturer, the consumer, and the employee, and I would suggest that we should accept the present duties; and if they are found to be either too high or too low, Parliament will then have an opportunity of reconsidering them. We have been working under this Tariff for fifteen months, and I think we should go on a little longer.
– And keep the mills idle.
– Every honorable member who has uttered that statement knows that the Tariff has been the means of enabling additional mills to be established. The Commonwealth Statistician says that there are more than double the number of mills in operation than was the case some time ago; and they have produced so much timber that there is no sale for it at a prohibitive price. We have to devise a means of disposing of the timber we have available; but that cannot be done by increasing prices. By the votes recorded upon this item honorable members will be telling the people of Australia whether or notthey are prepared to do their part towards bringing down the cost of house construction. We cannot expect to contribute towards the reduction of building prices if we add to the Tariff upon timbers. What is the good of talking of safeguarding Australian industries if the effect of our efforts is. to safeguard them out of existence? Has it not been the experience, probably without exception, that, so soon as a duty rate is increased, up goes the cost of the article concerned?
– It surprises me that the honorable member has voted for any increases.
– I have done so . only when, in my opinion, such action was necessary in the best interests, of the country. But, while we are thinking of protecting an Australian industry and its employees, we must not overlook the interests of the public at large. If, in the course’ of protecting an industry which employs,, say, 600 men, we fatally harm a number of subsidiary industries employing 6,000 men, we are obviously taking a false step. It has been stated that there are 22,500 men employed in the Australian timber industry. But how many are there engaged in subsidiary industries? How many men find employment in various phases of building activity? I regret that our hardwoods do not compare with Oregon for roofing purposes. In the matter of comparisons, the following extract will, no doubt, interest honorable members: -
Douglas Fir : Douglas Spruce : (Pseudotsuga taxifolia).
This is one of the most important timber trees west of theGreat Continental Divide. Only the Tideland spruce, . ‘the Big Tree, and the redwood exceed it in size, and none but the western yellow pine (Pinus ponderosa) can supply so great an -amount of first class merchantable lumber. While the tree is loaded with nearly a dozen . local names, the lumber trade has added to the confusion by giving several different names to the lumber cut from it. One may purchase in market Douglas fir; red fir, yellow fir, Douglas spruce, yellow spruce, and . oregon pine, and yet all may be cut from , the same identical tree. The author well’ remembers how he was corrected in a Los Angeles planing mill when he called some lumber which a workman was putting into a door Douglas spruce, and was promptly told it was Oregon pine - and the manreally thought it was pine. It is not a spruce, nor is it a fir or a pine, but it largely partakes of the characteristics of a hemlock, hence its botanical name (Pseudotsuga), which means false hemlock.
– I am loath to intervene, but I point out that the opportunityfor general debate has passed. The Committee is dealing with a specific item within a division, and with a proposed amendment thereto.
– The question of substituting some other timber for hardwood has been raised, and my purpose is to prove that oregon is a suitable substitute.
– On a point of order, I want to know if an honorable member may not, at this stage, proceed to compare various imported woods with Australian timber, as the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Marr) was proceeding to do?
The. CHAIRMAN. - Under the Standing Orders, and according . to the usages of this and otherParliaments, honorable members are free to participate in a general debate upon the items contained within a division while the Committee is devoting its attention specifically to the first item therein. My reason for interrupting the honorable member for Parkes is due to a desire to be fair to all honorable mem. bers. If one honorable member may at this stage enter upon a general dissertation concerning timber, other’ honorable members may claim similar rights, and thus the Committee . would wander far from consideration of the specific item and amendment before the Chair.
– I bow to your ruling, Mr. Chairman, and will merely’ repeat that I was following the arguments of other honorable members, who referred to the origins and capacities of various imported and local timbers.. My intention was to deal briefly with the abilities of different woods to withstand varying stresses and strains, and to . refer to the substitution of Oregon for hardwood.. Thus the question of prohibitive Protection is involved. However, I shall not pursue that line of argument further. The Minister has agreed to the imposition of a light-duty on sizes 12 inches by 12 inches and upwards. I would like him to accept a lower rate, say, of1s. per 100 feet on sizes 16 inches by 16 inches. The latter is a fairly big timber which takes a bit of handling. Upon reaching this country it has to be re-sawn, and I am informed that the waste in this -process is equivalent to 2 per cent, of the log.
– If the duty is increased upon this size will it not add to the cost of building ?
– But I am asking for a reduction of the duty to.1s. per 100 feet.
– I think the effect would be to impose a higher rate of duty.
– It certainly would be.
– I repeat that I am asking for a reduction. However, if such an imposition works out, in practice, at a higher rate than at present, I suggest that the duty be wiped out altogether.
– Timber, of the size mentioned now comes in under the heading of “ Spars in the rough.” With normal conditions, a rate of1s. per 100 feet would certainly mean an increase upon the present ad valorem duties.
– The Queensland pines, in my opinion, are superior to our hardwoods for roofing purposes, but the trouble is to get a full supply of such timber available. I would support the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) in any scheme to help this country by means of re-afforestation ; but, at the present time, our object should be to help the people of Australia to get houses for themselves. If the Tariff Board reported later on that we were not giving the timber industry proper protection, I should be one of the first to support the imposition of an additional duty; but I should like the’ Minister to agree to a duty of not more than 2s. per 100 super, feet in respect of the British and intermediate Tariffs, and 3s. per 100 super, feet under the general Tariff in respect of the three sub-items that we now have under review; I hope the Committee will take a reasonable view ofthis matter, and that whatever is done will not be to the detriment of the industry.
