8th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Hon. 7. M. Chanter) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Is the
Acting Prime Minister yet able to state the date on which the next payment of 1s. 3d. per bushel, in respect of last season’s wheat, will be made?
– I am not able to state the precise date. Authority has gone out from the Treasury to make the payment, and the moment the accounts can be presented the money will be paid. There should now be a date in sight. I will make inquiries and advise the honorable member.
– I ask the Minister for Trade and Customs whether it is a fact that the Government intend to grant a rebate of £20 per ton on all sugar purchased by jam manufacturers from Australian stocks. If so will the difference between the price so paid and the price paid by householders have to be made up by the general body of consumers?
– The facts are not as stated in the honorable member’s question. An agreement has been made that the jam manufacturers in respect of jam for export purposes only shall be allowed to import their own sugar for which they, of course, will pay whatever happens to be the world’s market price at the time. Owing to the fact that the manufacturers have on hand large stocks of pulp, and that it would take some time to make the necessary financial arrangements, as well as to get the sugar here, it has been agreed that theGovernment shall lend to them for the time being certain stocks of sugar, and that they shall pay for that sugar the full market price. On their exporting the jam in which this sugar is used, however, they will be given a rebate of £20 per ton. When they get their imported sugar they are to replace ton for ton and quality for quality whatever sugar we lend them in that’ way.
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs endeavour to arrangethat the proposed Bill to amend the Customs Act shall be introduced as speedily as possible, and carried to the second-reading stage, so’ that we may have his explanation of the principles of the measure a few days before the consideration of the Tariff is concluded in Committee. That would enable us togive the measure closer examination . than would be possible if the Bill were not introduced until we had completed the consideration of the Tariff?
– I think the honorable member refers to the Bills to which I have made reference more than once in the course of the Tariff debate.
– That is so.
– There will not be a Bill to amend the CustomsAct. When the consideration of the Tariff schedule has been concluded by the Committee it will be necessary to introduce a Bill to which that Tariff schedule will be attached. I have taken out of that Bill everything except the machinery clauses for the operation of the intermediate and preferential Tariffs. We shall have also to deal with two other distinct measures - one providingfor the creation of a Tariff Board, and the other dealing with anti-dumping, which will include the ordinary anti-dumping legislation and special legislation in regard to the exchange position. I hope to be able to introduce these two Bills at the beginning of next week. If the House would give me permission on Tuesday next, presuming’ I am ready, as I believe . I shall be, to take those two Bills up to the second-reading stage and make my explanatory speech at that stage-
– And circulate the Bills.
– And have the Bills circulated, I shall be very happy to meet honorable members in that way.
– I desire to ask the Assistant Minister for Repatriation whether hie attention has been drawn to a statement in the press by Mr. Lang, a member of the New South Wales Parliament, that soldier settlement in that State has practically been closed down owing to the want of funds from the Commonwealth. There are a number of press statements to that effect, and I, therefore, ask the Minister to state definitely whether the Commonwealth has played the game with the States on this question.
– Questions on this very point have already been asked and answered in this House, but not one of themseems to have properly cleared the air. I therefore desire to make to the honorable member the definite statement that the Commonwealth is not in default to any State under the arrangement for soldier settlement. The Conference terms upon which the agreement was founded provided for the recoupment, by the Commonwealth, of expenditure incurred by the various States in respect of land resumption, public works, and advances to soldiers. In addition to that, the Commonwealth has from time to time made advances to the various States to enable them to carry out this programme in anticipation of recoupment. ‘ The New South Wales Government, during the present financial year,has been advanced for these purposes over £2,000,000.
There is not in the CommonwealthTreasury a certified claim from any of the Statesthat is unpaid. The terms of the agreement necessitate that these claims for recoupment shall have been certified to as correctby the responsible Minister of the State concerned and by his AuditorGeneral. All operations by the States are subject to these conditions; and, if there be claims in the State Treasury of New South Wales in respect of purchases, or if then be anysettlement not made as between the State and vendors, the responsibility does not lie with the Commonwealth until certified claims reach the Commonwealth Treasurer.
– Is the Acting Prime Minister in a position to give any information . to the House as to . when workat Cockatoo Island Dockyard will be commenced.
– I am informed that the transference will be completed tomorrow, and that work will proceed forthwith.
– It is not a complete transference.
– I ask the Minister for Trade and Customs whether he has seam in to-day’s Age a letter in which the following passage occurs: -
We ask you to give publicity to the injustice the Government imposes on Australians by permitting foreigners to trade unrestrictedlyin dyes, whilst forbidding Australians to do any business whatsoever.
Isthere a restriction upon the importation of dyes, and, if so, for what purpose?
– I think it would be well for the honorable member to. give notice of his question, so that’ I may make a full and complete statement to the House. The matter is related to a resolution of the Imperial Conference in respect of the manufacture of dyes in the Old Country, and it is a rather long story.
– Some months ago a Royal Commission, consisting of an expert from America, another from England, and a Mr. Garvan, ofSydney, was appointed to inquire into the question of the break of railway gauge. Does the Acting Prime Minister know whether the Commission has nearly completed its work, or whether a progress report has yet been furnished?
– I have not received a progress report. I understand the Commission is busily engaged on the inquiry, and will report in due course. When that will be I am unable to say, but I shall make inquiries as to what is being done.
Imprisonmentoftax Resisters : Ordinance
– I ask the Acting Prime Minister if it is a fact that a number of persons are being incarcerated by theCommon wealth Government at Darwin ; if so, is it the intention of the Government to continue the policy of putting these people in gaol? Will the right honorable gentleman indicate to the House the Government’s intention with regard to these people.
– I am awaiting the return to Melbourne of the Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Poynton), who has been to Darwin to investigate local conditions. As soon as he returns I shall confer with him in order to ascertain exactlywhat is taking place up there.
– Will the right honorable gentleman suspend the sentences of these men until the Minister returns? The Minister has full control.
– Of course, the Minister has full control, hut he ought not to set aside the law relating to payable taxes and the obligations which fall on Darwin residents as citizens of this country.
– They are not citizens of this country while they have.no representation in this Parliament.
– They may not becitizens in the same senseas we in Southern Australia are, but they are citizens none the less. I should like the honorable member to recollect that to keep these citizens going, and for other purposes connected with the development of the Territory, a very much larger amount per head is being spent upon them by us than upon a like number of citizens down here. On that ground alone, they ought to be prepared to pay their taxes.
– I have received a lengthytelegram from Darwin, in which it is stated that an Ordinance, which has not been gazetted, is being enforced; will the Acting Prime Minister lay upon the table two telegrams sentby the Darwin Town Council in regard to the representation of that body?
– This is another of those matters that are being dealt with by the Minister for Home and Territories. However, I shall be glad to find the telegrams, and place them before honorable members.
Mr.FENTON.- I understand that the Treasurer has statutory power to buy up Commonwealth Bonds in the market when they are cheap, and thus save interest. Has he been able to carry out any such money-saving transaction?
– I bought £7,500,000 worth ofbonds in one deal a little while ago, and, as I said on Friday, I have during this year cancelled £15,000,000 or £17,000,000 worth of debts in one way or another.
Auditors, Architects, Solicitors
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Fisher, referring to the Governor of the Bank, informed the House as follows : - “ As his honour, good name, and integrity will be involved, hewill have power to appoint and to dismiss employees of the Bank ashe chooses; this party takesall responsibility for that proposal.” The party included the honorable member for Melbourne.
– We were very, very wrong. We did not know the bounder we had appointed. ‘
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice. -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Employmentof Mr. David Lahey -
Purchases from J. F. Brett - Timber atcanungra.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– I can find no precedent for making public the information sought, and I do not feel justified in new creating one. I suggest that the honorable member could perhaps obtain this information from honorable members themselves.
Taxation of Prizes
asked the PostmasterGeneral,upon notice -
In view of the fact that the Treasurer of the Commonwealth has, through the Taxation Department, collected a tax upon all prizes in what are known as Tattersall’s Consultations, and, further, has appointed the management of what is known as Tattersall’s as agent -for the collection of the said tax, thus ‘apparently stultifying section 57 of the Post and Telegraph Act in its aim to minimize what has been described as the gambling instinctof the people,and as it appears by the continued popularity of the said consultation’s that the section is to all intents and purposes a dead letter, will the Postmaster-General take such action as may be necessary to amend the section, and thus remove the restrictions now imposed under the said section, thereby considerably increasing the revenues of the Postal Department ?
– On the 23rd June, the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Gibson) asked the following questions : -
I am now ina position to furnish the honorable member with the desired particulars, which are as follow: -
Positions advertised since 1st January, 1921, involving a new appointment to the Government service at a salary of £500 or over: -
Positions filled since 1st January, 1921, involving a new appointment to the Government service at a salary of £500 or over: - .
The following papers were presented : -
Audit Act. - Transfers of Amounts approved by the Governor-General in Council. - Financial Year 1920-21.- Dated 22nd June, 1921.
Defence Act. -Regulations Amended. - Statutory Rules 1921, Nos. 113 and 114.
Income Tax Assessment Act. - Regulations Amended. - Statutory Rules 1921, No. 112.
Public Service Act. - Promotions of - F. Strahan, Prime Minister’s Department. C. H. Brown, Department of the Treasury.
In Committee of Ways and Means:
Consideration resumed from 23rd June vide page 9316).
DIVISION X.– WOOD, WICKER, AND CANE.
Upon which Mr. Greene had moved -
That the item be further amended by adding the following to sub-item (g) : - “ And on and after 29th June, 1921, per 100 super feet, British, 4s. 6d.; intermediate, 4s. 6d.; general, 5s. 6d.”
.- On Thursday we agreed to increase the duty on undressed timber in sizes of 12 inches x 6 inches from1s. to 4s., but the Minister (Mr. Greene) now proposes to increase the duty on undressed timber in sizes of 7 inches x 2½ inches and upwards, and less than 12 inches x 6 inches only from 3s. to 4s. 6d., whereas if the proportion were maintained in accordance with the previous increase the duty would be 12s. I have received telegrams from those who are engaged in the timber industry and secretaries of labour leagues and other bodies, pointing out that three-fourths of the mills in my electorate are idle, and that there is very little hope of their working until they are given a satisfactory Tariff.
– The mills are merely closed for the winter months.
– We all know the reasons for the closing of these mills. I am simply pointing out what has occurred, and I want to know whether the Minister considers that the increase he proposes on this smaller size of timber is in fair proportion to the increase agreed upon by the Committee last week.
.- These are fixed and not ad valorem duties, and the difference between them bears relation to the various stages of manufacture. Presuming the base is right, all we require to do is to raise the duty as we pass along from one stage of manufacture to another. When we looked into this matter we found that the difference between1s. and 3s. under the old Tariff represented rather more in the way of protection than was required for the particular progressive stage of manufacture. Therefore, in suggesting this increase, we have fixed upon 6d. less than the difference shown. That is to say, instead of making the increase 2s. we are making it1s. 6d. The proposed duty is slightly higher than the present rate, but is proportionately lower than the increase agreed to on the rougher timber last week.
.- There is not the slightest doubt that this increase will add considerably to the cost of building homes and do a great deal of injury to the country. I cannot conceive how it can be argued that oregon can come into competition with our hardwoods. The person who wants hardwoods will use them. Iforegon or other softwood timber is required, it will be used. These increased duties on timber will press very heavily on the Broken Hill mines. Apparently the only object the Government have in view is to secure additional revenue. The increase cannot be justified on any other ground.
.- As there is a good deal of waste in cutting up a log, I would like to know if sufficient allowance has been made to the millers to balance that less?
– The protection given is ample for this stage of manufacture.
– I would like to know if the Minister (Mr. Greene) has consulted expert millers about the matter? They have assured me that there is a big difference between the capacity of a log and the output of the mill. I want to see as much local labour used as possible. Seeing that there is so much waste in logs, perhaps it would be as well for us to allow them to come in free of duty.
.- I trust that the Minister (Mr. Greene) can tell us why so much timber is sawn in bond in New South Wales? This practice has some distinct advantages, and it is not a new one, for it has been in operation for many years. I wish to know why it does not apply in all the States. Will the Minister also tell us something about the enormous combines which are controlling the Australian timber trade to the detriment of the public ? I have heard a good deal about this matter since we adjourned last week, and from what I gather, they are the most injurious combines, from a public point of view, in any of the industries in Australia.
. -There is no reason why the practice alluded to by the honorable member is not followed in every State, except, I presume, that the sawmillers have not taken the necessary action or askedfor the necessary arrangements to be made.
– And, presumably it does not pay them, or they would.
– We may presume so. There is nothing to prevent exactly the same arrangements being carried out in all the States, and duty paid on the sawn or dressed timber actually sent out, plus a certain percentage - I think 30 per cent. I speak from recollection, and subject to correction, for I have not had an opportunity to consult my officers.
– I am told that there is no percentage.
– I am not quite clear on the point, for just at the moment there is no departmental officer here. Later on, however, I shall tell the Committee exactly what the position is.
As to the second matter referred to, my feeling is that, taking the sawmillers by and large, throughout the country, there are no combines, but when the timber gets into the hands of the city merchants-
– The combines operate before that.
– I am inclined to think that then there may be combines. I have no certain information on either point; hut comparing, as I have had the opportunity of doing, the list of prices at the mills at which the timber is sold to the distributers in the city with the prices charged to the public, I am inclined to think that the balance is with the distributers in the city, and not the other way.
– The prices for distribution to the people are in many cases arranged before the timber leaves the mills.
– I do not know whether that is so or not; but I do know there is a big disparity, and to me an inexplicable disparity, between the prices at which the miller in the country sells to the city merchant, and the price at which the city merchant sells to the public. There may be good reason for that disparity, but it is a very remarkable one.
– Does the Minister know that it costs as much to actually deliver bread as it does to grow the wheat and produce the bread ?
– I am willing to admit that one of the greatest economic problems is the cost of distribution. If any man could devise a scheme acceptable to the community, under which that cost could he reduced by one-half, the world would proclaim him a statesman.
.- I should like a word of explanation on one or two points. When we were considering the previous sub-item we were in favour of immediate protection, but not in favour of the duties proposed in the amendment of the Minister (Mr. Greene). Since then I have had an opportunity to consider the amendment now proposed, and I think that a compromise could have been effected on the previous item with a duty of 3s. in each column, which would have shown a fair comparison. In regard to the dressing of timber in bond, has the Minister’s advisers informed him as to what is the percentage allowed for waste? The Minister spoke of 30 per cent., and I think there is something wrong about that.
– I was wrong in regard to that percentage. I have since had an opportunity to consult my officers, and I find that importers are allowed to take the timber into bond, there saw it, and then pay duty on the actual amount of sawn and dressed timber sent out. But the difference between the amount which they take into bond and the amount which they clear must not be less than a certain percentage of the amount which they take in. Suppose, for example, that 1,000 feet of timber be taken into bond, and in the sawing or dressing of that there is a loss of 25 per cent. - I do not know the actual percentage - then, presuming the percentage which the Department allows for waste to be 20 per cent., and that the importers send out 75 per cent. or 750 feet of the 1,000 feet, they will be charged duty on 800 feet, and not on 750 feet.
– Is the duty paid that which is applicable to timber in the log, or that applicable to sawn timber?
– I thought I had made the matter quite clear. They pay the duty on the particular class of timber that has been imported.
– Is it not a fact that if they sawed Australian timber they would lose nothing?
– Suppose that timber is brought in undressed n.e.i., in sizes 12 inches by 6 inches, or its equivalent.
– If it comes in as a log, the duty is 5 per cent. or 10 per cent., as the case may he.
– Then, say that there is a quantity of 20,000 feet.
– Would they he square or round? If they are round, the waste is very much greater.
– Logs are usually round.
– But the Committee is dealingwith square timber at this moment.
