10th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Littleton Groom) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– The former member for Warringah (Sir Granville Ryrie) on several occasions urged that special consideration should be given to ex-service veteranswho were engaged in training members of the Australian Infantry Forces during the war. Having regard to the loyal service of these men will the Government favourably consider their request for a month’s pay for each year of service?
– Some months ago I received a deputation from representatives of the Returned Soldiers’ League in regard to this matter, and because of the many difficulties that surround it, I submitted the matter to Cabinet which, after full consideration, decided regretfully that nothing could be done without injustice to other persons.
– I received to-day a letter from Sydney protesting that another shipload of foreign migrants bad landed in Sydney, where already great unemployment exists. Cannot the Prime Minister take some steps to stop this stream of foreign immigration.
– In answer to a question a few days ago regarding the immigration of other than British subjects, I referred to the action which has been taken by the Italian Government to discourage the migration of its subjects, That action, I pointed out, operated only as from the 1st September, and the Commonwealth Government is watching carefully the result. Most of our foreign migrants come from Italy.
– Following up questions which I have asked of the PostmasterGeneral recently, I desire to quote two paragraphs from a letter received this morning from the secretary to the Amalgamated PostalWorkers’ Union, New South Wales branch : -
Our members are greatly perturbed about the threatened dismissal of approximately 400 of their comrades, who are employed as temporary and casual linemen in New South Wales,90 per cent. of whom are returned soldiers.
If Parliament adjourns before some definite steps are taken in this connexion, it will mean that the unionists mentioned will be faced with possible starvation during the festive season.
In view of the serious prospect before the postal workers, I ask the Prime Minister whether the Government will take steps to ensure continuity of employment for them at least until after Christmas, particularly in view of the fact that the members of the Opposition in this chamber at no time advocated economies that would result in the curtailment of necessary public works?
– To the extent that moneys are available, necessary public works are being carried on, but thenecessity to curtail expenditure in certain directions may cause a number of persons to be put out of employment. That result, although regrettable, will be inevitable. For it the Government will not be entirely responsible; because Opposition membersin speaking on the budget strongly advocated a reduction of expenditure.
– I ask the Prime. Minister whether it is not a fact that the whole of the postal estimates were passed by Parliament as presented by the Government ? The Opposition urged and still urges, economy, but not in such a way as would limit postal facilities, especially in country districts.
– It is true that the postal estimates were passed as presented by the Government, but throughout the discussion on the Budget emphasis was laid upon the necessity for economy, and there was even the suggestion that the Government by not reducing expenditure generally, both from revenue and loans,had failed to recognize its financial responsibility.
– Recently the Prime Minister, inanswer to a question, stated that the Commonwealth was prepared to help the States to arrive at a satisfactory solution of the problem of soldier settlement. I know of a number of distressing cases which I would like to have finally dealt with. I understand that this matter was discussed at the last premiers’ conference, and I ask the Prime Minister to state the Government’s intentions in regard to it.
– The Premiersin conferenceconsidered this matter with a view to reaching finality in the relations of the Commonwealth and the States. The conference decided that the Commonwealth Governmentshould examine the position in each State to see if certain broad principles could be agreed upon as the basis for an arrangement between the Commonwealth and the individual States. That examination is proceeding, but any specific cases must be dealt with by the State concerned.
– On behalf of 257,000 listeners-in in Australia, I ask the Prime Minister if he will give effect immediately - instead of on the 1st January -to the agreement with Amalgamated Wireless Limited which was recently ratified by Parliament ?
-I assume that the honorable member refers to the reduction of the licence fee for listeners-in which is made possible by the reductionof the royalty charge from 5s. to 3s.,andof the charge by the Postmaster-General’s Department from 2s 6d. to1s. The reduced fees will be brought into operation as soon as practicable.
– The agreement has been ratified by Parliament.
– Certain administrative procedure in the Postmaster-General’s Department, probably involving the issue of new regulations, is necessary. These steps will be taken as quickly as possible, and the reduced fees will operateas soon as practicable.
– Iask the Prime Minister on whose advice were the services of Sir William Clarkson, as a member of the Commonwealth Shipping Board, dispensed with, and Mr. Kneen appointed in his stead. The Public Accounts Committee recommended that the services of the three members of the board should be terminated simultaneously and at once, with a view to appointingthree men whose qualifications cover the special activities of the Line, from the Commonwealth shipping service.
– A few days ago I stated that the decision of the Government not to renew the appointment of Sir William Clarkson was reached without consultation with or advice from any outside authority. The Government understood the recommendation of the Public Accounts Committee in connexion with the management to be based on the continuance of the Line for a considerable time; but, as we have decided to invite tenders immediately forthe purchase of the Line - involving, it is anticipated, its disposal almost immediately - it was not considered necessary to interfere with the existing management beyond saving the expenditure of £3,000 a year in respect of Sir William Clarkson’s salary and substituting an expenditure of £200 to cover the period during which the sale of the Line is being negotiated.
– Can the Treasurer inform the House of the result of the flotation of the Conversion Loan of £36,000,000?
-It is impossible yet to indicate the result of thefloration.
Salaries of Hotel Managers - National War Memorial - C ostof Hotels - Special Map - GovernorGeneral’s Residence.
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
On the 9th December, the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) asked me certain questions regarding the architectural competition for the National War Memorial at Canberra. I am now in a position to advise him as follow : -
In reply to a question by the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Mackay) on the 30th November, 1927, I gave the cost of various establishments erected by the Federal Capital Commission as follow: - Hotel Ainslie £24,847,
Hotel Wellington £23,166, Beauchamp House, not finally complete butwould not exceed £24,000. I explained that these figures were the actual cost of the buildings and did not include overhead charges and interest. In the Commission’s annual report for the financial year 1926-27, the expenditure on these buildings is shown as. - Hotel Ainslie £27,996, Hotel Wellington £25,849, Beauchamp House £23,552. The difference in these figures is accounted for by the inclusion of interest and overhead charges in the report. In all these cases the estimated cost of the work was under £25,000, and they did not, therefore, fall within the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act.” It was decided some time ago that for the purpose of this act interest and overhead charges should not be included by the commission, although these are added later for its own bookkeeping purposes as a commercial concern. The reason for not including interest and overhead charges when considering whether a work should be referred to the Public Works Committee was to bring the commission’s works on to the same basis, for this purpose, as other Commonwealth works, e.g., those carried out by the Department of Works and Railways, in regard to which it is not the custom to include interest or the cost of preparation of plans, &c, as these services are performed by permanent officers and the administrative cost of the department is not distributed over the works.
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– I shall look into the honorable member’s suggestion andadvise him of the result of my consideration at a later date.
asked the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -
When will an answer be given to the question asked by the honorable member for Reid on 30th November last, regarding the cost of the maintenance, &c, of the Governor-General’s residences ?
– I hope to be in a position to furnish the information to the honorable member to-morrow.
Dismissals - Rates - Re-classification.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Will he expedite an answer to the question of the honorable member for Reid, asked on the 13th instant, regarding dismissals, &c, from the Postal Department?
– The Prime Minister has already dealt with this matter in the reply he gave to the honorable member’s question without notice.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
The rates of postage on newspapers printed and published in Australia are: -
To other parts of the British Empire and toNew Hebrides, Banks and Torres Islands,1d. per four ozs.
Elsewhere beyond the Commonwealth, wealth,1d. per two ozs.
– On the 14th December, the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley) asked me the following question, upon notice -
Whether the re-classification of the clerks in the Telephone Manager’s Branch of the General Post Office, Sydney, has been completed; if so, will the Minister state the earliest date when the re-classification will be published?
I am now in a position to furnish the information -
The classification of the officers referred to has not been completed. A definite date cannot be furnished, but endeavour is being made to publish the classification as early as practicable.
asked the Prime
Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow -
– On the 12th October, the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) asked me the following questions, upon notice -
I am now in a position to furnish the desired information, which is embodied in the attached statement -
Public Service Board -
The Development and Migration Commission was appointed under the Development and Migration Act 1926.
The total cost of the Commission to 7th November, 1927, was £44,788 14s.1d., made up as follows : -
Note. - The Commission assumed control of the Migration activities of the Commonwealth as from 1st October, 1920. Prior to that date the work was under the control of the Department of Markets ‘and Migration. The expenditure thereon from 1st October, 1926, to 7th November, 1927, was £85,663 14s. 2d.
Royal Commission on Motion Picture Industry.
Royal Commission on Child Endowment.
Royal Commission on the Constitution.
Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.
Public Service Board.
Development and Migration Commission.
The Department of the Treasury.
2.CommonwealthStoresSupply and Tender
Commonwealth Local Stores Board, New South Wales.
Commonwealth Bank - Board of Directors.
War Gratuity Board.
Civilians War Claims Board.
Superannuation Fund Management Board.
Taxation Boards of Review and Referees.
National Debt Commission.
Taxation Board of Relief.
Board of Examination of Patent Attorneys.
Industrial Peace Acts 1920 -
Coal Industry Special Tribunal.
Engine-drivers’ and Firemen’s (Coal Industry) Special Tribunal.
Engineers’ (Coal Industry) Special Tribunal.
Coke Industry Special Tribunal.
Southern Local Board (Queensland).
Northern Local Board (Queensland).
Mechanics (Coal Industry) Special Tribunal.
Victorian Local Board.
Department of Trade and Customs.
Department of Home and Territories.
Commonwealth Literary Fund Committee.
Federal Capital Commission.
Industrial Board in Territory for Seat of Government.
North Australia Commission.
Primary Production Board for North and Central Australia (previously known as Northern Territory Primary Producers’ Board ) .
Department of Defence.
Munitions Supply Board.
Air Accidents Investigation Committee.
Works andRailways Department.
Department of Markets and Migration.
Committee Controlling Trade Publicity in the United Kingdom.
The cost of the trade publicity scheme is borne by the dairy produce, dried fruits and canned fruits organizations, and the Commonwealth, on a £1 for £1 basis. The Commonwealth’s liability is limited to £100,000. The member’s of the Publicity Committee receive no remuneration for their services, and the secretarial and other administrative work is carried out by the Department of Markets and Migration.
Australian Maize-Growers’ Council… Nil.
Dairy Produce Control Board.
Dried Fruits Control Board.
Canned Fruits Control Board
These boards were brought into existence pursuant to the Dairy Produce Export Control Act 1924, the Dried Fruits Export Control Act 1924, and the Canned Fruits Export Control Act 1926. The expenditure of the boards is defrayed from levies collected from the producers in whose interest the boards are operating.
Each of the above organizations is still in existence.
Dried Fruits Advances Repayment Board.
Committee controlling Trade Publicity in United Kingdom.
Australian Dairy Council.
Dairy Produce Control Board.
Dried Fruits Export Control Board.
Australian Maize-Growers’ Council.
Canned Fruits Export Control Board.
Department of Health.
– On the 14th December, the honorable member for Hunter (Mr.
Charlton) asked me the following question : -
Will he, in the interests of public health, give directions that all windows in the Sydney General Post Office be opened during the summer weather, especially where glass screens are provided immediately behind windows?
I am now in a position to furnish the the following information -
I find that in the past the opening of windows has been optional on the part of the officers occupying the various portions of the building. Directions have now been given for windows to be kept open as far as practicable.
– On the 12th December, the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lister) asked if the Minister for Defence had any information as to complaints made by mechanics and other men employed at the Laverton Aircraft Depot and at Point Cook, and if so, what steps were being taken to remedy them. I am now able to inform the honorable member that the Minister for Defence advises that no complaint of any description has been received by the Air Board from Air Force personnel in Victoria.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Whether, in view of the repeated and continued adverse criticism as to the alleged detrimental effect of the duty on agricultural implements, the Minister can furnish particulars showing the advantage to the primary producers of local manufacture of implements, in the absence of which importers may exploit the community?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is rather lengthy, but as it is of great interest to the primary producers, I propose to read it. It is: -
Numerous illustrations have been supplied in the past proving that primary producers are not being penalized by the present duty on agricultural implements. Several such instances are quoted in the report of the Tariff Board which conducted an exhaustive inquiry into this industry. In spite of these facts, however, foreign and anti-Australian interests continue their propaganda against the local manufacturer, ostensibly in the interests of the primary producer.
In further support of my repeated contention that local manufacture is of decided advantage to the primary producer, even from the selfish and apart from the national viewpoint, I desire to quote the following particulars, recently obtained. The Argentine prices quoted were quite recently received by cable.
– Order! Ministers are allowed certain latitude when replying to questions, but it is not usual for Ministers to make lengthly statements in reply to questions. It is the practice to ask for leave to make a statement in such a case. I suggest that the Minister should condense his reply as much as possible.
– I rise to a point of order. It is significant that thisdevelopment has taken place after a debate on the metals and machinery division in the tariff schedule.
– What is the honorable member’s point of order?
– I maintain that the Minister is not reading a reply to a question, but is making a speech which contains propaganda directed against the political convictions of myself and several other honorable members in this chamber.
– I ask the honorable member for Wimmera to state his point of order.
– I desire to ask, sir, whether honorable members will be permitted to reply to the statements now being made by the Minister?
– I rise to order. I think the Minister is quite in order in answering the question submitted by the honorable member for Bass, which is quite clear. As the question has been permitted to appear on the notice-paper, it must be in order. I submit that the Minister is answering it in a complete manner and is supplying the House with the information sought by the honorable member for Bass.
– The question is quite in order, and the Minister is entitled to reply in the ordinary way. As I have said, Ministers are allowed certain latitude in answering questions, but as provided in Standing Order No. 95, the information given must not be debated. I ask the Minister whether the answer is a long one, and whether he intends to read it all. I suggest that it be condensed as far as possible.
– When I was interrupted I was quoting the prices of Diamond harrows. The answer continues -
This shows clearly that, even if the Australian primary producer prefers the imported implement, he is not paying the full amount of the duty, whilst in two instances the dutypaid price in Australia is lower than the price in the Argentine. It will be noted, too, that with one exception the Australian manufacturer’s price in Australia is lower than the American manufacturer’s price in the Argentine, and in all instances considerably below the Australian price of the imported article. This proves quite conclusively that the Australian manufacturer is not taking advantage of the tariff, and the steadying effect of local manufacture on imported prices is apparent. A further illustration may be quoted in regard to the exports of tractors from the United States of America during the first six months of 1927.
– We havenever had anything like this in the House before. It is an absolute scandal.
– Tractors sent to Australia include 1,558 two-plow wheel tractors valued at $801,301; also 684 three-plow wheel tractors, valued at $647,590. Dividing the amount of dollars by the number of tractors in each case, and converting into sterling at $4.86, shows the price of these tractors respectively at £105 16s. and £194 16s. The smaller size, £105 16s., sells in Australia at £395, or an advance of 272 per cent. The larger size, £194 16s., sells in Australia at £595, or an advance of 205 per cent. The duty on the above tractors on entering Australia is 10 per cent.
– I rise to order. I desire to ask, Sir, whether in view of your request that the Minister should condense his remarks in reply to a question he is carrying out your instructions. ?
– I cannot curtail the Minister’s reply to a question if he is giving the information asked for.
The Minister will he, quite in order so long as he merely states facts and does not argue or debate the subject. If it is necessary to enlarge upon the answer the proper procedure would be to obtain leave to make a statement. I must leave it to the Minister’s discretion. I again ask him not to unduly prolong the answer and to confine it to facts.
– I rise to order. I desire to ask, Sir, whether in view of your ruling the Minister is not only stating facts, but also drawing deductions.
– I have directed the Minister not to introduce argument or to debate the subject in giving the answer.
-The answer continues -
Owing to the small local manufacture of tractors there is practically no competition, and the importers thus are able to and do charge very high prices for these goods. I think this proves conclusively-
– Order ! I again ask the Minister to obey the Chair and not debate the matter, otherwise I shall he compelled to ask him to resume his seat.
– Then I leave it at that.
– When the Minister was interrupted by you, Sir, did he ask to be allowed to incorporate in Hansard the remainder of the answer to the question.
– No such request was made. I understand that the Minister has concluded his answer.
– I desire to know whether the whole of the information in the answer is to be incorporated in Hansard?
– The proper procedure is to record only what the Minister said, and incorporate any other matter by leave of the House.
– I wish to raise a question of privilege. I refer to the procedure adopted by Ministers in answering questions. I put a question on the notice paper on Monday last, directed to the Postmaster-General, and I have repeated it to-day with a view to obtaining the information sought. I found it necessary owing, to the serious position that confronts a numberof workers, to ask another questionof the Prime Minister, relating to dismissals in the postal service. When my question on notice was called on to-day, the PostmasterGeneral said that it had already been answered. I have no intention of being discourteous to the Minister, but the question that I asked last Monday was materially different from that directed to the Prim*; Minister to-day. Am I not entitled to have the question answered?
– The practice has been clearly laid down. The Speaker has no power to compel a Minister to answera question. Whether it is answered or not is entirely a matter on which the Minister exercises his own discretion.
– Some time ago I asked a question on behalf of the honorable member for Richmond (Mr.R. Green). Owing possibly to the vocal exercises of honorable members or the acoustic properties of this chamber,or both, I was unable to hear the answer given. Up to the present time I have not received a copy of it.
– Copies of answers given by Ministers to questions are always supplied to the honorable members who ask for them.
The following papers werepre sented: -
Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation ActReport of the Repatriation Commission for the year ended 30th June, 1927.
Public Service Act - Fourth Annual Report on the Commonwealth Public Service by The Board of Commissioners, dated7th November, 1927.
Ordered tobe printed.
Post and Telegraph Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1927, Nos.115, 116, and 127.
Public Service Act -
Appointment of H. Anderson,Department of Works and Railways.
Regulations Amended - StatutoryRules, 1927, No. 141.
Motion (by Mr. Latham) proposed-
That he have leave to bring in abillforan act to amend the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904-1927.
.I understand that the Attorney-General desires to move the second reading of the bill to-day, so that it may be considered during the Christmas recess.
– That is so.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill presented by Mr. Latham, and read a first time.
– (By leave) - I move -
That the bill be now rear! a second time.
This measure deals with matters of great importance to the community. It is introduced at the present time to afford ample opportunities for full discussion, hot only by honorable members of this House, but also by the community as a whole, and by those sections that are particularly interested in the subjects with which it is concerned. The bill represents another attempt to deal wilh the industrial problem, so far as the powers of this Parliament permit it to approach that problem. Many matters with which modern parliaments have .to deal are essentially economic in character. The industrial problem itself is but a portion of the larger economic problem of so organizing the community as to produce the maximum amount of wealth; but that larger problem cannot be dealt with apart . from social and ethical considerations which affect the general structure of modern society. The industrial problem cannot be, and never has been, considered in Australia on a purely economic basis. It has been considered rather on the basis of modern ethical and social ideas connected with the distribution of wealth in accordance with principles of social justice and human progress.
The industrial problem, as far as the Commonwealth Parliament and its power to deal with it is concerned, may be regarded to-day as arising from the relations existing between employers and employees. There are various other forms of modern industrial legislation. Some deal with matters of health. Some are directed towards the payment of fair wages ; some towards the proper treatment of workers in other respects ; and some towards the protection of the consumer ; while others deal with the distribution of the proceeds of industry and the management of industrial enterprise. In the Commonwealth Parliament, however, we are confined to the precise subject of “ the prevention and settlement of disputes extending beyond the limits of any one State.”
In Australia, industrial legislation properly so called, as distinct from health legislation, began in a movement of the public conscience against sweating. Those who recall the first introduction of such legislation, in the form of the Victorian Factories and Shops Act in 1895, will remember also that the conditions in the clothing and other trades then were such a9 to arouse just anger against the exploitation of the workers. Since that date arbitration courts, wages boards, conciliation committees, and other tribunals have entered into and caused an extension of the field of both Commonwealth and State legislation, until to-day we have in operation in Australia, under both Commonwealth and State laws, a vast and intricate system of industrial regulation. The result is that the great majority of persons engaged in secondary industries are working under laws of this character, as are also most of those who are engaged in transport industries and urban services. A considerable portion of those engaged in rural industries are likewise working under conditions prescribed by law.-
This system of what is commonly called “ the artificial regulation of wages and conditions of employment “ was instituted, as I have said, on account of what the community regarded, and rightly regarded, I think, as the unjust treatment of workmen by employers, the evils consisting in the payment of insufficient wages and in compelling men and women to work unduly long hours, sometimes under unhealthy and dangerous conditions. Speaking generally, the result has been that these conditions have disappeared. It is not unimportant to remember this when one hears general criticism directed against all forms of industrial regulation. It would be impossible in Australia to-day to point to an industry controlled by any industrial tribunal in which a sweating wage is paid. The demands which are now made on behalf of employees before these tribunals are not founded upon the contention that the wage paid is insufficient to support the worker and his family. Claims now made are for increases in wages, reduction of hours, and alterations of conditions of employment, which may or may not be desirable, but which, as a general rule, cannot be claimed on ordinary humanitarian grounds, as was the case in the past. Thus the causes which produced the extensive system of regulation of industry have now, owing to the application of legislative remedies, almost disappeared.
In some quarters it is occasionally suggested that as the original reasons for this system of regulation have now largely if not entirely disappeared, it is no longer necessary to maintain in operation the laws under which it exists. I am unable to agree with that view. If all employers could be trusted to pay a fair minimum wage for work done, and to observe, upon their own initiative, fair hours and conditions of employment, it might be possible to leave the whole matter to the bargaining of the parties concerned. But even then the interests of the community as a whole would, in some instances, require special consideration. Moreover, the variations of conditions granted by employers would almost inevitably cause discontent, so that some method of regulation would still be required to remove that discontent by stable adjustments. That ideal condition of affairs - of being able to rely upon every employer to do the fair and just thing - however, does not exist. Therefore, although the Government recognizes that this system of regulation in many ways imposes a burden upon industry, it considers that the general abandonment of industrial legislation in Australia, which is sometimes suggested, would not solve any problem, but would open the way to a period of social and industrial unrest, and to the perpetration of individual injustices, for which the Government is not prepared to accept the responsibility.
Upon the inauguration of the Commonwealth the conception of the object of industrial legislation took a new form. This is indicated by the provisions of the Commonwealth Constitution, which are directed to wards the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes. Commonwealth legislation is necessarily conditioned by the only power which the Commonwealth Parliament possesses in this field. The power of this Parliament is limited in such a way that federal laws dealing with this subject must be founded upon the idea of industrial disputes. It is therefore in my view unfortunate that this conception of industrial disputes must necessarily be the primary consideration in federal legislation. The existence of disputants is a condition necessary to the application of federal legislation. The limitation of the power of the Commonwealth to dealing with disputes by means of conciliation and arbitration has necessarily resulted in the organization of both sides in industry for the purpose of either creating or fighting disputes in order to bring themselves within the ambit of, or to protect themselves against it. One consequence has been that there is a tendency, very marked in Australia at present, to regard the interests of organized employers or the interests of organized employees as something distinct from the interests of the community as a whole. One of the considerations which the Government has borne in mind in preparing this bill has been the necessity of trying to re-establish in its primary place the interests of the community as a whole. In applying this principle it must be remembered that the welfare of the whole depends upon the well-being of the parts. There is, therefore, in this principle, a simple application of the idea of social welfare and not a contradiction of it. Professor Zimmern one of the most enlightened of English writers on social subjects, says -
The problem of industrial policy, or what is sometimes roughly described as the Labour problem, may perhaps be thus stated: how to secure or maintain for civilized mankind (or for our own particular section of it) the goods and services it needs, whilst at the same time providing justice and freedom for those who produce them. To put it more shortly, how to secure that a good life for the consumer shall be compatible with a good life for the producer. It is a problem which goes to the root of democracy.