.- I intend to withdraw my amendment in favour of the suggestion made by the Minister (Mr. Greene), that we should provide for a duty of 3s. per 100 super; feet in respect of the British and intermediate Tariffs, and 4s. per 100 super, feet under the general Tariff, in place of an all-round, duty, of 5s. per 100 super, feet, as proposed by myself. Before doing so, I wish to reply to some of the statements that have been made by honorable members who are opposing an increased duty. Any one reading their speeches without a full knowledge of the facts might come to the conclusion that those who are seeking to make Australia self-contained are prepared, in their efforts to do so, to heap great costs upon the community; while the opponents of reasonable Protective duties are anxious, as far as possible, to assist the great mass of the people. The Tariff debate has shown that the position is exactly the opposite. Honorable members who are opposed to reasonable Protection have freely admitted throughout the Tariff debates’ that they believe that wages in Australia should fall, and fall quickly. My object in fighting for this Tariff is to make Australia self-contained, and to insure that the masses of the people who, from the beginning of the war period, have been struggling to bring their wages into line with the increase in the cost of living, but who have not yet succeeded in doing so, shall not suffer a reduction in wages such as is taking place at the present time all overEurope. It behoves us to see that living conditions in Australia are maintained on a reasonable basis. It is argued that these increased duties will, if carried, increase the cost of building operations. ‘ Building costs are undoubtedly high, and everything, in short, is dear. But the very people whom our opponents in this matter are endeavouring to protect - the importers - have profiteered to as great an extent as any class of business people of whom I know. They have not hesitated to put up prices. I shall not be permitted to speak now of any other matter but that immediately before . the Chair; but, incidentally, I may say that the importers to-day are bringing down their prices as slowly aspossible. As I stated last night, Mr. Knibbs shows that, with a proper system of re-afforestation, we have an ample supply of timber to meet our requirements ‘ for the next 150 years.’ We have a greater area than most countries, and possess vast tracts of forest country. That being so, it ought to be possible for us to provide for all our requirements in the matter of timber..
Coming to the question of employment, I find that there are 1,575 factories dealing with timber in this country, and that they employ 22,756 hands. Unfortunately, many of those men to-day are out of employment. I have just received two telegrams urging me to vote for higher duties in order to save further unemployment in the timber industry. No less a sum than £2,782,214 is annually distributed in connexion with the production of timber in Australia, and we should endeavour to see that there is no falling off in that direction. It is argued by some honorable members opposite that many men engaged in the timber industry are out of work to-day because of the high cost of building. During the war, when we suffered from inflated costs and when building costs were higher than they are to-day, more building was carried on in Australia than during any like period. It cannot be urged, therefore, that the depression in the building trade to-day is due only to high costs. One reason for that depression is that we have to pay for land to-day twice as much as we had to pay for it a few years ago. Another is that the banks are very slow to make advances on house property. It is practically impossible to obtain money for building purposes. That is one of the chief troubles. Those who have money to lend on house property can get 8 per cent, for it. I do not hesitate to say that if to-morrow £1,000,000 were made available at 8 per cent, for investment in house property in the Newcastle district, it would quickly be taken up. The cost of building, and, indeed, of everything else, ought to come down, . but because we are trying to protect the timber industry and to find employment for our own people as against those overseas, we are told that we are endeavouring to heap further costs on the community. The Minister said the duty might represent £12 in respect of the timber required for a four-roomed cottage, but he was careful to say that he did not admit that the duty would be passed on. I do not think it will be passed on.
– If I thought it would be I would not vote for it.
– -Nor would I. We are asked why we wish to impose an increased duty if it will not increase the cost of timbers. My answer is that we wish to make the cost of imported timber such that it will be used only where it is absolutely necessary. The point has been stressed that imported timber is ab solutely necessary for certain purposes; but we are using it in many cases where it is not necessary. In 1913 - the year prior to the war - we imported 458,927,000 super, feet of timber. Will any one say that that quantity was required for special purposes? Is it not obvious that a large proportion of it must have been used where Australian timbers might well have been employed?
– In the same year the timbersawn and hewn in the Commonwealth was 472,394,000 super, feet.
– Quite so. The value of the timber imported in 1913 was no less than £2,837,997.
– And in that year houses to the value of £8,000,000 were built in Sydney.
– I do not dispute that statement. I have just pointed out that the depression in the building trade at the present time is due to the fact that money is not available.
– Will these increased duties make money cheaper?
– They will not release more money for building purposes, but what money can be obtained for building purposes will be used in finding employment for people in Australia, instead of overseas. It is idle for us to talk of the lessons of the war if we continue to open our ports to material that can be produced here in sufficient quantities to meet our requirements.
It has been said that Australia does uot produce timber suitable for mining purposes. I used great quantities of jarrah’ while mining in Western, Australia, and I know of no better timber for the purpose.
– Jarrah is wauted for railway sleepers throughout Australia;
– It is being exported.