– The case has been put to me, “ Suppose the timber consists of logs.” The round logs are brought in, and the duty is 5 per cent. If the importers saw those logs in bond, duty is paid on the resulting timber at the rate which rules for logs of the class of timber concerned. But the amount of timber on which the duty is paid must not be less - having regard to the total superficial measurement of the log - than the percentage allowed by the Department for sawing.
– The person who saws his timber in bond gets a concession upon that timber in regard to the waste. Is that not the position?
– Yes. The man who does his sawing in bond is, so far as I can see, “ on a better wicket “ than the man who does not. However, the same opportunities are open to every individual who imports timber.
– He may have a bond at his own mill.
– Yes; we declare a miller’s yard a bond.
.- The duty having been raised upon large sized
Oregon, there must be a proportionate increase in regard to the smaller sizes. The proposal of the Minister (Mr: Greene) is very fair. I desire to quote a statement in support of a contention previously advanced by myself, namely, that, even where it has been found that Australian timber could be used instead oforegon, supplies of the local product could not be - or, at any rate, have not been - delivered. The following is from the manager of the Australian Wood Pipe Company, Melbourne, and is addressed to myself : -
In your speech during the debate on duties on imported timbers, mention was made of the utilization of Oregon for the manufacture of our products. Mention was also made of the difficulties experienced by purchasers of Australian hardwood in obtaining deliveries of timber under contract.
You may be interested to learn that after careful research and experimental work we adopted certain Western Australian hardwood for the manufacture of certain of our products in 1918, and contracts were placed for very considerable quantities of timber in that State. We are sorry to say, however, that deliveries of timber under these contracts have been so irregular, and quantities sent from time to time so far below our requirements, that on many occasions our factories, both in New South Wales and in this State, have been closed down through lack of supplies. Our present position is. that, except for a very small portion of our output, we have had to resume the use oforegon timber for our work.
We might add that, while Oregon generally is of greater utility for our work than the Western Australian timber, much larger quantities of the latter couldhave been used by this company had we been able to obtain regular supplies of adequate quantity. You will appreciate, therefore, that further increases of duty on imported Oregon entail considerably greater cost for pipes, and consequently greater Government expenditure in connexion with the various important waterworks being carried out by the various Governments and municipalities in this country, and for which wood stave pipes are to a very great extent utilized. At the same time, we are also labouring under the disabilities mentioned in endeavouring to use Western Australian hardwood.
My purpose in makingthe quotation is, if possible, to induce Australian sawmillers to make greater efforts to meet the local demand for local timbers.
.- It is amusing to listen to the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Story) and to notethe facts underlying his quotation. In 1918, certain parties in this State went to Western Australia for their timber requirements; but the Western Australian saw-millers could not fulfil their contracts. I point out, in the first place, that the men who required the timber approached the Western Australian millers, not because they patriotically preferredthe Australian wood, but because they could not get imported timber. It was war time, and shipping was not available, either to bring timber from the West or from overseas. The honorable member for Boothby regards the Minister’s offer as fair. I contend that it is useless. Australian hardwood was used by Australians- during the war, not to encourage Australian industry, but because no other timber was available. Now that the war has ended, imported timber can be secured again, and these same people have no use for the local product. Australian mills are being closed down. I desire also to make a quotation. It is from the April issue of the Pacific Coast Lumberman. From British Columbia alone, in 1919, we imported 8,515,600 super feet; but in 1920 we imported from British Columbia no less than 32,218,155 super feet; or nearly four times more than was brought in here in the previous years. That means that the mills brought into operation here in 1919 must close down if we are to continue to use imported timber.
– They will have to go out if they do not reduce their prices.
– They will be forced out if we use imported timber. If Australian timber was good enough for us in 1919, it should be good enough for us in 1921. We know what we are doing in asking for higher duties. My object is to compel builders to use Australian instead of imported timber, and every man who is Australian at heart should take up the same attitude. I marvel at the plausible arguments used by some in opposition to our Australian hardwoods. I ask the. Minister (Mr. Greene) to increase the duty which he has offered; he should be able to obtain a majority in support of a higher duty. I expected to hear the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. McWilliams), and a few more representatives of the fruit-growing districts howling for lower duties in respect of this item. Had they done so, I should have had something to say in regard to the price at which the fruit-growers get their sugar supplies. It is strange that some honorable members are prepared to accept withopen arms everything that will help the interests of the electorates they represent, while they oppose every attempt made to assist other sections of the community. The Minister, to my mind, has taken up a very weak stand on this question. I admit that he has offered something approaching what we ought to have in respect of this sub-item, but I intend to move that the duties be increased to 7s. 6d. per 100 super feet in respect of the British and intermediate Tariffs, and 10s. per 100 super feet under the general Tariff. That should be the irreducible minimum.
– Why not make it 17s. 6d. per 100 super feet?
– I would move to that effect if I thought I had a chance of carrying such a duty.
– And let the workers live in tents.
– Or bark humpys.
– I am pleased that even at this late stage, some honorable members seem to have been converted to a due regard for the interests of the workers, and I hope that their conversion will be complete. I am afraid, however, that, like their loyalty, it is largely a matter of mere lip talk.
In every other country proper attention has been paid to the timber industry. Several European countries have gone in for reafforestation, realizing that the timber industry is a key industry, and that adequate timber supplies are absolutely essential. Here we have hardly started to scratch the ground in connexion with reafforestation. We should increase these duties, and show the State Governments, together with the Commonwealth Government, that reafforestation is absolutely necessary, so that we may make full use of our. own timbers. There are some honorable members who would put every item on the free list, and I am waiting to hear what they will have to say in regard to my proposed increase. I ask the Minister to withdraw his amendment temporarily in order that I may move that to which I have just referred.
– I withdraw it temporarily if the honorable member will agree to a vote being taken at once.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
– Very well. I move -
That the item be further amended by adding to sub-item (g) the following: - “And on and after 29th June, 1921, per 100 super feet, British, 7s. 6d.; intermediate, 7s. 6d. : general, 10s.”
Will the Minister accept my amendment ?
– No; I am not prepared to go any higher than I have indicated.
– I am sorry that the Minister (Mr. Greene) did not make, before we went to a division on an earlier sub-item last week, his statement with regard to the mystery that exists as to the difference between the prices that the producer obtains and what the builder of houses has to pay. It is quite evident from his statement that no increase of duty that wecan put on here is going to help the saw-miller, who to-day is able to produce timber at a price immensely lower than that at which the consumer has to purchase it. It emphasizes again the futility of the high increases of which we approved the other day, and, still further, the futility of the amendment we are now discussing, as a means of setting going once more the saw-mills in the electorate of the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton). Ithink that honorable member is paying rather too much attention to the unemployed in the saw-mills. He is overlooking the fact that for one man who is unemployed in the sawmills to-day there are many unemployed in the building trades, and that every shilling we add to the cost of the raw material of the builder is going, not only to throw out more men in the building trades, but. as it does so, to throw more and more saw-millers out of employment. We have focussed our attention too much upon the fact that at present there are many saw-mills unemployed, and have failed to look for the reason. We are assuming that the reason is something that can be cured by a higher duty, whereas the fact is altogether the reverse. It may be possible to start some of these saw-mills again by reducing the cost of timber to the consumer, but none of them will be started by any increase in cost that this Tariff may place on the product of the industry. It may be that the Tariff will not prevent the erection of houses, but if we are to accept the amendment now before us, and to add to the estimated increased costs which the Minister placed before us last week a still greater increase, it will not He possible to build a house of any size under £900 or £1,000. It will be necessary to secure still higher wages for the workers of this country before they can afford to carrythe increased burden which this Parliament is placing upon them in the way of house rent or the cost of building. In New South Wales only houses erected some years ago are available for renting to-day. The unfortunate toiler who wants to start a home for himself will spend many weary week? wandering about Sydney trying to find a house to let, and then, if he turns, as many have done, to building, he will find that a house which cost £600 a while age, and which he could finance at that price, is to-daycosting £900, £1,000, or even more. I know people in the city of
Sydney who for months havebeen hunting for houses containing five or six rooms, for which they are prepared to pay £1,100 or £1,200 each, but who are unable to find them.
– Does the honorable member think they would be able to get houses with greater ease if there were no duties on timber?
– They would get them for less if the price of timber was not as high as it is to-day. I do not say that if we took off the duties on timber they would obtain suitable houses for less, but that the imposition of these increased duties will not help them to get houses.
– If we took off the duties, would houses be cheaper?
– If the duty were taken off Oregon to-day they would get houses for less. The timber trade in our State is controlled by the men who own the forests there, and not by the merchants who sell the timber. The Minister is entirely misinformed as to the position in New South Wales if he is told that the whole question is entirely one of distribution. The evil lies really in the monopoly of the sources of supply.
– I know that that is not correct so far as a great part of New South Wales is concerned. The honor able member has been entirely misinformed.
– And it is not so in Queensland.
– I quote again a fact which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chariton) has placed before us - the fact that the Government of Queensland, in respect of the timber lands owned by it, can impose a tax of £1 per 100 super feet, which shows that some people outside the Government, in respect of the timber they bold, are taking an undue profit of £1 per 100 super. feet.
– I did not makethat statement.
– Then I beg the honorable member’s pardon. After all, it does not matter who made the statement, the essential fact is that it is correct. The honorable member is unable to deny that to-day the Queensland Government’s royalty upon the timber taken from its own forests is in the vicinity of £1 per 100super. feet.
Mr.Corser.- Thatis absurd.
– Itis 15s.
– When I stated here last week that in respect of some classes of timber a royalty of 25s. per 100 super. feet was charged by the Queensland Government, the honorable member for Wide (Bay (Mr. Corser) said, “No; £1.” Now, when I say that on quantities of timber a royalty of £1 is charged by the Government, the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West) says that the royalty is15s. Assuming that it is 15s. per 100 super. feet, that shows that the people who own timber lands in Queensland, outside the control of ‘the State Government, are able to impose a tax of 15s. per 100 super. feet in excess of the actual value of the timber itself.
– You can get as much timber as you want for an export duty of 1s. per 100 feet.
– If the New South Wales man who owns timber in Queensland desires to bring it to New South Wales, he has to pay1s. per 100 feet export duty on his own material; but I am talking of the Government royalty, and not the amount illegally charged for the transfer of timber from one State to another. I have stood on public platforms beside honorable members opposite when they denounced in the most scathing terms the iniquity of royalties charged on coal in England. I do not know anything worse in connexion with the English coal royalties than the royalty imposed on timber by the Labour Government in Queensland. But instead of hearing a denunciation of that impost by the Government upon timber in certain parts, and by private owners in other parts, of that State, we are implored to help a struggling industry by putting a further tax on the housesof the working people. The proposed duty is not justified by any of the facts that confront us to-day; the existence of this monopoly is proved by every fact that has been adduced before the Committee. We are paying, approximately, twice as much as we ought to pay for the timber to be put into the houses that the people are anxious to get but cannot get because the cost of building is too dear. We would be better employed in trying to give cheap houses to the people instead of piling up duties on imported timber. I am told that the War Service Homes Commissioner claimed that he could produce timber at half the price at which he could get it from the Combine before he started his sawmilling enterprises in. Queensland.
– That was in war time.
– The war. was over. It is undeniable by anybody in the trade, be he builder, carpenter, or bricklayer, that the timber employed in a house “ today is a heavy item of the expenditure, and we have no right to permit a monopoly to take toll of the people in this way. I shall not support any increased duty on imported timbers, and I do not know that anything we may do by means of the Tariff will have any effect upon the unemployment in the timber-cutting trade to-day. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews) referred to the big increase in the imports of timber during 1920. What wasthe reason for the increase? In New South Wales, twice as many houses were built in 1920 as during 1919. What has happened in the timber trade has happened also in the softgoods and every other importing trade. The importers received delivery at the end of the war of three years’ supplies which they had not expected to get while the war continued. During 1920 immense quantities of timber were delivered which the merchants would have been very glad not to have received. They naturally made contracts for supplies on the supposition that the conditions, which, according to the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, explain away the case put up by the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Story), would continue. They could not get delivery of their orders, and so they ordered much more than they required; but delivery commenced as soon as the war was over and freights were available, and the merchants now have in their yards immense quantities of timber that they do not require for the current year. I believe that the War Service Homes Commission also has imported immense quantities of timber, that swell the figures that have been quoted to-day, in order to build thousands of homes that will not he built. The State Housing Board in New South Wales has been launching out in the building ‘of homes, and the Victorian Savings Bank has been embarking on the same policy. The importations for the current year are below normal because the accumulated orders of previous years have been delivered and merchants are not ordering further supplies. The importers have acquired more than their ordinary stocks’ and they must quit them before they can resume importing. It is to the advantage of those who pay rent that the timbers hitherto used in’ house construction should be available. I have heardno arguments that would justify me in believing that any duties imposed on imported timbers will do anything to solve the unemployment of people in the timber-cutting industry. Here is another fact to be taken into account: Australia will not continue to build houses at the same rate as in 1920. When the soldiers were returning in thousands and asking to be set up in homes, an endeavour was made to meet this abnormal demand. This Parliament launched out on” the building of War Service Homes, involving an estimated expenditure of £30,000,000. Saw-mills were set in operation all over the country and industries were started in the expectation that that money would be expended in a very few years. The Commission has accumulated vast quantities of timber, and it would be better for the soldiers if it had not done so but had finished the houses that had been started instead of importing huge quantities of material for future construction. The whole of the facts, as far as I can understand them, -show that the conditions of unemployment in the timber-cutting trade are not due to any trouble that the Tariff can cure, and any effort to remedy the disease by increasing the Tariff will merely make it worse.
– I have never heard a more exaggerated statement of the facts than that to which we have just listened by the honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Hector Lamond). I do not say that he has wilfully misrepresented the true state of affairs, but he has been misled. He has complained of the existence of a huge Combine. If there is a Combine in his own State - and I do not deny it - he should not reflect on other States that have no Combine. The Combine in New South Wales consists of the importers who will not support Australian production, but are clamouring for the introduction of timber from overseas. According to to-day’s Argus, the imports of timber for the ten months ended April; 1920, were valued at £1,996,566, as against £4,531,281 for the ten months ended April, 1921. That timber is imported mainly into States that have no sympathy with the other States which produce timber. In Queensland the mills are closing down, and every timber merchant’s yard is full of timber of a quality as good as that of any that is imported. Because there is a Combine of timber importers in New South Wales the honorable member for Illawarra would support them in the outrageous action of importing material from overseas to the amount of £4,500,000 in ten months, when we have in Australia sufficient timber for all requirements and our mills are closing down for lack of orders. The timber that is being imported is not as good as that produced locally. If oregon is considered superior for some special work, let it be imported for that; but to shut down our local timber industry that is of such importance to northern New South Wales and Queensland in order to suit the requirements of a Combine of importers, is an outrage. I cannot understand why such an appeal should be made tot this Committee. Even the increase of duty proposed by the Minister (Mr. Greene) will not be sufficient to deter the Combine from importing foreign timber.
– The honorable member denied that there was a Combine.
– I denied! the honorable member’s allegation regarding the existence of a Combine at the source of supply. The honorable member also referred to the Government charging a royalty of £1 per ton. The only royalty that, to my knowledge, is put on timber sent from Queensland to another State is the export charge of1s. per 100 superficial feet.
– That shilling is in addition to the royalty charged by the Government.
– I am coming to that. I do not think that any charge should be made on timber being sent from one
State to another. I do not think the Queensland Government have a right to impose an export duty.