It is impossible for the Commonwealth with its limited powers to attack this whole problem. Had the referendum submitted to the people last year been successful, it would have been possible to do much more than is now possible in the direction of dealing with social problems of this character so far as legislation can deal with them. It must be remembered, however, that, whatever the Commonwealth Parliament may do at the present time, it is impossible for it to control the activities of State legislatures.
In dealing with this subject I suggest that it is a mistake to expect too much from legislation. Nor should legislation be blamed for all the industrial evils which exist. Legislation can help or hinder industrial activity; but legislation cannot produce anything. Only work can produce. Wages and profits -come out pf the product of industry, and unless industry is profitable it cannot continue, in which case there can be neither wages nor profit. It is frequently said that the object of industrial legislation should be to promote peace in industry. A good deal depends on what is meant by that term. The absence of strikes and lock-outs is merely a negative ideal. It is a mistake to approach this subject merely from the point of view of endeavouring to avoid something, instead of trying to attain something. Industrial peace, if regarded merely as the absence of strikes and lockouts, is but accidental and precarious. Viewed only from that angle, industrial peace is not sufficient. There must be a vigorous and positive co-operation between employer and employee towards a definite object - the success of the particular industry and the well-being and contentment of the community generally. With that spirit in industry, there will be less difficulty in reconciling conflicting interests. The extent to which the Arbitration Court has adopted methods of conciliation is not generally known. In almost every case the court has first endeavoured to obtain a settlement of the dispute by conciliation. Its success in that direction is much greater than is generally recognized. But even conciliation presupposes under general law a potential dispute.
One of the difficulties with which we are faced in Australia to-day is that industrial organizations are tending to become ends in themselves. That is particularly the case when an organization is under the control of a few officers who in practice, whatever may be the position in theory, cannot be controlled by the members of the organization. Organizations of employers or employees are not ends in themselves. They are only means of obtaining social justice and efficiency ; . and their particular interests must take a secondary place to those of the community as a whole, upon which, after all, they and all of us depend. In Australia, unfortunately too little attention is paid to the general well being of industry. Employers’ organizations and industrial unions are essentially fighting bodies. I agree that that state of affairs is, in a measure, the result of the character of the legislation which the Commonwealth is compelled to introduce to deal with this subject. But it must be remembered, in fairness to Australia, that the same position obtains in Great Britain, where also the employers’ organizations and the unions of employees are primarily fighting bodies, though not to the same extent as in Australia.
We have had before us recently the report of the industrial mission to America. Honorable members, in. reading that report, must have been struck by the degree of activity displayed by employers’ organizations in holding conferences on business management, on business methods and, generally, on business efficiency. If such conferences do take place in Australia, they are very rare. It appears to me that in America in this respect there is a more general recognition of the common interests of industry in success and prosperity, and a more’ general recognition that industry owes a duty to the community as a whole. I should like to see such conferences between employers’ organizations in Australia. Consider also what trade unions could do in helping to train and educate their members. I suggest that it would not be unreasonable to expect that membership of a trade union should be a hall mark of craftsmanship - should be some guarantee of efficiency - and that it should be part of the normal function of a trade union, to ensure good craftsmanship amongst its members. That used to be one of the objects of trades unionism. Trade unions used to give attention to- that subject, and in other respects to the welfare of their members. To-day, unfortunately, most of them consider that the scope of their activities, the whole field of their action, should be confined to fighting for higher wages and lower hours, and often to fighting for higher wages regardless of the money value of the wages obtained. Industrial representatives on both sides have a tendency to feel that they are not earning their money unless there is a fight afoot in which they are taking part. There are many unions which always have a dispute in process of action or in the list of the court, and it is obvious in some cases that union officers are afraid that if they have not a dispute in progress it might be thought by someone who is anxious to get their job that they are not doing their work properly. I put it to the House that it would be a good thing to let industrial representatives of both sides have something else to do than conduct industrial fights before the Arbitration Court. Let both sides meet and examine industrial conditions in Australia, with a view to removing causes of friction, and promoting efficiency. In England to-day. steps of this character are being taken as a result of the motions carried at the last trades union congress.
We are living in an era of great competition and acute national feeling. Cartels founded on a national or international basis, and international trade unions, are being organized in increasing numbers from year to year. We in Australia cannot, under modern conditions, afford waste, and friction between employers and employees means waste. I suggest that, instead of complaining so frequently to Parliament, and complaining so much of parliamentary action, industry itself should take a hand in this matter, and exercise some initiative of its own. For example, the report of the industrial mission to America suggests that there should be a greater appreciation of the fact that industry is essentially a joint enterprise, and that, in order to promote success, there should be co-operation between employers and employees. It suggests that employers and employeees might well meet together to consider a number of matters affecting the welfare nf industry. There is, for example, the narrowness of the margin between the wages for skilled and unskilled workers in Australia. That is a matter which must cause many honorable members on both sides of the House considerable concern. Then there is the question of a greater supply of power to assist labour. If we compare the power figures in Australia with those of many other countries, we shall immediately realize that there is scope for great improvement in this reaspect. Questions of organization of plant might also be discussed by employers and employees, and, I suggest, also, the advisability of appointing shop councils All these matters arise from what I call the American report, and I suggest that employers and employees should take steps to meet and discuss subjects of such importance. We are all proud of our Australian standard of living, but must realize that that standard can be maintained, not by words only, but by work, and that work can proceed successfully only in the absence of friction and in a spirit of goodwill.
Before I deal in general terms with the particular proposals of the bill, it is necessary to consider more in detail the views of those who urge from time to time that the Arbitration Court should be abolished. The expressed opinion of some is that the whole system has serious defects which cannot be amended, and that, therefore, it should be ended. The Government does not, at the present time, subscribe to that view. The abolition of the court would not solve any problem; on the contrary it would create new problems without any satisfactory means at hand for solving them. It is necessary to face the realities of the situation. At the present time the membership of the unions which are working under awards of the court, and under agreements filed in the court, is 693,000. I have not the precise figures, but a tremendous number of the unionists are working under awards of the court. I use the term “ awards “ as including certified agreements- The actual membership, 693,000, is a very large proportion of the industrial population of Australia.
It is sometimes said that the court is a failure. I do not profess that it is a complete success, that it has not been, and is not now, subject to defects; but very few human institutions are a complete success. I do, however, suggest that in some cases criticism has been most unjustly and unfairly levelled at the court, and that criticism itself has made the task of the court infinitely more difficult. The number of unions registered in the court is 149, and there are 27 employers’ organizations. Most of those organizations are working in peace and satisfaction under the awards of the court. It is necessary to remember these facts because it is often alleged that Australia is a land of strikes produced by the Arbitration Court. The troubles which have occurred in Australia have been practically confined to the transport, mining, and engineering industries. These troubles have, in some cases, been serious, and the industries are so important in relation to other industries that the effects have been far-reaching. But similar troubles in these particular industries are occurring to-day in every country of the world. A great disservice is rendered to Australia by emphasizing such troubles, and by representing Australia as a land of constant strikes. We do our own country a grave injury by exaggerating the strikes which occur. If we compare the position of Australia with that of England, we find we are very fortunate indeed in relation to strikes. We have had no such upheaval as the transport strike in England in 1920, the general strike of 1926, or the coal strike of 1926. All these were far greater disturbances, proportionately, than any we have had in Australia SInce the strikes of 1890 and 1891. At the same time, let us not disguise from ourselves the fact that we have far too many strikes in Australia, and that while some of the strikes are upon real issues, some are entirely unjustifiable from any reasonable point of view.
– In many cases they are lock-outs, not strikes.
– Are there no lockouts?
– There are very few lock-outs, and for a very good reason. The Arbitration Act contains a penalty against strikes and lock-outs. If the offence is proved, the penalty can be im posed. It is difficult to prove a strike against a union, but it is a relatively easy matter to prove a lock-out against an employer, and employers as all honorable members know, have been much afraid of the penalty of £1,000 against lockouts.
There are 149 awards and agreements filed in the court. Under most of these, industry is working peacefully and, on the whole, satisfactorily. Sometimes those who are opposed to the court criticize it upon matters with which it has nothing, or very little, to do. Take the criticism of those who are, in general, political supporters of the Government - criticism directed against the decision of the court in the forty-four hours case. I may refer to that as an example of just the sort of thing that ought not to take place. When that decision was given, a long statement appeared in the press putting the employers’ point of view. I do not for one moment suggest that the decisions of the Arbitration Court are to be removed from comment or criticism, but I do say that that criticism should be fair, reserved and restrained. It should be remembered all the time, that the court is an impartial tribunal which has no object to serve other than to do its best in very difficult circumstances. That criticism by employers created a most difficult atmosphere. Later, as a result of the fortyfour hours case, an award was made for what I may refer to generally as piecework. Then the other side began its criticism and some of this criticism was couched in almost abusive language. That is just the sort of thing that ought not to happen, I have no desire to refer even indirectly to the merits of the forty-four hours case, but on the facts I would point out that before the decision in that case was given, a forty-four hour week was the rule in Queensland. It was also largely the rule in New South Wales and Western Australia, and in many industries in the other States. Honorable members, who refer to the Arbitration Court as having in some way brought ruin on the country by declaring for a forty-four hours week ought, in the first place, to inform themselves of the facts. Some gentlemen, who, again, would ordinarily be regarded as supporters of the Government, complain very bitterly of preference to unionists. I do not think that there is an award of theCommonwealth Arbitration Court to-day that orders preference to unionists. Where there is such a preference, whether it be right or wrong -and again I am dealing only with facts, and not with the merits of the case - it exists sometimes under determinations or awards of State tribunals, and, in other cases, as a result of the strength of the unions themselves.
It is a mistake to think that the abolition of the court would lead to the abolition of the system of industrial regulation. There are unfortunately, some employers - very few I believe - who think that if the Arbitration Court were abolished they would be perfectly free to do what they liked at least in’ agreement with their employees. They forget that apart from the strength of trade unionism, the State industrial laws would continue to operate. Some people think that the difficulties associated with this problem are created by the legislature. To a small extent only that may be true, but the big difficulties arise from the complexity of the facts. The industrial problem is one of the most complex in the world, because it involves the interests, desires, and aspirations, the daily life, and the livelihood of the people, and there can be no simple solution of it.
It is impossible to produce complete satisfaction in industry, either with or without legal regulation, but there is one condition upon which the continuance of the arbitration system depends, and that is the general principle that those who appeal to the arbitrator must observe his awards that those who seek the benefits conferred by the court must be prepared to work under its awards. They must not take arbitration when it suits them and resort to direct action when that seems more likely to give them what they want. The result of allowing such action would be to engender disrespect for the law, and that would have very evil effects upon the community as a whole.
Appeals have been made to the Government to end the system instead of amending it. This bill is the Government’s reply to such appeals. The Government is not prepared to submit indefinitely to the flouting of awards by those who have sought them. If those who have applied to the Arbitration Court are not prepared to abide by its awards the Government holds itself free to take proper steps under existing legislation, or by introducing fresh legislation if necessary, to deprive them of the benefits of those awards. Acceptance of the benefits of awards implies a corresponding responsibility. A union, for example, which claims to have authority to speak for its members in order to obtain the benefits of arbitration, must be treated as having authority to control is members so as to assist in the continuity of industry. There is a positive obligation to the community resting on both sides to keep industry going. If it is found that organized industry on either side is not ready to recognize this obligation, the Government will have to re-consider whether it is desirable to maintain the system. It is hoped, therefore, that all parties will recognize that their real interests lie in the stability and’ security which obedience to the law creates.
I come now to the specific proposals in the bill. Before it was finally drafted, many scores of suggestions were received from both sides of industry and from the genera] public. All have been carefully considered. It was impossible to adopt some on account of the constitutional limitations, subject to which this Parliament operates. Others were considered unwise and for that reason were rejected ; others were adopted, and the Government has added other proposals which were not suggested from any outside source. I propose to deal with the proposals in general terms under the following main headings : -
Honorable members will therefore see that the bill has been drawn upon a basis of defined principles. It will be for the House to determine whether those principles shall be approved and whether the particular provisions designed to give effect to them are wise and worthy of Adoption.
The first subject is that of overlapping. All honorable members are acquainted with the problem created by the overlapping of State and Federal awards. The overlapping of awards and industrial determinations is indefensible. It produces an incoherent and chaotic state of affairs. In some industries more than 30 State and Federal awards apply. The result is that the time and energy of their executives and considerable numbers of their personnel are engaged in dealing with difficulties that are factitious and artificial and should not exist. The statement was made recently that 60 industries inVictoria are subject to the overlapping of awards.
A series of provisions, designed to establish the principle that there shall be a single rule in an industry, whatever its source, is included in the bill. The important consideration is that there should be only one rule in an industry, whether that rule be State or Federal. Clause 32 places an obligation on the court to consider the propriety of dealing at all with a dispute brought before it. The clause provides -
The court shall, in the case of every industrial dispute, consider if there is anything in the nature or circumstances of the industry, or any other reason, which makes it more desirable that the dispute or any part of it should be dealt with by the court than by any State industrial authority or by State industrial authorities in the several States, and, unless the court so declares, it shall dismiss, or refrain from further hearing or determining, the dispute or part.
– Has not the court that power now?
– Section 38 of the act enables the court to decline to deal with a dispute if it thinks it desirable that the matter should be dealt with by a State tribunal, but this clause imposes upon the court the obligation in every case to consider whether it is better for the court to deal with it or to refer it to a State authority, and unless the court determines that the better course is for the Commonwealth tribunal to deal with it, it will not be so dealt with. There is also a provision in clause 29 making it possible to hold a conference between judges of the Arbitration Court and State industrial authorities. There has been an unfortunate division of Federal and State judicial authorities, and a lack of coordination or correlation. It is impossible to compel co-operation between these authorities by legislation, but clause 29 affords the State tribunals an opportunity to co-operate with the Commonwealth when they think proper. The clause reads -
Where it appears to the Chief Judge that it is desirable that, in relation to any industrial matter, a conference be held with a State industrial authority, ho or any other judge of the court designated by the Chief Judge may, if that authority is willing, confer with that authority with a view to securing co-ordination between any orders or awards made or to be made under this act and any orders, awards, decisions or determinations made’ or given or to be made or given by that authority.
If use is made of that provision it should prove of the greatest service, but its utility will depend upon the manner in which this gesture by the Commonwealth is received by the State authorities.
– The bill does not make it compulsory for the State authorities to co-operate with the Commonwealth?
– No. Clauses 17, 22, and 26, are based upon the principle of the supremacy of a federal award. The section conferring the power of the court to prevent State authorities from dealing with a matter which is the subject of a federal award or of proceedings before a federal court, is clarified and strengthened. There is also in clause 25 a definite provision that where Commonwealth and State awards deal with the same subject matter, the federal” award shall be the rule. This will obviate the old trouble about inconsistency between federal and State awards. In the past a federal award has prevailed where it has been inconsistent with a State award, and the rule just laid down was that if it was possible for the parties to obey both awards, there could be no inconsistency. One result has been that organizations have quite naturally played off one jurisdiction against the other. Clause 35 is a definite legislative adoption of the decision of the High Court in the case of Cowburn v. The Clyde Engineering Company - 37 C.L.R., page 466 - that; where federal and State awards deal with the same subject matter the federal law shall prevail. In clause 26 there is provision for an application being made to the court for a declaration whether a State award or law in an industrial matter is invalid. Proposed section 25 c provides that the court in determining the rate of pay or conditions of employment applying to apprentices in an industry, may take into consideration any scheme of apprenticeship provided by or under any State law. That provision has been inserted at the request of Mr. Lemmon, Minister for Labour in Victoria.
I invite the attention of honorable members to proposed section 25a in clause 22 -
The court shall, in making its awards, pro vide so far as possible for uniformity in an industry in relation to hours of work, holidays, and general conditions.
Over 30 awards apply to the McKay harvesting works at Sunshine, and they contain differing provisions relating to holidays, hours of labour, rates of pay, and the like. There is no justification for embarrassing industry in that manner. This section accordingly provides that, so far as possible, the awards shall be moulded so as to provide for uniformity in relation to these matters.
The second main subject is the correlation of awards with economic realities. Honorable members will recall that in the last annual report of the Tariff Board attention was directed to the absence of co-operation or co-ordination between the Tariff Board and the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. They are also aware of the problem that is created in consequence of awards altering the industrial conditions upon the basis of which customs duties have been imposed. It is impossible to maintain permanently an unreal standard in Australia or anywhere else. For a time an unreal standard may persist, but an attempt to maintain it for a long period contains within itself the seeds of its own destruction. It is therefore necessary to recognize economic realities and to correlate the awards with the economic position not only of the industry concerned, but also of the community as a whole. This Parliament cannot prescribe what awards the Arbitration Court shall make, but it can require the court to take into consideration the economic effect of its awards. Take, for example, a sheltered industry - an industry that is not subject to competition from abroad. Many problems have arisen all oyer the world in connection with industries of that character. There is, for instance, the position in Great Britain where a man on the railways doing manual work, requiring no skill, is better rewarded than a highly skilled engineer artificer. Why? Because the railway costs can be passed on to those who have no option but to use the railways. The engineering industry, however, is subject to external competition. In dealing with any transport industry which is not subject to external competition, it is not sufficient merely to take into account the interests of the employees and employers in that industry. The whole community is interested because increased charges in that industry affect practically every other industry in the community. The provision in the bill dealing with this phase is to be found at the end of clause 22, proposed new section 25d, which reads - 25d. The court shall, before making any award or certifying any agreement, and in proceedings for the variation or cancellation of an award or agreement, take into consideration the probable economic effect of the agreement or award in relation to the community in general and the probable economic effect thereof upon the industry or industries concerned.
– Will the judge be allowed to peruse the balance-sheets in order to ascertain the profits in the industry?
– He has power to call for any books he requires. We must face the position. It is useless to create a fool’s paradise. The court must operate within the area of economic possibility. This clause is based upon that view.
The third general subject to which I wish to refer is that of voluntary arbitration, which is provided for in clause 14. From time to time objections have been taken to the principleof compulsory arbitration. I have already given the reasons why the Government is not prepared to abandon compulsory arbitration ; but it is prepared to offer an opportunity for voluntary arbitration to those who think well of it. Clause 14 provides - 18ba. - (1.)Any employers in an industry and any employees of those employers may apply in writing to the Registrar for the determination by a judge or a conciliation commissioner by voluntary arbitration of any industrial matter relating to that industry.
This section does not rest upon the existence of an industrial dispute. There is no compulsion in it. We have provided means for voluntary arbitration, in the absence of dispute, upon an industrial matter. The parties choose their own arbitrator, no compulsion can be exercised, and the observance of the determination will depend upon the good faith of the parties concerned. The decision of the arbitrator will be known as a determination, so as to distinguish it from an award. It is provided, further, that no proceedings shall be taken in any court for the non-observance of a determination under the voluntary system. It is to be a completely voluntary system, which will make it possible for the parties, if they so desire, to go before an arbitrator, selected by themselves, who has had experience in industrial matters in Australia - a judge or a conciliation commissioner - and to get a determination. It will be left to the good faith of the parties themselves to decide how that determination shall be observed.
– Will this provision apply to any particular branch of industry, or to industry generally?
– To any industrial matter.
– Could a firm appear before the arbitrator?
– Will the determination have the effect of law?
– No, the whole matter will be on a voluntary basis with no element of compulsion at any stage. The clause merely gives those who desire to resort to voluntary arbitration an opportunity to do so. This is a course which Parliament may properly adopt. It affords parties who object to compulsory arbitration an opportunity to utilize the skilled services of an impartial arbitrator appointed by the Commonwealth.
– Will the court register the determination ?
– It will not be a binding decision; it will have no legal effect at all.
The fourth subject is that of conciliation and the extension of the principle of conciliation. One conciliation commissioner has been appointed under the powers conferred by the act passed last year. The work of this conciliation commissioner has been most successful. I have a copy of his report which I shall be glad to show to any honorable member who is interested. It discloses the large volume of work he has already done - the many matters in which he has brought about a solution of industrial trouble before it reached an acute stage and sometimes after it had reached a very acute stage. The report shows that in severalcases the conciliation commissioner has dealt with the whole dispute and prevented it from going into the court at all. In this direction very useful service has been performed by Mr. Stewart. Clause 15 is directed to securing the position of the present conciliation commissioner who is an officer of the Public Service. It is designed to secure his rights and willI think, meet with the general approval of the House.
There are provisions in the bill, which may, and will, I hope, open a new era in the history of this subject in Australia. Clause 28 provides for the constitution of conciliation committees. This is an entirely new system which, if the partiesseek to operate under it in goodwill, and good faith, will confer great benefits upon the country as a whole.
– If we had goodwill this bill would not be necessary.
– This bill accords more opportunities for the exercise of goodwill than any other legislation passed by this Parliament. I appeal to honorable members not to say on every possible occasion that there is, and can be, no goodwill. Every honorable member is entitled to his own opinion, but the constant reiteration of the statement that there is no such thing as goodwill will make goodwill impossible. I am not suggesting that the honorable member for Wannon has ever made so general a statement, but his interjection gives me the opportunity to make this observation. The scheme of conciliation committees is based upon the principle of the round table instead of legal procedure. It also develops the idea of preventing disputes before they happen, instead of settling them ‘after they have happened. We have constitutional power to utilize conciliation and arbitration for the prevention as well as for the settlement of industrial disputes, and I have always been of the opinion that the power to prevent industrial disputes by this means has not been sufficiently utilized. The law, in the past, has dwelt too much upon the subject of the settlement of disputes as distinct from their prevention. This provision is an invitation to the parties to utilize this procedure before the stage of actual dispute is reached. The clause provides briefly, that in order to prevent or to settle industrial disputes, the Chief Judge may appoint conciliation committees consisting of a chairman appointed by him. who may be a conciliation commissioner, and of an equal number of representatives, on both sides. Before appointing representatives of both sides the Chief Judge is required to take into consideration any recommendations made by the employers or organization of employees. It is not provided that these representatives shall be elected. I am afraid that if provision were made for the election of representatives the scheme would fall under its own weight. This is an Australian, ‘….., a State act, and effective provisions for a real election of representatives by an organization would break down in practice. When a conciliation committee has been appointed and has met it may arrive at an agreement, and if an agreement is reached, it can be certified under section 24 of the act.