– That is so. It is an excellent timber for mining purposes. I have seen oregon practically give way under a pressure which jarrah would have withstood. We have hardwoods that are good enough for any purpose, and their breaking strain is greater than that of oregon. Oregon is used by some mining companies, not. because it is hotter than jarrah, but because it is lighter,’ and, therefore, costs less in the matter of freights and is easier to handle. Why should honorable members suggest that these increased duties will heap additional cost on the people? I do notbelieve. they will add one penny to the cost of building a house, but that they will help to keep the Australian market for Australian timbers. Owing to the fall in freights and the drop in wages in other countries we shall be unable, in the absence of adequate duties, to prevent the importation of timber in enormous quantities. It is idle to talk of a natural Protection enjoyed by the industry here. Quite a number of saw-millers have told me that it costs more to bring timber from Northern- New South Wales to Sydney than it costs to convey it from America to Sydney. That being so, is it not fair to protect this industry ? Will these duties add to the cost of building?
– Of course they will.
– That is not so. Their only effect will be to prevent the use of so much imported timber as is employed in building construction at the present time. Oregon is becoming cheaper every week, and is likely to continue to fall in price. We must provide for our own people.. I want to see living conditions in . this country continued, on a reasonable basis. The bottom is falling out of everything abroad, and the workers are asked . to accept from 20 to 40 per cent, reductions in wages. Unless we take steps to prevent that sort of thing, we shall have it here also. . For these reasons, the Committee will act wisely if it accepts the Minister’s amendment. I withdraw my amendment in favour of his.
.- I’ repeat that if this item, at the duty proposed by the Minister; is carried, it will irritate the people of Australia more than any other item in the Tariff. It is sickening to hear the repetition again and again of statements about supporting Australian industries. We are asking for, at least, a reasonable duty on timber that has been imported in the past and will continue to be imported, whatever Tariff is put on.
– We must stand to the local industries, and keep the money in the country. ‘ «
– I know that argument. Honorable members know that this timber must come in, and that it is one of- the raw materials for nearly all the industries in this country in one way or another.
– What, oregon?
Mr. RICHARD FOSTER. Yes,
Oregon, and the people know it. If they do not, I am going to let them know it. I am amazed at this Government, in these ‘ times, with the present need of buildings in every city, and in every part of every State -
– And at Canberra, too.
– Yes, and there, too, when they get started - I am amazed,, I say, at this Government putting an. additional burden on these industries and increasing’ the overhead expenses. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) has been talking about the reason why money cannot be obtained to build houses. One reason is that money is scarce and tight. Another is that houses cost so much to-day that building is about the worst speculation to go in for. It is not a good venture, as there is no margin of safety in it. Do honorable members think that banks and other financial institutions are going to lend money on that sort of thing? Do they think they are going to be guided by the sort of talk we have heard to-day about exhausting the forests, of Australia, when we are dealing with an article for which there is no substitute in Australia, as the forest owners admit? They, say they might get some portion of their timbers in as a substitute, but that it would, not be an appreciable quantity. We have put only a very light duty on
Oregon in the past, and to propose a rate of 4s. ‘at this, of all times in the history of Australia, is . preposterous. I appeal to the Government, once again, to reconsider their decision.
– Too late!
– Then they and those who vote wilththem must take the responsibility. I shall not do so.
– We want to keep the money in Australia.
– That is another parrot cry.’ We have, heard nothing but parrot cries about keeping the money in Australia and supporting Australian industries. I make one more appeal to the Acting Prime Minister not to insist on a 4s. duty on this raw material for every industry.
– Will you tell me what I can do, with a House like this?
– I could tell the right honorable gentleman what the people would do with the Government if they had a chance. Those who support the proposed duty are going to injure the very men for whom they say they are pleading - that is, the men who are out of work. They are conferring a favour upon a relatively small section, and by doing so are putting twenty times more burden on the workers in the building trade.
– It is reality, and the people know it. In Adelaide, the State Bank, under the State Government, is building soldiers’ homes on behalf of the Federal Government. The Federal Government is responsible, and, therefore, the State Government will not have any loss in the matter. But the same Bank has been building civilian homes since five or six years before the war. If the State Government were building civilian homes instead of soldiers’ homes, on behalf of the Federal Government, through this’ agency, materials are so costly to-day that there would have to be a cessation of building. If they build a house now, and put a purchaser in it, the cost of the house is so great that the purchaser may go out in six or twelve months’ time, and leave the Government to carry the baby. .
– The Government cannot get the people to go into the houses that they have built in New South Wales. They cost too much for the people to be able to pay the rent that they ask.
– The soldiers say the same thing in South Australia now, and their houses are costing a good deal less. Not merely soldiers, of whom there are many thousands, but civilians, the artisan population of Australia, are waiting for homes, and require them to-day as they never required them before. They are paying such rents as are impoverishing them.
– You go round among the landlords and convert them a bit ; that is where you should get busy.
– The honorable member will see everything but the right thing. He and other honorable members have, for the last three or four years, been advocating Fair Rent Courts and price-fixing Commissions. Yet today they are adding to the burdens of the community, and increasing rents. The honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) read to-day a report from the Public Works Department of Victoria. The Public Works Department of every Government in Australia will say what that report says, yet here is the Commonwealth Government putting an extra burden on nearly every bit of their public undertakings. This is not done- to protect Australian industries. It simply puts a heavy weight of duty on a timber that we always have imported, and always will import. I have a profound conviction that in this matter the Government are making a serious blunder, and that those who vote for the increased duty will make a serious blunder also. In’ South Australia they are creating trouble for us and for the working; man, who is going to feel it every time, and they know- it. I cannot conceive that -this Committee can deliberately do this thine, if they think of wider national interests, . and not of petty parochial backyard interests.
– Do not these arguments apply to reapers and binders ?