– Is it because there is not enough timber in Queensland, and the Government desire to keep their supplies there?-
– Not - at all. I challenge any honorable member to go through Queensland and see the vast area of standing timber, and also the enormous quantities of timber cut and waiting to be sent away but for which there are no orders. Some honorable members are trying to kill the local timber industry in order to bolster up the importers. The honorable member for Illawarra is an advocate of high protection in regard to industries in his own electorate, but, because the timber industry is not in his own State, he gives his sympathy to a. Combine of importers. In regard to the royalty to which the honorable member referred, the explanation is that standing timber is generally obtained by tender. An area of scrub land is available, and tenders are invited from the different, saw-millers. Those tenders have, in some instances, been as high as £1 per 100 superficial feet, and even more for small quantities. But those amounts have been- solely the result of competition ‘ between saw-millers in a certain locality. The royalty used to be about ls. 6d. to 2s., and I believe it will not be long before it is down to that figure again. The only authority given to the Queensland Government was to impose a royalty in order to provide funds for reafforestation.
– They use half the proceeds of the royalty for reafforestation, and the balance is paid into revenue.
– I do not approve of certain actions of the Queensland Government. What they are doing in this respect was not done by any previous Government in that State, and will not be done when the present Ministers are out of office. But why should we try to ruin an industry of such importance to the State because this imposition has been made? At the present time there are many large areas of scrub land under offer to the saw-millers at a royalty which has been fixed at a small rate, but no offers can be obtained from them. That is the position in Queensland to-day. . Why, then, should honorable members talk of matters which, although they might have been applicable some little time ago, are not applicable to-day ? The honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Story) has told us that in 1918 some people in South Australia were, not able to get timber from Western Australia, but that was evidently because there was no shipping available.
– The contract was made in 1918, but the goods have not yet been delivered.
– At any rate, in 1918 there was no shipping available to carry timber from Western Australia to South Australia, and even if the honorable member for Boothby is correct in what he says, which I question, it is- not a justification for his attempting to kill a Queensland industry for the sake of South Australian importers, most of whom prefer to import their timber requirements. When the honorable member wants some duty appertaining to an industry in his. own State, then we shall see him ai-gu- ing in favour of the highest possible protection, with no memory on his part of what he has been saying during the last few days. We shall not hear him saying then, “ What about the poor man who has to utilize these things ? What about, the returned soldiers?” He will say, “Wines, dried fruits, currants, salt, ought to be protected, to the hilt,” and that the people of Queensland, who do not produce these commodities, should be loaded with the duty upon them. As a matter of fact, the people of that State have been very lenient in assisting the industries of South Australia to get protection, but when they ask for reciprocal treatment they are met with the answer, ‘ Look at the poor unfortunate soldiers who use these things !*’
– The honorable member for Boothby does not represent the whole of the interests of South Australia.
– Of all honorable members in the House, the honorable member for Boothby is the least representative of the interests of the Commonwealth.
– Because he has voted with the honorable member for Wide Bay on every other item.
– He has voted with me only when it suited his own electorate to do so. He has been absolutely against me on other items. I hope that the
Minister will do his utmost to protect the sawn-timber trade even to a greater extent than he now proposes.
.- Unfortunately, there is a great deal of truth in the statement of the honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Hector Lamond) that the cost of building is nearly double what it was prior to the war ; but any one listening to the honorable member would come to the conclusion that this was due to the operation of the present Tariff. How often must honorable members be reminded of the fact that the price of almost everything is now nearly double what it was in pre-war time ? Let us look at the facts. This Tariff has been in operation for fifteen months, and the only duty placed on oregon during that period has been ls. per 100 super, feet. Does the honorable member for Illawarra say that that small duty was the means of doubling the cost of building ?
– No; but it enabled the monopoly which the honorable member denounces to add another ‘ ls. to its already extortionate charges to the workers.
– During the period the Tariff has been in operation the only monopoly I know of in the Australian timber industry existed ‘among the importers, who find supporters among honorable members in this House. The very specious argument is put up in this chamber ‘that this impost of ls. per 100 super, feet of soft wood has increased the cost of building; in fact, has almost doubled it.
– The honorable member was told nothing of the kind. Our claim was that the price of all material and labour had almost doubled, and that this additional ls. had merely served to increase the monopoly’s price, and provide a little revenue to the Commonwealth.
– One would imagine from what the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Richard Foster) said last week, that this duty of ls. was a very serious matter, but now we hear from him, I am glad to say, that there is very little in it. Miners’ cottages in .the Illawarra and Hunter districts are generally wooden buildings containing from four to six rooms. There is very little Oregon used in them; in fact, none of it is required in building them. How, then, can this proposed duty increase the cost of these ‘ dwellings ? But even if some Oregon should be used in these cottages “the proportion is infinitesimal. Yet honorable members would lead the public to believe that a small increase in the duty on soft woods will considerably increase the price of building these cottages. The duty has’ been imposed for the purpose of protecting Australian timbers, not to enable their price to be increased, as honorable members would have the public believe, but because oregon, having come down so quickly in price, is being imported in huge quantities in an endeavour to supplant the use of Australian hardwoods. The proposed increase in the duty will make it less possible for this oregon to come into competition with the product of our own people. It does not follow that the price of local timber will be raised. It may be true that there is a Timber Ring.; but the existence of such a combine should not prevent us from seeking to find employment for our own people in the timber industry. In any case, we are promised certain legislation, which will enable us to deal with any monopoly. If, upon inquiry the Tariff Board finds that local manufacturers are inflating prices, it will take steps to deal with them. Let us assume that there is a middle party acting between the producer and the man who purchases timber for the purpose of putting it into a building, and that the middle party io charging an excessive price to the consumer. Under the legislation foreshadowed by the Minister (Mr. Greene), we ought to be able to ascertain whether excessive prices are being charged, and there should be power to prevent them. If such practices can be detected and prevented, the adoption of the co-operative principle will be hastened, and those who produce will be able to supply direct to the consumer.
– Does the honorable member say that the price of hardwood is so low that those in the industry cannot make a decent living?
– I have not said that; but the danger is that the timber from abroad will take the place of Australian hardwood, and throw our own people out of employment.
– That is quite imaginary.
– It is not correct.
– I get wires from saw-millers, and even from the managers of State saw-mills, calling my attention to the facts I have stated. Are we to ignore all advice of the kind ?
– I wonder who pays for these wires; are they people who are not getting a sufficient return from the industry?
– That is no business of mine. We have the information that oregon has came down considerably in price, and is being rushed into the country as fast as possible. It is our duty to see that our own people are not thrown idle, and if that can be accomplished without additional cost to those who build houses, the proposition before us is a fair one. Personally, I do not think that one penny will be added to the cost of building..
– The basis of that argument is that the present price of hardwood is so low as not to give a fair return to those engaged in the industry.
– That is not the basis of my argument; I submit that in consequence of oregon coming in at a much lower price, people are led to prefer it; and, indeed, some prefer it even if it is a little dearer than our own wood at the time. I think that if we could get to the bottom of the position, it would be found that where oregon is used in the place of hardwood, it really costs more, but some people prefer to patronize industries outside Australia. The War Service Homes are quite another matter. They are provided for, inasmuch as the Government have made arrangements to work their own forests.
– The Government are also using a good deal of imported timber.
– That is so now, but in the future the timber required for these homes will come from the Government forests. I understand that this timber is now being used very rapidly; in fact, some of the Government mills in Queensland have been closed owing to the enormous stacks of timber on hand. We must deal with this question quite apart from the War Service
Homes, always keeping in view the interests of Australia as a whole.
.- I shall endeavour to avoid reiterating the arguments I used last Thursday when advocating a duty on timber. We then decided to place duties of 3s. and 4s. on oregon, square, 12 inches by 6 inches. and I have no doubt that the proposal of the Minister (Mr. Greene) is in ratio with that decision. I wish, however, to say a word or two in reply to the honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Hector Lamond). That honorable member argues that the duty proposed by the Minister will not in any way assist the local saw-mills which are closed to-day; and I am afraid that, so far, he is correct’. The reason for the saw-mills being closed to-day has already been given by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton), namely, that there are such enormous stacks of imported timber here that there is no demand for the local product. The honorable member for Illawarra has also said that, because of the high price of timber, no building is going on, and that if we impose a higher duty the price will increase proportionately. There is assuredly a big margin for a reduction in the price of imported timber. As the Minister has said, there is a large disparity also between ‘the price paid to the miller and the price charged by the merchant - a disparity which the honorable gentleman finds it hard to understand. If the argument of the honorable member for Illawarra is correct, it is also a. very good argument why the price of timber should be reduced, and not increased; it goes to show that an increase in the duty should not, at any rate, make any difference to the cost of building. I should like to say one word in regard to royalties. Certain honorable members have repeatedly, said that the State Governments are making undue profits in consequence of the excessive royalties they charge. I do not” intend to discuss a subject of which I know nothing, beyond the conditions prevailing in Tasmania; but I can certainly say that the royalties charged by the Tasmanian Government are in no way excessive or responsible for the high price of timber to-day. If we are not able and willing to afford such protection as will result in the resumption of work at the saw-mills, the cost of timber in Tasmania will certainly be greater. As a matter of fact, imported timber is not used in Tasmania for building purposes, or, at any rate, only to a very small extent, and it is quite evident that if our saw-mills are closed down, as the majority are closed to-day., we shall be dependent on the imported article, which in Tasmania, if not elsewhere, is regarded as not nearly so good as the local product. In a climate like that of Tasmania soft weatherboards are not durable’. It will be clearly seen, therefore, that if Tasmanian saw-mills are compelled to close, the builder must be faced with an increase in the price of timber. I am firmly convinced of that fact, or I should not be supporting the proposal of the Minister to give what he considers fair protection to the industry. I repeat that, in my opinion, the protection we are proposing will be insufficient to bring about a resumption of the milling trade, but, of course, our Tariff is not to operate for this year alone. Twelve months hence, or when we have to some extent used up the large importations now on hand, there will be a resumption of the milling industry. The Tariff is going to be of some benefit to the millers ultimately, but I am afraid the proposed duty is not sufficient to help them materially at the moment. We have already decided in the case of the 12 inches by 6 inches timber what protection we are going to afford, and I shall support the Minister’s proposal. I am afraid that the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews) has no chance of carrying his amendment; and I trust that the same ratio of protection as was decided in the case of the 12 inches by 6 inches timber will be carried right through the division.
.- I should like the Minister (Mr. Greene) to reconsider the position in regard to the allowance made in the case of logs cut in bond. Rightly or wrongly, there is an impression that there is a Combine, and certainly we should do nothing to play into the hands of the “ big people.” The whole trade, whether in town or country, should be treated justly.
– There is no imported timber sawn up-country, so far as I know.
– Then, why should the concession be granted ?
– I had nothing to do with the arrangement, which, is many years old-so old that even my officers do not exactly know what it is.
– At any rate, I should like the Minister to reconsider the matter, for I can see no justification for the concession.
– I am not perfectly certain that the information I have given to the Committee is correct; the probabilities are that the arrangement is a slight advantage in some cases, though not in others.
– The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews) has endeavoured to show that enormous quantities of timber are coming into Australia at the present time.
– That was from British Columbia alone.
– Quite so, and I have here the figures for 1914-.15, which may be regarded as normal, though the war may have had. some effect in the latter part of that year. The. importations total more than 322,000,000 feet, whereas in 1918-19 the total was only 150,000,000 feet.
– And in 1919-20 the figures went up again.
– There was a dearth of supplies during the years 1915-16, 1916-17, and 1917-18. My statistics show, therefore, that present importations are not abnormal. We have our own hardwoods, and they are used for special purposes,; but I hope our people will realize the real importance and value of these timbers, and will put them to steadily greater and more varied use. I am looking forward to a great export market, more expansive even than that which Australia enjoyed for her hardwood timbers some years ago. It is a responsibility of the State Government, and, to some extent, no doubt, of the Federal Legislature, to assist and encourage reafforestation. I read an article only recently which pointed out that oregons, redwoods, and the best softwoods generally could be grown in Australia. I quoted in this chamber some days ago an article from the Pacific Mail, which stated that of the thousands of millions of superficial feet cut in the United States of America, the average of exports was less than 5 per cent., and that the greatest percentage during many years was less than 8 .per cent. Thus the question of dumping is altogether beside the mark.
– During the war, when timber could not be imported, Australian mills sprang up. But now you are saying they can go to Hades.
– There are not as many men employed here now as in prewar days.
– Possibly not; but there ure considerably more mills.
– Our . export trade had a lot to do with the fact’ that more hands were engaged than in .these later years. I think, however, that we shall regain our export markets. In 1914-15, we imported about 60,000,000 superficial feet of timber, dressed, n.e.i. With a duty, of 30 per cent. - which means about 5s. per 100 feet - the total amount secured by the Government from .that particular line of duty alone, taking the imports to be the same, would be £150,000. The total of laths imported in 1914-15 was 18,000,000 feet; and, at the rate of .10s. per 100, that line would bring in revenue amount-, ing to £90,000. Logs amounting to 10,000,000 feet were imported in 1914-15. At a rate of duty equivalent to ls. per 100 super, feet, the revenue would derive £5,000. Upon timber imported from New Zealand - in 1914-15 the importations totalled 60,000,000 feet- taking the duty to ‘be ls. per 100 feet, there would be added to the revenue the sum of £30,000. Upon undressed timber, not otherwise enumerated, the duty being 4s. 6d. per 100 feet, and the importations totalling S5,000,000 feet, there would be an addition of revenue amounting to £191,000. On lines not otherwise enumerated, the importations of which in 1914-15 were 107,000,000 superficial feet, the revenue derived from a 4s. 6d. rate of duty would be £240,000. Thus, upon those six items alone, a total revenue of £736,000 would be gained if our importations were equal to those of six years ago. I look upon this as an extreme revenue Tariff. While I have been quite -prepared to concur in the duties originally imposed - and more for revenue reasons than for any other - I cannot agree that any further increases are justified.
– (Wakefield) arguing for nearly two hours along the same lines as last week, namely, that these rates of duty are intended to be imposed in opposition to the interests of the Australian timber industry. I say, “Nothing of the kind.” I shall read a communication from one of the leading timber merchants in Australia, who handles Australian woods in a big way. Here are his comments on last week’s debate : -
At the outset, we would mention that we do not decry the Australian-grown timber, but strongly support its use and sale; and our support to the local article is recognised by all large producers in Tasmania and Queensland, and is evidenced by the large stocks we hold of the timbers from these States. But we feel that an attempt is being made to insist that Australia is able to produce all the timber she needs, and while there are those who give the matter careful attention and discount these assurances, yet higher duties are being urged because of this assumed possibility. Wherever duties are imposed, softwood timbers for building purposes will have to be imported, and any increases in Tariff necessarily increase the already high cost of building.
– That applies to South Australia.
– This merchant is a Victorian, and his statements will be borne out by nearly all the men in the trade throughout Australia. They correspond with the views expressed by representatives of the trade, almost without exception,- before the Tariff Commission a few years ago. The present proposal, which represents an increase of 300 per cent, in respect of Oregon compared with the rates introduced by the Minister (Mr. Greene), amounts to an additional heavy burden on the people. My correspondent proceeds to point out that if the rates are increased upon other lines in accordance with those already agreed to in respect of timbers, the added cost involved in building a four-roomed cottage, including the items of flooring, weatherboards, and lining, would be £15 5s. 9d. ; while the extra cost of building a fiveroomed cottage would be £18 4s. 8d. I appeal even to the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) not to vote for these increased duties. There is a possibility that he may yet wipe out the past, so far as some of his votes on the Tariff schedule are concerned, by doing better from now on.
– I regret that we differ, but I am satisfied that I am right.
– The Queensland. Government, by imposing a royalty on timber taken out of the forests owned by it, has putitself out of Court, and Queensland ought not to be considered in this matter.
– I was not responsible for the imposition of that royalty.
– We must continue to impart oregon. The Minister (Mr. Greene) knows that is so.
– Some of it must come in.
– I will tell the honorable member how much must come in.
– Then I shall make way for my honorable friend.