But what will happen if an agreement is not reached? The clause provides that in that event the conciliation committee or a majority of the committee may recommend the terms of an award. The procedure which then follows is this: Those concerned are served with a notice requiring them to show cause why an award should not be made in the terms specified. They then have an opportunity to appear before the judge and show cause why an award should not be made in the terms specified, and the judge may make an award in those terms or in any other terms that he thinks fit. The section als, . provides that in the notice requiring the parties to show cause the judge himself may make a variation or modification for the consideration of the parties. The result of this procedure, so far as I have outlined it, is that a great many of the matters which are not controversial ought to be adjusted between the parties without going into the court at all. This will obviate lengthy hearings. In many instances agreement should be reached; in others the matter will have to be left to the decision of the court.
– If the committee has not come to an agreement, how can it recommend the terms of an agreement?
– The bill provides that a majority may recommend terms. If both parties are going to be adamant and simply preserve a spirit of fight and hostility, it will, of course, be difficult to work many of these provisions. I can see that possibility, but I hope that industry in Australia generally will recognize that there is upon it a responsibility which is owed to the community as a whole.
I think that honorable members will admit that I have, throughout my remarks, spoken of both sides, and the obligation resting on both sides in industry. This clause further provides for what is called a representative order, which I propose to deal with under the next heading. I call attention to the fact that it is proposed that only the chairman of the conciliation committee shall be paid. It is suggested that the two sides in industry may well find their own representatives, and pay them, if they think proper, for doing this work for the good of the industry in which they work and earn their living and of industry as a whole. If the members are paid there is, I am sorry to say, the risk, having regard to human nature as we find it, of work being created for the purpose of earning fees. It is therefore, the deliberate decision of the Government that the chairman only shall be paid. We have a great hope that this procedure, if utilized in good will and good faith, will greatly assist in promoting peace and harmony.
In these provisions the Parliament is asked to go to the very limit of its constitutional powers. The provisions for a representative order, which I shall refer to in detail in a few moments, are in my opinion within the constitutional powers of Parliament. I do not give that opinion dogmatically, because I am aware that there is room for argument on the other side; but my view is the provisions are within our constitutional power.
There is also a short reference to the method of conciliation which I hope will be most useful in practice. In awards of the court, it is possible for the court to appoint - and the power has frequently been exercised - boards of reference, which may deal with matters specified or referred to in the awards as suitable for determination by boards of reference. It is proposed that these boards, which represent employers and employees, and which usually sit under the chairmanship of the Industrial Registrar, shall also have power to deal with any matter which may affect the amicable relations of the parties with reference to an award. That is one of the many suggestions made by the’ trade unions of Australia, with whom I have been in consultation on this general subject. I have redrafted the proposal as originally submitted; but I welcome it, indeed, and it has been incorporated in the bill in this form. Here we have another avenue of conciliation - another opportunity for the recognition of a common interest, and for friendship to operate. That, after all, is what we need more than anything else.
I now come to my fifth heading, “Improvements in Procedure “. I refer first to the provision for a representative order, which is in clause 16, and is also embodied in the provisions relating to conciliation in clause 28. This is founded upon the chancery procedure - the procedure in a Court of Equity - which permits the representation by single parties of large numbers of persons having a common interest. Provision is accordingly made that where it appears to the court that there are numerous persons having the same interests in any matter, it may make a representative order. That order appoints persons as representative respondents. It is further provided that the representative order shall be published forthwith in the Gazette, so that there will appear in the Gazette a complete list of the persons sought, to be affected by any of the proceedings. The clause goes on to provide that any documents, &c, served upon the representative respondents shall be deemed to have been served upon all of them, and that any order made shall bind all of them. There is also a provision that any person objecting to be represented by the representative respondents may apply to the court, and may obtain an order to be represented separately or by some suitable respondent.
– No; but we get as near to it as we can under present legislation. I have already said that in my opinion the legislation now proposed is within the powers of this Parliament. This procedure will result in a great saving of expense. It will not, under the ordinary’ procedure, dispense with the service of a log, although the conciliation procedure, which I trust will successfully run the gauntlet of any litigious risks to which it may be exposed - and I hope that there will be none - saves practically the whole cost of service of everything after the log. In any event, therefore, it will save a great deal of money. Clause 21 gives power to make a provisional or interim award about which there has been doubt.
Clause 23 deals with a matter upon which there will be an acute difference of opinion, that of the appearance of lawyers in court.’ At the present time counsel, solicitors and paid agents may appear by consent of both sides. Some- times that consent is given, sometimes it is not. The amendment is that they may appear by leave of the court, as an alternative to the consent of both parties. The present position as to lawyers and paid agents in court is simply hypocritical. It is a mere pretence. The act as it stands provides that lawyers and paid agents shall not appear. But what happens? Three or four things may occur. Let me briefly mention some of them. A lawyer is made a director of a company, and then, being an employee of that company, he may appeal in court. A union secretary who is quite properly paid for his work, may spend practically his whole time in the court. He is a member of the organization concerned, and therefore is not technically a paid agent. Again, a gentleman seeing an opportunity to practise in the court goes through a complete legal education, but abstains from being admitted^ to the profession. Not having been admitted, lie can practise in the court. This is being done at the present time. A man who has been struck off the roll of barristers and solicitors for misconduct would be able to practise; but he could not practise so long as he was on the roll. Surely the position is so ludicrous that it cannot commend itself to commonsense.
– Those lawyers are nonunionists.
– The lawyers’ union at least gives a guarantee of a certain amount of training, which is some guarantee of efficiency. The proceedings in this court are more important than ordinary proceedings in civil and criminal courts. They affect the community more than the proceedings in other courts. In other courts any person may employ skilled assistance to protect his interests but there is strong argument to support the contention that every man, where his rights are in question or his pecuniary or other interests are involved, should have the right to be represented in this tribunal by a skilled person. The Government, however, has not gone so far as that, and the suggestion is that professional men or paid agents shall be allowed to appear by consent of all parties, or by the leave of the court. That leaves the matter in the hands of the court.
Clause 41 provides for the policing of awards by Commonwealth officers. It provides for the appointment of inspectors to secure the observance of the act and the awards. I do not like referring to my own speeches; but three or four years ago, I submitted the only motion that I ever moved as a private member of this House. It declared in effect that it was the duty of the Commonwealth to provide for the administration and enforcement of the legislation that it passed. I then submitted to the House that the Parliament would not discharge its duties if it passed a measure, put it on the statute-book, and then said to it, as it were, “ Off you go, work yourself.” Our acts must be administered. It is our duty to see that their provisions are observed. The Government of the day did not allow a decision to be reached on that motion. The volume of urgent public business was much too great to allow private members to occupy the time of the House. However, I expressed my views on that occasion, and now I have an opportunity of giving effect to them. It is proper as a matter of principle that Parliament should see that its acts are observed-
– There was only one cure- - to make the honorable gentleman a member of the Government.
– This provision is one of the results. This amendment is generally desired, I think, by both sides. It will involve some expense. The inspectors will have to be paid, but there is provision for making arrangements with the States for the employment of State officers upon terms mutually satisfactory to the Commonwealth and the States. It is far better to have independent public officers looking after the enforcement of awards than to have the representatives of either side doing it, because that only brings about irritation and trouble.
Clause 58 in this connexion provides for the extension of the powers of the Deputy President (Sir John Quick) who is at the present time hearing the railway case. Under the act passed last year the Governor-General was authorized to empower him to continue the bearing of any part-beard matter. Some aspects of the railway case were technically not part-heard at the time. A- claim by professional officers was among them . Both the Railways Union and the salaried and professional officers asked that as Sir John Quick was dealing with the general subject of the railways, he should deal with these matters as well as the whole question. This legislation does not prejudice the position of any honorable member in relation to the general question of how far a federal court should have anything to do with State railways. It simply recognizes the fact that as his Honor Deputy President Sir John Quick is dealing with the railway position he should deal with it as a whole instead of leaving subsidiary points for another judge who would have to spend a long time in making himself familiar with railway conditions.
Silting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
– The feature of the bill with which I propose next to deal is what I call No. 6 - the responsibilities of organizations, and the control of organizations by their own members. Registered organizations are given great privileges by the Arbitration Act. Those privileges should be accompanied by a sense of responsibility, and in many instances that responsibility is recognized. It may be easier for honorable members to follow me if I use the word “ union “ instead of “ organization.” The Arbitration Act makes a registered organization or union a corporation. Such a union can be liable and responsible only if it is made responsible for the acts of its officers and members. A union exists only as an artificial legal person and is something apart from the actual human persons who constitute its officers and members. Accordingly, unless a union is made responsible for the acts of its officers and members, it is not liable at all. Objections have sometimes been raised to the provisions which already exist in the act making a union liable for the acts of its officers and subject to a penalty if they break the law. But unless that were the law, there would be no liability at all on a union, because a union can act only through its officers. It follows that if a union is liable for the acts of its officers, the members must have real and effective control over those officers. Frequently that is not the case to-day. Having regard to the important position which trade unions occupy in our national life, and to the powers possessed or assumed by their officers, it is necessary to make provision to govern these matters. When a vigilance officer of a union holds up a mail steamer, it is natural that some inquiry should be made into the source of his power and the extent to which he really represents the members of his organization when he does the particular act in question. The bill contains a number of provisions to deal with these matters. I invite attention first to clauses 4 and 5, which deal with the penalties now provided for strikes and lock-outs. The penalty at present provided is £1,000 in all cases. The Government considers that that amount is unreasonable in the case of an individual person. It therefore proposes to amend the act by providing that the penalty shall be £1,000 in the case of an organization or employer and £50 in respect of any other person. It is a mistake to provide penalties which cannot be* recovered or which are out of proportion to the gravity of the offence. Clause 6 provides that where the court is satisfied that bona fide efforts have been made by members of the committee of management of an organization or its officers to prevent the commission of an offence, that fact shall be taken into consideration in fixing the penalty. It may be urged that it is unfair to make an organization responsible for the acts of an irresponsible officer. I do not accept that proposition. An organization. ought not to have an irresponsible officer; or. if it has, it ought to remove him. The bill contains provisions whereby a union may remove an irresponsible officer. Nevertheless, there is much to be said for the proposition that if bona fide efforts have been made to prevent the commission of an offence that fact should be taken into consideration in fixing the penalty. That provision is included in clause 6. The provisions of the existing act as to strike .penalties have been ineffective in preventing strikes.- Honorable members are familiar with published announcements intimating that, unless something is done, there will be a strike. We frequently read in the press reports of a union meeting in which the demands of the union are set out, ending with a threat to strike unless those demands are conceded. Later, we read the actual resolution authorizing the strike. After that the strike actually takes place. That has often happened in Australia. Yet it is impossible to impose penalties, because there is no legal evidence that these tilings have happened. Press reports are not evidence, and cannot be made evidence. Every one may know what lias happened, but no one may be prepared to come forward and give evidence. In some cases it would be impossible for any one to do so with safety. Accordingly the penalties for strikes have been largely ineffective. In a very few instances they have been enforced; but in others, although the facts are notorious, it has been impossible to obtain legal evidence on which to secure a conviction. The existing remedies as to lockouts are much more effective than the remedies against strikes. In the case of a lockout there is a denned individual - the employer - who frequently has a great deal to lose if a conviction for a lockout is recorded against him. It is very difficult to deal with these matters under the existing law. The result is that some unions operate deliberately upon the policy of the double chance. They rely on arbitration when it suits them to do so, and they strike when arbitration does not suit them, knowing that they are reasonably safe in so doing. Even if there is a strike in a portion of an employer’s establishment, the employer is not at liberty to lock out the men in the rest of his works. Take the engineers’ strike in Sydney recently. That was definitely declared as a strike; there was no question of its being a lockout. Three firms or. companies were involved. The policy of a sectional strike was applied. That policy consists of attacking and beating employers in detail, thus ultimately securing by means of direct action what the court has refused to order by award. If, in such a case, an employer were to lock out the members of the union engaged in other portion’s of his work-shop, a solution would in many cases readily be reached; but under the existing law that cannot be done. The position in connexion with the engineers’ strike in Sydney was that the other employers were unable to support the firms or companies against which the strike was directed, though the only complaint against them was that they were seeking to work under an award of the Arbitration Court, while on the other hand the union was supporting its members who were on strike, although it was impossible to prove by legally admissible evidence that it was doing so. Clause 7 is designed to deal with such a case. The clause enables either of the parties to an award to apply to the court for an order declaring that a strike or lockout exists. The court may or may nor make that order, according to the circumstances of the case. Let us suppose that the court does make such an order, and declares that there is a strike in an industry. Other employers in the industry will then be at liberty to lock out their employees. Similarly, if there is a lockout in a portion of an industry, the organization of employees may apply for a declaration that a lockout exists. If that declaration is made, the union will then be at liberty to strike. The clause modifies the absolute prohibition of strikes and lockouts in order that in cases where a contest upon the legal plane is not an effective and proper method of dealing with the difficulty, the hands of one party to the dispute, who is obeying the law, shall not be tied while the other party is breaking the h.w. It is thought that the clause will provide an effective remedy in certain cases
Clause 8 reproduces in an improved and clearer form the original provisions of section S dealing with the responsibility of an organization for the acts of its officers and members. It contains also a new provision in sub-sections 3 and 4 providing that an organization may reduce its- liability from £1,000 to £100 if it exercises the power conferred upon it of expelling the officers or members whose acts have exposed it to the penalty. Should a union be fined because of the act of an officer or member, the penalty will be, as at present, £1,000 if the officer is retained; but if he is expelled it will be only £100. Subclause 4 provides that an expelled officer may not be reinstated the next day. If he. is reinstated within twelve months of his expulsion the penalty is £1,000. This provision makes it possible for a bona fide ul 11011 which has been misled by an officer into a breach of the law, to rid itself of that responsibility to the extent that I have mentioned. Section 50 provides that a union may, after giving a member fair notice, expel or suspend him if he has committed a breach of an act or an award. That section gives a union power over its officers and members, and places on the union the responsibility for controlling their acts. It will, therefore, no longer be possible for a union to say that it is unable to control its members, because it will in future be able to control its membership. That is a proper provision where an organization of its own free will seeks to obtain the benefit of the Arbitation Act.
– Doss the bill provide for a member being expelled from the union or only from his office in the union?
– It provides for both.
– In that case how would an expelled member make a living?
– By working in bis industry or in some other industry. There is also provision for a nappeal to the court in the case of a member wrongfully expelled from a union.
– It will be a dead letter.
– It will not, because if a member of a union is acting contrary to the decisions of a committee of management, that committee will have power to expel him from the union after he has had a fair opportunity to place his case before the committee. The principle of making a union responsible for its members - the only method of making the act effective - is introduced and enforced in a manner which is entirely proper.
I shall not take up the time of the House by referring to matters of minor importance contained in the bill. Honorable members will understand that I am mentioning only its main principles. I direct attention to clause 10. [Extension of time granted.] Clause 10 makes an organization liable to the extent of £50 for strikes and lockout penalties imposed on any officer of the organization.
Provision is made that the organization is to be heard before being ordered to pay the amount of a fine in such a case. In several places, where in the existing act power is given for the taking of strong action, I have included a provision that the person affected shall have an opportunity of being heard. Clause 27 provides that a judge may order any organization submitting an industrial dispute to the court to give security by way of bond, or a deposit of cash, for the observance of an award or for the carrying out of any order the court may make. Such a bond may be enforced in the Arbitration Court, or in other courts. I know that some honorable members think that there ought to be a provision that a bond should always be provided. In this bill, however, it is left to the discretion of the judge to determine whether the bond shall be given or not, and it is provided that there must be a surety to the bond, so that when a bond is ordered it will be something real. Under clause 32 specific provision is made for the cancellation of an award. The existing law is that there is power in the court to order a variation of an award, and a cancellation is effected by varying the term of the award. That is an indirect method of securing this object, and now there are express provisions in the bill dealing with the subject. An award may be cancelled if an organization has done anything in the nature of a lockout or strike, or has committed any other breach or non-observance of an act or award ; and further, an award may be cancelled if it is shown that any number of members of an organization sufficiently large to form a substantial part of the organization refuses to accept employment either at all, or in accordance with existing orders or awards. In other words, if members of an organization are not prepared to work in accordance with the terms of an award, they can have no just objection to its cancellation, and it is better that it should be cancelled than that it should stand on the statutebook, a simulacrum and a pretence. Clause 48 of the bill sets out the grounds upon which a union may be derigestered. I call attention to sub-paragraph i of paragraph d. If the House accepts this bill it will be a ground for deregistration - that the proper authority of an organization or branch of an organization has neglected to exercise its powers over its members or branches doing anything in the nature of a lockout or strike, or committing any nonobservance or breach of any order or award.
I have already called the attention of the House to the provisions in clause 50 which enable a proper authority of an organization to expel members guilty of a breach of the law. It is proposed in this clause that it shall be a ground upon which the court may order deregistration that if the authority of the union has neglected to exercise these powers. These clauses are all drawn with the idea of insisting upon the principle that benefits cannot be obtained without accepting correaltive responsibilities. That, I submit, is fair and reasonable. Clause 48 also makes it a ground for deregistration that an organization has a domestic rule, or that its members observe an informal understanding, contrary to an award. I have myself, from a particular angle, had a good deal of experience of industrial disputes. My experience is particularly connected with the stage when trouble arises. I remember on one occasion when the Seamen’s Union was before the court ; it was sworn that the union was observing’ the award, and the affidavits were in order in all particulars. The facts were these: The union was insisting on selecting crews for vessels, but there was no overt act showing that this was the case. When, however, a man went on to a vessel, having been picked up in the ordinary way, the representative of the union asked him at a suitable moment where was his ticket. If he had a blue ticket he was all right; if he did not have a blue ticket the rest of the men walked off the ship. There was nothing in the rules about it; there was no authority in writing to which any one could point to show that the vigilance officer who issued these tickets was acting with the authority of the union; but that was what happened. There is a means of keeping the award to the letter, and breaking it in the spirit, and in reality, although the breach cannot be proved. An attempt has been made to deal with that position by the inclusion of the sub-clause to which I have referred. The clause further provides that an award may be cancelled if - any number of members of an organization, sufficiently large to form a substantial part of the organization, refuses to accept employment either at all or in accordance with existing orders or awards. ‘
This will be of great protection to the members of unions. I do not know whether a practice such as I have referred to will be defended by any one in this House. Such a practice means that a man’s chance of earning a living depends on the will of one individual, and that individual is not, in practice, controlled in his actions by members of the union. This bill is designed to protect the awards of the Arbitration Court, and limit the power of the union if tyrannically exercised in opposition to any award. Clause 48 also defines the effect of the deregistration of a union. In the past, the effect of deregistration has been very obscure. The union is made a corporation by the Arbitration Act, and when deregistered, it is, apparently, still a corporation, but its actual status is most difficult to determine. Accordingly, provision is made that the court, upon deregistration, may wind up an organization, pay its debts, and distribute the property among its members, or vest the property in a new voluntary organization consisting of the previous members. Thus provisions similar to those relating to the dissolution of companies are provided for the dissolution of these corporations. Now I come to the subject of the rules of a registered union. Clause 43 adopts, with some slight modification, the present schedule to the act, which stipulates that certain matters must be provided for in the rules of the union. Clause 47 provides that no alteration of the rules of an organization shall be made unless the alteration is approved by a vote of the members of the organization, and it makes provision for taking a secret ballot upon alterations of rules. The court is given power to disallow any rule which in the opinion of the court -
That provision is founded upon the principle that if an organization obtains registration under this act for the purpose of getting anaward, it is not to have anything in its rules inconsistent with the award made. If an award orders piece-work, any rule prohibiting piecework, or imposing penalties upon men who do piece-work, is invalid, and may be disallowed, and the presence of such a rule may be a ground for the deregistration of the union. Therefore, an option is offered to the union. If it likes the conditions prescribed by the court it can observe them; if it does not, it runs the risk of being put out. There is also provision in clause 51 that certain records of membership, and information relating to the funds of the union, shall be filed in the court. They must be filed annually, and provision is made for the auditing of accounts of a registered organization. The organization may appoint its own auditor, provided he is duly qualified. If no auditor is provided, there is power to appoint one. Clause 49 cancels section 61 of the act, which provides that during the pendency of any dispute or. matter before the court, no resignation from the membership of a union shall have any effect. That is to say, if a member once joins a union, he is bound to it so long as there is a dispute or matter pending before a court. He cannot resign, and he must pay his dues. He can be sued for them whatever work he is doing, or wherever he may be. I know of a case in which a man belonged to two different unions, one in the industry in which he was then working, and another in the industry in which he had previously been engaged. He had no desire to have anything to do with the first union, but this union always had a dispute before the court, and he could not resign from it though he no longer had any concern with it or its affairs, the act, and this section of the bill repeals it.
I come now to the question of the secret ballot. There are some unions that are so organized that the officers have complete control. Without any order by the court granting preference, the unions are sufficiently strong to enforce it. The result is that, in many cases, a man cannot work if he quarrels with the secretary, the organizer or the vigilance officer. If members of unions are prepared to submit to this form of tyranny, well and good, but they should be afforded an opportunity of releasing themselves from it, and the bill proposes to give them that opportunity. The members of any organization are entitled to have real and effective control, and not merely nominal control, over the election of officers, and the policy of the association. One of the main securities of our political life is the secrecy of the ballot. It enables all men to express their minds without fear, and the time has come for the introduction into industrial life of the same principle.
Clause 44 accordingly provides - “ 56a. Any ten members of an organization may, when any vote is taken or about to be taken in any election of the committee or officers of the organization or of a branch thereof or in respect of any resolution pro. posed for adoption by the organization or the branch, as the case may be, demand, either verbally or in writing, that the vote be taken by secret ballot and the vote shall thereupon be so taken accordingly.”
It may be asked,”It is all very well to say in an act of Parliament that a secret ballot shall be taken, but what if it is not taken ?” Proposed section 56b. provides that if after a demand for a secret ballot has been made a ballot is not taken, the court may give directions for the conduct of a secret ballot under the control of an officer of the court with or without provision for absent voting. In any provision for a ballot it is essential to arrange also for its control. Such matters as the election of scrutineers, for example, will be within the power of the court. We have had experience of so-called secret ballots, the efficiency of which would have been greater if they had been honestly controlled, I am reminded of “ Mr. Dooley’s “ account to Mr. Hennessy of his conversation with President Kruger about giving the franchise to the Uitlanders. The President was reported as saying in effect, “ I mayn’t be very good lookin’ and may be there are marks of food on me vest, but I’m not more than half crazy, and when you find me givin’ the Uitlanders a chance of votin’ me into a permanent job as ex-president, ye may conclude that your Uncle Paul needs a guardian.”