– I thought the reaper and binder was a colonial industry.
– I do not know anything about it; I am merely asking.
– The honorable member is about the only Free Trader left.
– He is a Protectionist on timber.
Mr.Wise. - The honorable member had better drop the question of Free Trade and Protection.
– I will not drop the question of Oregon and Baltic timber, and this will not be my last statement on the subject. In the twelve or thirteen years that I have been in this House I have never had a word to say on grievance day, but, by Heavens, I am going to make up for it on this question.
– I listened with considerable interest to the speech of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton). It seems to me unfortunate that these duties should have to be considered at a time when the conditions of the industry are such as to enable very specious arguments to be put forward, based on the fact that large numbers of men are unemployed at this time. I do not forget, however, that only a little while ago, in New South- Wales, the Labour platform was occupied by men whose principal stock-in-trade was denunciation of the enormous profits that were being made by the Timber Combine out of the returned soldiers and the workers who wanted to erect homes for themselves. I agreed with them then, and I agree with them now.
– The timber merchants are the Timber Combine, if you ask me. It is not the saw-millers.
– I am not asking the honorable member for any information as to the Timber Combine in New South Wales. His remarks show him to be utterly ignorant of the facts of that matter, but he cannot pretend to be ignorant of the fact that, as the result of the high price of timber and other building commodities to-day, a working man cannot get a decent house at a price within his command. As evidence of that, we have in our State a Labour Government erecting workers’ homes, and unable to do so at a price that will enable the worker to pay the rent which must be asked for them. The State Government have ‘on hand to-day numbers of such houses, and the workers are unable to pay the necessary rent for them. The reason is that which members of the Onposition gave in this chamber all through the last session, that, owing to the war and its circumstances, the predatory industries of this country were able to raise their prices to a level far beyond what was fair. I said in connexion with another item in this schedule, that the cause of the industries of Australia had Been prejudiced in the public eye by the action of some of the commanders of industry in this country. The timber industry stands at the head of those which exercised every power they had to extract the last shilling from the people, who were at their mercy during the war. Today we have the spectacle of the men who profess to be the special ‘ representatives of the .working class seeking to impose such a Tariff as will fix the price of this commodity, not at the normal figure, which we were used to paying before the war, or even at that normal figure plus the increase of wages which was secured during the war,, but at the very highest price which the Combines were able to get from the people during the war, and to make that the standard of timber values to the working people of Australia and to all the industries that use timber in Australia. The Minister does wrong to ask us to accept that standard of value as the standard that we should protect by this Tariff. If there is one industry more than another to which we should say, “Bring down your prices to a fair thing,” it is the timber industry. Could we get better proof that the prices charged for timber are inordinately high than the fact that the Government of Queensland charges royalty, sometimes amounting to 25s. per 100 feet, on the timber cut in its forests? The high prices of timber are reflected, not only in the rentals which the workers have to pay for the houses in which they live, but also in the high prices charged for the commodities constructed largely of wood, which are produced in factories, on which the Timber Combines have livied their toll. The dearness of timber affects the whole fabric of our industrial life. It is to me unthinkable that men sent here to represent the workers, and claiming a special right to voice the opinions of the people’, should fight in the vanguard for the big monopolies which the Labour party has hitherto condemned. I regret that the Minister has yielded to the pressure put on him. The Tariff duties originally proposed were fair to all the industries concerned. But many honorable members have been, misled by the fact that unemployment to-day is rife in the timber industry. Why is it rife? The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) has supplied the answer to that question. It is rife, not because timber from abroad is pushing Australian timber out of the market, but because neither the imported nor the local timber is being used as it was in 1920, and that is due to the fact that money cannot be obtained for an investment which gives so small a return as house property built while timber is at its present extortionate prices. The people are taking the advice which honorable members opposite gave them .a few months ago, and are saying to the timber companies, “ Until you reduce your prices, we will not use your commodities.” In orderto defeat the public, the timber interests are demanding more Protection to enable them to continue the exploitation of the public. Glad as I should he to see everyindustry protected which acts fairly towards the community, I refuse, under these circumstances, to go as far as the Minister proposes. Until the financial position has been adjusted, no Tariff that we can pass will cause more houses to be built. Honorable members opposite are buoying up the workers engaged in the industry with false hope in asking them to believe that this Parliament, by passing high duties, and playing into the hands of the timber monopolists, will provide them with work. It will be impossible by any Protection to set the timber-mills going, so long as the prices of timber remain, what they are to-day. We should better serve the people of this country it, instead of trying to buttress up the timber monopoly, we devoted our energies to reducing the cost of building. As is everywhere acknowledged, and as has been often repeated in this chamber, nothing is more urgent’ than ascheme for the housing of the people. In New South Wales, a Fair Rents Court has been set up, with the result that no one in that State will build a house to let to another ; so that the worker finds that he must buy a house in which to live ; and houses that used to cost £500, £550, and £600 wereyesterday costing £800, to-day are costing £900, and, should Parliament enable the timber monopolists to extort still more from their customers, will in the near future cost £1,000. The Repatriation Department,’ the War Service Homes Department, the State Savings Bank of Victoria, the Housing Board of New South Wales are Government Departments that tell the same story, which is, that, owing to the extortionate charges for materials the building trade is stagnating. The figures which have been used in this debate to support the case for the timber merchants show the futility of their arguments. In 1920, before this moderate Tariffwas tabled, building was increasing’ in all the States. After this Tariff was tabled, the activity continued, the building in the metropolitan area of New South Wales in 1920 equalling that in 1913. Then came the financial strain, and this activity ceased. It has ceased because many persons cannot sell houses at a price which would compensate them for the prices they were charged for the material used in them.