.- My fear is that if some honorable members keep on bombarding the Minister (Mr. Greene), and using their persuasive eloquence upon him, this Tariff, which, as brought in, was structurally well designed, may be so amended that it will leave the Committee a sort of piebald or spotted thing. The timber industry ought to be protected. I am not influenced by any consideration as to whether or not it is carried on in my electorate. My desire is that it shall be treated just as well as the iron industry has been treated by this Committee. I have voted with the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Richard Foster) and others with respect to many items in the schedule, and I cannot understand why he, and some who think with him, should be so virulently opposed to the amendment moved by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews), which I, for one, shall support. The timber merchants are entirely distinct from the timber millers, and I notice that a day or two ago a meeting of timber millers in Tasmania and Victoria declared that the outlook for them was absolutely ruinous. Already thousands engaged in the timber industry, including many bush workers, who are one of the best classes that we have in Australia, are out of employment. Bush workers believe in decentralization, and are prepared to go into the backwoods and on our mountain sides to earn a living. We are endangering their employment. When a saw-mill closes, the timber worker and his family have to move elsewhere. The worker in the bush is quite as worthy of consideration as is the worker in our cities, and in dealing with this item, we have to consider not merely the saw-mill proprietors, but the men. employed by them. This is one of our great primary industries. It is just as much a primary industry as is wheat or onion growing, and I fail to understand why the Country party are not prepared to help it.
– What has the Committee done for the wheat-growers ?
– We have passed a duty of £6 per ton on onions and a good duty on cereals. One honorable member of the Country party advocated a prohibitive duty on oats, yet members of that party are not ready to assist the timber industry. Some of them say that we should leave our forests in their native grandeur, and draw on other countries for our timber supplies. Side by side with timber-getting here, there should be afforestation and reafforestation.
– Such a thing as reafforestation does not exist here.
– The Victorian State Government have set to work in that direction.
– But Victoria is not growing timber as fast as she is using it.
– That is so, but we have made a start. I understand that in Germany, for practically every tree that is cut down another is planted. It seems to me that the British alone fail to take care of their forests.
– The honorable member is blaming us for proposing that we should do so.
– I am not. My contention is that we have ample supplies of hardwood and softwood in the Australian forests, and that there is no reason why, having regard to our vast spaces, we should not have, if a vigorous policy of re-afforestation be pursued, some of the best forests in the world. Victoria is one of the smallest States in the Union, yet, according to the latest report of the State Forestry Department, there has recently been discovered in Gippsland from 6,000 to 8,000 acres of very fine forest country. I propose now toread opinions that have been expressed by engineers, architects, and others, in regard to the value of Australian timbers. Before doing so, however, I should like to point out that if the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Story) and the honorable member for Wakefield were to open in South Australia a campaign for a vigorous afforestation policy, they would do more good for the people of that State than they are doing by opposing the imposition of these reasonable timber duties. South Australia is an almost treeless State, but she has some of the most suitable country for timber-growing. Both honorable members to whom I have referred at one time sat. in the State Parliarnent, and I should like to know what they did to bring about an afforestation policy there. Within twenty-five miles of Melbourne - a little beyondFrankston - we have a magnificent plantation of pines. It was planted by the State Government, and includes many pines of great commercial value. Mr. M. E. Ker- not, M.I.C.E., Chief Engineer for Railways of this State, said on one occasion that -
He had for some years been using, say, 15,000,000 super. feet of timber annually on railway construction. He had succeeded in gradually eliminating non-Australian timbers from the works until 97 per cent. of the whole was Australian-grown. Durability was a factor of greatest importance in his timber works.
Will any one say that many of our fine hardwoods are not more durable than oregon for building purposes?
– Seeing that oregon is dearer, it is strange that the people use it.
Mr.FENTON. - The honorable member would need a microscope to detect any oregon in. most of the buildings, especially the workers’ homes, now being constructed in and about Melbourne.
-Then of what has the honorable member to complain, so far as the importation of oregon is concerned?
– Our timber industry has a right to be protected.
– Its superiority, according to the honorable member, should protect it.
– Experience teaches us that superiority, in many cases, is not sufficient for some people. Unfortunately, some honorable members are too ready to cry “stinking fish.” The wife of a formerGovernor-General, who, I understand, was an American lady - I refer to LadyNorthcote - at a time when ladies in Victoria declined to use Aus tralian tweeds for costume-making purposes, took extreme pride in having costumes made of the locally manufactured article. She told the people here that America not only advertised, but used, what she produced. Many people in Australia, however, seem to be prepared to search far and wide for an article inferior to that produced in their own country.
Returning , to the opinions of experts, I would point out that Mr. T. H. Woodroffe, M.I.C.E., who also was a leading engineer in the Victorian Railway Department, on the occasion to which I have already alluded, said -
He would like to indorse what Mr. Kernot had said. The Department had found Australian timbers eminently suitable for the manufacture of cars and waggons. The Departmentobtained its supplies from the various States, and found there was nothing better in the world. Practically the whole of the woodwork in the railway cars and waggons now consisted of Australian timbers.
I shall not weary the Committee by quoting other authorities on the subject, but shall conclude by stating that I intend to support the amendment, because I am prepared to assist the timber industry of Australia.
.- The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) has endeavoured to bolster up a case for still higher protection in respect of this sub-item by abusing, to a certain extent, those who are opposed to him. We in this’ corner, who come from the country districts, and directly represent country people - we, who know the wants, the claims, and feelings of the country people - are the last in the community who would stand for anything likely to be injurious to them.
– The Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) represents country people to a greater extent than does the honorable member.
– That is not so. His electorate is, to a large extent, a coalmining district with one large centre.
Mr.Fenton. - Not at all.
– There can be no question that honorable members in this Corner do represent a larger number of country constituents than does any other party in this House. I do not say that we alone represent country constituencies but when the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) changes us with trying to do something to injure country interests he is merely endeavouring to bolster up a weak case. I shall show why we, in this Corner, are opposing the proposed big increase in timber duties.. This is no mere local question, or one that can be brushed aside by abusing somebody else. It is of far-reaching importance, because Australia has not anything like the timber supplies that it is represented as having. I believe that Australia is one of the most productive countries in the world; take any other country of the same area, and you will not find one that has as small an area of truly waste country as has Australia. For production of all kinds, and in all the requirements of men, there is no country on the face of the globe that excels Australia. That is a plain statement which no man who knows the Commonwealth can deny. But timber is one of the country’s weaknesses, as I shall show by statistics showing the percentage of timber lands to total area in some of the leading countries of the world : Australia, 5.36; New Zealand, 25.63; United Kingdom, 3.82; France, 18.65; Algeria, 2,98; Germany, 25.90; Switzerland, 20.60; Italy, 15.92; Hungary, 29.30; Roumania, 21.36; Sweden, 52.20; Norway, 21.50. Russia in Europe, . 39; United States of America, 24.08; Canada, 17.34; Cape Colony, . 19; British India, 22.85; Japan, 48.33; Austria, 31.66.
– At one time not a strand of wool was grown in Australia.
– The wool can be grown almost anywhere in Australia, and the clip can be taken off every year, but it is not everywhere that timber can be grown, and even where it can be grown it takes from forty to sixty years to mature. The statistics showing our relatively small percentage of wooded lands to total area do not state the whole case, because some of the other countries I have quoted have done a lot of their developmentalwork. Many of them have large areas of stone quarries, but in Australia we do not use our stone to any extent, because stone dwellings are too costly, and not altogether suitable to this climate. All our developmental work is ahead of us, and yet we are amongst the poorest timbered countries in the world. I have travelled a good deal about Australia, and with my knowledge of its potentialities, I have to confess that timber is one of its weaknesses, as the statistics prove.
– Who supplied those statistics?
– They are taken from the Commonwealt hY ear-Book. I desire to show why it is necessary for Australia to make the best use of its timbers. Australian timbers are not as useful for some purposes as are others, and are too valuable to use where other timbers can take their place. Oregon often takesthe place of the local timber to the advantage of both, for not only is oregon a better timber to use in certain classes of work, but it enables people to erect a better balanced building and to make better use of all their materials. Hearing some honorable members talk, one would think that Austalia’s supplies of timber were inexhaustible - that we had not onlyall the timber we require, but can supply other countries.- I have a table of statistics showing the quantity of timber cut in the Commonwealth for the years 1908 to 1918, the quantity of undressed timber imported, and the quantity exported. In the year 1908 the quantity of timber cut in the Commonwealth was 489,051,000 super. feet, and in 3918 440,952,000 super. feet. It will be observed that in the decennial period the quantity of timber cut in the Commonwealth did not diminish to any extent, but the quantity of undressed timber imported decreased from 267,047,561 feet in 1908 to 169,675,000 feet in 1918. That shows that we are not importing anything like the quantity of timber we used to import. People have begun to realize that a great deal of the local timber can be used in places where previously they thought it could not be used. We have been discovering the capabilities of the local article, and we are now using it at a much greater rate than we are growing it. Consequently a danger exists, and it is growing, that we shall consume all our timber before we have had time to replace it.
– We are burning it off.
-If the honorable member understood the practical conditions of development in this country he would know .that in some parts it is absolutely essential to burn off the timber. The timber must be .cleared away before the land can be put to proper use. This talk about the folly of . burning off our timber when our . transport conditions are in their present state is a mere beating of the air. If it will not pay a man to cut the timber on his land aud send it to market, it is essential that he should burn, it ; and until our transport problems have been - solved we must go on burning it. In 1908 Australia exported 146,954,000 cubic feet of timber, and in 1918 only .19,509,000 feet. It seems to me evident -that Australia cannot supply its requirements, because in the ten years’ period we have barely maintained the quantity of timber cut, and have considerably decreased the exports. If we had the enormous -timber resources which some honorable members from Queensland think we possess, we would be able to not only maintain our own consumption, but to increase our export trade.
– We have not the vessels for export.
– We had not the vessels for export during the war, and wo are not likely -to have them for years to come if this Committee continues. to .deal with the Tariff as it has been doing. We cannot expect vessels to come here empty, in order to carry away our products. The -honorable member for Wide Bay” (Mr. Corser) is one of the exponents of high Protection in this House; ‘but he must know that if we continue placing additional charges on everything importe’d into the country we must also, by diminishing the quantity of incoming cargo, increase the charges on the goods that are being sent out of Australia. Surely the honorable member knows that; by imposing a .prohibitive Tariff, this Committee is making it impossible to get vessels to come to Australia to lift our produce. When I was passing through Canada I saw a street section in Vancouver which had been laid down with wood blocks from various countries, in order to give them a trial. The Mocks of Australian ironbark were vastly superior to all others, and were almost as sound as on the day when they were laid. There is a tremen dous demand abroad for our timbers, and if we will use the products of other countries, they will h-ave an opportunity to use ours. The whole scheme of nature is ‘being overturned by the principles laid- down by this Committee. Is it not the most natural thing in the world for Canadian softwoods to be used in Australia where they are most suitable for our purposes, and for our hardwoods to be used in .Canada where they would be more useful than their own?
– Is there any reciprocity between Canada and Australia?
– There should be, and throughout this debate I have been advocating increased preference within the Empire. In respect of timber we have an opportunity of giving effect to that principle. But is the Minister doing anything in that way? Not at all. All he does is to propose prohibitive duties on material that should be coming into the country in order to enable us to build more homes for our people. The greatest demand in Australia to-day is for more homes for the workers, more homes for the soldiers, and better-class dwellings for those who can afford them. Although it has” been stated that the War Service Homes Commission has purchased a great deal of the timber it requires for future construction, the mere fact of imposing these duties will increase the cost of construction, and Australians will continue to go homeless because this Committee will not see that the proper thing to do is to make a reciprocal arrangement between the Commonwealth and other countries within the Empire which produce timbers that could be used for certain purposes to greater advantage than our own. If the imported and the local timbers are worked together in their proper relationship to each other, there will be no need for anybody to be out of employment in the timber trade; we shall save the people hundreds of thousands of pounds; we shall enable the people who need homes - and they are many - to build them, and at the same time we shall be conserving one of our greatest natural assets. It is useless to talk about what should be done in the way of afforestation. Until we have thoroughly embarked upon a policy of reafforestation, the Tariff schedule should make allowance for the conditions that actually exist. If we had re-afforestation in full operation, there would be some rea- son for advocating the imposition of duties on imported timbers; but we must always import some timbers. When honorable members say that we can grow all the timber we require, they show that they do not know much about Australia. It is well known, for instance, that the- giant redwoods of . California will grow only in certain parts of the world where -the climate is cool and damp, with fogs in winter time. They cannot be grown in dry country or on parched land. Have honorable members who say that we can grow the timber that at present we import ever put their theory to a practical test? I have had practical experience in trying to grow some of these timbers. The forestry experts in New South Wales visited my property to see what timbers could be best grown’ there, and I took their advice. Nearly every expert will say that it is useless trying to grow the foreign timbers that are of any great value, be- cause they will not thrive in our climate. The best thing that a man can do is. to ring-bark the inferior native trees, leave the good sticks that are growing, and allow the young timbers to come up naturally. Both the practical man and the man who has studied the theoretical side of re-afforestation say that the proper way to re-afforest Australia is to leave the process to nature in that way and allow the young trees to come up of their own accord. Only in exceptional portions of Australia can softwoods be grown. This is naturally a country, for the production of hardwoods. There are places, like the Atherton Tablelands, the Upper Murray, and a few other localities where softwoods can be grown ; on the Upper Murray particularly, redwoods might do well. But, generally speaking, Australia is not strong in timber-producing capacity, and we must look to the future. The Commonwealth is no pocket handkerchief place; it comprises nearly 3,000,000 square miles of country which should be carrying 20,000,000 or 30,000,000 people within a. very few years. It will be necessary for us to grow timber at a much greater rate than We have thought of so far. The only way in which wc can ..furnish the requirements of the future is by. taking care of our own forests, and by growing the foreign timbers we require in places where they can be grown to advantage - and those places are very few - at the same time using as much of them as we can while not allowing them to displace our own. We ought not to permit foreign timbers to come in at a rate that will -cause om* own timbers to become less valuable or allow trees already ripe to remain uncut and go to decay. Our policy should be to make use of foreign timbers for the conservation of our own better woods ; but, if we accept the amendment of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews), we shall be doing a real and lasting injury, not only to the building community and all those citizens who require houses, but also to our own timber industry itself.
.- I do not admit that injury will be done to the timber industry by accepting the amendment of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews). The imposition of an increased duty will not have the slightest effect upon the costof an ordinary weatherboard house already in course of erection. I pointed out last week that where large principals are used in the bigger type of buildings, oregon can be used with advantage in respect to length ; but, as a matter of fact, it is not necessary to use imported timbers in any part of an ordinary house. Can we get a better class of flooring than jarrah or any other Australian hardwood? In many of the better class of houses now being built, the floors are of Australian hardwood, which> when polished, requires no covering other than a few rugs. In 1914, the local price of oregon was 17s. per 100 superficial feet; in 1917, it had increased to 40s. ; in 1920, the price was 70s. ; and in the early part of this year it was 65s. What proportion does the duty of ls. per 100 superficial feet bear to the 48s. increase in the price since 1914? In the same way, the price of redwood has risen from 30s. to 125s. Right along the line the prices of all imported timbers have increased out of all bounds. Those who are in the building trade know that the higher cost of construction during recent years was due to the increased cost of labour and material, just as the more recent decrease can be ascribed to the financial troubles caused by the war. But the duties we ask for are to apply to the future, and not to the past. The Australian hardwoods may have had a fair margin ofthe market prices during the war, when it was impossible to get timbers from overseas, and when it was necessary for Australians to come to the front and provide the timber yards with the surplus they required and which they had maintained, in pre-war times, by importations from abroad. One advantage derived from the lack of shipping during’ the war was the attention our timber merchants began to devote to the natural seasoning of hardwood. A feature to be borne in mindin connexion with this question is the fact that the vessels that bring us timbers from Sweden, Norway, and other places are manned by foreign crews, and subsidized by foreign countries, whose trade with Australia, so far as purchases from us are concerned, amounts to very few thousands of pounds per annum, whereas we pay them millions of pounds per annum for timber. I do not uphold the interests of any combination of timber merchants which will seek to increase the price of timber out of sight, but I recognise that our timber merchants have their difficulties and suffer losses. Sometimes, in order to capture a certain line of trade for themselves, they are obliged to enter into competition with other industries, and sell at a price that is below the cost of production. I have heard the wild statement made that these merchants are making huge profits. So they did during the war, but within the last few months, possibly because of this approaching debate, their prices have been reduced considerably, and we hope that the new legislation to be introduced will make it impossible for them to take advantage of why increase in the duty and pass it on. If the Minister will not agree to increase this duty, I must support the amendment submitted by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports.