Mr. Hennessy asked, “ Dooley, what would ye do, would ye givethem a vote ?” “ Sure I would,” said Mr. Dooley, “ but I’d do the countin’.” The bill provides that the court shall be able to control the conduct of a poll. Proposed section 56c deals with another form of application for a secret ballot. It is all very well to provide that the men may demand a secret ballot, but in many unions such a demand would require a lot of courage; in some unions it would not be made, because of terrorization by a militant minority. Accordingly it is enacted that there may be a secret application for a secret ballot. Any ten or more members of a union may apply to the Registrar in writing for a direction that a secret ballot on a particular question be taken. The Registrar is prohibited from disclosing the names of the applicants to any person other than a judge. The judge, if satisfied that ten applicants are members of the organization and that the application is bona fide and relates to a matter of substantial importance, may give directions for a secret ballot under control of an officer of the court with or without provision for absent voting. Under proposed section 56d. the court may of its own volition order a secret ballot in relation to any matter in a dispute upon which it thinks it desirable that the opinion of the organization should be obtained. It is further provided that if complaint is made to the court that a secret ballot has not been fairly held, the court may make an order for the holding of another secret ballot under the control of an officer of the court. Proposed section 56f creates offences for obstructing the taking of a ballot, for counselling any person to abstain from voting, for preventing any person from voting, and, in the case of an officer of the union for refusing to make available to the returning officer the register or membership list of the organization. These provisions are in pursuance of a definite undertaking given by the Prime Minister in his policy speech at the last general election. They constitute a faithful performance of that promise, and will be welcomed not only by the peopleof Australia as a whole, but by hundreds of thousands of trade unionists who want to control their own affairs. They are entitled to have the control of their organizations restored to them; they have not got that now. If they do not wish to control their own affairs they need not use these provisions. The opportunity of selfgovernment is given to them; the rest remains with themselves. If they are not prepared to govern themselves that will be their responsibility. This bill, if approved by the House, will at least give them the opportunity.
The final provisions of the bill are directed to protecting the court and securing the observance of awards. Clause 54 makes it an offence to create a disturbance in or near a court. There is no objection to persons interested in a case attending the court in any numbers, but if there is any disturbance outside or near the court or demonstrations for the purpose of influencing the court it can be dealt with under this clause. Proposed section 86a provides -
No person shall -
by violence to the person or property of another person ;
by any threats;
by any pecuniary penalty or injury;
by intimidation of any kind of whomsoever directed;
by abusive or insulting language;
by declaring or joining with other persons in declaring goods or places or persons or undertakings or positions ‘ black ‘ ; or
by any other form of boycott or threat of boycott, prevent, or endeavour to prevent, any person from offering or accepting employment or working in accordance with the terms of an award or order of the court.
The immediate comment upon the provision relating to black-listing is that some highly intelligent person will evade the law by declaring goods white or yellow. Accordingly the section prohibits “ any other form of boycott or threat of boycott.” This often irresponsible practice of declaring things black is an evil that must be dealt with. The unions themselves know that it is an evil, but some of their subordinate officers have got beyond their control. Proposed section 86b requires an organization to abstain from imposing any penalties on members, because they are working in accordance with an award. We should not for a moment tolerate a state of affairs which permits a man to be exposed to a penalty simply because he is prepared to work in accordance with an award made by the court at the instance of the organization of which he is a member. Proposed section 860 deals with abusive and insulting resolutions which have become much too common in the proceedings of a few unions. Whenever a portion of an award does not please them they have the impudence to pass a resolution expressing “ disgust with the biased award of the court.” Parliament should protect the courts of the Commonwealth against abuse of that character. The greatest damage is done by the publication in the press of inflammatory and insulting statements. The great majority of Australian workmen are perfectly reasonable, and accordingly this proposed new section provides that it shall be an offence to print or publish any report containing any order, encouragement, advice or incitement to commit a breach of the act or an award, or containing any language which is insulting to or abusive of the court. I hope that honorable members opposite do not endorse language which is insulting to or abusive of the court.
One of the main principles of the bill is that responsibility shall be placed where it belongs. The Government does not claim that this measure provides any think like a complete solution of all industrial troubles, but I respectfully submit that it marks a real step in advance. It is founded on principles of responsibility, justice and fairness. It extends the power of those engaged in industry to control their own affairs, and is a definite contribution to the cause of industrial peace and progress. It affords many and greater opportunities for the exercise of goodwill if it is accepted in the spirit in which it is offered. The penal clauses will come into operation only in the event of definite breaches of the act, which nobody can justify by reasonable argument. I accordingly ask not only from the House, but from the public generally full and careful consideration of these proposals so that we may be qualified to deal wisely with this most important and difficult problem.
Debate on motion (by Mr. Charlton) adjourned.
Question - That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair, and that the House resolve itself into Committee of Supply - resolved in the negative.
Consideration resumed from 14th December, 1927 (vide page 3257).
On motion (by Mr. Pratten) -
That the schedule to the Customs Tariff be amended.
By omitting the whole of sub-item (f) and inserting in its stead the following sub-item : - “(f) Timber, undressed, in sizes of 12 in. x 6 in. (or its equivalent) and over -
Oregon(Pseudotsuga Douglasii), per 100 super. feet - British, 8s. ; intermediate, 8s.; general, 8s.
Oregon (Pseudotsuga Douglasii) for use underground for mining purposes as prescribed by departmental by-laws - British, free; intermediate, free; general, free. (3)N.E.I., per 100 super. feet - British, 3s.; intermediate, 3s.; general, 4s.”
By omitting the whole of sub-item (g) and inserting in its stead the following sub-item: - “ (g) Timber, undressed, in sizes of 7 inches x 2½ inches (or its equivalent) and upwards, and less than 12 inches x 6 inches (or its equivalent) -
Oregon (Pseudotsuga Douglasii), per 100 super feet - British, 9s. 6d. ; intermediate, 9s. 6d. ; general, 9s. 6d.
N.E.I., per 100 super. feet - British, 3s.; intermediate, 4s. 6d. ; general, 5s. 6d.”
By omitting the whole of sub-item (h) and inserting in its stead the following subitem : - “(h) Timber, undressed, in sizes less than 7 inches x 2½ inches (or its equivalent) -
Oregon (Pseudotsuga Douglasii), per 100 super. feet - British,11s.; intermediate,11s.; general,11s.
N.E.I., per 100 super. feet - British, 5s.; intermediate, 6s.; general, 7s.”
– I move -
That the item be amended by adding to sub-item (f) the following: - “And on and after 16th December, 1927 -
Timber, undressed, n.e.i., in sizes 12 inches x 6 inches (or its equivalent) and over -
This amendment is the considered proposal ‘ of the Government in regard to the difficult subject of timber duties. It covers and amends three items out of the fifteen items of timber duties in the schedule. It will be noticed that the proposals’ of the Government affect
Oregon .or similar pine from practically the same geographical area, and the increased duty on the three items affected is 4s. per 100 super, feet in the rough. There is also a consequential increased duty on dressed timber, to prevent the anomaly of dressed Oregon being imported under a lower duty than that for rough Oregon. It is also proposed to admit Oregon free for mining purposes, and a further exception is made in respect of redwood and Baltic timber. “We have had a long and protracted inquiry into timber duties, which I believe started in 1925. It has been arduous, and perhaps costly, to the parties concerned; and the Government has now endeavoured to reach some finality in this item, which is more intricate and certainly more complicated in its various phases than almost any other item in the tariff. The first report of the ^Tariff Board upon timber suggested only a few minor alterations to the duties, and its recommendations were not accepted by the Government. A copy of that report was tabled and printed, I believe, during last Parliament. On the application of the timber interests, a further inquiry was held, and as a result another report was submitted by the Tariff Board to the Government, and a copy of that report has already been placed in honorable members’ hands. The board recommended increases in some of the timber duties. The Government, after carefully considering this report, has now submitted its proposals to honorable members.
– Do these proposals differ from the schedule ?
– They are not different in essence, but they include a further item of dressed timber in order to prevent rough timber from being imported under a higher duty than that on dressed timber. The proposals also cover certain pines, spruces, and firs which may be imported from the same geographical locality in substitution for Oregon. Many people are interested in timber. Tt is in’ general use by sawmillers, importers, merchants, case-makers, fruit-growers, house-builders, house-owners, and furnituremakers. The Government has decided not to alter the incidence of the tariff on timber for case-making, as that has a vital bearing upon the packing and marketing of primary products. These proposals affect only three main items of scantlings that are in every-day use. Another complication of the industry is that different conditions prevail in all the States. There is admittedly a shortage of softwood timber in Australia. Queensland supplies a great deal, but unfortunately the Government of that State has lessened the consumption of the Queensland pine by increasing the royalties on it.
– The Queensland Government has now given an assurance that the royalty will be reduced.
– In Western Australia, weatherboard houses are principally built of hardwood and they are very satisfactory. Although they may cost a little more in labour, they last a good deal longer, and are perhaps the cheaper proposition in the long run. South Australia has not very much timber; so that the duties proposed by the Government affect to the greatest extent, Tasmania, Victoria and New South Wales. The Government’s desire has been, if it interferes with timber duties at all, to benefit the industry, and so we have concentrated upon the three lines set out in the amendment in order to give a maximum benefit to Australian sawmillers with a minimum of disturbance within the industry. Oregon is the biggest line of importations, and these duties are intended to enable Australian saw-millers to increase the sale of their products at the expense of imported soft woods. I have already said that this amendment aims at preventing the substitution for oregon of similar timbers, and thereby avoiding increased duties. We have rectified the obvious anomaly of rough timber being imported under a higher duty than that for dressed timber. In submitting these proposals the Government realizes that there may be a considerable divergence of opinion on them, but the inquiry into the timber industry has been taking place practically since January, 1925, and the Government thinks it is high time to settle this very difficult and. thorny subject.
– What about baltic timber which is used for flooring boards, lining boards and weatherboards?
– That is a very pertinent question. There is no alteration whatever in either undressed or dressed baltic timber.
– Because the Government does not propose to make any alteration. I have no wish to evade my issue. It was thought by the Government to be undesirable to increase the price of baltic timber, which is largely used for the floorings and linings of working men’s houses. The proposed duties only affect Oregon or similar pine from the same geographical area, and if the proposals of the Government are passed by the committee, we think that the duties will give the maximum benefit to the Australian saw-millers with a minimum of disturbance within the industry.
.- The amendment that has been tabled by the Minister is certainly some improvement on the schedule as originally tabled, but it falls short of what should be done; and I suggest to the Minister, that having gone so far he might easily have extended further the protection to this industry. Take the amendment that has been tabled. As was pointed out during the general debate, iforegon only were specified in the item, other timbers would he substituted for it, and thus escape the increased duty. Now the Minister has added hemlock, spruce, fir and pine, and excepted redwood and baltic. The importation of baltic timber is not so important as that of undressed Japanese oak and Pacific maple. Japanese oak is a hardwood, and it competes with our beautiful Australian hardwoods, including Tasmanian oak and blackwood. As I pointed out in the general debate, the timber imports from Japan during the five years from 1921 to 1926 increased by 2,290,000 super feet. But the value decreased by £40,000, due entirely to the cheap labour of Japan. Surely we should take a national pride in our timber industry. I do not know whether I am a faddist about our beautiful timbers, but I think that it is a calamity to import figured and furniture hardwoods from Japan, instead of putting into our furniture our own timbers which are unexcelled elsewhere. We should use our own timbers also to benefit our commerce and industry. We should keep Australians employed by using our own timbers, and I submit to the Minister that Japanese oak and Pacific maple should be included in the first item of the amendment. Item 291 (1) “timber, dressed” should include baltic which is a serious competitor with many of our Australian woods. The Government is imposing a fairly heavy protection on 30 per cent. of the sawmillers’ output, but is not adequately protecting the remaining 70 per cent., which consists of dressed timbers. The Minister has said that if we increase the duty on dressed baltic timber, the cost of workmen’s homes in which it is used would be increased, and that cannot be disputed. I have, however, worked out from the specification of a standard house the quantity of timber - assuming the builder to use imported timber - that would be needed in a five-roomed house erected by the State Savings Bank of Victoria, and I find that the added cost would not exceed £7. As such a house would last a lifetime the additional cost is very small. Australian workers have to pay higher prices on quite a number of commodities in order to assist in the establishment of Australian industries. It frequently happens that when there is no local industry to compete with overseas industries prices are high, and at times our industries have to reduce the prices of their products in order to combat foreign competition.
– Did the £7 referred to by the honorable member represent increased duty ?
– Yes, ifthe builder used imported timber.
– The honorable member was not making a comparison between softwoods and hardwoods?
– No. A house built of hardwood would be superior, but the purchaser would have to pay more for better quality. The cost of maintenance on a hardwood house is infinitely less than on a weatherboard structure. The higher duties asked for by the sawmillers and others interested in the industry would, if agreed to, assist in placing the Australian’ industry on a firm basis. Increased duties are being sought not only by the sawmiller, but by the members of the Timber Workers Union, whose livelihood depends upon the success of the industry. They realize that it’ is essential to have the industry in operation in their own country, so that they may obtain employment at wages which will enable them to meet the higher cost of living.
– The Minister has made concessions on many other items.
– Yes, and has removed some anomalies. I urge that Japanese oak and Pacific maple, which is competing with many of our beautiful timbers, should also be included in the amendment. This would encourage the use of Australian timber, and demonstrate its beauty and efficiency. In going through the forests in the constituency represented by the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Gibson) I have seen the remains of beautiful blackwood trees which have been burned down by the early settlers.
– Blackwood was always considered the best firewood.
– Yes. The satin box and blackwoods in the Otway forest burn very easily. When bush fires pass through the forest the good trees are destroyed and the inferior ones are left. For the reasons I have mentioned, I trust that the Minister will include Japanese oak and Pacific maple in item 291 l, which are seriously competing with Australian blackwood.
.- When I spoke on the general debate I directed the attention of the Government to the anomalies in the schedule, some of which will be removed if the amendment submitted by the Minister is agreed to. I agree with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) that the Government’s proposals are not of much value to the timber industry. Dressed timber from the Baltic is a serious competitor with Australian timbers, as also are Japanese oak and Pacific maple. tAs the Minister has included dressed ‘ timbers from the Pacific coast, I cannot understand why he has not also included dressed timber from the Baltic. Japanese oak, which is cut and carried by cheap labour, is a serious competitor with Australian timbers used in furniture and furnishings. The proposed increases in the schedule are not likely to be of much’ value to the Tasmanian sawmillers, who are at a disadvantage because of the high freights between Tasmania and the mainland. That disadvantage is admitted by the Tariff Board. It does not pay Tasmanian sawmillers to ship anything but the best timber, which is cut into board, flooring and furniture timbers. In the main it is only the off cuts that are cut into scantlings and it is those that are affected by competition with Oregon. About 77 per cent, of the output of the mills consists of dressed timber used in building construction and has to compete with Baltic pine. This is not to receive any increase under the schedule, although, the remaining 23 per cent, is to receive a measure of protection. The proposed duties are of very little value to the sawmilling industry. Owing to the delay in the presentation of the Tariff Board’s report on timber duties, two-thirds of our sawmills have closed down. If the duty imposed is not sufficient to protect the industry, it is not only the sawmillers who -will suffer, but the many workers dependent upon this industry for employment as well as settlers who find a market for fodder ‘ at the mills ; there are also those engaged in transport services. Considering the difference between the freights ruling between Baltic ports and Australia and between Tasmanian ports and the mainland of Australia, one wonders why the Minister declines to place a duty on Baltic timbers. To give one comparison, the freight on certain lengths of timber from Baltic ports to Australia is 3s. 9d. per hundred super feet, as against 5s. 9d. between Tasmania and Melbourne, and 9s. between Burnie, Tasmania’s nearest port, and Adelaide. Lumber is brought out from Baltic ports at reduced rates, and this makes matters very serious for the Australian timber industry. Honorable members will realize why I particularly put the case of the Tasmanian industry. It is not merely because I represent an electorate iri that State, but also because Tasmania obviously suffers greater disadvantages than the other States from this competition. The Tariff Board drew special attention to the fact ; but it pointed out that it was difficult to give adequate protection to the Tasmanian industry without giving too much protection to the sawmilling industry in, say, Victoria. That is most inconsistent with our general policy of giving protection to those who are most in need of it. Surely if the Tasmanian industry is peculiarly handicapped because of the operation of the Navigation Act, which is largely the cause of the high freights ruling on the Australian coast, it is entitled to first consideration when attention is given to tariff duties. Yet Japanese oak, which competes with our beautiful furniture timbers, is excluded from the schedule. I am glad to know that a duty will be placed on Oregon, because that will benefit particularly the mills in the other States and, to some extent, the Tasmanian mills ; but I draw attention to the curious reasoning of those responsible for the proposal when they say that Tasmania cannot be adequately assisted because that would give too much protection to the mills in other parts of Australia.’ The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) said that the proposed new duties would not to any great extent increase the cost of building. That is perfectly true, as was shown by the figures he supplied relating to the cost of building in Victoria. Australian hardwood houses are more beautiful and durable and less costly to maintain than those constructed of imported softwoods, and if the public would insist on the more general use of our splendid hardwoods it would give support to a languishing Australian industry, in which are employed many of our best and most deserving workers. Those who toil in our forests often receive lower wages than those employed in the cities. In my opinion no Australian should build a house of soft timber. It is argued by the Tariff Board and by the Minister that because no softwoods are grown in Australia, Baltic pine should not be in- eluded. That might be a sound argument if it were necessary to import softwood; but I know of no case in which Australian hardwoods could not be used for precisely the same purposes as Baltic pine. The Australian timber, as I have said, results iri a much superior building. I noticed that the Tariff Board remarked that one of the troubles of the industry was that the system of marketing timber was not efficient, and that the millers were not getting the best value for their commodity. The need for organization was suggested. When the members of the Development and Migration Commission visited Tasmania a few months ago, they met at Burnie the millers of the northwest coast, and, I believe, also representatives of most of the other mills in Tasmania. Throughout the discussions that took place at that gathering the millers admitted that many things might be done to help the industry, and bring about greater efficiency, but they thought it was useless to attempt to improve their conditions while, they had to contend with the competition of cheap timbers from overseas. I personally agree that something along those lines should be done. The chairman of the commission, Mr. Gepp, in addressing the meeting, emphasized the necessity for co-operation and efficiency, expressly .with regard to the handling and marketing of the timber. I desire this committee to know that shortly afterwards the millers held several meetings, and formed a co-operative company for the purpose of doing precisely what Mr. Gepp suggested they should do. I told them that I thought they could reasonably hope that they would receive a substantial measure of protection when the Tariff Board had reported on the matter. I must say that I am disappointed. I could quote figures at great length to show the extent of the importation of cheap foreign timbers, and I could let tha committee know how many employees in the timber trade are out of work; but I shall not weary honorable members with statistics. I hope that the Minister, even now, will realize that the help th’at he evidently thinks he is’ giving to the industry under the proposal before the committee is quite inadequate. When other honorable members have addressed themselves to this subject, I believe that it will be generally recognized that Japanese oak, Pacific maple, and Baltic timber should be made dutiable if the industry is to be assisted. I am loth to believe that the influence of the importers is sufficient to prevent the granting of the duties asked for, in view of the fact that their opposition to the protection of the secondary industries has not been successful. It is important to maintain this great Australian industry to enable existing timber to be utilized and a reasonable amount of re-afforestation to be done. Otherwise I am afraid that Australia will lose an important industry. This would affect Tasmania peculiarly, and it would almost equally affect most of the other States.
.- I support the remarks by the Deputy leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin), and the honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Bell). We have established a forestry department in the Federal Capital Territory, and more attention has been paid to the subject of re-afforestation in the last few years than ever before. We shouldsee that Australia is self-contained with regard to its timber requirements, and we should do all we can to reduce the large quantities of foreign timber in use. The imports are growing at an alarming rate. The figures for the last six years are as follow : -
The imports for 1925-21 show an increase over those for 1924-21 of 256,000,000 super. feet, and in one year they increased by 97,000,000 super. feet. These figures are sufficient to warrant our serious consideration of the needs of the local industry, which employs thousands of Australians, and, like all our industries, is worthy of all the support that we can give it. It is well known that the borer pest is far more prevalent in imported timber than in our own timber. I have known of new cottages, constructed for the most part of imported timber, which within two years of their erection have been seriously damaged by borer. Yet no control is exercised over the importation of borer infested timber. This timber is frequently brought here as back loading at freights which are less than those charged between Australian ports.The borer pest has migratory habits. I know of one instance in which a cottage which has been standing for seventeen years has been seriously damaged by borer which could only have come from imported timber used in an adjoining building. In the interests not only of the timber industry but also of Australia as a whole, the Government should take steps to see that all imported timber is fumigated. I am not satisfied with the action of the Tariff Board in this matter. It has criticized unionists employed in the timber industry for asking for increased wages each time new duties are imposed. It was never intended that the Tariff Board should interfere in such matters. It has its own duties to perform, and it should he content to confine itself to those duties. I desire to bring before the committee the following extract from a letter from the Australian Timber Workers’ Union.
The report of the Tariff Board respecting timber duties and comment by the board was submitted to a meeting of the federal executive of the Australian Timber Workers’ Union, now sitting in Melbourne, yesterday.
After perusing the comment offered by the board under the heading of “ Industrial Conditions,” wherein the following reference appeared: - “ The board pointed out that the recommendations for increased duty did not provide for increased wages, but were nude only to save the industry, and enable small profits to be made and prevent many mills from closing down. Ally further burden on the industry in the shape of increased wages would mean that the trade, which the increased duties are designed to bring to the hardwood sawmillers, would be diverted to imported softwoods. It was significant that at the very time that the secretary of the Timber Workers’ Union supported the request for increased duties before the Tariff Board, the union had. lodged a claim with the Arbitration Court for increased wages.”
After perusing the details set forth by the board respecting the suggested alterations of duties, strong exception was taken to the foregoing reference respecting the union’s claim before the Arbitration Court. The attack made on the union by the board must be patent to every right-thinking person as being purely partiality shown to the timber importers.
If the imposition of increased duties were not recommended for the protection of Australian industries, then for what other purpose was the board originally created ?
The board failed to bring under the notice of Parliament the fact that timber merchants and importers (the employers), who were opposing any , proposed increases in duties, had filed an application before the Arbitration Court for a reduction ‘of wage rates te the extent of 8s. per week on the base rate now payable to country workers ; an increase of four hours per Week for city workers; the application of an hourly system of employment as against the weekly hiring now obtaining; a reduction in margins for skill from 21s. to 6s. per week as at present awarded by the court, and the further application for unlimited boy labour. These employers who were making that application to the Arbitration Court were the very people who had flooded the Australian timber market with their cheap foreign imported timbers.
The executive of the Timber Workers Union cannot believe that a more scandalous attitude could have been taken by the employers themselves than to make such a reference in its report as submitted to the Federal Parliament which the executive contends is bristling with declarations of partiality towards the employers to the detriment of the union’s application before the court.
The employers’ application to the court for reduced wages, &c, was submitted six months previous to the union lodging a claim which was really a reply to the employers’ application.
It was pointed out at the executive meeting that a number of union secretaries had tendered evidence before the Tariff Board in support of increased duties, but the board has made no reference to that evidence, although those unions were also before the court applying for increased wages and better conditions. There is not the slightest doubt that indirectly this precious Tariff Board is responsible for the huge importations of foreign timbers, and consequently for much unemployment in the timber .and other industries, yet its recommendations respecting timbers are all in favour of importers of foreign timbers.