– And others cannot afford to live in those houses.
-That is so. If honorable members knew the profits made by the great timber control of New South Wales, they would be in possession of one of the reasons why to-day it is impossible to build cheaply. I hope that the Committee will not agree to the Minister’s proposal to impose exorbitant duties for the protection of an industry that is already in a position to demand from the people more than it is entitled to ask. During the war the timber industry made enormous profits, and its policy of grab and greed having overshot the mark, it should not expect this Parliament, especially the representatives of the working classes, to further bolster up its profiteering.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn..
-I submit for the consideration of the honorable member forIllawarra (Mr. Lamond) this fact, that during the year 1921, limber to the value of over £4,000,000 was imported into this country, and I ask him whether it would not have been to the advantage of Australia, - or at least a large part of it - if this money had been spent on the purchase of Australian timber, and whether that expenditure would not have gone a long way to relieve the present financial stringency?
.- Many honorable members who havespoken in this debate have not been able to state their case without wild exaggeration. For example, the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Richard Foster) said that if we imposed the rates proposed by the Minister, the number of builders who would bo unemployed ‘ would be twenty times as large as the number who would be . unemployed if our saw-milling industry ceased to exist. The figures submitted, by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) disclosed that there are 22,000 employees in the. milling industry to-day. ‘ If we multiply that number by -twenty, in accordance with the views expressed by the honorable memberforWakefield (Mr. Richard Foster), . we find that there are 440,000 persons who are engaged in building within the Commonwealth. I invite attention to these figures, because they offer a very . good example of the wild statements made by the honorable member for Wakefield . when he was dealing with., the duties proposed upon this item. They show that we can very well afford to pass over any arguments which he has’ advanced, despite the eloquence with which he presented them, and the beat which he displayed. I fear, however, th at the duties suggested by the Minister are really insufficient to give to the milling industry that measure of protection which is absolutely necessary. Nevertheless, I am convinced that we shall have to accept them. But I would again urge the honorable gentleman to consider the suggestion which has been put forward by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) and myself, in regard to an alteration in the sizes of the timberwhich is covered by this particular sub-item. I would like tosee the sub-item amended in such a way that the duties to be levied shall apply to timber in sizes of 12 inches x 12 inches instead of 32 inches x 6’ inches. Without doubt, the sizes which are being imported to-day are cut specially to meet our Tariff requirements. Is the Minister prepared to consider the suggestion which I am now making.?
– It has been contended that if we impose the duties suggested by the Minister the price of timber will be proportionately increased. May I remind honorablemembers that the c.i.f. cost of Oregon, whichhas entered so largely into this discussion, landed in Melbourne, is 17s. per 100 super, feet, and that it is being retailed at 40s. per 100 super, feet. Obviously there is plenty of room for a reduction in its price, even if we increase the duties proposed to be levied upon it It is very evident, too, that there will be a considerable reduction in the price of this particular timber in the near future. It has been said that the timber industry has been profiteering, inasmuch as it has charged exorbitant prices to the consumer.
But it should be remembered that the average cost of producing 100 super, feet of timber in Victoria in 1908 was only 5s. 2d., whereas in 1921 it was 17s. 8d. - an increase of 12s. 6d. In New South Wales the cost of production in 1908 was , 10s. 8d. per 100 super, feet, whereas in 1921 it was 26s. 3d.,an increase of15s. 7d. In Tasmania, the cost of production in 1908 was 8s. 8d . per 100 super) feet, whereas in 1921 it was 23s. l0d. During recent years thecost of production has increased at such a rate as tonecessitate a considerable increase in the priceof timber. I believe that the Timber Association of Australia has given to the Minister a written assurance that it will not increase its prices. I told the gentlemen who represent the milling industry that unless I had some, such assurance I was not prepared to advocate their cause. I understand that a definite assurance to that effect has now been given. In view of the facts which I have stated, we are justified in believing that even if the duties upon this sub-item be increased, the builder will not be confronted with excessive costs. In conclusion, I would remind the Committee that to a large extent our saw-mills have already ceased to operate. In the northern portion of Tasmania there are forty-two mills which have closed down, with the result that the men engaged in them have been thrown out of employment. We arc amply justified, therefore, in giving to the industry some measure of protection, with a view to insuring its continuance, in the interests not. merely of the . workers em- ployed in it, but ofthe whole community, trust that honorable members will support the duties suggested by the Minister, though I fear that they will be insufficient to insure the successful continuanceof the industry.
.- I move -
That sub-item (f) be amended by adding the following words : - “ And on and after24th June, 1921, per l00 super, feet, British intermediate, 3s.; general,4s.”
After the long debate I do not think it is necessary for me to say any more. If I could have met some of my honorable friends I should have been glad to do so; but under the circumstances 1 feel that what I suggest is a fair compromise, which ought to meet the views that have been expressed.