Amendment (Mr. Mathews) negatived.
Amendment (Mr. Greene’s) again proposed and agreed to.
Amendment (by Mr. Greene) proposed -
That the item be further amended by adding the following to sub-item (h) : - “ And on and after 29th June, 1921, per 100 super. feet, British, 5s.; intermediate, 5s.; general, 6s.”
– The Committee have put a halo over what is called “ ratio,” as if it were some unsurmountable difficulty. I would like to know whether the Minister (Mr. Greene) proposes to increase the ratio on the particular classes of timber covered by these sub-items, because in respect to them more work is provided in Australian timber yards ?
– I do not propose to accept any amendment to further increase the duty on this sub-item.
– I thought the Minister would have taken the opportunity of ascertaining the views of the Committee in respect to increasing the duty, say, on timber for making boxes.
– He will need to increase that duty.
– But he will only increase it in ratio. The trouble is that we have started off on the wrong basis. Any increase proposed in these subitems would not interfere with the duties imposed on previous items; and the opportunity should bo taken to show how many Protectionists and how many Free Traders there are here. Has the Minister made up his mind not, even with the help of the Committee, to increase any duty he may first propose?
Amendment agreed to.
.- Sub-itemi deals with timber undressed, cut to size for making boxes, and the duty in each column, per 100 super. feet, is 5s. The Minister, apparently, is not going to submit any amendment, and I should like to know from him how these duties are governed. They must have been fixed upon a certain basis.
– This is a different class of timber altogether from that with which we have been dealing. The present item is mostly composed of off-cuts and so forth.
– I only wished to know the Minister’s reason for not moving an amendment.
.- In my opinion, the duty of 6s. per 100 super. feet does notrepresent sufficient protection in the case of sub-itemj, which deals with timber for making boxes, cut to size and dressed or partly dressed.
– The proposed duties are farcical.
– They are; and the sub-item should receive consideration at the hands of the Committee. In Queensland there are millions of feet which, unless used for the making of boxes, will be more or less wasted.
Mr.Greene. - The honorable member is speaking of off-cuts.
– Not only off-cuts, but the tops of the pines.This, for all essential purposes, is first-class pine; but it cannot be cut into the lengths required for building purposes. It is possible, however, . between the branches to secure timber up to 6 feet in length, and from such lengths a great proportion of the timber required for the making of boxes is secured. Unless this trade can be reserved for our timber mills, the effects will be serious. This by-product, as it were, very often represents the difference between failure and success. In the case of the other parts of the trees, the millers have to meet with all sorts of competition in the open market, and it is by means of these off-cuts and tops used for box-makingthat they are able to show a profit at the end of the month. The duties proposed will afford no protection at all. One has only to go down to the wharfs to see the enormous proportions that this boxmaking business has attained. Our butter, condensed milk, dairy produce, and so forth, are all car- ried in them. Though fruit cases are often made of rougher material, this wood is used for the carriage of finer grades of fruit.
– This sub-item does not apply to fruit cases?
– No. This is an industry that should be essentially Australian, and I hope the duty will be such as to make it possible forthe mills to retain their trade.
.- Has the Minister really considered the effect of the duties on sub-item j? It appears to me that they do not represent a proportionate increase with that given in the previous item. I shall not use the word “ratio,” to which the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews) seems to have an objection. It seems to me that the cost of reducing the timber in both cases must be the same.
.- The reason for not asking for higher duties is that this item deals with case timber, which is mostly produced from off-cuts. In Queensland, not merely the off-cuts, but the tops and portion of the trunk are used, and they are worked at a very much lower cost than is the heavier timber. I take it that timber undressed for boxes, and timber dressed or partly dressed for the same purpose, stand together, and there is1s. per 100 feet allowed as between the timber undressed and not cut to size, and the timber that is cut to size and dressed or partly dressed. This difference of1s. is regarded as sufficient.
– I was looking for a considerable advance in the duties on the two sub-items i andj, for the box-making industry is vitally concerned.. Surely we do not wish to see the tops of our pine trees used simply for firewood?. Timber is coming in from America and other places in great quantities, already cut; and unless substantial protection is afforded to the mill-owners and box-makers there is no possibility of their competing. Some petrol and kerosene companies bring their oil into Australia in bulk, and use the local light timbers for their cases. In this way, a considerable trade has been established; but if the duties are left as they appear on the schedule, I should say that the companies will, in future, bring also their timber in bulk. To my mind, we ought to protect the off-cuts along with the other parts of the trees, for, otherwise, we shall be faced with considerable unemployment. Thousands of butter-boxes are made from these tops. Only a little while ago, since this Tariff came into operation, a deputation of box-makers waited on me to point out that, in face of the competition from America, they would be compelled to close down unless the duties were increased.
– Did the deputation tell you what prices they charge?
– Their prices are so reasonable that even the people who import their oil in bulk use local timber.
– What were their prices before this Tariff operated?
– I do not know that the deputation mentioned that. Many of the American oil companies send their oil in cases. This, for instance, is done by the Vacuum Oil Company ; but the British Imperial Oil Company imports in bulk, and have their cases made here. Of course, if the Minister is obdurate, it is no good our persisting; but if the proposed duties are adopted, their effects will soon be brought under his notice.
.- I should like to see the duties on sub-item j increased by at least1s. It has been the custom in the past to waste a lot of timber in the form of tops, and I have on many occasions observed in my own electorate that this valuable timber is allowed to rot in the scrub.
– That has not been the case since timber has been at a high price.
– That is so; since the price increased it has been found that these tops can be used for making boxes, and I know quite a number of small mills, connected with fruitgrowers’ associations, which have been started for making use of them.
.- I urge the Minister (Mr. Greene) to reconsider sub-item j. Perhaps the honorable gentleman is not aware that the price of timber has gone down very considerably, not only in Vancouver, but also on the lower mainland. In this connexion, I should like to read the following extract from the Timberman of March, 1921: -
Mills and Camps Be-opening.
With the coming of spring, ‘mills and logging camps are resuming operations, and, while they may not be operating to capacity, greater activity prevails. Several were shut down for three months, while some of the larger plants were able to work right through, having had export orders. The basis of operation as regards employees is not the same as last year, ten hours being the day now, with reduced wages. When this reduction was first announced, trouble was threatened, but, after it was explained to the men that it simply had to be because of conditions, the inevitable was accepted. Both on Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland mills have started again, each fixing its wages without a uniform wage being agreed upon.
To treat these tops for box-making is more costly by at least 3d. per 100 feet than it is to treat the ordinary pine log. The cost of transporting that timber by rail is the same as for the best lines. It would cost at least 3d. per 100 feet more to cut this box timber than in the case of ordinary lines cut up, into planks.
– Why would the cost be 3d. more?
– To take the bark off. Men who understand the position thoroughly, and who have worked out every item and factor, have come to the conclusion that the cost? is at least 3d. more upon this class of timber. There should be an increase, and I hope the Minister will agree to grant it.
Mr.Greene. - I cannot see my way to do so.
.- Reference has been made to the fact that the British-Imperial OilCompany sends its oil here in bulk, whereas the Standard Oil Company exports its commodity to Australia in cases and tins. The fact recalls to my mind that when a representative of the latter firm visited Australia some years ago he was preceded by areport from South Africa to the effect that he had said, while in that country, that he could buy up the Australian Parliament, if necessary. I challenged that gentleman, within these precincts, and told him that, while the Standard Oil Company might be very rich and powerful, it was not powerful enough, nor had it themeans, to buy up the Australian people, possessed, as they were, of the adult franchise. However, this visitor obtained his main objective, namely, that there should be no duty upon the tincontainers. The division taken in this Parliament upon that question was very close, there being a majority of only two. The two “members who were “ got at “ are out of politics to-day. Those honorable members who opposed the foreign Combine desired to see the containers and cases made in Australia. If we now permit timber to be brought into Australia already cut into sizes for boxmaking we will not be doing our duty.
There are plenty of Australian woods which could be utilized for the manuf acture of boxes. Fruit-growers were compelled to use Australian timbers for their boxes, although - for what may have been good reasons- they would have preferred not to do so. I urge theMinister to reconsider his attitude. Will he agree to place this sub-item among others which, I understand, are to go before the proposed Commission?
– The Commission will have the whole of the Tariff to roam over ; and its members are as likely to review the timber duties as any others.
– I am sorry that the Minister cannot see his way at this stage to propose increases.
.- It is a pity, having in view the best interests of Australia, that a considerably greater degree of protection cannot be conferred. Surely the wood for making boxes can be supplied from Australia’s forests,and in ample quantity and quality. I do not know that the Committee would not be justified in going for practical prohibition upon this sub-item. Otherwise, another phase of industry, namely, that of box-making, will be considerably injured. Sawmillers and timber merchants when cutting up their various lines of woods are able to convert much of what is put aside into useful wood for box-making. The duty proposed upon what is virtually the importation of boxes is a mere bagatelle; and the Minister (Mr. Greene) will be doing grave injustice to an Australian industry if he is adamant.
.- I notice that the ad valorem duty in respect of sub-itemk, “ Timber, bent or cut into shape, dressed or partly dressed, n.e.i.,” is 30 per cent. all round. Does the Minister consider the duty adequate?
– Yes. Very little timber comes in under this head. The value of the imports for the year before last was only £589, and, for last year, £1,807.
Amendment (by Mr. Greene) proposed -
That the following words he added to subitem (l) : - “ And on and after 29th June, 1921, per 100 super. feet, British, 6s.; intermediate, 6s. ; general, 6s.”
.- Although the Minister has proposed an increase of 2s., that will not be sufficient to pay the cost of dressing. It costs 10s. per 100 super. feet to dress this class of timber. That is to say, it is estimated that it costs 2s. 6d. per 100 lineal feet to dress timber in sizes of 6 inches by½ inch. The proposed degree of protection would amount to nothing in respectof largesized timber; there would be no protection on the timber itself.
– One cannot give the whole cost of dressing by way of additional duty. All one can do is to add a reasonable proportion as a protection on the operation of dressing.
– Still, I cannot agree that the proposed increase is anywhere near sufficient; and, certainly it is not proportionate to the increases agreed upon by the Minister in respect of previous subitems.
Amendment agreed to.
.- Will the Minister (Mr. Greene) accept a new sub-item at this stage, to deal with furniture timbers? The sub-items with which the Committee have so far dealt have referred to various classes and sizesof woods. The remaining sub-items refer to the manufactured article. It is at this stage, therefore, that I suggest the insertion of reference to furniture timbers.
– It would facilitate my Department if any new sub-items were inserted at the end of the item.
– My suggestion is dictated by a desire for consistency. Will the Minister allow me to propose a new sub-item after we have dealt with subitems l and m?
– So far as I am concerned, the honorable member may do so.
– It is not within the power of the honorable member to move a new sub-item.
– Shall I be in order in discussing the necessity for the inclusion of the new sub-item I have mentioned ?
– I desire to call the attention of the Committee to what I consider is a serious omission from the item. I should like the Minister to have brought forward a new sub-item m dealing, not with three-ply as at present, but with furniture timbers. The well-being of the north of Queensland cannot be safeguarded unless we grant adequate protection in respect of the splendid furniture and cabinet-making timbers which grow there in abundance. Such timbers, with but few exceptions, do not enter into competition with other commercial or marketable woods. They are in a class by themselves. It is not necessary for me to enumerate them, since they are well known to the Committee; but, in order that they may be given adequate protection, I suggest that the Minister should deal with them in a special item, providing for a duty of 17s. 6d. per 100 super, feet under the British Tariff, and a duty of 20s. per 100 super, feet under the intermediate and general Tariffs.
.- I would urge the Minister (Mr. Greene) to give serious consideration to the suggestion just made by the honorable member for Oxley (Mr. Bayley), that a special subitem dealing with furniture timbers be inserted. Such , timbers come in very largely from the islands of the Pacific that are not administered by the Commonwealth, and where black labour is employed. There also grow in the Pacific Islands in respect of which we have a mandate, timbers that are the equal of those imported from the other islands, and which seriously compete with timbers grown on the Continent. Not only in northern Queensland, but in Tasmania, we have such timbers as blackwood and oak, which are extensively used in the manufacture of furniture; and I think it is necessary to have a special sub-item dealing with all furniture timbers.
.- I have thought over the question of introducing a sub-item relating to furniture timbers, but I see no necessity for a higher duty on such timbers than there is in respect of other timber. Furniture timbers are, from their very nature, of greater value than the ordinary class of building timber, and I know of no greater protection that the furniture timbers produced in this country could possibly have than their excellence for high-class furniture. I do not think we could possibly import timbers better than our own for such a purpose. Certain timbers are imported for the making of lower-class furniture, and they do, to a certain extent, come into competition with our own furniture timbers.
– Walnut and cedar, for example, are imported.
– The quantity of cedar and walnut imported for furniture making is very small. Most of the cedar we import comes, I think, from the islands of the Pacific, and is of a very much lower quality than our own ; so that it could not be a direct competitor with it.
– But it is very cheap.
– It is used in the manufacture of low-class furniture. The fittings of this chamber, for instance, are of cedar, brought “either from Queensland or northern New South ‘ Wales, and the cedar that comes from the Pacific Islands is by no. means as good. It is a red cedar of a kind, but in no way approaches the excellence of our own product. The same remark will apply to our maple. Queensland maple is of a much higher class than any maple we can import. Nor is there any timber of the same class that can compare with our blackwood and silky oak. We have also the white cedars, and many of our scrub timbers, which are among the finest that can be obtained for furnituremaking purposes. There are some Victorian timbers from which magnificent furniture can be made. I do not think anything is to be gained for Australian furniture timbers by imposing a special duty as suggested. My impression is that a good-class furniture timber will always bring its full price in the Australian market. For that reason I do not think we should assist the saw-mill industry, as an industry engaged in producing furniture timber, by imposing a special duty. Most of the furniture timber which comes in is of oak, some of it being Japanese oak.
.- Ply wood should not have been included in Division X., inasmuch as it is purely a manufactured article. The other subitems which we have considered related to timber either in the rough or sawn. Plywood, or. veneer, is distinctly a manufactured article, and as such gives a great deal of employment in a number of the States. Its manufacture is a new industry in Australia, and that accounts for the meagre protection granted to it heretofore.
– Is there any timber in Queensland suitable for plywood ?