The executive is anxious to know what was behind the mind of the board when it drew up its reference to the union. It is anxious to know who inspired the reference referred to, and if it were not for the purpose of an attempt to influence both the Arbitration Court and Parliament itself in the interests of timber importers, for what other reason was the reference made?-
As for its recommendations respecting the increased duties, if the Tariff Board desired to protect the timber industry from foreign competition, its endeavours have been a complete failure, as the only items they have increased the duties on are those which provide work in respect to rc-milling and re-cutting.
There have been no recommendations made respecting timbers cut to size and dressed ready for use; no increases are suggested on Baltic pines such as flooring, lining and weatherboards or box materials (the partial production of female and child labour) which do not give labour to the Australian workman nor trade to the Australian sawmillers.
One hundred per cent, increase on the present duties on those timbers would have been of some assistance to Australia’s natural product and the timber industry generally.
It is believed that hemlock, spruce, and other timbers will probably replace Oregon if the defined designation as set out in the . Tariff Board’s recommendation is adopted.
A summary of the recommendations of the board amounts to but little import so far as the welfare of the Australian Timber Workers Union is concerned, and we look to the workers’ representative in the Commonwealth Parliament to ventilate our grievance against the inadequate proposals of the board, so that a proper and true protectionist policy may be adopted by Parliament.
That letter is from a union which has suffered great injustice at the hands of the Tariff Board. I have never been a critic of the Tariff Board- because I believe that generally it carries out its investigations in a thorough manner; but when it goes out of its way to criticize a trade union merely because it has an application before the Arbitration Court, it is time to protest. Especially is that so when, as in this case, the union has merely replied to pleas put forward by the importers of timber. I understand that in the schedule before us the Minister has made some alterations to the Tariff Board’s recommendations, but the schedule is still unsatisfactory. Sufficient protection has not been given to the timber industry. It is possible that Australia will be flooded with Pacific maple and Japanese oak. We should make the future of the timber industry in Australia secure by preventing the undue importation of foreign timber. If we can supply our own timber requirements, we should do so. A proper system of reafforestation would provide employment for large numbers of workers. The first requirement is to impose duties which will restrict the importation of cheap timber. It may be contended that it is necessary to import timber to meet our requirements, but honorable members will admit that Australia can grow all the timber it requires for housebuilding. We have in this country some of the finest, timber in the world. Honorable members have only to see the beautiful timbers in this building to recognize that fact. It may be that there is a shortage of Australian timbers on the market, but that difficulty could easily be overcome. We should not allow timber to be imported from overseas if it means throwing Australian workers out of employment. These workers are as much entitled to protection as are the other sections of the community. This schedule will do a little to improve conditions in the timber industry in Australia, but it does not go far enough.
– It will tend to make building more expensive.
– I do not agree with the honorable member.
– The honorable member must know that the cost of building has increased considerably during the last few years.
– The cost of almost everything has increased since the war, not only in Australia but also in other countries of the world. We have not returned to normal conditions. I do not admit that the .utilization of our local timbers would increase building costs in Australia. Everybody knows that mass production is essential to the success of many industries to-day. I submit that if our timber mills were working at full capacity prices could be reduced. It cannot be expected that a reduction in price will occur while so many mills are working at only half capacity. If the timber millers could be sure of a regular output they could fix their prices accordingly, and the industry would be stabilized. Many mills in New South Wales have closed down altogether and others are working only quarter time. This is serious for Australia. The Government should do a little more than it has done to encourage the industry. The information which the Minister gave us to-day respecting the price of agricultural machinery indicated quite clearly that higher prices do not always follow increased duty. The development of our timber industry would advance Australia and provide increased employment for our people. For these reasons, I trust that before this debate concludes the Minister will agree to an increase in the duty set out in the schedule.
.- The increases in duty provided in the schedule should afford some relief to the Australian timber getters, but more should be done for them. The industry is well established in every State in the Commonwealth except South Australia, so that I am entitled to describe it as Australian-wide. It may even be termed one of the key industries of the nation.
It provides employment for a large number of men directly, and many more indirectly. It is regrettable therefore, that more than 200 timber mills in Australia are closed down. Their business has been rendered unprofitable in consequence of the large quantities of timber imported into Australia from overseas. Thirty years ago the importation of Oregon into Australia was negligible, but at present about 500,000,000 super, feet of it are being imported annually. This means that many timber mills which were formerly engaged in cutting scantlings have lost that trade and have had to turu their attention to the cutting of flooring, lining, weather and furniture boards; but even this trade is being jeopardized by the importation of Baltic dressed timber. I suppose that there are more timber mills in my division than in any other in the Commonwealth. Tasmania, has millions of feet of flooring and lining boards stacked in different centres for which a sale cannot be found, notwithstanding that it is incomparably better for building purposes than imported Baltic timber. A better house can be built with it than with the Baltic boards and at a lower cost. The Baltic timber is full of knots, many of which frequently fall out after the timber has been used for building purposes, and the holes have to be plugged with cork or something else. That does not occur with hardwood. In 1925-26, we imported 85,0S4,976 feet of Baltic timber into Australia, which was about 20,750,000 feet more than in 1924-25. It is not surprising, therefore, that the Australian Industry has been hit very hard. The Commonwealth Government is itself using imported instead of local timber for much of the work that it has in hand. At Port Nelson, for instance, it is lining houses with imported wood when our own hardwood, which would make a better job, is available at a lower price. The lamp posts outside of this building are of oregon, notwithstanding that this timber is the worst that could be obtained for putting into the ground, for it will only last two or three years. All the timber used in the barriers in front of Parliament House on Armistice Day was Oregon, and the joinery and timber used in the hotels in this city is almost exclusively Oregon. This makes rae feel that the Government is not sincere in its expressed ‘ desire to assist the Australian industry. It must be apparent to honorable members that when we import dressed timber from’ oversea we support foreign industries to the detriment of our own. Manchuria n oak and Pacific maple are also being allowed to compete on ar- unfair footing with Australian timbers. Queensland has some of the. finest cabinetmaking timber in the world, and on this account the importation of timber for this purpose from overseas should be stopped. On this point the following extract from the Sydney Daily Telegraph of yesterday’s date is interesting : - “There are millions of feet of Queensland maple and unlimited supplies of silky oak, red tulip oak, native walnut, red satinay, and other cabinet-making timbers available for sale at the present time from the Forestry Department and other timber vendors of the northern State,” said Mr. P. J. Sally, Director of the Queensland Tourist Bureau in Sydney.
Mr. Nally was referring to the published statements that Sydney merchants’ orders could not be met; that Queensland maple was scarce, and supplies were being conserved by the Government, and that the repeated complaints as to Queensland scarcity was obviously an attempt to get protection against Pacific oak, “ the chief competitor of the Queensland maple.”
Mr. Nally declared that the president of the Sydney and Suburban Timber Merchants Association and other complainants here who voiced these statements did not know what they were talking about.
There were beautiful timbers other than maple, he said, being extensively used for cabinet-making in Queensland. “ The whole trouble over the Queensland timber position,” Mr. Nal:y submitted, “would appear to be that Sydney merchants dc not seem too keen upon securing the fancy timbers except at their own price.”
Queensland.^ he repeated, could supply unlimited quantities. There were no fewer than 800 varieties of timber available for building and cabinetmaking purposes.
I have seen furniture made out of Queensland timber, and know that there is no better furniture made. We have in Tasmania some blackwood and ‘“‘King Billy “ pines which form some ‘ of the finest forests in the Southern Hemisphere, yet notwithstanding that Nature has given us these things, we have mills closing down because of insufficient protection afforded by the Government. I wish to impress upon the Minister the desirability of granting some protection against the competition of Baltic timber. That is the timber which causes most of the trouble to-day. We have lost the scantling trade because builders, who have been used to handling Oregon for so many years, are not likely to go back to hardwood timber by reason of the greater cost of working. There is a great expense in cutting floor boards, because they have to be cut on the quarter, and there is more waste. That is why the cost of that timber is much higher than that of ordinary classes of timber; but unless the mills receive protection against the Baltic pines there is no doubt that many of them will have to go out of business. If that comes about I want honorable members on this side of the House to know that the price of Oregon will go up to nearly double its present price, and the same will apply to Baltic pine. We shall find then that houses will be much dearer than now. There is not much difference between the cost of hardwood flooring and Baltic flooring. Hardwood flooring costs 13s. 3d. per 100 ft. super, f.o.b. Tasmania; baltic is 14s. landed in Melbourne. Under the Navigation Act, as the honorable member for Darling pointed out, the freight on timber from Launceston to Melbourne is actually more than from Norway to Melbourne. It is a monstrous thing that we can bring timber to Australia from the other side of the world for less than it takes to carry it 200 miles. Hardwood weatherboarding is 14s. 3d. f.o.b. Tasmania, and baltic weatherboarding is 19s. lid. While it is true that the baltic weatherboarding is cheaper than the hardwood, we have to remember that a weatherboard house has to be painted at least twice for every time which it is necessary to paint a hardwood house. Painting is now a fairly costly item, and this should be taken into consideration when comparing the relative costs of Baltic pine and hardwood houses. There is little likelihood of our getting back the scantling trade, and we shall have to confine ourselves to boards; but even that trade is being destroyed by the importations of baltic boards. The Minister proposes in this’ schedule to allow mining timber- to come in free. I quite approve of that, so long as the timber is used for underground work. Tasmania supplied practically the whole of the mining timber for Australia for many years, and it is idle to say that hardwood timber cannot be used for this purpose. However, I have no objection to underground timber being imported; but I am afraid that a great deal of the timber coming in free, allegedly for mining purposes, will find its way into other channels, and will be used for ordinary purposes. To prevent that, it would be necessary to create an army of officials to see that the timber is not used for other than mining purposes. I am satisfied that the importers of Oregon timber would not care if all the mills stopped work to-morrow. If the mills were closed imported timber would go up in price, and the importers would make more out of it.- At the mills throughout Australia there are millions of feet of flooring boards which cannot be sold at the present time. This timber is properly seasoned, and properly treated, but the millers cannot find a market for it, and their capital is locked up in such a way that they cannot realize upon it. I recognize that we must have pine for butter boxes, and some other kinds of boxes, but I say unhesitatingly that hardwood timber is quite suitable for most kinds of cases, including those used for packing fruit. Last year a firm in Tasmania used hardwood timber for fruit cases, and every one who saw them agreed that nothing better could be made. They will stand all the knocking about to which such cases are usually subjected. Therefore, it is clear that we have not got to go outside Australia to get suitable cases for packing fruit. I admit that we must get imported timber to make butter boxes, in order’ to prevent the butter from being tainted.
– Queensland is growing pines suitable for the manufacture of butter boxes.
– I am very glad to hear that. If the trade has accepted Queensland pine for butter boxes, there is no need to go outside Tasmania for any other case timber which we may require. It is’ just a matter of seasoning and dressing it. I hope that what I have said will be placed before the Minister. I am satisfied that if he had heard my remarks, he would give some relief to the mill-owners, notwithstanding that he has declared that he will not alter the schedule relating to baltic pine.
.- Coming as I do from a big timber producing State like Queensland, I desire to say something upon this item. Even as an Australian I should protest against large importations of timber from other countries while we have unlimited supplies of some of the finest timbers in the world growing in Australia. This is not a subject on which we should take a parochial view, and I only wish that the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Seabrook) could see his way to be as consistent a protectionist on behalf of sugar, as he is on behalf of the timber industry. I have in mind the honorable member’s statement when discussing the Canned Fruit Bounty Bill, when he said he would remove the sugar embargo, and wipe out the Arbitration Court. I hope that he has seen the light since then. I know that his speeches are most contradictory. When he is dealing with anything that suits his own electorate he is a protectionist, but he is an ardent freetrader when the matter concerns - any other State. In this instance, happily, he can join with other honorable members in advocating a duty on timber. I know that the honorable member holds himself up as an authority on everything; but when a man advocates the importation of black-grown sugar, and the sacrificing of an industry worth £12,000,000, his attitude is anti-Australian, and it is no wonder that the Minister went out of the chamber rather than listen to him. In regard to the item 291, sections e, g, and h, I ask the Minister that he should also cover Japanese oak, Pacific maple and Borneo cedar. In regard to 291 l “ timber dressed” must be extended to cover baltic timber. If the Minister would provide for that he would be doing a great service to the Australian timber industry, because, for some time past, the saw-milling industry in Queensland, Tasmania, and I believe in other States has been seriously prejudiced by the very large importations of these timbers, and also of Manchurian oak, Pacific maple, Borneo cedar, and timbers from other countries. What is the position to-day? Even some of the big timber-growing countries would welcome a duty of 15s. British, preferential, 15s. intermediate, and 16s. general, to cover Baltic timber. I wish to refer the Minister to a statement that has been made by Mr. George W. Hudson, managing director of George Hudson’s Limited, one of the biggest importers of dressed timber in Australia. He is in favour of a duty of 15s. per 100 super feet on all dressed timber entering the Commonwealth. That, he contends, would remedy the grievances of most of the sawmillers and give employment to many hundreds of men in the manufacture of floorings, linings, and weatherboards to replace the millions of feet of manufactured Baltic timber at present being imported. I sincerely hope that the Minister will pay heed to the arguments that have been advanced by honorable members in favour of increased duties. The saw-mills and timber yards in Queensland have on their hands enormous quantities of cedar, walnut, pine, and other timbers, for which there is at present absolutely no market. If honorable members were to visit the wharfs in Sydney and Melbourne, they would see scores of lorries laden with all kinds of timbers that have been imported. The Minister has seen fit to extend the duties’ so as to protect the softwoods. I ask him to meet our wishes in regard to timbers that are imported from Japan and other countries. Foreign timber is being used extensively to-day in the building trades in all the big cities of Australia. In Queensland and the other States which produce large quantities of timber, hundreds of employees are out of work. The importations during the last five years were valued as follow : -
As we can grow the whole of our requirements, I ask the Minister to extend the item so as to cover Japanese oak, Pacific maple, Borneo’ cedar, and Baltic timber The Australian timber-getters and sawmillers would then have a chance to compete on a fair basis. A large quantity of timber is brought from Sc.an- dinavia. Why should we extend any privileges to Norway and Sweden, seeing that we have a big adverse trade balance with both of those countries? During the year 1925-26, the bulk of the Scandinavian products that arrived in Australia was 570,638 tons. , In the year ended the 30th June, 1926, our trade with Norway was as follows : -
The latter sum included £97,475 or. account of whale oil, in the procuring of which their own labour and vessels were utilized. The figures in regard to Sweden show a similar disparity. They are as follow: -
We imported matches to the value of £226.000, which exceeded by nearly £100,000 the value of the products which Sweden purchased from us. Why should we extend consideration to those countries? Their labour conditions are altogether different from those that exist in Australia, and their standard of living is much lower than ours. Yet by importing from them large quantities of timber, work is provided for thousands of their people, and thousands of good Australians are unemployed. The hours of work in Sweden number 4S and the wage is £2 8s. Od. a week. In Australia, the wages paid under the timber workers’ award is £4 6s. Od. for a week of 48 hours. Under those circumstances how can we expect our timber industry to compete with theirs? Let us now compare freights. The average freight from the Baltic to Australian ports, is 4s. 5d., the ruling rates being 3s. lOd. per 100 super, feet in sailing vessels, and 5s. per 100 super, feet in steamer. The freights to Melbourne are - ‘From Tasmania, from 5s. 3d. to 5s. 9d. ; from Sydney, from 4s. 3d. to 4s. 9d.; from Western Australia, 7s. 2d. ; from Cairns 8s. to 8s. 6d. ; and from Brisbane, from 5s. 3d. to 6s. per 100 super, feet. It will thus be seen that, the advantage lies with them in regard to both wages ‘and freights. Unless the protection for which we are asking is afforded, the Australian timber industry will be wiped out. It has been argued that if the duty is increased, the cost of workers’ homes will be raised. Such an argument is used only by those who are opposed to the building up of this great industry in Australia. It is the old stock freetrade argument that is trotted out whenever protection is sought for a great Australian industry.
– A freetrader who sits on this side has been converted.
– He is a convert only while timber is being discussed. Tomorrow, he will again become a freetrader. The specifications of the various types of houses that are erected under the Victorian Housing and Reclamation Act are set out in a publication that has been issued by the Victorian State Savings Bank. It is a most illuminating document, which I invite honorable members to read. Type No. 28 is a five-roomed cottage in which the quantity of Baltic timber used is as follows: -
The increased duty on this type of house would add to its cost to the following extent : -
The additional cost would therefore be only £7 6s. 0d., which is negligible considering that the worker secures an asset that lasts him a lifetime. Let us now consider the advantages that would accrue to Australia if imported timber were kept out and thousands of Australians obtained employment in hewing timber from our beautiful forests. We should be able to absorb a much larger population, and give employment to thousands of timber-getters, carriers, railway employees, wharf labourers and others who, in the rearing of Australian families, would provide for the primary producers the best market they can have. I come from a big timber producing State. The timber industry there, as in other parts of Australia, is in a very parlous condition. Scores of timber mills that once were prosperous and thriving, are nowclosed down, and hundreds of men have been thrown out of employment. If the Minister will agree to the increased duty that is requested, there will be a revival in that industry and probably a big proportion of the 50,000 unemployed who are now walking the streets, will be given employment .in productive work. As an Australian I ask the Minister to accede to our request.
– I have not taken- a very prominent part in the debate on the tariff this year, although I spoke at some length on last year’s schedule. The reason is that it has been quite obvious throughout this debate that there is not a particular desire on tlie part of honorable members generally to listen to the views of anyone who is not prepared to advocate the biggest measure of protection that can possibly be afforded, oven to the extent of prohibition. The debate with respect to the proposed duty on butter occupied twelve hours, during which only four members spoke in opposition to the new duties, the remainder of the time being occupied by those who either explained or defended their action for the benefit of their constituents. But this particular item embodies, in a rather acute form, a case of sheer injustice, which is greater in the case of some States than in others. Apart from that, it will be an injustice to a large number of poorer people, and even to some of those better off, who will be required to pay a great deal more for their houses in order that a few people may, possibly, reap a benefit. It appears to me that the chief beneficiary will be the Government, which will get increased revenue duties. When Ihe Minister introduced his amendment to item 291. some honorable members wore under the impression that it represented a reduction of his original proposal. I personally did not expect that, and I find on looking through, the details that he had added to the word “ Oregon “ in 291 f and h from other timbers, “ hemlock, spruce, fir, and pine, except redwood and Baltic,” and he has added another sub-item 291 l, “ Timber dressed, n.e.i., Oregon, hemlock, spruce, flr, and pine except redwood and Baltic.”
– That- is merely U prevent the substitution of those timbers for oregon.
– My point is that the alteration does not mean a reduction of the original schedule. The Tariff Board’s recommendation for item 291 (l) was, “ Timber dressed, n.e.i., per 100 super, feet, 6s., 9s., 10s. 6d. The amended duties proposed by the Minister are 6s., 14s., and 15s. One would imagine that these duties would be in accordance with the Tariff Board’s report; actually they bear no relation to it. The Minister is wholly responsible for them. I do not say that he should not, if he thinks proper, increase or reduce any duties recommended by the board, but when a report which has been made after a great expenditure of time and labour is varied by the Minister-
– By the Government.
– I accept the Minister’s correction, and I hop*) that he differed from his colleague on this occasion, and that the increased duties were not submitted to the Cabinet on his recommendation. I shall place on record the highest figures with regard to subitems in the recommendations of the Tariff Board in comparison with those duties which have been submitted to us by the Minister-
The Minister has not explained the reason for this substantial departure from the recommendation of the board. It has been suggested that we -should encourage the Australian timber industry, but nobody has mentioned that this is a question of the relative merits and uses of softwoods and hardwoods. Practically no softwood is grown in Victoria, South Australia, and Tasmania ; the supplies of Queensland are largely depleted; and New South Wales cannot supply its own requirements, Western Australia has plenty of hardwood, but the output is being restricted in order to conserve the timber resources of the State. Oregon, the principal timber affected by these duties, is conceded by the Tariff Board’s report to be essential. The board says -
Witnesses in favour of the request for additional duties admitted, however, that hardwood could not bc used as a substitute for Oregon for many purposes, and that no matter what duty was imposed, Oregon would still be imported……
The Tariff Board is satisfied that it is desirable that some additional protection be given to assist local sawmillers in disposing of their timber, but it is not prepared to recommend the whole of the additional duties sought for the reason that such a course, would be imposing too great a burden upon the industries in which the use of a certain quantity of the imported timber is essential, and on those activities in which only overseas softwoods are suitable, or even possible.
Tasmanian hardwood is not suitable for the purposes for which softwood is used, and the result of these duties will be the collection of more revenue and a general rise in the cost of living, because of the great cost of housing. South Australia imported in 1925-26 roughly 11,000,000 feet of hardwood from Tasmania, and 36,000,000 feet from Western Australia, a total of 47,000,000 feet. Of undressed softwoods, including Oregon, it imported 46,000,000 feet. The imports of softwood and hardwood were practically equal, and no one can rightly suggest that there has been any disinclination in that State to buy hardwood for the purposes for which it is suited. On which of the States will these new imposts fall most heavily? The statement has been published in the press that in -1924 the existing duties meant an impost per head of population of Ss. 2£d. in South Australia; 8s. in Victoria; 3s. 6£d. in New South Wales; 4£d. in Western Australia; 2£d. in Queensland; and lid. in Tasmania. I ask the committee to note that the range was from 1½d. to 8s. 2iA. The extra duties will increase the burden per head of population by approximately 3s. 6d. in South Australia, 2s. 6d. in Victoria, and 2s. in New South Wales. In other words New South Wales will pay 5s. 6½d., and South Australia lis. 8£d. per head of population. Those figures show that the tariff is being applied in a way that is manifestly unjust to certain States. I cannot help feeling that there is behind these duties a political motive - a desire to assist the State of Tasmania. I have the greatest sympathy for that State. It has fared badly under federation, and has received very little sympathy. I am not desirous of withholding mine, but if Tasmania requires further assistance than it has already received, the proper method ‘ of giving it is by a direct grant - which indeed has already been done - and not by way of increased duties which oppress in varying degrees other States. This schedule of duties means that some States, and those not the largest, will pay a greater proportion of the amount to he levied, nominally against the whole of the Commonwealth, for the purpose of helping Tasmania. I commend the report of the Tariff Board on this subject to the consideration of honorable members. In 1925 the’* board refused the request for increased duties, but every effort was still put forth by those interested to get additional protection. In regard to that the board said: -
The Tariff Board strongly resisted the granting of the request for a re-opening, as it considered that its investigations should not be re-opened merely because the parties to the requests are dissatisfied with the result, at least until such time as those concerned are in a position to present what could be regarded as fresh evidence.
In each instance the board’s report to the Minister very clearly demonstrated that’ the information tendered was not fresh evidence. Again at page 19 of its report the board says, under floorings, linings, and weatherboards -
Not only does the question of comparative prices as between the imported and local timbers constitute a factor in the preference manifested for the imported timber, but the very much lower cost of transport, handling and working softwood timber as compared with hardwood represents a very decided advantage to the former.