.- When I spoke, this afternoon I was under the impression that a compromise had been arranged with the Minister for a duty of 3s. Every honorable member knows that the only column which affects the question is the general column; if we made’ the other two columns blank there would not be the slightest difference, and I intend to move that the duties bo 2s., 2s., and 3s. There is little possibility of any considerable fall in timber values in Queensland. I think that a duty of 3s. is too high on an article which cannot’ be produced in Australia. For a number of purposes there is no timber here that can . take the place of the imported timber. ‘ We have heard much about unlimited supplies in Queensland, and I wish to place on record some recent . information as to the quantity . which is available. Some, of the statements madeby the honorable member f or , Wide Bay (Mr. Corser); if left uncontradicted, might leave a wrong, impression on the Committee. In the reportof the Queensland Director’ of Forests for the., year ending ‘ 30th June, 1920, it is stated’: -
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 he 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.
The opening paragraph of the Queensland Director of Forests’ report is as follows : -
The Queensland Forest Service, with limited stocks of timber. In hand, and strong demands in sight, has upon it the burden of the responsibility, not only of supplying the wood requirements of the community of to-day, but of making immediate provision for the seeds’ of three generations ahead. Upon the adoption of rightsilvicultural . processes depends the economical establishment of the area of fullystockedforest necessary for Queensland’s industrial development. The earlier these processes are adopted the sooner a condition of imminent bankruptcy of timber will be avoided, and stability in timber prices maintained.
The control ofthe State’s log export trade by . the Forestry authority is pending; and a consequential participation in the lumber import trade in order to bridge the gap between the old forests and. the new is a matter which may. call for consideration eventually.
This is the paragraph to which I particularlydesire to direct the attention of honorable,members-
Undoubtedly, importation of wood into the Commonwealth must be resumed as soon as possible, and be continued until Australia has become self-reliant in the matter of timber sup ply. But mill costs have more than doubled in all countries, and in the ease of our largest’ supplier, the United States of America, the present mill price represents little more thou the cost of production. Normalization of. the exchange rate should result in a lowering of the delivered cost at Australian ports, but this is likely to be balanced byan increase in the mill price as American surplus timber supplies become reduced, owing not only to the overcoming of an existing car shortage, with the consequent diversion of a proportion of the western supplies to the eastern States to make up the deficiency resulting from . the exhaustion of the south-eastern pine belts during’ the war period.
The. competition of cheap imported woods is likely to affect ‘ Queensland ‘. less than any’ other State, particularly ‘as Queensland timber and cabinet wood- are of higher intrinsic worth, than the lumber from the United States of America . or the Baltic. .
I quote that report in order to emphasize, the fact that, if the imposition of this duty has . the effect which honorable members who support it desire, it will lead to a still further depletion of our timber supplies. There is a warning in the report from which I have quoted to which the people should listen. I have also here some works on timber in America, though I do not propose to read them. I do desire to say, however, that they all clearly show that the timber supplies in the United States are being rapidly depleted, and that it will not be very many’ years bef ore we shall be unable to import supplies of. Oregon such as we get to-day. It would be a wise policy on the part of the Commonwealth and the people of Australia to carefully conserve our timber resources by importing the timber we require for building purposes at the cheapest rate. I am astounded at the limited vision of the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) on this question. If the object of those who support the high duties is attained, and a few hundred people are employed in the saw-mills of Australia, it will mean, as the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Richard Foster) plainly said, that very many more hundreds, if not thousands, of mem engaged in the building trade will be walking about workless owing to the high cost of the timber which is necessary for building, and which, as I have clearly shown, hasno substitute: in Australia. The . duty of 4s. will in every case beadded to the cost of the timber supplied to contractors, thus still further aggravating our present difficulties.’ . Speculative . builders, are afraid to build houses for lettiug purposes because of – the very high coat of materials.’ I personally know that . architects’ offices in South Australia aro full of proposals for buildings of various sorts. Plans have been drawn and tenders called for, but the tenders have been in every case so high . that people have been deterred’ from building, and -are waitinguntil the cost of materials comes down. If the Committee succeeds in increasing the price of Oregon by 4s. per 100 super.’ f eet, as proposed’ by the Minister for Trade and Customs, the present difficulties will be aggravated, and the- construction’ of buildings in Australia still further retarded. Our population . is increasing. ‘ People are getting married every day, and. desire to obtain houses in which to live. This [increases the competition for houses ; and, as an honorable member-opposite . has said, the only. hope that any one now has of getting a house that has become vacant is to pay from £4 to £8 for the key to secure the first chance- of getting into it. I. was perfectly willing to compromise to the extent of accepting a. duty of 3s. in the:general Tariff,: although I believe that that would be 3s. too much.. I believe that -the duty proposed will increase rather:’. -than- decrease unemployment in Australia. It will increase the cost of housesand rents, and will,have’ exactly the opposite effect to that desired bythose who’ would like the dutieson this timber to be even- higher than those, proposed by the Minister. . Would I be in order in submitting as an alternative proposal . to that made by the Minister, that the duty should be: - British, 8s.; intermediate, 3s; and general, 3s.?
– The honorable member could give effect to what he desires by moving that 3s. be substituted for. 4s. in the amendment submitted by the Minister.
– Then I move-
That the amendment be. amended by omitting “ 4s.” with a view to insert iu lieu thereof “3s.”.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN:The usual procedure is to put the amendment proposing ‘the -highest duty, first, and subsequently- amendments proposing lower duties. I shall, therefore, put first theamendment submitted by; the Minister for Trade- and Customs.
-Will the Minister withdraw his amendment in favour of the proposal made’ by- the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Story)?
– He will not got a vote to-night if he does.
– I should like’ to have’ a vote on my amendment, and if it is not carried I shall accept a duty of 3s. in each column.
– That will not be accepted..