– Even South Australian timber could be used for plywood. In the 1908 Tariff the protection was 7s. 6d. per 100 super, feet, a mere bagatelle, having regard to the fact that plywood is only £ or 3-16ths of an inch in thickness. Of J inch thickness eight sheets of threeply would be required to make an inch, consequently the effective duty under the 1914 Tariff was about ls. per 100 super, feet. This Tariff increases the duty to 4s. British, 4s. intermediate, and 5s. general; but I ask the Committee to put this important phase of manufacture on a firmer footing. If any proof be needed that the protection given is far from effective, the statistics of importations supply it. The returns furnished by the Collector of Customs show that the imports into the State of New South Wales during the six months ended 31st March, 1921, of three-ply, veneer, and veneers n.e.i., tabled according to the countries of origin, were as follows: - United Kingdom, 1,628 super, feet; Canada, 451,778 super, feet; New Zealand, 3,738 super, feet; Finland, 2,063 super, feet; Japan, 246,712 super, feet; Sweden, 121,951 super, feet; or a total of 827,870 super, feet for only half a year. In Victoria the imports for the corresponding period were 799,000 super, feet; in South Australia, 224,000 super, feet; and in Western Australia, 99,000 super, feet. Those figures furnish conclusive proof that the present Tariff is not sufficent for this important industry, and no one can claim that Australia has not the timbers requisite for the carrying out of this work. There is scarcely a timber grown in this country that cannot be used for the manufacture of three-ply. The factories in Victoria use blackwood, Tasmanian myrtle, and the hardwoods grown in the southern parts of the Continent. Queensland has a very wide range of timbers; almost everyone of them is used in the manufacture of plywoods. This article is a direct competitor with timber, and is enabled to compete successfully, despite the fact that the amount paid out in wages is very great, because it is economical in its use of timber. - Three-ply is manufactured from a veneer 1-16 inch in thickness, and it will be readily seen that a good log will yield nearly five times as much timber for ply as for sawn timber. That is a virtue of the plywood, because it is most desirable that we should economize! in the use of Australian timbers. When other items have been under discussion many honorable members, notably the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Richard Foster), have emphasized the statement that there is an insufficiency of timber in Australia, and that, therefore, we should allow foreign timbers to be imported without hindrance. The plywood industry is actively conserving our timbers, and is directly giving employment to thousands of men throughout the States. As to its uses, many houses are lined and ceiled with it, and it makes an effective and beautiful interior finish. Nearly all the furniture manufactured to-day is backed with plywood because of its lightness, and the ease with which it can be handled. The industry draws upon other than the timber industry for its raw material. At the present time the dairy-‘ ing industry in Victoria is feeling the effect of the closing down of the majority of . the ply factories. Casein is used extensively for the manufacture of the glue with which the various plies are held together. Casein is made from skim milk, and it is worth to the dairying industry in Victoria £50,000 per annum. I ask honorable members to remember when voting on this item that they are not only dealing with one phase of the timber industry, but that by strengthening the plywood industry they will be doing much to stabilize dairying by finding an outlet for what, in other* circumstances, will be, if not wasted, at any rate used for mere pig feed. Australia’s greatest competitor’s in the plywood market are America, Finland, and Japan. During the discussion of the Tariff, figures have been quoted showing the relative wages paid in Japan and Australia, and what applies to other industries applies to no less an extent to the plywood industry.
I have here a cutting from Building of June, 1919, which, contains an article dealing with the Japanese^ building trade. In the course of other things, it says -
Quick to realize any methods of manufacturing that will tend to cheapen production, the Japanese have taken up the manufacture of plywood, and the plywood company in Tokio has sent experts to America to obtain the latest machinery and methods for turning out large quantities of plywood for building purposes, and for the manufacture of tax chests and other cases, but it will be readily realized that, in their methods of house-building, an enormous demand will be created. As a waterproof glue enters largely into the manufacture of plywood, this company is installing a plant for the manufacture of vegetable glue. Although the labour problem is a simple one in Japan, the wages being 5d. per hour, with a ten-hour day……. [ here interpolate the fact that the Queensland factories are paying ls. 4$d. to ls. 8Jd. per hour, and if the application which has been made to the Arbitration Court is successful, the pay will be increased to 2s. 3d. per hour. When that wage is compared, with the rates paid in Japan, the necessity for giving adequate protection to the men engaged in this industry in Australia is apparent. If any . further proof were needed, it is contained in an advertisement which appeared in the same number of Building. A Sydney firm in advertising their threeply and veneers mentioned the following woods in which the manufactured article was available: - Oak, ash, sen, kihada, oregon, maple, mahogany, and birch. Of these eight timbers, only the maple is Australian. The first four mentioned are from Japan, and the other three from America. This is despite the fact that we have here in Australia timbers which are eminently suitable for three-ply and veneer work. I hope the Minister (Mr. Greene) .will see his way clear to give adequate protection to this industry. At any rate, I hope the Committee will induce him to do so. The proposed rates of 4s., 4s.,’ and 5s., are insufficient, and I suggest that they should be doubled, for only by so doing will the industry be enabled to continue employing the large number of hands it has recently employed, and utilizing our Australian timbers to the best advantage.
– The duty on this threeply has apparently been reduced since the 1914 Tariff.
– The honorable member is referring to the duty on veneers.
– I have taken plywood out of the veneer item, and have fixed the duty at 4s., 4s., and 5s… per 100 square feet, as against the previous rate of 7s. 6d. per 100 super, feet, which obviously was hot a protective duty for plywood.
– This is a desirable trade to foster. It has many possibilities. Would the Minister (Mr. Greene) indicate -what chance there would be of his accepting rates of 15s., 15s., and 25s.?
– There is no chance whatever.
– Then let my request be more moderate. The Minister must have gone into the matter carefully at some stage when he felt it was necessary to increase the original duty. Would he say what figures he had in his mind at that time?. Would he agree to rates “of 6s., 6s., and 8s., because nothing less would be worth asking for?
.- I trust that the Minister (Mr. Greene) will give a little increase on this sub-item. It affects an industry which is purely Australian. He has given other Australian industries a great deal more support than he has given to this. We have here the whole of the raw materials, 25 per cent, of the value of which is represented by the casein used. The production of this article assisted the butter factories of the Western District of Victoria last year to the extent, of £50,000. Previously skim milk was a by-product of the dairying industry of which a very poor use was made : but because it is now turned into casein the price of skim milk has .risen at some of the factories to 1½d. per gallon, whereas not many years ago dairymen were glad to get 2d. per gallon for the pure milk. Consequently, the manufacture of three-ply wood has proved .to be a great advantage to the dairying industry . .
– Will the honorable member be satisfied if I made the rates 5s., 5s., and 6s. ?
– I suggest that they should be 6s., 6s., and 7s.
.- I hope that the Minister (Mr. Greene) will grant an increase. It is refreshing to hear an honorable member in the corner become a Protectionist directly an ingredient produced bv butter factories in connexion with a small Australian industry comes under review, although he is quite prepared to refuse protectionto big Australian industries.In the manufacture of plywoods we are able to utilize a number of inferior woods so long as they are faced with good woods.
– What is the percentage increase on the old duty?
Mr.WATKINS.- The Minister has not told us what it is, but he has told us that the old duty was not protective.
– It was purely a revenue duty.
– The rates set out in this schedule represent the first protection afforded to this industry. The question is whether they are sufficient to enable it to make progress. I hope that the Minister will make the duties 6s., 6s., and 7s.
.- The proposed duty against Japanese three-ply wood is 5s. per 100 square feet. Japanese plywood, which is made largely from Japanese oak, is sold here at 75s. to 100s. per 100 square feet, so that the proposed duty will be 5 per cent., or a little over 5 per cent., which is not sufficient to keep out the Japanese article. The Minister (Mr. Greene) must also bear in mind that three-ply comes into competition with beaver-board and other boards which are not mentioned in this portion of the schedule. Some of them are mentioned later, but it is left largely to the discretion of the Comptroller as to how they are to be described. Some of them are imported as decorations.
– I think they all come in as boards n.e.i., under the division “ Paper.”
– It is gratifying to note that the Minister realizes that the protection afforded in the past was not sufficient, and I am sure that the Committee would support him in increasing the rates to 6s., 6s., and 8s., in order to keep out three-ply wood made in countries such” as Japan, where the labour conditions are very much inferior to those in Australia.
Amendment (by Mr. Greene) proposed -
That the following words he added to subitem (m) : - “ And on and after 29th June, 1921, per 100 square feet, British, 5s. ; intermediate, 5s. ; general,6s.”
.- I regret that the Minister (Mr. Greene) has not seen his way to propose a mare reasonable increase. It is certain the increase the honorable gentleman has pro posed will not give adequate protection to this industry, which is only beginning to get established in this country. In Sydney, only recently, a firm has invested considerably over £20,000 in this industry, and they find that their greatest competitor is J apan, from which country this commodity can be landed here at a price less than that at which it can be produced in Australia with any decent return on the outlay. The Minister has a desire to establish and benefit Australian industries, and if we can show him that his proposal will not have that effect, I feelsure he will give further consideration to the matter. We have to face possible industrial depression, and, above all, we must establish new industries and further develop our existing industries. That is the only way in which we can avoid being drawn into the great maelstrom of industrial unrest which is confronting the world. This industry is in its infancy, with great possibilities from the point of view of employment, first in the manufacture of plywood itself, and then in the manufacture of casein for the production of the necessary glue. I am pleased to, note that our friends in the Government corner are beginning to “see the light,” and I welcome them to the fold of those prepared to encourage Australian industries. The subsidiary industry which I have mentioned can only be firmly placed on its feet provided the plywood industry is adequately protected. For all practical purposes the Minister might have left this item unamended. If our object is to protect an industry, it cannot also be to raise revenue through the Customs. To obtain revenue we should lower our duties, so ‘as to enable more manufactured goods to come in. At any rate, if the Minister’s object is revenue, his proposal will defeat it. I trust the honorable gentleman will give further consideration to the item, and add at least another1s. to the. duties.
Mr.FOLEY (Kalgoorlie) [8.36].- I should like the Minister (Mr. Greene) to propose that these duties on plywood be made a little higher. Throughout Australia there are timbers that lend themselves to this work to a greater degree than, perhaps, timbers found in many other countries. In Western Australia there are three firms, and one firm in particular, who are engaging extensively in this work, and the higher duty would give them an opportunity to use up much timber in a. more profitable way than would be the case if it were devoted to other purposes. I have recently had an opportunity of seeing some of the plywood made in Perth, and I can assure the Committee that it is not only as good, but much better than any which comes overseas. The head of the firm to which I refer has told me that he can see his way clear to go right ahead with the industry if sufficient inducement offersand I trust that the Minister will consent to add1s. to the duties.
– A position has been created out of which it will be difficult to extricate ourselves unless the Minister (Mr. Greene) will help us. I take it that the honorable gentleman, like all sensible Ministers, is quite willing to accede to an almost unanimous desire of the Committee, and make the duties 6s., 6s., and 7s. I shall not quote the wages that are paid in Japan, because, in the first place, they are so varied; and, in the second place, Japan is a strong competitor, this being a class of work to which her people have been long accustomed. Willthe Minister withdraw his amendment to give me an opportunity of moving in the direction I have indicated?
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment (by Mr. Mathews) agreed to -
That the following words be added to subitem (m) : - “And on and after 29th June, 1921, per 100 square feet, British, 6s.; intermediate, 6s. ; general, 7s.”
Item, as amended, agreed to.
Item292 (Timber, viz., laths, &c.).
– Effortshave been made by people associated with the industries affected by this item to induce the Minister to increase the duties. I know that deputations have waited on the honorable gentleman representing all sections of the trade, and I should like him to indicate at this stage whether he is prepared to accede to their requests ?
– I do not propose to move any amendment in item 292.
– It is a remarkable fact that to-day people are paying as much for firewood as they would be called upon to pay for dressed timber. I am quite satisfied that, if there was a duty on imported firewood, we should see the price lower. In Melbourne, the price is £2 12s. 6d. per ton, and for that money dressed timber, in an equal amount, could be purchased. The application of protective duties has a different effect from that which honorable members in the Government Corner imagine. Ten miles from Melbourne there is firewood galore; and it cannot be said that the imposition of a duty has caused the present high price. But the moment that any attempt is made to encourage or foster the timber industry on its manufacturing side, we are told that the imposition of duties will make the commodities more costly. However, it is no use persisting if the Minister is determined.
Item agreed to.
Item 293 (Timber, undressed) agreed to.
Item 294 (Staves)
.- Under this item staves, dressed or partly dressed but not shaped, are dutiable at 4s. per 100. I hold that work which can be done by Australian workmen should he carried out here, and it seems to me that this duty of 4s. per 100 in respect of a manufactured or partly manufactured article is inconsistent with the duty of 30 per cent. in respect of the previous item. The Minister (Mr. Greene) should be prepared to grant an increase. Staves which are dressed by coopers are used in connexion with the manufacture of casks.
– I am not proposing to increase the duty in respect of this item for the reason that the importations under it are practically negligible.
-Those who are engaged in the trade are very much afraid that under the Tariff as it stands they will meet with serious competition.
– As a matter of fact, the value of the importations under this item last year was £21 and the duty collected was £2.
– But even in 19.20 some parts of the world had not recovered from the immediate effects of the war.
– My note as to importations is that all along they have been practically negligible.
– I do nob expect the Minister to make any extravagant promise, but if he finds that this or any other industry is seriously attacked, I presume he will be prepared to grant additional protection even if it be necessary to introduce an amending Tariff Bill to do so. “Will the honorable gentleman make a statement under that general heading?
– I cannot make a general promise. We are introducing a Bill for the creation of a Tariff Board, and one of the special duties of that Board will be to look into such matters.
– I should like to have adequate protection in the Tariff schedule itself for this industry.
Item agreed to.
Item 295 (Shooks)
– Has the Minister any proposal to make in respect of this item?
– No, my reply is the same as that given in regard to the request made on the last item.
Item agreed to.
Item 296 (Casks and Vats), and item 297 (Buckets and Tubs), agreed to.
Item 298 (Last blocks, &c).
. -Under this item it is proposed that wooden lasts and trees shall be dutiable at 25 per cent, under the British preferential Tariff, 35 per cent, under the intermediate Tariff, and 40 per cent, under the general Tariff, while last blocks rough turned are free under the British and intermediate Tariffs and dutiable at only 5 per cent, under the general Tariff. I think we should have a substantial increase so as to bring, the item into conformity with others to which we have already agreed.
– The importations are very small. The lasts manufactured here are made largely from imported blocks.
– If the Minister doesnot think that an increase is necessary I will not press my request.
Item agreed to.
Item 299 (Broom stocks) agreed to.
.- I am going to ask the Minister (Mr. Greene) to grant an increase in respect of this item. The industry to which it relates, the manufacture; of felloes, hubs, rims, and spokes, was built up here during the war. Australian spotted gum and ironbark are being used in the production of spokes, felloes, and rims, with very satisfactory results. Prior to the war, the United States of America largely supplied us with such articles made of hickory, but, as I have said, during the war period plants were set up in Australia to manufacture our own requirements out of Australian timbers, and the industry has now a very fair footing. . In respect of most of the items, there is a duty of only 15 per cent. , whilst on spokes made of hickory, rough turned but not shouldered or tenoned,, there is a duty of only 5 per cent. Under sub-item j, poles and shafts in the rough are dutiable at 25 per cent., 30 per cent., and 35 per cent., and I would urge the Minister to make all the sub-items dutiable at those rates. I desire to encourage the use of local timbers.
– My answer to the request is that, with the exception of spokes in the rough, the importations under this item are almost negligible, and have been so for quite a long time. With the exception of spokes in the rough, I do not think they amount, insofar as the whole item is concerned, to more than £5,000 a year.
– Producers of these goods in the United States of America are reducing their prices, and we may expect serious competition from that quarter, especially in regard to hubs and rims. A duty of .50 per cent, in respect of the whole item, in my opinion, would not be unreasonable.
– The importation figures do not reveal any necessity for increased protection.
– I ask the Minister to at least agree to an all-round duty of 25 per cent.
– I cannot do that.
– I hope the Minister (Mr. Greene) will consider the request made by the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Francis) for an increased duty in respect of this item. It may be true, as the honorable gentleman says, that the importations under it are small, but I would point out as bearing on the sub-item relating to “felloes, made of hickory, in the rough,” that we have agreed that hickory shall come in at a duty of only 5 per cent., and that; in view of that fact, we should see that whatever hickory felloes or spokes are required in Australia are made here by our own workmen. Locally made felloes are the equal of any that can be obtained from abroad, and seeing that certain timber duties which appeared in the schedule as introduced have been increased, I think it reasonable that an increase should be granted in respect of this item. I was’ under the impression when we were discussing certain duties on timber last week, that the view of the Minister was that any increase granted, in respect of one item would regulate the duty fixed in respect of what I may speak of as subsidiary items in the same division. The Minister would do well to increase the duty. One mill in my district manufactures a large number of these felloes, and the proprietors tell me that it is necessary for them to have a very substantial increase in the duty.