The Tariff Board agrees with the contention that the granting of the increased duties asked for would not have the effect of increasing the use of hardwood, which, of course, is the objective of the request, but would have the effect of increasing the use of substitutes which, in addition to being cheaper than hardwood, require considerably less labour to handle and fix, and involve a lower cost of upkeep. Moreover, the granting of higher duties to the extent sought would impose upon users of the timber a burden which the Tariff Board considers is not justified by the circumstances. This would apply more especially to States such as South Australia, in which there is no local supply of hardwood timber, and to those localities in other States which are remote from the source of supply of hardwood, seeing that the cost of the timber in such places would bc increased considerably by heavy freights.
I could give to the committee details of the increased costs at different places because of the heavier freights. Towards the end of the report we find the comments of the board on the efficiency of the timber industry. The Prime Minister has for several years past told us that the Government does not intend to grant assistance either in the form of protective duties or by giving bounties unless an industry is obviously efficient. The Tariff Board dealing with the efficiency of the timber industry says under grading and classification of timbers -
There is no doubt that in the past much of the timber handled by local sawmillers has not been cut and marketed to the best advantage.
In the next paragraph, dealing with seasoning, it says -
The Tariff Board is satisfied that the commercial value of much of the timber produced by local sawmillers would be enhanced by proper seasoning before marketing.
These two comments seem to indicate how much scope there is for improving the efficiency of the timber industry, and how necessary it is for the Minister to explain the Government’s action, if it is not his own, in adopting the high increase recommended by the Tariff Board. A few weeks ago we passed a Housing Bill, in which we provided that for the building of a house a sum could be advanced which, in my opinion, was unreasonably high; but one can readily understand that the advance will need to be high if the country is to be charged so much more for its timber. It is obvious that the effect of these timber duties will be felt by the whole community. They are certainly not justified by any argument that has yet been put forward, nor should they be imposed because of any desire to show consideration to one State or the people of that State. From the Adelaide Register of the 30th ultimo I quote the following : -
In the Assembly on Tuesday the Leader of the Opposition (Eon L. L. Hill) directed the attention of the Government to articles in the Register concerning the 100 per cent, increase in the duty on Oregon, which, he said, combined with the proposed increased inward wharfage rate and the reduction of the advances for homes by £350,000, would place the building trade in a precarious position. Mr. Hill asked that a protest should be made to the Federal Government.
The Premier (Hon. R. L. Butler) said hp had considered the position, but had not come to a definite decision. The increased duty might promote the use of local timber; if it did not it would not serve any good purpose, and he would certainly make representations to the Prime Minister.
I trust that we shall find honorable members of the Opposition in this chamber agreeing with the Leader of the Labour Opposition in the South Australian Parliament.
There is also a wider question behind all this - how far we should proceed at the present juncture iu using up the timber that Australia still has left. Australia is not rich in timber. Every one who has taken the slightest interest in the subject knows that its splendid forests have been squandered in a most shameful manner. Honorable members opposite say that at the present time we are benefiting the people engaged in the timber industry in overseas countries an,d thereby injuring our own people, but I ask them whether in the long -run it would not do more good to Australia if’ we used as much softwood timber as we could get from overseas and built up our own timber reserves.
Lord Randolph Churchill, speaking of the late Mr. Gladstone, who, we all know, was a great axeman, said : “Tn his amusements and in his work he is alike destructive; the forest groans in order that Mr. Gladstone may perspire.” Some of us may not agree with that criticism; but I venture to say that the whole of Australia must groan in order that the timbercutters of Tasmania and, it may be, elsewhere, may perspire.
– I support the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin), in his claim that this schedule of duties does not deal adequately with the timber industry. I regret the absence of some provision to deal with dressed timbers which are coming to Australia and depriving our sawmillers of a considerable amount of work that should rightly he theirs. Although the Minister now proposes, to increase the duty on hemlock and spruce as well as On oregon, which is certainly an improvement on his earlier proposal, he does not propose to impose increased duties on Japanese or Baltic timbers which are mainly used for flooring, for which purpose Australian timbers are equally serviceable as well as for linings and weatherboards. If we could make full use of our own timbers for these purposes we should be in a position to use up in the manufacture of boxes portions which would otherwise go to waste. But we find that Norway and Sweden are sending us dressed timber in all shapes and sizes ready for putting together as boxes. I am anxious to prevent that competition, so that we may utilize our forests to the fullest advantage by using for box making purposes what would otherwise be waste timber. It has been said that the present time is inopportune for imposing heavy duties on imported timbers, because we ought to be taking steps to .conserve our own . timbers. I know that in the Wirrabara Forest in South Australia at the present time there is 16,000,000 super, feet of pinus insignis ready to. cut, which is actually deteriorating, because it is not possible to cut it to commercial advantage. This forest could supply 2,000,000 super, feet of this softwood annually, and it is only one of several forests from which supplies are available. Australia has timber which could replace imported dressed timbers, notable those that come from Norway and Sweden, and I trust, therefore, that the Minister will so impose duties on dressed timbers that at every stage the process of preparing them for use may be done by Australian workmen. The proposed increase of 5’s, per 100 super, feet on oregon is on bulk timber, the size prescribed being 12 in. by 6 in., but there is not sufficient protection for Australian industry against an inrush of timbers that are coming in fully dressed and cut to sizes suitable for box-making. At the present time owing to low duties on Baltic timbers very little hardwood flooring or lining is used. A tremendous amount of timber in Australia which is suitable for the manufacture of boxes is, deteriorating in the forests owing to the huge importations of Baltic timbers for boxes.
– It is also coming in from America.
– Yes. Figures supplied to me from an authentic source are as follows
Unless extra protection is given on timbers that are coming in dressed and cut to sizes I am afraid there is a hopeless outlook for those engaged in the timber industry. Thousands of pounds worth of machinery for the sawing and dressing of timbers is lying idle, and men are out of work. The industry needs something to give it a fillip. We cannot justify our position as Australian legislators if we are not prepared to make some effort to meet the situation. Our energies should be devoted to trying to find profitable and reproductive avenues of employment for our people, and one of those avenues is in the dressing of timber. Australia is passing through’ difficult times which may become more difficult in the immediate future. We should take further steps to protect the Australian timber industry from the unfair competition of cheap labour countries, and to give relief and employment to our own people. The following table shows the importations of timber into South Australia in 1920-21 as compared with 1925-26:-
I n view of the considerable increase in the importations of timber, surely it is time that we should take action to give the Australian industry adequate protection. Representations have been made to the Minister to include in the amendeditem imported timbers such as Japanese oak and Pacific maple, and also dressed Baltic timber. I suggest that if the Minister would make a statement and let the committee know what additional assistance he is prepared to give to this languishing industry, the debate could be considerably curtailed. I support the request made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) and other honorable members for the increased protection of the timber industry, and I hope that the Minister will see his way clear to accede to it.
Mr.RODGERS (Wannon) [5.20].- I am wholeheartedly in favour of assistance being given to the Australian timber industry as a whole. The only question is what is the best method of assisting this industry from a national point of view. I admit that Australia is over milled, and that as a result there is unemployment. There is a banking up of timber both at the mills and at the merchants and there is a temporary disorganization of the timber trade. That is but one feature of a great Australian problem. Timber authorities who have visited Australia and ourown foresters are agreed that under our present methods of handling our timber resources, the industry is a great national vanishing asset. We must pay due regard to afforestation. The Tariff Board has made a survey of the Australian timber industry, and its reports contain some valuable information. Let us at once acknowledge that it is impossible to build Australian homes of all Australian timber. There must be a dilution of softwood timbers in Australian homes and other buildings. That cannot be challenged, for statistics taken over a long period of years bear it out. The importations of timber and the local output, less exports, just about equal each other, It is a 50-50 proposition as far as Australian requirements are concerned. The imposition of an increased duty on hardwoods will not stop importations, because we must use a proportion of softwoods in buildings. If it were possible to substitute Australian hardwoods for imported softwoods, I should be in favour of the imposition of an increased duty, in order to protect the saw-milling industry in every way. But I believe that Australian sawmillers and the saw-milling trade interests would be far better met by the payment of a bounty than by the imposition of a duty. The States, because of their varying climatic conditions, have different milling resources and forestry areas. For instance, we have heard this afternoon that the State of South Australia has practically no timber resources, and is at present engaged in forestry work, attempting to make up the shortcomings of nature. That is undoubtedly a commendable work. We have been warned by some of the best timber authorities, including our own adviser, Mr. Lane-Poole, that if we continue cutting into our forests at the present rate, we shall exhaust our natural resources in a very short time.
– Mr. Lane-Poole strongly advocates the imposition of a duty.
Mr.RODGERS.- Mr. Lane-Poole may not take the same view as I do in regard to this duty, but he does give that w arning. The chief beneficiaries under this duty will be the States of Victoria and Tasmania. I am a Victorian, hut in discussing this item I am taking the la rger Australian view. The output of Australian hardwoods is approximately 650,000,000 feet per annum, and, less the exports, 121,000,000 feet. Western Australia, Tasmania, and, to a lesser extent, Queensland, are exporters of timber.
– Where is the timber sent?
Mr.RODGERS.- Western Australia exports timber to South Africa and New Zealand. Tasmania exports timber to New Zealand, and of course to the mainland. However, with the rising costs of production it is difficult to increase the export trade; but the point is that these exports are finding a profitable market in other parts of the world. I recommend to the Minister the payment of a bounty sufficient to protect Australian millers. Knowing that an additional duty will not prevent the importation of huge quantities of softwood timbers, which have been coming here for many years and will continue to come here so long as we build homes in Australia, I contend that the payment of a bounty would be the best method of protecting our own output. I strongly urge that we should not superimpose this surcharge on all the imported softwood timbers required for our building purposes, merely to try to assist the local hardwoods industry when the same object can be achieved by a bounty. I do not subscribe to the doctrine that because a protective duty may assist one industry it is equally applicable to all industries. This Government has granted bounties to many of our industries, considering that to be the preferable method in those instances. Owing to everincreasing building costs, people are driven out of homes into flats, which must have disastrous effects upon the future of our race.
– That is scarcely the cause of the migration to flats. The real cause is the absence of domestic assistance.
Mr.RODGERS.- That is a contributory cause, but the effect of dear homes is that young couples go into flats, and too often no family follows. That is a national blunder. I know of a man living in Canberra who receives only a small income, but has to dwell in a house which cost from £1,100 to £1,200. He is supposed to be in a position to maintain his family in that home. Is that not national insanity?
– The cost of homes in Canberra does not provide a fair comparison.
Mr.RODGERS.- The cost of homes has mounted to disproportionate figures all over Australia. The effect of this duty will be to increase the cost of timber from overseas and that, taken in conjunction with the high cost of local timber, will mean an additional imposition of £600,000 a year on our building costs. If a bounty of 6d. a 100 super. feet were given instead, it would cost only £107,500 per annum, representing a saving of £491,500.
– Will the honorable member explain how he arrives at that £107,500?
Mr.RODGERS.- Take as an example a small saw-mill turning out 20,000 super. feet daily. A bounty of 6d. would yield £260 per annum to that mill, equal to 8 per cent. on a capital of £3,600 - a fair capitalization of a small mill. If that were applied throughout the Commonwealth it would be found that the sawmilling industry was being granted fair assistance. If 6d. is considered to be inadequate I suggest that this committee and the Government should re-submit the item to the Tariff Board, with the recommendation that that board investigates the matter with a view to granting a bounty. It could give those engaged in the milling and timber industry an opportunity to present their case from the bounty point of view. The cost of such a proposal could be estimated, compared with the present suggestion, and the more preferable could be selected.
– How does the honorable member arrive at his statement that a bounty of 6d. would be as good as a duty of 5s. per 100 super. feet?
– I should like the whole matter examined from the point of view of the substitution of a bounty for the suggested duty.
– If a bounty of 6d. would do, a duty of 6d. should be adequate. The honorable member’s comparison of £107,500 as against the £600,000 is not a fair one.
– I have endeavoured to give a fair illustration of what would be a reasonable additional assistance to the sawmilling industry.
– If a duty of 6d. only were imposed the local market would be flooded with imported timber.
– It is not now a matter of being flooded with dumped timber.
– It is in Queensland.
– Australia’s building programme has eased off. The financial position is such that it is now much more difficult to obtain money to build homes. The sawmilling industry of Australia was considerably stimulated by a great increase of plant during the war period, when no shipping was available to bring in imported timber. A great deal of Australia’s present trouble is due to the fact that it is over milled. That is the opinion of the trade, of millers, and of timber organizations. With finance difficult, a diminution of output, and excessively high prices, it is impossible to keep all our saw-mills going. The suggestion of the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Duncan-Hughes) has its merits. Again, we have to consider what effect this duty will have upon the £20,000,000 housing scheme recently launched by the Government.
– It will mean a difference of £7 on a house costing £1,400.
– I am not prepared to agree with the honorable member. While I desire to assist the Australian timber industry as liberally as possible, I realize that we must take a broad view of the situation. We cannot expect to increase our milling operations to the extent hoped for by certain honorable members. That would be suicidal to the forestry resources of Australia. It is necessary to have a careful and well-estimated dilution of timber. Our forestry experts have all drawn attention to the fact that we must conserve our forests, and it is criminal to continue haphazardly slaying our timbers. Although there may be large areas of timbers in Australia, much of it is not accessible so that the problem is fast becoming a serious one. I have no desire to specify dogmatically that the bounty shall be 6d. I merely asked the Government to consider the proposal with a view to fixing a bounty in lieu of duty, as I think that the result would be more beneficial to Australia. I certainly disagree with super-imposing this duty upon the building costs of the nation.
– I fail to appreciate the argument of the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers). Generally he takes the stand that if our industries are allowed to die, and the importer is permitted to have full sway, up must go the prices. That is applicable to the timber industry. If our industry is killed, and products from the Baltic are allowed to come in indiscriminately, timber prices will be enormously inflated.
– That is not a fair presentation of my argument.
– The honorable member drew attention to the extra cost of building which will follow upon the imposition of this duty. The honorable member for Boothby (Mr. DuncanHughes) suggested that it would be wise to continue to use foreign timber, and to allow our own timber to stand uncut,, so that it may be available in future when there is a shortage. - Re-afforestation has many firm adherents in Australia, and we must encourage those engaged in it. What encouragement would be given to them if we took away all hope of their future market. I commend the efforts of successive South .Australian Governments, which have devoted very large areas to the cultivation of pinus insignis. Nearly twelve months ago a member of the South Australian Parliament said to me, “ We in South Australia will be able in years to come to supply all the pine wood necessary to be turned into pulp for the manufacture of newsprint in Australia. I shall quote a statement made by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) to illustrate what South Australia is doing.
South Australia many years ago established a progressive re-afforestation scheme, and today is in the position of having many million feet of timber fit to convert, but for which it is unable to secure a market owing to the low prices at which competitive imported pines are offering. The Wirrabara Forest, in South Australia, has 16,000,000 super, feet of pinus insignia ready to cut, in fact actually some is deteriorating.
Surely our position is npt so hopeless as some honorable members suggest. I believe that 80 per cent, of the members of this chamber are in favour of conceding a more generous measure of protection to the timber industry than the Government proposes. There are large tracts of country in Australia, particularly in Victoria, where re-afforestation work is being successfully undertaken. I recall at the. moment the pine forests outside Frankston, which are in a flourishing state, and in the vicinity of Creswick and Broadford splendid nurseries have been established in which nearly all types of the eucalypts are being grown. The seedlings from these nurseries are despatched to all parts of Victoria, and are being planted to provide timber for future generations. Unless we realize the seriousness of the situation large areas suitable for the growing of softwood and hardwood timbers will not be developed as they should be. Australia provides wonderful opportunities for re-afforestation on an extensive scale. At present large consignments of shooks are coming to Australia, and the timber is being used for the manufacture of cases required by the liquid fuel distributing companies. One of these firms has made a great display of manufacturing its own boxes in Australia, but to do this it is importing thousands of tons of timber in shooks. This timber, which comes in specified sizes, has merely to be nailed together to form the cases in which bil in tins is sent all over Australia. A few years ago an extensive box-making industry employing hundreds of men was in operation, but it has now gone out of existence. The firm has a large plant lying idle, and the men which it employed have been compelled to seek work in other directions. The . timber used in this industry was cut from planks or logs, and then sawn in its own mills and the cases supplied to Australian users. The offcuts were used for other purposes. I trust that if the Minister will not include this class of timber in the schedule, he will at least promise to refer the matter to the Tariff Board again for inquiry and report, Under the re-afforestation policy in operation in Germany, a person who destroys a tree is compelled to plant another to replace it. Germany, which has the finest forests in various stages of development perhaps of any country in the world, has a population of 70,000,000, but she can still find sufficient land to devote to re-afforestation. Australia, with its extensive areas of undeveloped territory, should do the same. It does not need good land on which to grow pinus insignis, and as I have said, there are places in Victoria where softwoods are grown freely on poor country. We should protect the saw-milling industry to the fullest possible extent and encourage the planting of trees more than we are doing at present. It is useless, however, to “engage in an extensive reafforestation policy unless the timber industry is adequately protected.
Mr. J. FRANCIS (Moreton) [5.53 I trust the Minister for Trade and Cuss toms (Mr, Pratten) will give very serious consideration to the strong representations made by honorable members in support of the inclusion of Baltic and Pacific timbers in the schedule now before the commitee. I trust that he will also consider the posi-tion of the case and box manufacturers in Australia whose industry is being destroyed by the importation of shooks. The speeches of the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) are usually worthy of the most .careful attention, but I could not find in hi.s utterances this afternoon those words of wisdom which he usually utters. Does the honorable member believe that the duty should be reduced to 6dJ
– I did not say anything of the kind.
– Then what was the honorable member’s suggestion?
– I advocated a’ bounty of 6d. in lieu of duty
– Does the honorable member then suggest that the duty should be taken off?
– The payment of a bounty would benefit the industry, and would not impose a hardship on the community.
– If the honorable member believes that the duty should be as it was, and that the industry should receive a bounty, the position would then be equally impossible. The very low duty would encourage the importation of foreign timbers, and the country would be so flooded with imported timber that our timbers would not have a market here, and consequently little or no bounty would be paid on our own timbers. Nor can I for a moment support a proposal under which timber would come in free of duty. If that were allowed, it would be impossible to find a market for our timber, as Australia would be flooded with imports from other countries. A forestry school has recently be en opened in the Federal Capital Territory, in which a number of students from every State in the Commonwealth are studying reafforestation, and their work will in the years to come be of great benefit to Australia. The States, particularly South Australia and Queensland, have also made special efforts to encourage reafforestation. It would be useless to engage in this work unless there was a possibility of finding a profitable market for the timbers to be produced. Consideration has also been given to the further encouragement of reafforestation by the Government, as the Treasurer recently introduced an amendment to the Income Tax Assessment Bill exempting from income tax any sum’s expended by individuals on reafforestation work. If people are to be encouraged to invest their surplus capital in reafforestation schemes, they must have some security for the future. This cannot be done effectively unless forests products are protected against foreign competition. It is our duty to definitely state our position by saying that we- shall give adequate protection to the timber industry. If we do not. do that, it must go out of business-. As the tone of the debate on timber duties has been overwhelmingly in favour of the inclusion of
Baltic and Pacific timbers in the schedule, I trust the Minister will agree to the suggestions made from both sides of the committee. I do not think I have ever listened to a debate in which there has been such unanimity, and I am sure it is the Minister’s desire to comply with the wishes of the representatives of the people. The same arguments that have been used in support of higher duties on oregon apply with equal force to a duty on Baltic and Pacific timbers. I do not wish to quote the figures of imports which have already been given several times today; but I am justified in emphasizing the fact that many saw-mills are now closed down owing to overseas competition in timber. There are millions of feet of good timber in our forests which has reached maturity, and in some instances is beginning to deteriorate because a market cannot be found for it. Those engaged in the industry appreciate the assistance which the Minister has already given. B.u was good enough to submit the matter of duties to the Tariff Board, the report on which the Government considered, and then referred the matter back to the board, which has now submitted other recommendations. Further representations have since been made ro the Minister, as n result of which additional protection is to be afforded. “We now wish the Minister to crown his good work by including Baltic and Pacific timbers in the schedule, and I suggest with some trepidation, that shooks should also be included. I will refer to this matter again later. I have discussed this matter with the Minister many times and have’ also introduced deputations to him on this subject, and I trust that he will respond to the strong representations which have been made. Baltic timber, which is competing with our Australian timbers, usually comes out at a very low freight, very often at ballast rates, because the vessels in which it is shipped expect to make up any loss they incur by back freight, which usually consists of our primary products which are shipped to the markets on the other side of. the world. The industry is being ruined by foreign importations. Since honorable members on’ both sides appear to be almost unanimous in their views on this subject, the Minister should not hesitate to take the necessary action to safeguard it. I hope that the arguments advanced this afternoon will weigh with the Minister. I should like particularly to impress upon him the serious position that has arisen through the heavy importation of shooks. These imports are imperilling the interests of the saw-milling trade throughout Australia. For some time now the Commonwealth has been flooded with imports of this timber, with the result that Australian saw-millers are fast losing the Australian case-making trade. Millions of feet of valuable timber which could be used for case making purposes are rotting in our forests. The- figures relating to the importation of undressed timber under the item n.e.i., for the manufacture of boxes and for the making of boxes cut to size but undressed, are startling. They are. as follow : -
The imports of timber for making boxes cut to size and dressed, and partly dressed, are equally significant, indicating only too clearly how the Australian trade is being endangered. The figures are -
If the Australian saw-milling industry is to he adequately protected in respect of this class of timber, it is essential that these duties should be reviewed. The position in Queensland is somewhat complicated, owing to the royalties paid to the Queensland Government. The Minister referred to this matter in his speech to-day. I have been giving attention to it for some considerable time. The royalty was imposed to promote reafforestation, but Mr. Swayne, the superintendent of the scheme in Queensland, has been complaining for some time that instead of payments under the royalty being used for that purpose, they are being paid into the Consolidated Revenue. The Queensland Government has been asked to give an assurance that if a duty is imposed on the importation of shooks, the amount of theroyalty will not be increased ; and I understand that favorable consideration has been given to these representations. I understand that an assurance has been given to the secretary of the Timber Merchants’ Association that the royalty will not be increased. I have received a wire from the secretary of the association to that effect.
– Shooks are not mentioned in the item before the Chair.
– I am aware of the omission, and I am protesting against the action of the Minister in excluding that item from the schedule. I hope that he will re-submit this question to the board. I am afraid that this section of the industry was submerged in the general inquiry by the Tariff Board, and I feel sure that if it is submitted to that body for a separate investigation, and if evidence is given in respect of it independently of evidence concerning the timber industry generally, the board will see the wisdom of recommending adequate protection for it against imported Baltic timber.