– It has been said’ that honorable members who are in.’favour of a low duty on, this item are “buttering” up the importers of timberwho took advantage of the people of . Australia during the war. What are the facts?. There was no Oregon coming into the country ‘during- the war, and we were compelled to . use Australian hardwood. The result . was that merchants -and saw-millers dealing . in Australian hardwood put up their prices. They took advantage of - the market. So far, from honorable members who ‘believe in low duties. -on. timber’ standing behind those responsible for putting up the price of timber during the . war, the reverse ‘is the case, and ; a combine of Australian merchants and; saw-millerscontrolling, the trade in Australian hardwood put up their prices by 300. and 400 per cent. If I. canmake those -people go back to prewar prices I shall give my vote to do so. In New South Wales the StateGovernment were erecting buildings at Daceyville, but they have had tostop the erection, of those buildings because of the excessive cost of materials; We have, a Tariff introduced to protect the timber industry, and the Minister proposes an increase of over 200 per cent, on the duties he originallysubmitted. What is the justification’ for that? We expected prices to fall after the war, and there was a tendency in that direction, but the action of the Government in this matter will tend to keep up the price of timber.
All that I can do to prevent the proposed duties becoming law will be done in the interests of people who must have houses. Another matter which cannot be overlooked is that oregon has been, imported into Australia to such an extent that all the timber yards are stocked with it. One. firm. . alone in New South Wales that I could mention has 11,000,000 feet of Oregon in stock. It was imported . with a duty of1s. per 100 super, feet, and the Minister now proposes to increase the duty to 4s. We have only to multiply the increase of 3s. by 11,000,000 to see what a fortune will be amassed by this firm in one night if the Minister’s proposal is accepted. Some members of this Committee are prepared to vote for that. I have mentioned only one firm in my own State; but all the timber merchants have been importing oregon at the duty previously in existence. The Minister now proposes to make a present to all importers of oregon timber of 3s. per 100 super, feet on all their stocks in hand. Who would get the advantage?
– And who will pay it ?
– Yes, who will pay it? The people,, of course. If the Minister does not do a fair thing to the people of this country, I am prepared to fight him on this issue all night. I am agreeable to a compromise of, say, a duty of 3s. all, round. Will the Minister agree to that?
– I want a vote to-night.
– Without a compromise on the lines I have suggested, I am prepared to continue all night. The firm which has 11,000,000 feet of timber on hand will make many thousands of pounds to-morrow if we increase the duties as the Minister proposes to-night. Will the workers get any . benefit from that ? I told my electors that I was a Protectionist, but I am not a Protectionist to the extent of bolstering up monopolies. Here we are engaged in bolstering up a timber monopoly. The firm of Allan ‘Taylor, of Sydney, which has steamers running up the north coast of New South Wales, can charge freight equal to those between San Francisco and Sydney, because it has the whole trade in its own hands. I ask the Minister to accept ‘a reasonable compromise.
.- I also ask the Minister to show some spirit of compromise. Some honor- . able members are quite unreasonable, but on the part of those who are pledged to higher duties than the Minister proposes, . a spirit of compromise is evident, and those who are opposed to the imposition of any duty are prepared to make a big sacrifice by agreeing to a reasonable rate. But if the Minister is not prepared to come down a little it will be necessary to continue the debate.
– Is not that a deliberate threat?
– I am not making any threat; I am showing a spirit of tolerance. I have never been provoked in my life so much as I have been over this unreasonable business. I am simply asking the Minister if there is to be any compromise. I am acting as I am from a strict sense of duty.
– Are not others acting as they are from a strict sense of duty?
– But there is no reason in their attitude. I am amazed at the silence of the Minister.
– He has made a com-, promise. His proposal is a compromise between 4s. and 5s.
– His original proposal was1s., and he is evidently, prepared to increase the burden by 300 per cent. I feel that I have a duty to perform to the people of this country, especially to the homeless, and I am- not going to give up the fight easily. I have . never come across a more unreasonable attitude than that of some honorable members who want the whole of the people of the Commonwealth to carry a burden that will not tend to . protect one Australian industry. Let me again appeal to the Minister to realize that these duties, he proposes will not seriously assist any Australian industry. If they would, I would not be so persistent. But they will not do so.
– Who said so?
– That has been admitted by men in the business in Queensland and New South Wales, who have said that there- is no realeffective substitute for oregon and Baltic timber. It is proposed to increase the first proposal of the
Minister by 300 per cent., and that burden is to be placed upon the people of Australia. The additional impost will be felt most severely by the workers in the community. I again appeal to honorable members on this side of the chamber to exhibit a spirit of reasonableness, and if they do not wish to do so, I shall take every opportunity of bringing the matter forward until the people receive a fair deal. I am amazed at the attitude of the Government on -this question. Their actions will not be the means of protecting any Australian industry, but will . impose a burden on people who already have sufficient responsibilities to carry. There is not a part of the Commonwealth which is not affected by these proposals, . and those people in the back country, particularly the farmers, who have to use this material will be the chief sufferers. I wish that those who will be so seriously affected had an opportunity of expressing their opinions.
.- It is quite evident-
– The- honorable member agreed to accept this.
– It is quite evident that we have reached the psychological moment when every member of the Committee desires to learn whether he should, vote for a duty of 3s. or 4s. under the general Tariff. We have to consider the effect this proposal will have on . the cost of living.
– The honorable member said that he would support a duty of 4s.