– They ask for 35 per cent.
– Yes. In view of the fact that this work is performed in- the Commonwealth from imported hickory, we should give protection to the industry, ‘ and see that foreigners are not able to undersell the local manufacturer. I contend that, in view of the earlier decision of the Committee on other items in this division, there should be an increase in the duties on all these sub-items.
.- One of the seven deadly sins is said to have been gluttony, and I am afraid that some of the demands that are being made are becoming a little “ over the mark,” and that evil may result. The Minister (Mr. Greene) has pointed out that the importation of felloes is very small.
– The only considerable importation is of hickory spokes.
– If a man wants a decent buggy built in Australia he has to pay almost as big a price as would buy a motor car in the United States. I remember being asked about five years ago if I would join with one ex-member in purchasing a Ford motor car, which could have been bought in New York for £75, and landed here for £110 or £112. I believe that a first class buggy built in Australia would cost about the same price. That indicates that there is’ something wrong in the community. . As the figures show that the importations of felloes have been small, and as do special demand has been made for an increased duty, I cannot understand the appeal that is being made to the Minister.
.- The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Francis) said that a 15 per cent, duty on felloes is not sufficient. I contend that it is. One firm that has sent circulars to honorable members has stated that during the war it could not get imported timber, and was, therefore, forced to use Australian material. That statement was underlined.
– Australian timber has been used for twenty, years in preference to hickory.
– There are Australian timbers that the local manufacturers could have been using, but did not. I refer particularly to timber for hubs. I guarantee to be able to supply any firm in Melbourne with hubs of Australian timber better than any .they can get from abroad. I refer to the Wandoo or York gum of Western Australia. I have seen very -large’ hubs on wool waggons built for the north-west. The waggons are built in my electorate, and sent perhaps 1,000 miles to their destination. .1 have seen some hubs that have been in wheels for forty years, and there is not a mark on them. The only fault with them is that, from the coachbuilder’s point of view, they last too long. If, instead of asking for an extra duty on imported hubs, Australian firms will give a fair trial to the local articles, I will guarantee that they will get them cheaper and better than they can get them from abroad.
– How does the honorable member account for the prejudice against A ustralian material ?
– It is due to the lack of Australian sentiment amongst our manufacturers. There is not a sub-item under item 300 in respect of which any additional duty is required. One firm is asking for duties of from 15 to 40 per cent, on some items, and of 5 to 30 per cent, on others. That is Protection run mad. If increased duties would help local industry, I would support them, but an increase in duty is not so necessary as is the development of an Australian sentiment amongst manufacturers which would be an incentive to Parliament- to help them with an effective Tariff.
.- I again ask the Minister (Mr. Greene) to give consideration to this sub-item. The 15 per cent, duty is not sufficient. I repeat that in view of the increases made in the preceding duties in this division, the duties right through should be increased.
– We did not increase the ““duty on hickory undressed.
– That is all right, but now we come to the finished article.
– These are not the finished article. The sub-item is “ hickory felloes in the. rough.” From hickory undressed to felloes in the rough is only a small stage of manufacture. -Hickory undressed carries a 5 per cent. duty,, and we have put a further 10 per cent, duty on felloes in the rough.
– I thought the Minister intended to stick to the duty in the schedule ?
– I do.
– If the Minister has made up his mind not to alter the duty I suppose it is no use saying anything further on this sub-item, but I warn him that I shall ask for an increase on other sub-items. In regard to sub-item e, “Hubs, elm, with or without metal bands,” there is a considerable importation of these articles, and it is only fair to increase the duty in the interests of those who are manufacturing them locally.
– The duty collected on imported hubs for the year 1914-15 was £5,346. Last year, notwithstanding the increased value of the article, the duty collected was only £631. It appears as if the importations are fall ing away.
– Tins is the first time during the debate that the Minister has made a comparison with the war period. We are not yet back to normal.
– In the year 1913 the duty collected amounted to £4,361. The fact that last year the amount was only £631 seems to indicate that the Australian manufacturer is taking care of practically all the trade. In those circumstances it does not appear that an increase of the duty would be justified.
.- Even if the duty on imports last year represented only a few pounds, we have to consider not so much what has happened in the past as what may happen in the future. During the next twelve months Australian industry may encounter severe competition in respect of hubs. These are manufactured articles coming from foreign countries to compete with the product of local industry, and, in the circumstances, a duty of 15 per cent, is no protection at all. If the Minister (Mr. Greene) would increase the duty to even 20 per cent, it would be some encouragement to the local manufacturers to make further additions to their factories. I would prefer to see the rates increased to about 40 per cent., because that would be a “means, of excluding importations. If such a duty would not affect the Customs returns,* the Minister should be prepared to grant the rate suggested by those who are engaged in the industry.
.- This sub-item is of more importance than the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) thinks. As has been mentioned by other honorable members, the duty to be imposed is of considerable interest to those engaged in the manufacture of hubs.” Quite recently I was interviewed by a gentleman engaged in the business, who said that there was a great danger of manufacturers losing the trade they now held if the rates are not increased. It is not a question of the quantities imported in abnormal times, and although the Minister stated that the revenue from the duty imposed in 1913 was, approximately, £5,000, he must remember that the circumstances are now altogether different. I have already mentioned on several occasions that the cost of production in other parts of the world has been reduced owing to a reduction in wages, and that it will be quite possible for hubs manufactured in America to enter the Commonwealth and compete with those made here. Many firms have installed expensive plants, and I cannot understand why the Minister is not prepared to agree to an increased duty on this sub-item when he has increased others. If he wished to be consistent, he should not have made any increase on those items which we have already passed. The increased duties already agreed to apply with equal force to others; I have allowed some items to pass in an endeavour to assist the Minister, but he now appears to be objecting to what is only reasonable.
– If I felt there was any justification for an increase, I would not hesitate in granting it.
– There is every justification, because I have been assured by those in the industry that there is a prospect of the business going into the hands of the American manufacturers.
– When there is the first sign of danger, the Tariff Board can investigate.
– We have to take too much for granted, because we do not know what powers the proposed Board will have.
– How many men will be employed making hubs? I do not suppose there will be more than half-a-dozen when one considers the machinery used.
– A large number ave employed in one particular place I know of, and there are other similar industries in which men are engaged. It is ridiculous to suggest that half-a-dozen men can do the work. If the Minister had introduced the Bill which he has mentioned, we would have known how to proceed.
– In all my experience of Tariffs, I cannot recall an honorable member asking for Protection when a prohibitive rate exists.
– It is not protective to the extent of prohibition, and that is why I am advocating increased rates. I have here a statement in regard to the articles covered by sub-items b to
That is what the manufacturers are afraid will happen under the changed conditions. They refer to the exchange question, the fall in prices in America and elsewhere, and reduced freights, and are anxious to be protected to the extent they were before. When the conditions were altogether different, fifteen months ago, the Minister considered it necessary to impose the duties now appearing in the schedule; but it is necessary to increase them proportionately owing to the circumstances at present prevailing. I submit that we are only asking for what is fair, and I trust the Minister will agree to a small increase. There are only one or two articles in this item which are imported to any extent; and, if the Minister is prepared to meet us fairly, our work can proceed more expeditiously. It must be remembered that included in those conducting this industry are many struggling saw-millers working on a very small margin, and who realize the possibility of unfair competition by means of imported goods.When conditions were favorable, Australian manufacturers exported certain quantities - I do not know what they are doing at present - including some to New Zealand.
– Our Tariff will not keep these goods out of New Zealand.
– I am not arguing in that direction. If we can export any of these manufactured articles, so much the better, but we certainly should have our own market for our people.
– If we manufacture everything, how will we manage with our export trade ?
– I am hopeful that, if vessels do not come to Australia to take away our products, we shall have our own boats to do the work.
– That position will never arise.
– The gentleman who interviewed me the other day did not endeavour to mislead me. He is one who has invested all his capital in the business, and says that if the duties are not increased he will not be able to continue in business. The Minister will admit that throughout the discussion every argument he has used has been based on prewar figures. In this instance he has taken the year before the war, when the revenue was approximately £5,000.
– Owing to the way in which my notes have been prepared, I am afraid I have misled the Committee, because the figure I quoted represented the value of the imports, and not the duties.
– That alters the position ; but I do not see why there can be any objection to an increase. If conditions were the same. I would not ask for an additional farthing.
– If there is any danger it can be met.
– I do not think so. We will realize the positionwhich manufacturers are placed when they have been ruined. An increased duty would notadd to the cost, but would merely assist to prevent American stuff from coming in in the near future, as must happen unless there is a change in the economic conditions here similar to that which is operating abroad. However, I do not want to see this occur. A general break down of things would not be good for Australia. We must take care to see that, beyond certain slight changes, which certainly must occur, our present standard is maintained, because a general tumble down would create unemployment, and interfere with the Treasurer’s revenue. It appears to me, however, that the Treasurer (SirJoseph Cook) does not want revenue, and is prepared to run the risk of allowing American stuff to come in, thus keeping our own people out of employment. I ask the Minister (Mr. Greene) to try to meet us, so that we. may make some progress with the Tariff this evening.
Amendment (by Mr. Francis) negatived -
That sub-item (b) be amended by adding the following : - “ And on and after 29th June, 1921, ad val., British, 30 per cent.; intermediate, 30 per cent.; general, 35 per cent.”
.- There oughtto be some increase. It is only fair after what has been done by the Committee on other items.Therefore, I move -
That sub-item (b) be amended by adding the following : - “ And on and after 29th June, 1921, ad val., British, 20 per cent.; intermediate, 20 per cent. ; general, 25 per cent.”
The increase I propose would not affect Great Britain, but would affect America. As the Minister (Mr. Greene) is not prepared to meet honorable members in a reasonable spirit,I ask the Committee to decide that the increase I propose is a reasonable one.
– There are forces gathering which are ready to spring upon the Australian market to an extent that will place the Committee in a most peculiar position when it is found that, under this so-called high protective Tariff, many of our industries are going to the wall. We have certainly passed through abnormal times, but things are going to pieces in other parts of the world, and we shall find that, even despite our anti-dumping legislation, there will be heavy importations into Australia. Even the Argus, the mouthpiece of the Free Trade party, stands aghast at the import figures for the last ten months, showing that we have, in that period, imported £150,000,000 worth of goods; twice the value of our imports in any previous twelve months. Making a liberal allowance for increased values these figures show how our market is being flooded under the existing Tariff, and I am afraid that the next twelve months will tell a worse tale, because accompanying this great influx of importations will be the collapse of Australian industries. Of course, some honorable members do not care a snap of the fingers, so long as they can get cheap goods from Japan, or elsewhere, produced under black labour conditions. Free Traders and, indeed, some members of the Country party, would throw up their hats with joy if they saw our streets lined withunemployed, and our factories closing down. The future is laden with great menace to the trade of this country. The more people we can get to help us to pay our debts, the better it will be, but some honorable members apparently want to see our population decrease, and our people out of employment.
– Fancy starting a big debate on a small item like this ! The honorable member has no sense of proportion.
– I would be all right, I suppose, according to the Honor able member’s ideas, if I had a sense of Free Trade proportion. The honorable mem ber for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) is only asking for 5 per cent. increase on hubs. Even the Corner party ought to be prepared to grant this. Over, twenty years ago, I remember, that a man who was having a vehicle built, was asked by the wheelwright what shafts he would like to have. Thepurchaser asked the wheelwright what he would recommend, and the wheelwright said that, although there was much talk about hickory, he, with his experience, would suggest blue gum. This suggestion was accepted, and the vehicle was so built. There is too much talk of American hickory, in view of the fact that we have just as good timber, and just as good workmen, in Australia. Honorable members opposite by their vote to-day, have closed up a few industries ; but we notice that when the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Robert Cook) asks for increased duties, his request is readily assented to. However, I have issued my warning, and if industries do go to the wall by reason of what is done to-night, the Ministry will be to blame to a large extent.
Question - That the words proposed to be added be so added (Mr. Charlton’s amendment) - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 15
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- Will the Minister (Mr. Greene) consent to an extra 5 per cent. on the general Tariff? The contentions in support of higher duties are not imaginary, as some honorable members seem to believe. There is no doubt that we shall return to pre-war conditions, and I know that these articles are being imported largely. Some thirteen or fourteen years ago, I was interested in the purchase of a wreck, and I noticed that a great many hubs were floating about, showing that they were being imported in quantities. What took place then can take place again, and the Minister knows that the United States and Canada are looking further afield for markets. I move -
That the following words be added to sub-item (b) : - “And on and after 29th June, 1921, ad val., British 15 per cent.; intermediate,15 per cent. ; general, 20 per cent.”
.- I hope the Minister (Mr. Greene) will consent to this very reasonable amendment. I do not wish to repeat what I have previously said, but it was admitted on Friday last that if the duties then under consideration were increased the duties on the other items in this division would be increased in proportion.
– That did not refer to things of this sort. It has no relation to them.
– I disagree with the honorable gentleman on that point.
– This relates only to hubs.
– It was admitted that the decision on the previous item should be the basis for assessing the duties on every other item in this division. These are finished articles.
– No, they are only partly finished, and that is why it is not proposed to impose a duty in excess of 15 per cent.
– There is a good deal of labour involved in the preparation of these things before they are imported. We want that labour to be done in this country. We are asking only for an increase of 5 per cent. in the general Tariff. The only country likely to be affected by the proposed increase is America, whilst its acceptance will protect our own people in the manufacture of these articles, and will give employment to Australian workmen. I do not think that the Minister is justified in op posing the amendment in view of the attitude we have taken up. We have not pressed for an increase in duty except where it has been absolutely necessary to take a stand in the interests of Australian industries.
– We had better let the Czar have his way and go to bye-bye.
– He will not go to bye-bye for some time yet if the Minister persists in his present attitude. As representatives of the people we cannot accept his ultimatum when he refuses agree to a reasonable amendment such as this.
– I cannot see that the honorable gentleman has a case for the proposed increase.
– The Minister loses sight of the changes which have taken place since this Tariff was framed fifteen months ago. My people tell me’ that this means everything to them. They say that if they do not get fair protection under this item our milling industry might as well close down. They are afraid that it will come to that in view of the changed conditions elsewhere. We didnot complain as we might have done against the introduction of hickory cheaply, though some of our own timbers are equal to hickory for the purposes for which it is used.
– The Committee refused to increase the duty.
– The Committee has not yet refused what we are now asking, and that is merely an increase of 5 percent. in the general Tariff on this item. If honorable members knew my district as well as I do they would recognise that it means everything to the people engaged in the industry there. I cannot permit the mills to be closed down, men to be thrown out of work, and the capital invested in the industry to be lost, without some protest.
– If the honorable membertells honorable members of the Country party about the capital that will be lost it may induce them to support him.
– They are country people who are chiefly concerned in this matter.
– Country people do not want to have to pay any more for poor elm hubs.
– They wilt not be asked to pay any more for hubs. The Minister’s statement is proof of that.
– I would not use an elm hub myself.
– That is a matter of opinion; but whether the honorable member would use an elm hub or not, i say that we should, as far as possible, use hubs made by our own people from our own timbers. We have plenty of suitable timber for these purposes, and our workmen are capable of producing these articles to compare with those produced in any other part of the world. In view of what has been done in connexion with the Tariff generally, I cannot understand why the Minister will not accept a small increase of this kind.
– I have given the matter very careful consideration, and, in view of the import figures under all these items I came to the conclusion that there is no justification for increased duties.
– The honorable gentleman loses sight of the position that exists to-day. I know that he will tell me that he is introducing legislation to deal with it.
– To deal with what?
– With dumping and that sort of thing, and with the rate of exchange.