.-I congratulate the Minister upon having, to some extent, met the wishes of the committee; but I thinkit must be obvious to him that he has not gone quite so far as the majority of honorable members on both sides would wish. As I see the position decreased duties on Baltic timber will not necessarily mean the re-opening of Australian timber mills. Rather, I think the effect will be to transfer business from North America to the Baltic countries, and competition against Australian timber might be keener than ever, because wages in those countries are lower than in North America. Certainly shipping freights are lower than from North America. I, therefore, urge the Minister to respect the wishes of the committee in this matter. These duties affect an important and an established primary industry. I would never be a party to giving assistance to secondary industries if I were not prepared also to protect our primary industries, upon which the prosperity of this country rests. There is special reason why these duties should appeal to the Minister and the Government. The timber industry is a rural and an established industry. It gives employment to many thousands of men in country districts. I may add that the employment which it gives is not casual, but of a permanent character, enabling the workers engaged in it to live in the country and rear their families there. Any industry which prevents the concentration of people in our great cities should be encouraged. We are not appealing for assistance for a new or an unknown industry; but for one which, as I have said, has been long established, and in which a considerable amount of capital has been invested. It is in an entirely different class from new industrial ventures, which very often depend for their success on the measure of protection given in the tariff. It is much better to relieve distress and unemployment in this way than by handing out doles or authorizing the carrying out of ill-considered relief works. If by means of these duties we can assist an established industry, we shall be carrying out our national task along proper lines. I hope’ that the Minister will not leave this good work half done, but that he will include Baltic timbers in the item imposing duties on Oregon. I realize that we are to some extent wasting time by making representations to the Minister with regard to the duty on shooks, but I support the remarks made by the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. J. Francis), and I urge the Minister to consider the desirability of giving the box-making industry an independent hearing before the Tariff Board at an early date. The honorable member for Moreton was not very wide of the mark when he said that this section of the industry was submerged in the general inquiry, and that if it were set out in a special schedule it would make a special appeal to both the board and the Minister. I hope that the Minister, in his reply, will be able to give us an assurance that this section of -the industry will before long have an opportunity to put its case before the Tariff Board.
– I welcome this opportunity to say a few words with regard to the position of the timber industry in Australia. Although Western Australia has only about 3,000,000 acres of timber land, compared with about 6,000,000 acres in Queensland and 8,000,000 acres in Victoria, its resources have not been exploited to the same extent as have those of Victoria. Consequently, that State supplies about one-third of the timber produced in Australia annually. It is to be regretted that the heavy increase in the importation of baltic flooring and oregon is seriously endangering the position of the timber industry throughout Australia. Even in that state the effect of imported timber is being felt. If 50 per cent, of timber used for building purposes consisting of imported softwoods were necessary and the other half .Australian hardwoods, there might be no cause for alarm; but the quantity of foreign timber used in Australia for purposes for which our own beautiful hardwoods are most suitable, is appalling. In 1918-19 the quantity of timber imported was 144,000,000 super feet, and in 1925-26 the imports had grown to 499,000,000 super feet. The imports in the intervening years certainly showed fluctuation ; but they have gradually increased. The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Seabrook), who is an ardent freetrader on some matters, has pointed out that the timber industry is in a parlous condition. Honorable members on this side of the chamber are fairly consistent with regard to the policy of protection, and are prepared to help the timber industry. In Victoria, 27 out of 72 mills have been closed down, and a large number are working ‘short-handed. An appeal was made to the Tariff Board in 1925, and, although its conclusions were not quite as decisive then as they are on the present occasion, the report showed that the men engaged in the industry felt the need of protection against imports from America and Baltic ports. Oregon pine has proved a severe competitor of Australian timbers. Oregon forests can be worked in the face, and, therefore, they are operated much more cheaply than Australian millers can work their hardwoods, because a large number of trees per acre can be obtained. In Oregon, Washington and British Columbia, great waterways facilitate the handling of timber, which is conveyed cheaply to the sea by means of logging rafts. This cheap transport assists in making the American competition particularly formidable. Wages there are low compared with those ruling in Australia. In Canada, the wage paid on timber workers is equivalent to £3 14s. 6d. a week, and in Oregon and Washington it is, roughly, the same, as against the Australian basic wage of £4 6s. Most of the men engaged in the industry in Canada and the United States of America are classed as “ labourers,” whereas in Australia skill is recognized and rewarded - a large number of the men receiving more than the basic wage. A well-known builder in Melbourne, in giving the reason for the use of Oregon in house construction, recently stated that it was a matter of price. He added that, if hardwood were given the protection sought, the total quantity of oregon that he would specify for a 5-roomed house would be a little over 400 super feet, which, with an increased duty, would mean an extra cost of only 16s- There is no reason why Australian hardwoods should not be used almost exclusively in the building of houses. Australian hardwood ceiling joists are the best in the world, and they are particularly prized in tropical regions because they are whiteant proof. It is worthy of notice that in India and China, and in other countries where it is necessary that timber shall be capable of resisting the inroads of the white ant, the jarrah hardwoods of Western Australia are in demand. Some years ago Oregon was regarded as necessary for ceiling joists because of the tendency of Australian hardwood to shrink. The trouble was. that it was used in a green condition, and cracks appeared in plastered ceilings ; but there is no reason why it should not be well seasoned before use. To-day, however, instead of plastered ceil- *ings, plaster boards are used, and objection to the use of our hardwoods can no longer be sustained. There is now no valid reason why Australian hardwoods should not be used for all building purposes. I believe that Victoria is the only State where Baltic pine and oregon timber will withstand the Australian climate and the insect pests. In the warmer and tropical portions of this country, builders would no more dream of using Baltic flooring or
Baltic weatherboards than of erecting grass houses after the Fiji style, because the building would be riddled by white ants. Even in Victoria it is not at all necessary to use softwoods in the construction of houses. In Western Australia, jarrah is used from the stumps to the ceiling joists and ridging. A hardwood house only requires to be oiled on the outside, and therefore it is much cheaper in the long run than one built of softwood. A Baltic weatherboard house should be painted every three years, and the cost of that would be £30 or £40 ; whereas a jarrah hardwood cottage could, be oiled by the occupant at a cost of a few shillings. It has been suggested to me ^ that it is necessary to import softwoods because the Australian supply of timber is petering out. In 1920 an interstate conference on forestry was held in Hobart, and it was laid down that the various States should set aside 24,500,000 acres of their forest lands in parts of Australia where the rainfall averages 30 inches or more per annum, which gives ideal conditions for forestry in temperate climates. In tropical climates the rainfall should be at least 60 inches per annum. In Borneo one sees marvellous forest growth, and the forests contain many species of trees, no one kind being found in great numbers together, If single species grew together as Jo our hardwoods, Australia would be unable to withstand the competition of that timber. It is difficult to penetrate a tropical jungle, and if one were looking for a some species of timber, he might not find two trees on an acre. It has been authoritatively stated that .86 acres is sufficient to supply the timber requirements per head of the population in any country. Australia has 4.09 acres of forest land per head. Therefore, if we set aside for serious afforestation 24,500,000 acres, we should have sufficient timber for the requirements of 28,500,000 people. Countries like France and Germany are taking extraordinary precautions to utilize all their spare land for afforestation purposes. The interior woodwork of this chamber bears eloquent testimony to the beauty of our Australian timbers. Not only is it unnecessary to neglect them, arid give preference to imported softwoods, but it is unpatriotic. The Minister is now asked to put a duty on Baltic pine, which is used almost exclusively by the jerry builder because it is cheap. In Baltic countries a large number of women are engaged in the industry at low wages. We should have an afforestation scheme in Australia sufficient to meet the needs of a population of 30,000,000.
Sitting suspended from 6.S0 to 7.SG p.m.-
.- This is the first time that I have risen during the tariff debate. It may be said that I do so only because an industry in my electorate is under consideration. Surely it is not surprising that honorable members should be concerned with the industries which are established in their own districts. The persons engaged in those industries expect their representatives to protect their interests. I therefore make no apology for rising to speak in connexion with the duties on timber. Generally speaking, our secondary industries are able to pass on any additional costs incurred, but that is not the case with primary industries, which, however, have to pay their share of the duties imposed in the interests of secondary industries. As the representative of a country constituency I am glad that the Government recognizes the claims of primary industries for protection. There can be no doubt that the timber industry is a primary industry in the true sense of that term. In many instances other primary industries cannot be established until the timber industry has paved the way. Before agricultural pursuits can be carried on in some districts the native timber growing on the land must be cleared. The timber industry also helps to SupplY freight for our railways and cargoes for our ships. Honorable members on both sides have urged that this industry is entitled to greater consideration. I also urge its claims. In ‘an excellent speech this afternoon the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Duncan-Hughes) put the other side of the case. He said that if Baltic timber were included in the schedule an additional burden would be placed on the community, particularly that section which could least afford to bear it. I do not know whether the honorable member was in the chamber when the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) quoted from the report of the Victorian housing authorities, showing that if Baltic timber were included in the schedule the additional cost of a house would be about £7. If a reasonable measure of protection were given to the Australian timber industry many of the requirements of the building trade could be met without placing an undue burden upon the community. The honorable member for Boothby referred to afforestation. I am not an authority on that subject, but I know that in the coastal areas of my electorate there are thousands of acres of good hardwood country which, because of the competition of imported Oregon, is worth only about £2 per acre. I desire to quote the following statement made by Mr. R. D. Hay, Forestry Commissioner of New South Wales-
To-day we are in an entirely different position. The forests, as cut over, are being systematically regenerated for the growth of new crops, and we have an established system of afforestation by planting softwoods, of which we had always a shortage. Last year (1924), our regeneration works covered 40,000 acres, and our planting about 3,000 acres, and under the present policy this will be indefinitely continued. In view of this, the estimate furnished by the commission in letter of 15th April last to the secretary of the Associated Sawmillers is quite sound, namely, that the hardwood supply can amply meet demand for 50 years ahead, and, if the present policy of reestablishment be continued, for all time.
I remind honorable members that a few years ago when Oregon was difficult to procure, Australian hardwoods were employed in its stead with satisfactory results. The adaptability of Australian timbers to various requirements was shown clearly during the war. It is a little more difficult to work than is or egon, but its lasting; qualities compensate for that disadvantage. Believing that Baltic pine and Manchurian oak should be included, I move -
That the item be postponed, as an indication to the Government that, the desire of the committee is that this shall be done.
.- I support the motion moved by the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Gardner). . This schedule; so far as it applies to timber, is far from satisfactory. It appears to me !hat imported timber, which may be described as raw material, carries a higher duty than many manufactured articles which enter this country. The schedule makes no differentiation between timbers suitable for manufacture into furniture and constructional timber such as oregon. Timber should be classified in the same way that items relating to other industries are classified - from the raw material to the manufactured article. Many manufactured articles made from timber enter Australia from other countries. For instance, axe handles are imported, to the detriment of axe handles made from timber grown in Queensland and northern New South Wales. The Australian axe-handle industry does not attempt to compete with axe handles made of high-grade American hickory, but imported axe handles made of inferior hickory are seriously affecting it. One would think that a higher duty would be imposed on the manufactured article than on the raw material from which it is mede. A higher duty should be imposed on shooks. If it is necessary to import timber f jr box-making, we should endeavour to ensure that the work in connexion with it i3 done in Australia. I rose to support the motion, and also to direct attention to the need for a better classification of timber. The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) pointed out that Australia needs to put into operation a sound afforestation policy and I agree with him; but in the meantime our existing timber industry should be protected. I trust that the Minister will give earnest consideration to the requests that have been made for an increased duty, and that he will not further resist the amendment.
.- The duties on timber should be decreased and not increased, for the present imposts are excessive and cannot favorably affect our local industry, nor stimulate to any considerable extent the use of our hardwood. An increase in the present duties can only add to the cost of building and of timber generally to the people of Australia. I represent perhaps the most important timber producing district in Australia; but I have not heard an outcry there for an increase in the existing duties. Queensland is the only State which has any considerable supply of softwoods,, but she cannot meet the needs of the other States of the Commonwealth. Honorable members opposite have had a good deal to say of late about our adverse trade balance and the extravagance of the present administration, so that I find it difficult to discover any grounds on which they can justly vote for this proposal, seeing that the only effect it can have is to place an additional £400,000 in the hands of the Treasurer. The following figures show the imports of softwoods into Australia during the last sixteen years : -
The fall from the year 1914-15 to 1.922 was accounted for, of course, by the war. It is rather significant that the enforcement of the Massy-Greene tariff did not prevent increased importations. My figures show that we are now importing only about 10,000,000 super, feet more per annum of softwood than in 1913-14, although our population has increased by about 1,500,000. I compliment the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Duncan-Hughes) on the sane, sensible and practical speech which he delivered on behalf of his State. We should look at this subject from the point of view of the general development of the Commonwealth. While a Parliamentary committee with which I was associated was taking evidence in Tasmania some time ago, a leading sawmiller and timber merchant there informed us that in America 850 super, feet of timber was cut per man per day, while the figure for Australia was only 130 super.- feet. Even allowing that the Americans were cutting softwood and we were cutting hardwood. the disparity is too great to he counteracted by the mere imposition of duties. Honorable members seem to overlook the fact that we export our hardwoods. Other nations need our timber, but we need theirs. We cannot expect always to be sellers. We must buy as well as sell. There must be reciprocity in trade of this description. Softwoods are essential to us, and we should be glad when we can get them. Our hardwoods are realizing nearly three times the price they brought before the war. The following article which appeard in the Sydney Morning Herald of the 1st December on this subject is worthy of our earnest attention : -
Mr. A. E. Heath, general manager of A. C. Saxton & Sons Limited, yesterday made a statement about what he described as “ the terrific and absurd increased cost that has been thrust upon the public by the proposed increase of 100 per cent. in the tariff on imported softwood timber.” “ The proposed new duties particularly strike at Oregon softwood timber, which is not produced in Australia,” he said. “ Advocates for them have advanced the absurd view that this will protect the Australian hardwood saw-miller. It is a well-known fact that 80 per cent. of the world’s requirements in timber are softwoods, whereas Australian forests are in the reverse ratio, being approximately 80 per cent. hardwood, a hardwood which, undoubtedly, for its specific uses, is without a peer. In Australia to-day it is freely admitted by experts that Australia cannot possibly supply her own softwood requirements. The position in regard to each State may be summarized as follows: - “ 1. Queensland. - In the latest report which the Forestry Department issued only a few days ago, it is plainly asserted that for the next thirty years Queenslanders must, owing to the depleted state of the Queensland softwood forests, depend entirely upon imported softwoods. This report is only a climax to the last three reports of the Queensland Forestry Department, where the ever-growing shortage has been stressed,- and the position as regards the future so pertinently pointed out.
– It was issued only a few days before this article was written; but it reiterates statements that were contained in previous reports. When, as a member of the Public Accounts Committee, I had the opportunity some time ago of inquiring into the softwood sup pliesof Queensland, I came to the conclusion that they must gradually be worked out.
Dr.Nott. - That is not so.
– The article continues : - “ 2. New South Wales. - The softwood forests of New South Wales are being rapidly depleted, and cannot possibly supply the requirements of the State, let alone the requirements of Australia as a whole. Further, our softwoods are of such a valuable nature that it would be wicked to use them in the same sphere as that in which the imported wood is used.
I agree with that statement. It would be criminal “for us to use our valuable timbers for purposes for which Oregon could very well be used. The article proceeds: - “3. Victoria. - The Victorian Forestry Commissioner in his report of 1926 states definitely that he cannot see his way clear to exceed the cut of hardwoods from Crown lands for that year, while it is hardly necessary to inform the public that as far as softwoods are concerned, forests of this nature are practically non-existent in that State. “4. South Australia. - On the 2nd September, 1925, the Tariff Board, in its report on the timber investigation, used these words: - The State of South Australia is the Cinderella amongst the States, in so far as timber resources are concerned. No other State within the Commonwealth is so singularly deficient in the possession of suitable hardwood forests, and so far as softwoods are concerned this State possesses none save a few forest areas that they have planted with foreign fastgrowing pines. The result of this situation is that any higher duties imposed upon foreign softwoods would press most heavily upon this State, which is already carrying a burden such as none of the other States are called upon to bear. “ 5. Western Australia. - This State is the most bountifully bestowed in hardwoods of any, but even here may we quote from the 1926 report of the Forestry Department of that State : - Steps have been taken to restrict the output of timber from Crown lands, and to provide for more economic utilization with the object of extending the life of the timber industry. Although the quantity exported has been exceeded on three previous occasions, the declared value of the past year’s oversea sales constitutes a record. It is generally recognized by those closely associated with the trade that the quantity of timber cut annually cannot be increased if any consideration is to be given to the future of the industry.
In these circumstances we should exercise every care before taking the action that is now contemplated. Australia has only a limited quantity of softwoods, and we should be glad that other countries are willing to send their timbers here, so that we may conserve our own supplies. The article continues: - “6. Tasmania. - The Tariff Board, in its report in 1925, stated: -‘Further evidence goes to demonstrate that Tasmania is fortunately enough situated as to be in a position to supply its own requirements, and depends for the prosperity of this industry on its exports to other States and overseas. The oversea demand has fallen away to a considerable extent on account, in all probability, of the depression in the building trade rather than on account of any importation of foreign softwoods.’ These remarks, of course, apply to Tasmanian hardwoods, as it is a well-known fact that Tasmania is sorely deficient in softwoods.
The total duties collected last year on the items on which increases are now proposed amounted to, approximately, £590,000, while it is estimated that the increase ‘now proposed will be) a further sum of £480,000, to be paid by the consuming public of Australia, and to what purpose? The total timber duties on all items amount to £1,349,546, and, adding the increase means that the total impost on the public will be about £1,830,000.
– Whom is the honorable honorable member quoting now ?
– I am quoting the same person.
– He is one of the biggest importers in New South Wales.
– The honorable member can checkthe figures in a minute. It is shown clearly that prices rapidly increased when the duty was put on.
The retail price of Oregon to-day in New South Wales is 25s. basis, hardwood 35s. basis. Adding the increased duties, Oregon will be based at 29s., and if, as the hardwood sawmillers assert, they cannot live on the present prices, it is reasonableto assume that hardwood will be increased 2s., making the readjusted price 29s. and 37s. respectively.
This shows chat when people really need softwood - and for the construction of reinforced concrete buildings, which are being so much used in the cities to-day,oregon is absolutely necessary - the softwood timbers will be brought in. Builders would not contemplate using hardwood timber for that purpose. Therefore, the duties will only increase the cost of construction which is already high enough in Australia. I think that the residents of Canberra will realize what the cost of building means. The statement continues -
Now, if any architect, builder, consumer, or layman will assert that one foot more of local hardwood willbeused on account of these readjusted prices, as imposed by the duty, then we say he is a fit case for a mental hospital.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Bayley).I am waiting for the honorable member to connect this with the item under consideration.
– The whole thing has a close relation to the item.
– It must be in the latter part of the statement.
– It is in the whole of the statement. It shows the futility of placingheavy duties on timber imported into this country when such timber is not produced here. Reference has been made to timber used in the construction of boxes and fruit cases. It has been said that Queensland pine is suitable for making butter boxes. I submit that it is not a commercial proposition. The northern millers ask for a heavy duty to enable them to sell their timber in the south. What with the cost of cutting the pine tops - that is, cutting off the top of a tree above the. first whorl - and the cost of freight being as great as it is, the fruit-growers would have to pay too much for their cases. ‘ That is not a practical proposition to put up to the rest of the people in Australia. The fruitgrowers must pack their fruit as cheaply as possible. The industry cannot stand these extra obligations. In Western Australia we use our native timber as far as possible.
– I have looked through the item, and I have seen no reference to shooks for case-making.
– Other speakers took exception to the importation of pine, in shooks.
– This item refers only tooregon pine in the undressed condition.
– If there is any attempt made to put an embargo on timber that is to beused in the packing of our products in Australia, if will be a further crime against the progress of the country. I am speaking conscientiously when I say that I would support this duty if I thought that it would help Australia. I represent thew hole of the hardwood milling district in my State, and I say fearlessly that this duty would be of no help to the State.I think it is a great mistake that the present duty should be interfered with. Building in Australia is too costly to-day, but this will make it more costly still, and will have a retarding effect upon the development of the country
.- Several honorable members who have dealt with this matter have not taken into consideration the fact that there are other States than their own in the Commonwealth. Therefore, I think it is necessary to dwell a little on this, although I intend to make my remarks as brief as possible. I call the attention of the committee to the fact that earlier this session the Minister for Defence introduced in the Senate a Forestry Bureau Bill. What is the use of attempting to promote our forest industries if the Government continues the fatal policy of leaning upon foreign countries for our timber supplies? Any policy which encourages timber importations must have the effect of retarding the progress of re-afforestation in this country. The depression in this industry is so well known that it is hardly necessary for me to draw attention to the position in the State which I represent. Since the duties on timber were last dealt with by the House, the importations into Queensland have greatly increased, and, slowly but surely, foreign timbers are ousting the native timbers from the market. In my State there is a very large area of timber of all classes, but the timber industry there has been destroyed because there has not been the necessary protection to enable its products to be placed on the market. A general survey of the sawmilling industry of Queensland shows that there were until recently 160 mills in operation. They employed approximately 1,200 men who received wages amounting to £240,000- The value of the logs cut was £430,000, and the average number of teamsters and fellers employed was 800. The hardwood resources of Queensland comprise some 8,000,000 acres, and with re-generation and a further assurance of support, there would be a total yield of 800,000,000 superficial feet a year. Of course, some honorable members who have not been to Queensland, and who have not taken the trouble to make inquiries, speak as if there were no timber resources there at all. We cannot compare it with West ern Australia or South Australia because, unfortunately there is very little assorted timber in those States, especially in South Australia. There are large untapped resources of semihardwoods and fancy woods in Queensland of which greater use should be made. They are suitable, in quantity and quality, to serve any of the particular purposes catered for by importation from Java and other countries. There is 60,000,000 feet of unused timber on Fraser Island alone. That island is in my electorate, and only a short distance off a coast port. Not very long ago a Sydney firm built a very large factory on Fraser Island, but it found that on account of the adverse duty it was unable to make the industry pay, and it had to close down. It was .forced to sell its plant for a very small sum, much below what it had cost. They are 60,000,000 feet of timber untouched on that island, and there is a further 60,000,000 feet of grey and red satin ash on the Eungella Range near Mackay. There are untold millions of feet of Talif oak in the forests along the whole coastline. No encouragement has been given to utilize these timbers. Naturally people ask why they should trouble about assisting re-afforestation when the timber we have now, which ought to be used now because some of it is degenerating, is allowed to go untouched.
– Some of that timber is not accessible.