– I have a distinct recollection of saying that I would support a duty of 4s. if I could not get the Minister to agree to 3s. Has the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene), fully considered the effect the proposed duties will have on the present excessive, preposterous, and extortionate cost of living?
-Let us have a division to see what is desired.
Question - That the words proposed to be added to sub-item f (Mr. Greene’s amendment) be so added - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 20
– (Hon. J. M. Chanter). - Order!
– I want to know, Mr. Chairman, how it is that when the division was called the Temporary Chairman was enabled to leave his place, and you came to occupy the chair?
– A. cunning dodge. .
– That is what I call it. A trick of the Government
– The Government had nothing to do with it.
– Order! I desire the Committee to understand that there has been no arrangement in respect of the release of the Temporary Chairman during this division,, so far as the Government are concerned.
– -No; the arrangement has been made by the Chairman of Committees.
– Order ! I wish to inform honorable members that, some- . time ago, I arranged with my deputies upon a certain course of action in order that they should not be deprived of their , privilege of participating in a division, if . they desired to avail themselves of it I arranged that, in such circumstances, I would be available to be called upon at any time when one of them wished me to relieve him in the chair.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment agreed to.
Mr.Riley. - I desire to raise a point of order, but if I am to dissent from your ruling, Mr. Chairman,, may I ask to whom I am to appeal? You are now in occupation of the chair. If I raise a point of order concerning your right to be in occupancy ef the chair during the division, shall I not be appealing to yourself as Deputy Speaker? I tell you, sir, that I do not intend to appeal to yon.
– Will the honorable member please Btate his point of order ?
– It is this : Never in the history of this, or any other Parliament, when a division has been oalled for in Committee, has such a proceeding been witnessed as the Temporary Chairman retiring from his occupancy of . the chair in order . to participate in the division, and the Chairman of Committees taking his place. .
– The honorable member is wrong. It has been done before. I have been a party to such a proceeding.
– Order I There is no point of order. I wish the honorable member to understand the position. The Speaker is, unfortunately, very ill. As his deputy, I have undertaken the -duties attaching to the Speakership; and, in carrying them out, I have sedulously refrained from participating in divisions, as I had always done hitherto. I have seen it as my duty, in the oiroumstances, to stand on one side. As for proceedings in Committee, I have called upon my deputies to assist Mr. Speaker and myself by taking turns in occupancy of the chair. And I have arranged that, should any of them at any time chance to. be in the chair when a division was called, and desire to participate therein, in order hot to disfranchise their constituency, they should call upon me. Whereupon, still retaining my position as’ Chairman of Committees, I would take the chair and conduct the division. That- is the whole position,.. and I maintain, that it is a very proper one.
Mr.McWilliams. - The point raised by the honorable member for South ‘ Sydney (Mr. Riley)-
– Order! There is no point of order. ..
– There is. You will not listen to it.
– Then I wifl raise . this point of order, namely, that, in the circumstances, the proper course would have been to appoint yon, sir, as Acting Speaker, and to appoint an Acting Chairman of Committees. Suppose that anything were to occur during the sitting of the Committee while- you were in occupancy of the chair; and suppose that any -honorable member were to take objection to your ruling, you, as Deputy Speaker, would be called upon to decide in respect ef your, own . ruling. as Ghairman of Committees, -which would ; be quite prepoateroue.
– Order! The honorable member is wrong, and reveals his lack of knowledge of the Standing Orders. - These make clear and full proVision for such an emergency. Any dissent from the ruling of the Chairman,, or of any of his deputies, is not referred to Mr. Speaker, but is decided by the Committee itself. No ‘ reference can come to Mr. Speaker or his deputy’ from Committee. If. exception is taken to a ruling given . in Committee, I repeat that the matter is determined . by the Committee itself.
– That is no ruling.
Mr.West.-I am. . not disobeying, you: I am trying to put you in your proper place.
– Order ! If the honorable member persists in defying the Chair, I shall be compelled to namehim.
– I cannot help that.
– Whom will you send for, sir, in order to report the matter, if you . name an honorable member?
– I want to take a point of order concerning the fact that yon are now occupyingthe chair. To whom am I to appeal if I object to any ruling yon may give on my point of order?’
– I have already pointed out the facts of the position. If the honorable memberobjects, in
Committee, to any ruling from the Chair; if for instance, he holds, that I am improperly in occupation of , the Chair,, it will be for the Committee to decide the matter straightway.
-I rise to indorse what you, Mr. Chairman, have said with regard to the position you . are. now’ occupying. Speaking, as. oneof the Temporary Chairmen of Committee,I desire to say that it was’ the unanimous request, of the Temporary Chairman of; Committees . that you, sir, should .. take the chairso that each of us should have an ‘opportunity to vote. We did not want to shirk the responsibility cast upon us of voting on any question that might arise.
Mr.GREENE (Richmond- Minister for’ Trade and Customs) [11.12]:- I move -
That the item be further amendedby adding tha following to sub-item (G): - “And on and after24th June, 1921, per 100 super, feet, British, 4s.6d., intermediate, 4s. 6d.; general, 6s. 6d.
This does not mean as large an increase as on the previous item, the reason being that on looking into the balance of the items when going through the Tariff, it seemed to me that the difference between the sub-item we are. now considering and the previous one was unnecessarily,high. I am, therefore; asking for . a. duty per 100 super, feet less than is imposed In respect of the other sub-item.
House adjourned at 11.18 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 23 June 1921, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1921/19210623_reps_8_96/>.