– They will be attended to.
– If the exchange is taken into consideration, there is practically no duty imposed on these articles.
– No, the reverse is the case. Buying from America, the exchange will be an additional protection to the Australian, industry.
– I admit that, but the. small increase asked for, whilst being of assistance to. those engaged in the industry, will not increase the cost of these articles to any one. in Australia by one farthing.
– Then why bother about it?
– I say that the increase of duty proposed will not increase the cost of these articles to Australian users of them, but it will give increased employment to Australian workmen, and will prevent the Americans getting into our market for these things. It would appear that it is necessary for us to ask for duties twenty times as high as we consider fair if we are to get anything that may be considered reasonable. The only big fight that I have put up was that with respect to the duties on iron and steel; but I got nothing, whereas the Country party, every time that it has put up a tight, has gained something. It is not because the Minister thinks there is ho justification for the increase for which I ask, but rather because he is afraid of the Country party, that he declines to grant it.
– That is not correct. I have tried as far as possible, wherever I have considered that a case has been made out for an increased duty, to secure that increase, irrespective of where any opposition might come from.
– I hold that there is agood case for an increase in this instance.
– I fail to see it.
– Is there not a strong reason for increasing by 5 per cent. the duty under the general Tariff in. respect of the sub-item under consideration.
– I do not think it is required. If I felt that I could reasonably grant the increase I would not hesitate to accent the amendment.
– Then I can only say that we shall have to test this question by calling fora division and by moving an increase in respect of every sub-item.
.- I hope that the Minister (Mr. Greene) will reconsider his decision and agree to increase from 15 per cent. to 20per cent. the duty under the general Tariff sub-item b. The case for suchan increase has been well put by the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton). Those engaged in the industry hold that in respect of not only the sub-item under consideration, but several others a duty of 40per cent. under the general Tariff is necessary if they are to be reasonably protected We, however, are asking for only half that measure ofprotection, and it should be granted in order that encouragement may be given to an industry that we are trying to build up in Australia. Much has been said during the Tariff debate in regard to new industries that sprang up during the war, and, in respect of the’ duties relating to them the Minister has based his calculations on pre-war conditions. If he looks at the pre-war statistics relating to this sub-item he will see that there is reasonable ground for the increasedprotection for which we ask. Those engaged in the industry here have installed new machinery, taken on additional labour, and purchased Australian timbers to. carry on their business. A duty of 15 per cent. is altogether inadequate. I ask the Minister to agree to our request for the encouragement of an important industry.
Question - That the words proposed to be so added (Mr. Mathews amendment) be so addedput. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 14
Question so resolved in the negative;
.- The duty proposed upon hubs, prepared, n.e.i., is a Uniform one of1s. 3d. each. I am assured that this impost is altogether inadequate.
– There were no importations in 19,14-15, only £240 worth in 1915-16, £22 worth in 1917-18, and there have been no importations during the past two years.
– I am merely in search of information.
– And the honorable member has obtained it.
– We shall get a lot more before the night is over. There is no needto import timber for the manufacture of hubs. Better timber than our own for that purpose cannot be obtained anywhere. Spotted gum and ironbark can satisfactorily take the place of hickory in the manufacture of these articles. A similar remark is applicable to rims, made of hickory, bent, squared, plain, and in the rough. There is no need to import any of this timber. We have ample supplies of suitable timber for this purpose in Australia.I do not see why the Minister (Mr. Greene) cannot consent to increase the duty proposed upon these articles, namely, 15 per cent.
– All I can say is that it is quite impossible to discriminate between the articles which are comprised in sub-item a and those which are covered by sub-item d. Consequently, we must have the same duty upon each of those sub-items. The total importations under these two sub-items amount to only £2,082, whereas during the year prior to the war they were valued at £5,508.
– Does the same argument apply to rims n.e.i., which are covered by sub-item e? Are there no imports of rims?
– There were none last year, and none in 1916-17.
– It is claimed that the duty upon the articles comprised in sub-item f, namely, spokes, hickory, rough turned, but not shouldered or tenoned, is quite inadequate.
– It is the same duty as has been levied upon hickory in the rough. There were no importations of these articles in 19.13. only £175 worth in 1914-15, no importations during the next two years, £41 worth during 191 7-18, £57 worth during the next year, and noimportations last year.
– The Minister will not say that there are no importations of the articles comprised insub-item a, viz., spokes, hickory, dressed, 2 inches and under in diameter?
-The importationsunder that heading have fallen from 613,000 before the war to 285,000, or less than one-half. Their actual value at theincreased prices which now obtain’ is £6.932, as against £8,458 at pre-war prices:
– But the spokes covered by sub-item are dressed.In such circumstances is it not a fair thing to impose an increased duty?
– It looks to me as if the Australian manufacturers are overtaking the local demand; and, as far as I can see, the industry is going ahead. Although there are quite a number of people engaged in the manufacture of “tressed spokes in Australia, we have had only 01% application for an increased duty. It came from a man who is located at Dora Creek, in New South Wales.
– I urge the Minister (Mr. Greene) to give these people a little encouragement, for they have been given none yet under this item.
– The only . spokes imported are those for the lighter class of vehicle. All spokes for heavy vehicles are made in Australia.
– Will the Minister agree to increase the rate on spokes in the general Tariff, sub-item a, by 5 per cent. ? That will not cost the Minister or the Government ‘ anything, but it will show the people concerned that we are. trying to do something for them. If the article is not imported to a great extent, the extra duty will not make much difference from a revenue point of view, but we may close the door against future importations, because we have plenty of timber in Australia to make spokes from. In view of the labour problem, we should endeavour to make as many articles as possible in our own country. By granting an increase we should show the manufacturers in Australia that we have some concern for them. They have stocks of local timbers, and they should be encouraged to use them.
– What . timber would you use to make light spokes? .
– There are a good many timbers that we could use. The honorable member knows some in his own district.
– I do not know of ona.
– The Minister says that no spokes are imported.
– Then why do you want a duty on them*
– We want it for the future. I hope the Minister has not made up his mind to do no more under this item, or that, as the industry is only a small and struggling one, it is not worthy of much consideration. These people are not in my electorate, so that it does not affect me whether they get an increased duty or not, but it does affect the Commonwealth from an industrial point of view.
– I did not say there were no importations of spokes.
– I understood the Minister to say that they were not imported to any great extent. We have in Australia timber quite fit to make, not only the spokes, but the whole wheel. It is not fair to throw cold water on an industry because it is in a struggling condition. We were very glad during the war to take advantage of the efforts of this and many other industries, and now that we are returning to normal times it is surely fair for the Government to protect it against foreign trade at any rate, especially against the competition of countries where the industrial conditions are not as favorable as they are here. Surely we are not going to ask the Australian manufacturers to scrap their machinery and throw their hands out of employment? A duty of 15 per cent, is not worth anything to protect an industry which is striving to- use all - Australiangrown timber.
– They say they were forced to use it.
– If they were forced, all the better. We were forced to do quite a number of things during the war. We flew the flag Which was inscribed “ Australia First! Advance Australia!” and we should fly it still. If people stood to us during the war, we should secure them against the foreigner to-day. They are asking only for a tinpot advance, in the duty; but the Minister says to’ them, “ You can take 15 per cent, or leave it alone.” They might as well leave it alone, if that is all the protection they are to have.
– They will not say so.
– Men do not. go into business for the fun of it. The same is true about members of Parliament. We talk about the job being hard, but I notice that we all stick to it as long as we can. A man goes into business to earn an honest and fair living, and is entitled to a fair margin of profit. We are not giving this industry any protection at all ; but to banana growing and other occupations we have given protection out of all bounds. Honorable members advocate immigration, and shout, “ Advance Australia!” and here is an opportunity for them to give practical effect to their policy by assisting a struggling industry, those engaged in which are prepared to declare that, unless they get additional protection, they will have to go out of business. We are on the eve of keener industrial competition from foreign countries than ever before, particularly in connexion with those articles which the Tariff has not protected as it should have done. I have no personal interest to serve by voting for the increase of these duties, but it is my duty as an Australian to see that these people who are using Australian timber, and employing Australian workmen, are given reasonable assistance. If, even on the next item, spokes dressed or prepared, the Minister will promise to give an increased duty, I shall be content, and say no more.
– There are no importations at all under that item.
– Then I shall stick to the one now before the Committee. Every day men call at my house and ask for work. There are more unemployed in Australia than there should be, and their numbers will be increased unless we are prepared to protect the industries which provide them with employment. On a later sub-item, “ Bars, shafts, and whiffletrees,” the Minister has proposed duties of 25, 30, and 35 per cent. These are important parts of a vehicle, and must be able to stand great strain; they are made out of Australian timber. Yet upon hickory manufactured into spokes before it leaves foreign countries the Minister will not agree to a higher duty than 15 per cent. As he admits that there are large importations of spokes, why does he not agree to a duty of 35 per cent.? His attitude means that the firms who stood by us in time of war are to be left at the mercy of foreign competitors. In the main, this Tariff will mean the industrial salvation of Australia, because of the encouragement given tomany Australian industries. The growth of industry during the war was colossal. We have heard the testimony of Ministers and othersthat, during and since the war, people have been prepared to invest money in Australian enterprises. Those who are engagedin the manufacture of spokes may not have invested £200,000 or £300,000 in their industries, but if a man has invested the savings of his lifetime, he is entitled to consideration. I cannot understand why the Minister will not grant an increase of 5 per cent. in the duties when an industry is threatened with foreign competition. We do not wish to interfere with the British or intermediate rates, but we do ask for an increase in’ the general Tariff. It was wrong to encourage these people to start these industries during the war without telling them that as soon as the war was over they would be at the mercy of foreigners. Some of this timber comes from countries that were not our Allies in the war. We import timber from some countries that were not even friendly towards us. We are importing from former enemy countries! We hear honorable members of the Corner party talking; about encouraging people ‘to go on the land. How are they providing encouragement at this moment ?
– Will 5 per cent. added upon this sub-item prove encouraging?
– A 5 per cent. increase will go further than the honorable member imagines. It is all very well to enter this House with a Free Trade mind and advocate Free Trade sentiments. I am. an Australian, and I stand for Australianmade goods. Iplead for an Australian industry, and the Minister should be prepared togrant the 5 per cent. increase. Some honorable members are prepared to say to the foreigner, “ Come in and compete with our people. We have established industries and erected costly machinery during the war years, when we had to help ourselves. Now, come in and kill our industries, and scrap our new machinery.”
– Does the honorable member regard Great Britain as a foreign country ?
– I am not referring to Great Britain, but the interjector reminds me that the British preferential Tariff should remain as it is. To place British manufacturers on the same mark as foreigners is most unfair. Why should there be any discrimination here? Upon some of the sub-items British preference has been conceded.
– Does much hickory come from Great Britain?
– No; but 1 am speaking generally.
– What is the use of giving preference to Britain when she does not send us any of this timber !
– I know she does not send us any. But I am advocating a principle, and I have 65,000 Australians to speak for. I should add that hot one of my constituents is, so far as I know, particularly interested in this sub-item, and no one has asked me to intercede either for a higher protective duty or fpr a greater degree of preference to the Mother Country. But I am an Australian, and I say that it is anti- Australian to decry our industries and our natural resources. It is bunkum to suggest that Australia cannot supply sufficient timber for her requirements. By passing this item, we shall be placing the foreign manufacturers on the same basis as those in Great Britain. I have been informed 1hat ironbark can satisfactorily take the place of hickory, and it is generally admitted by those engaged in the industry in Australia that a duty of 15 per cent. is totally inadequate. Prior to 1916, several Australian manufacturers were in a serious position owing to their inability to compete against American production, and, notwithstanding this, we are imposing a duty of only 15 per cent. I have been advised that a majority of the manufacturers have agreed not to increase their prices unless the Arbitration Court increases wages or in other ways adds to the cost of production. The Arbitration Court has recently increased wages, but that is a matter which we cannot discuss at this juncture. I would be satisfied if the Minister would agree to leave the British rate at 15 per cent., and increase the general Tariff by 5 per cent.
– That would not make any difference.
– If such is the case, the Minister should not refuse my request.
– I draw attention to the state of the Committee. [Quorum formed.]
– The area from which we obtain timber required for the manu facture of spokes comprises 100,,000,000 acres, and that from which wood for manufacturing purposes is. obtained totals 102,000,000 acres, or 150,375 square miles.
– How many trees are there on it?
– Quite sufficient to last the Commonwealth for many years.
– I ask. the honorable member to connect his remarks with the item before the Committee.
– I am proving that we have sufficient timber in Australia to manufacture spokes. Although large quantities of timber are being used, under the system of re-afforestation established in many of the States, further supplies will be available for many years to come. Prior to the war we cut 650,000,000 super. feet annually. The timber against which we seek this protection is brought here in foreign ships, manned by crews who are anything but Australian.
– Is there any timber in Australia as suitable as hickory for light buggies ?
– Yes, the yellow wood of Queensland. We use spotted gum and ironbark in the manufacture of portions of our wheels. Will not the Minister agree to increase the general rate by 5 per cent.?
– If the Minister is not agreeable to an increase, I suppose I must be content
.- If the Minister will not consent to report progress, I am afraid we must continue for a while. The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Francis) has put forward sound arguments in favour of an increase in the general rate.
– Within the last twelve months there has been an increase of 100 per cent, in the value, of imported spokes.
– The value of nearly everything imported has doubled in the same period. Our gums are equal to the best timber that could be introduced for the purpose of making spokes. In all the other items where the Minister has shown there have been no importations, the duty has not been altered; but in regard to this particular sub-item, where importations have taken place, and even to the extent of double those of the previous year, he refuses to grant an increase.
– I say that the importations have not doubled; hut, spoke for spoke, the price of the imported article has doubled within the last twelve months.
– That is just what I said. The value of nearly everything has increased almost double. The request put forward by the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Francis) is reasonable.
– I would not be sticking out against it if I thought it was reasonable.
– I am surprised at the Minister’s attitude. He says that he cannot grant an. increase because there are no importations ; but where there are importations he will not grant a paltry increase of 5 per cent, even for the sake of giving a preference to Great Britain. The increase asked for would not add to the price of the local article. The proposed increase makes no difference to prices, but is only proposed as a precaution to prevent this article from coming in overseas. It is really manufactured and ready for use, and it admission means unemployment for our own people, although we have thoroughly suitable timbers. That is not a fair position in which to’ place our industries and workmen, and I see no reason why the Minister should take exception to a proposal , so reasonable. A good case has been made out in favour of this increase.
– You have not made one out.
– Then it is strange that the honorable member has not spoken in opposition to it, for it is certainly ai question thatshould be fully discussed. I should not be one to delay matters now if it were not that important considerations are involved, and the duties are a vita] concern to many people.
– I have seen many a “ stone-wall “ put up, but never one over 5 percent.
– We have not asked for an increase of 15 per cent, or 20 per cent., and because we ask for only a paltry 5 per cent, we are accused of putting up a “ stone-wall.” Under the circumstances, however, we ban take no other course than the one we are now taking. Honorable members opposite have agreed to increased duties in other directions, but merely because this does not affect themselves, they Bhow strong opposition to the proposal. We are not here to be made the pliable instruments of the Minister and those behind him. There is nothing to be gained by stopping here now.
– There is nothing to be gained by further talking.
Mr.CHARLTON. - The position is that, if we. do not talk, injustice will he done to this industry, this matter may appear trifling to the Aoting Prime Minister, but it is of vital concern to the people engaged in this industry. The firm which has been referred to by the Minister . for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) has been struggling along in this industry for many years. Our difficulty is that the Government bring, down a Tariff, and where it suits them they will alter the duties proposed, and justify the alteration on the ground that fifteen months have elapsed since the Tariff was framed, and conditions have since changed. In other cases they will not agree to any alteration.
House adjourned at 11.28 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 28 June 1921, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1921/19210628_reps_8_96/>.