– It would be largely impossible to find a more accessible place than Fraser Island. The reduction would result to a large extent in the substitution of hardwoods for softwoods. There is a large quantity of softwoods in Queensland, and when they have passed through the saw-mills, especially those that have drying plants, they come out to the satisfaction of dealers. One cannot lay the whole of the blame, upon the shoulders of the Mi inster. He Las to consider the wishes of the Government, whose interest, I am afraid, is not always as keen as his. The lack of adequate protection in relation to dressed timber has the effect of lessening the value of the security which is held by the sawmillers throughout the Commonwealth. As a large number of
Queensland mills have been closed down within the last six months, and hundreds of men have been thrown out of employment, it is time that action was taken to safeguard the industry. The imports of dressed timber have increased since 1920-21 by 37,724,000 superficial feet. The following table of imports clearly sets out the position : -
The increase between 1920-21 and 1924-25 was 17,003,830 super feet, that between 1920-21 and 1925-26, was 37,724,778 super, feet, and that between 1924-25 and 1925-26 was 20,750,000 super feet. That is the result if an inadequate protective duty on imported timber. If it is necessary to protect the interests of other industries, would it not be merely an act of justice to protect also our timber industry? In Queensland I have seen hundreds of thousands of feet of splendid pine burnt. Doubtless honorable members are aware that when i pine has been cut it becomes discoloured, and of no use if it is not utilized within a short space of time, t have already referred to the enormous quantity of hardwood that is grown in Queensland. Right along the coast of that State there are millions of feet of hardwood of the very best quality. Millions of acres also are covered with 0tb er timbers, that would be utilized if proper protection were granted. I trust that before we leave this city we shall be given an assurance that the industry will be further protected.
– I congratulate the Minister, but not as wholeheartedly as I would wish, and as I hope to i>e able to do nt the conclusion of the debate. The honorable gentleman interested himself in preserving the rights of the timber getters, and the saw-mill proprietors to some extent. I point out, however, that while he has locked the front door he has left s the back door open. The position in regard to the industry may be well summed up in the lines : -
The little more, and how much it is, The iittle less, and what worlds away!
If the. Minister persists in excluding Baltic timber from the item he will leave undone much that should be done. Sawmills are dotted all over my electorate.
The following letter is typical of a number that I have’ received: -
We are very concerned about Baltic, one of our chief competitors. This timber should follow oregon, as Baltic is solely used for linings and floorings (mainly floorings), and is a deadly competitor of our hardwood floorings.
The Minister to-day gave a half-hearted reply to the question - why is Baltic timber being excluded? His statement that it is the means of providing cheap homes for the workers cannot be accepted as a full explanation. The argument that it means increased cost to the worker might also be applied with equal force to butter and every other item in the schedule. I hope that the Minister will give the matter further consideration and decide to have duties imposed on Baltic timber at the level of those on oregon. The timber mills are suffering a great injustice in connexion with the distribution of their timbers. Honorable members are aware that the timber is cut in the bush and that the largest quantity of it is sent to the city, where it is distributed. Those who are charged with its distribution have also the distribution of the imported softwood timbers. They make practically no profit on oregon, Baltic and similar timbers; but, according to evidence that has been given before the Tariff Board, they make a profit of anything from 25 per cent, to 50 per cent, in the handling of native timbers. I wish to quote from the statement of a gentlemen who recently visited the Twofold Bay district. He is Mr. G. H. Gibson, a member of the firm of Gibson & Company, the representative of the K.D. Lumber Company. The portion of his statement that I wish to quote refers to Oregon and appeared in the Eden Magnet. He said -
The market for Oregon was world-wide. The yearly production was 12,000,000,000 feet, of which 1,000,000,000 were exported. The cost of felling and putting logs to the mills in America vas 5s.- perhaps to _ 6s. - per 100 feet board measure. That was higher than in Australia, where logging was cheaper, but in milling and shipping the Canadians and Americans had us hopelessly beaten. Here, though logging cost ls. per 100 feet less ‘than in America, we had an awful lack of suitable transport. Milled Oregon goes on to the ship at 10s. per 100 feet, a freight rate of 6s. per 100 feet brings the price of the timber deliverd at Sydney to 16s. per 100 feet, and an average duty of 5s. per 100 feet brings the price to 21s. landing costs raise it to 23s., the cost of transport to Sydney suburbs by another 2s. to 25s. at which price ;t was being sold. Importers made no money on Oregon.
That applies also to Baltic timber. The duty of 5s. which previously existed was eaten up by the amount of profit they made on colonial hardwoods. If the big firms in Sydney that are engaged in distribution were to sell local hardwoods at cost price and make a reasonable profit on softwoods there would be no need for us to engage in this debate, because the hardwoods would be able to hold their own. Other timbers in addition to Baltic are excluded from the schedule. If we place on one timber a duty at which it cannot profitably be sent out, others will be sent in its place. I do not agree with the argument that was urged before the board, and in a letter that was read tonight by the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse), that the result of a tariff upon imported softwoods would be to increase the price of local hardwoods. I believe that the contrary would be the case. “We have a sufficient number of mills in Australia to turn out from two to three times the present output. If they were able to work full time, with full staffs, they would produce more cheaply. The requested tariff would have the effect of increasing the price of the softwoods, and at the same time would bring about a corresponding reduction in the price of hardwoods. Therefore the worker who wished to build a home would be just as well off as he is now, and he would also have the satisfaction of knowing that his fellow Australians were being kept in employment. The honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Duncan-Hughes) urged the necessity to preserve our forests. A similar contention was raised also in the letter which was read by the honorable member for Forrest. The following reply to that letter was published in the Sydney Morning Herald. It is signed by the secretary of the Associated Country Sawmillers of New South Wales. Admittedly he may be prejudiced; but so also is the gentleman who argued on behalf of the importing interests. This is what he said -
Some people hold the opinion that our timber resources should be carefully husbanded. Those engaged iia the industry know quite well that unless the timber is cut at maturity it rots and becomes useless. Further, an asset which has been going to waste for many years past will, in the event of an adequate tariff being enforced, turn to account a considerable amount of wealth which is now left to rot on the fields.
The New South Wales Country Sawmillers Association comprises a big body of men who are carrying on the industry throughout that State. The Minister has granted protection against Oregon. We now plead with him to see that it is also against Baltic timber. The quantity of timbers of Baltic origin which was imported last year totalled no less than 90,000,000 super, feet. If one timber is penalized by the tariff another will take its place to a certain extent. I appeal to the Minister to close the door against all. There are one or two minor timbers, redwood for example, about which we hear scarcely anything. They probably have their uses. I” would put all timbers on the one level, and thus give our own industry a chance. It is estimated that 24,500,000 acres of land in Australia are capable of carrying good forest timber. Reafforestation has been commenced in every State and in the Federal Capital Territory, and good headway is being made. It is considered that if we were to devote our attention to the 24,500,000 acres to which I have referred we should be able to grow sufficient timber to supply the wants of a population of 28,500,000 people. We shall have to provide for that population in the distant future, but in the meantime Australian forests are quite capable of supplying our wants. The extent of forest land in Australia is small in relation to the total area of the continent but large in proportion to our population. I hope the Minister will be convinced by the arguments that have been advanced by honorable members. I admit that Oregon and other softwoods are very useful, and carpenters find them much easier to work than hardwood. Architects and builders are continually finding new uses for them. Even in the vicinity of Canberra, timber has actually been used for fencing and for underground purposes for which years ago nobody regarded it as at all suitable. Early in the history of this country our people were unable to get Oregon or
Baltic pine and had to rely on the local resources. Yet some of the oldest houses in Australia are still in a good state of repair although there is not a stick of soft timber in them.
– The pioneers were able to use cedar.
– Cedar was used to some extent for internal construction. In the neighbourhood of Twofold Bay, a booklet on which I distributed to honorable members to-day, is ‘ a very fine home built entirely of Australian timbers. A large belt of timber was cut down by the State forestry department to provide space for a pine plantation. A resident of the district ascertained “that the department proposed to burn the timber, but he acquired it and erected a beautiful home out of material which had been regarded as useless. It was employed not only in the external walls but also for linings and ceilings, and gives a most pleasing effect. The closing down of the various timber mills has caused a big exodus of population from country districts. The letter I quoted from the south-coast districts shows that the Baltic is one of the chief timbers against which the local sawmillers have to compete. Pinus insignis has been planted in the Federal Capital Territory and a few years ago it was estimated that these plantations will be worth at maturity £2,000,000. Some critics say that this timber is not worth planting. I am not sufficiently conversant with timbers to express an opinion, but I quote the view of Mr. R. D. Hay, who at one time was Commissioner for Forests in New South Wales. Giving evidence before the Tariff Board, he said -
The figures as given Are not questionable, and here we have an example of the lack of co-ordinated effort to meet a national need. The views expressed as to the value of Pinus insignis timber are not endorsed by leading foresters. Where grown under the best conditions, it produces a very useful softwood timber, and, in any case, it is always valuable foi’ such minor purposes as case wood, indoor linings, etc. In Victoria and South Australia they are oven using the best quality for kitchen furniture. Apart from its economic value, it is also one of the most adaptable species in afforestation work owing to its robustness under varied conditions, its quick growth, its capacity for making’ a forrest soil, and for the shelter it provides for the introduction of more valuable species.
New South Wales has planted pinus insignis extensively, and I think these forests also are entitled to some protection from softwoods ?from abroad. As I know that the Minister is anxious to dispose of the schedule, I shall not longer detain the committee, but I hope he appreciates ‘ the fact that the majority of honorable members are convinced that Baltic pine and other foreign timbers should be brought within the scope of the increased duties.
– I sympathize with the Minister because of the unenviable position he occupies. He has a difficult job in trying to please everybody, and I am afraid that in the end he will realize the old saying that he who tries to please everybody, pleases nobody. While he has my sympathy I strongly disapprove of his proposal to put an extra duty on Oregon. The statement he made regarding the uses of Baltic timber and certain other softwoods which are excluded from these’ duties has equal application to Oregon. If a duty on Baltic pine and other softwoods would increase the cost of providing houses for the poorer section of the community, the duties on Oregon, which is largely used in the construction of the cheaper types of homes, will have the same effect. In fact, there are some purposes for which no other timber is nearly as suitable. Being a softwood, oregon does not come into competition with Australian hardwood, which is used mainly for floor joists and flooring. Oregon is seldom used for those purposes; but its superiority for studs, ceiling joists, and rafters is acknowledged. It has an advantage over hardwood in that it does not shrink, warp, or twist. I am informed by those engaged in the building trade that it is most difficult to get large quantities of seasoned hardwood. The Commonwealth Government is about to embark on a large housing scheme which will involve the expenditure of several millions of pounds. The increased duty on oregon will materially increase the cost of those buildings - especially the cheaper ones - and war service homes, and will make it more difficult for the man of small means to acquire a home for himself and his family. I say nothing against the hardwoods of Australis.
We produce some beautiful timbers, which are excellent in theirplace. I have mentioned the principal uses to which the more commonhardwoods are put in building construction; the better classes are excellent for the manufacture of furniture. Hardwoods are not as easily worked as softwoods, and are more subject to climatic influences. I cannot imagine hardwood being used in connexion with concrete construction. It is difficult to drive nails through, and is liable to warp and twist with the application of moisture and atmospheric changes. The effect of this sometimes is to throw buildings out of plumb, and to cause the walls and ceilings to crack.
– That does not happen with the good hardwoods of Queensland.
– I am not familiar with them, but I have had considerable experience of the use of other woods in building construction. For joinery there is no finer timber than redwood, and it has the advantage for interior construction that it does not require oiling or painting, but in its natural condition, with its straight grain and bright colour, presents a very pleasing appearance. I am pleased that the Minister has decided to exclude Baltic pine and other soft timbers from the operations of this schedule, but I am sorry he has not taken the same view in regard to Oregon, which is so much in demand for building purposes, especially weatherboard houses and other cheap buildings. The increased costs that will result from the imposition of these duties will be a severe handicap to very many citizens of slender means who desire to acquire homes of their own at small cost. If this itemis to be reconsidered, I hope that the Minister will, instead of extending the duties to those timbers which are now exempt, include Oregon with them, and abandon the proposal to increase the duties.
.- While I congratulate the Minister for Trade and Customs on the amendment he brought down this afternoon, I hope that he will go a little further, because it is foolish to spoil a house for the sake of a coat of paint. He must realize that it is the wishof the committee that his schedule should be revised to give protection against dressed Baltic timbers. I hope that he will also increase the duties on Japaneseoak, Pacific maple, and Borneo cedar, which particularly interfere with theuse of Australian hard woods for furniture making. A very serious omission from the dressed timber sub-item is Baltic timber. Its inclusion would mean the building up of an Australian industry for the supply of hardwood for weatherboards, flooring boards, and linings. The trade is also seriously hampered by importations oforegon. The price oforegon has come down so much in recent years that there is little possibility of our hardwoods competing with it, although it is not as suitable as Australian hardwoods for the purposes I have mentioned. The imposition of a sufficiently high duty to enable our hardwoods to compete withoregon and Baltic timbers for building materials would mean the re-establishment of an industry giving employment to 35,000 Australians. I have figures to show the languishing condition of our sawmilling trade. Out of 178 mills in Tasmania 102 are closed, and others will close very soon if the protection for which I am asking is not given. There are only 76 mills working in Tasmania out of 178, and I suppose the proportion is the same in the sawmilling industry throughout the Commonwealth. Out of 2,500 men formerly engaged in the industry in Tasmania, 1,780 are now unemployed, and I think that condition of affairs is typical of the industry throughout Australia. In the matter of wages, Australian millers are at a great disadvantage. In Scandinavia, which supplies the Baltic timber that competes with Australian hardwood, the average wage is £2 8s. a week of 48 hours. The Australian timber-workers are paid £4 6s. a week of 48 hours. In America the timber worker is paid £4 a week for 51.8 hours. The Canadian timber worker gets £3 14s. 6d., and works from 48 to 54 hours a week. The position of the Australian miller is even worse in regard to freights. Timber in 20-ft. lengths costs 8s. 6d. per 100 super. feet for hardwood, and 8s. for softwood, to ship from Cairns to Melbourne, and 6s. and 5s. 3d. from Brisbane to Melbourne. From Canada 60-ft. lengths can be brought to Melbourne at from 6s. to 6s. 3d., and from the Baltic 30-ft. lengths can be brought to Australia at 3s.10d. per 100 super ft. Honorable members will thus see that the Australian timber industry is handicapped in every way. “When the timber millers appeared before the Tariff Board they pledged themselves not to raise the price of timber if they could secure the market. To them it was a question of getting a sufficient turnover to enable them to make a profit. They may not adhere to their pledge, but if they do raise the price of their timber it will be a matter for the Tariff Board. It is one of the duties of the board to see that industries do not take advantage of the community that has afforded them protection. There cannot, therefore, be any danger in giving the timber-millers the extra duty they seek. It has been said that the effect of an increase in duty willbeto increase the cost ofworkmen’s homes. Contractors have already said that they are willing to contract to build a five-roomed hardwood cottage at a cost not more than £25 or £30 in excess of the cost of a similar cottage built of softwood. The superior house he would get would be well worth the extra money. Mr. G. M. Hudson, managing director of George Hudson Limited, one of our biggest timber importing firms supports the imposition of a duty of 15s. per 100 super. feet on dressed timber. Support for this particular duty comes from every quarter. As a matter of fact, any one who tries to get at the real facts and approaches the matter with an unbiased mind, must realize the justice of the claim for an increase. Mr. Le. G. Irby, Conservator of Forests in Tasmania, in his annual report says: -
The position of the timber industry still remains very unsatisfactory. To permit without restriction, as is virtually the case to-day, the flooding of the Australian markets with foreign timbers, the while glaring instances of alienation of magnificent forests and their wholesale destruction has continued almost unchecked for generations, is, to say the least of it, a peculiar policy. The specious argument, that such a policy helps to save our own forests shows either genuine ignorance of the subject or a deliberate attempt to gull the public by those whose monetary interests are identical with big American or Scandinavian lumbermen. The prime forests destroyed in practically all the Australian States during the past few decades alone would have maintained an adequate supply for many years. Forestry is gradually coming into its own in Australia, but its progress has been wilfully retarded by those interested persons, who have forever’ decried our own timbers in order that they might make greater wealth by handling the imported woods of other countries. The Federal Government is exhibiting interest in forestry of late, and contemplating how it can help in such a great national work, yet remains content to ignore the one method by which more could be accomplished at one stroke to invigorate the whole forest policy of Australia than in any other way. No action would have such a salutary and rapid effect on forestry as the bringing about of a full appreciation of our own timbers by adequately restricting the imported article.
Speaking of the Tasmanian forests he also said that Tasmania could double the present output without fear of a timber famine. The life of the Tasmanian forests is assessed at 90 years, but by that time regeneration assures a sustained yield for all time. There does not seem to be much in the argument we have heard advanced, that we should use timbers from other parts of the world and reserve our own forests. As a matter of fact, there are trees in our forests which are decaying and should be thinned out. If fire is kept out of our forests a great many of them will renew themselves. I see little in the talk of reforestation in Australia.
The honorable member is getting altogether too far away from the item under discussion.
– I think I could connect my remarks with the item, but I bow to your ruling because I want to have a vote taken as soon as possible. However, I must point out something that has not already been put before the committee. To-day in Tasmania a co-operative company of sawmillers is working in conjunction with the Government of the State with the object of marketing timber economically, dressing it and seasoning it properly in order to compete with imported timber. Another matter that bears on the debate, is that of the royalties which the Minister fears the States may increase. The Premier of Tasmania has declared that if the Commonwealth will provide a duty that will give the hardwoods of Australia a reasonable chance, he will cut the Tasmanian royalty in half. Last year 85,000,000 feet of dressed timber came from overseas. If that timber had been dressed in Australia itwould have meant a distribution of £85,000 among Australian workers. I shall not delay the committee any longer, although I have sat here all day trying to catch the Chairman’s eye, but I must say that the importations of Baltic timber give very little chance to the Australian hardwoods in the building lines for which they are so superior - weatherboards, flooring boards and linings - and that the importations of Japanese oak and similar wood do not permit of the use of Australia’s beautiful hardwoods for furniture making. If we allow timber produced by the cheap labour of the East to oust our own superior timber from our markets, it will be a very poor advertisement for our White Australia policy.
.- -This is the first time that I have spoken on the tariff during this debate, and therefore honorable members cannot accuse me of wasting the time of the Parliament on this occasion. I have always had strong convictions in regard to the tariff, and I have never regarded it from a party stand-point. I have considered it from a national outlook, and I regret exceedingly that in dealing with the tariff as we are to-day, we are drifting into a condition of absolute degeneracy. I do not intend to discuss the respective values of imported softwoods and local hardwoods. They are both valuable. The Australian timber industry must ultimately be of immense value to this country, but for many years the preservation of our forests has not been receiving half the attention that it should have received. We should ensure our timber requirements, not for ten or twenty years, but for 100 years ahead. These two timbers cannot come into competition because each has its respective uses. Even if the tariff is increased on softwoods, they will still be largely imported into this country. The Minister has acted outrageously in setting aside the recommendations of the Tariff Board in respect of the timber industry. We cannot keep imported softwoods out of this country except at an enormous cost to the taxpayers. God knows that the taxpayers have suffered too long, and this debate on the tariff will do more than anything else to organize a movement outside this Parliament, protesting against the excessive and unjust duties. For years past, we have collected between £3,000,000 and £4,000,000 in customs revenue in excess of estimates. This is an outrageous tariff, and never in my political experience have I seen one like it. It is being forced upon this country in spite of the recommendations of the Tariff Board. We should concentrate more on the conservation of our forests. I should like to refer at this stage to an ex-Governor-General of Australia, now Earl .Novar, who is recognized as an expert on forestry, and whose income is largely derived from forest lands. While in Australia there was no subject dearer to his heart than forestry, and he fretted considerably because of the shocking neglect of our forests. We have a wealth of literature on afforestation, supporting the view of Earl Novar that Australia has magnificent timbers, and that they should be conserved scientifically and scrupulously. Some authorities even advise us to limit our output so that later we may reap immense wealth from this industry. I am proud of the fact that J was the first member in this Parliament to recommend the establishment of the Tariff Board. It was when the Massy Greene tariff was being discussed. Mr. Massy Greene, then Minister for Trade and Customs, when imposing additional duties, did not take the people unawares. He gave every, one a fair spin, and no man had a better name in the community than he did, simply because the people trusted him. In view of our insistence, he agreed to the appointment of the Tariff Board. The Tariff Board has since rendered valuable service to this country, but at a time when we need its guidance most, its recommendations have been set aside. I do not expect the Minister to be a dummy, but my conception of the Tariff Board is that it was established for the guidance, not of the Government alone but of Parliament. The members of the board have had considerable experience of the conditions of Australian industries, and their recommendations have, in most cases, been wholly adopted; but this Government has taken the extreme and unprecedented step of setting aside the board’s recommendations altogether an action which we all deemed to be almost an impossibility. This imposition on timber must adversely affect the people of Australia. The present Prime Minister, when Treasurer, said that no more should be taken out of the pockets of the people than was necessary for purposes of public administration; yet in recent years, in spite of disastrous times, we have been collecting annually from £3,000,000 to £4,000,000 in excess of estimates. This sort of thing must stop. A lot of rubbish has been talked in this chamber on tariff matters. Honorable members must realize that this additional duty will do nothing except make timber more costly. Sooner or later the people of Australia will squeal against being tortured on the economic ruck, and I hope that they will continue squealing until those responsible for such impositions are brought to their senses.
.- In this instance I find myself in strange company. I feel strongly the necessity for protection being given to those engaged in our timber industry. There is a very earnest desire on the part of the people of Australia to protect our forests. This Parliament has provided money for that purpose, and efforts have been made by the various States and by the Development and Migration Commission to conserve our timber resources, and to effect an adequate policy of reafforestation.
– Does the honorable member support the higher tariff on timber?
– I support the granting of protection to the industry, and, if permitted, I shall move an amendment later.
– Then the honorable member is a most inconSistent freetrader.
– I thought that it might interest the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Treodore) to know that 1 intended to protect something. In passing, may I congratulate the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) on so blithely and self-assuredly asserting that it will make no difference if £8 or £10 more is added- “to the cost of a worker’s home. A few years ago one could erect a ‘wooden house for a reasonable sum, !;but now the price is exorbitant. Wc have been told in debate in this chamber that a protective duty on a reaper and binder means only a farthing extra on a bushel of wheat. I am surprised at this willingness to impose additional burden” on the rank and file of our community, and to put something into the pockets of a few timber-millers in Australia. When one looks around this building and sees the magnificent blackwood that has been used to beautify it, one is surprised that we have been unable to establish a big export timber trade. I congratulate the Government upon establishing a. forestry school, which will extend and improve our reafforestation system. I think that it would even be wise to take advantage of the cheap softwoods that are obtainable from overseas and conserve our own softwoods, for a time of shortage must inevitably dome. The timber resources of Canada and the United States of America are rapidly becoming depleted. The United States of America consumes millions of cubic feet of timber annually in the manufacture of paper alone. By preserving our own timber, and utilizing cheap timber from abroad, the cost of house-building in
Australia would be cheapened. Oregon and other cheap timbers are excellent for a certain type of work, but discrimination should be exercised in the use of our own timbers. If this heavy duty is imposed, we shall prohbit foreign softwoods from coming into Australia, and deplete our own better-class timber’s. I- direct the attention of honorable members to the duties which existed in earlier years. From 1908 to 1911 the duty on foreign timber was only 6d. per 100 superficial feet. Iri 1924, after strenuous opposition, it was increased to ls. per 100 superficial feet. Now it is proposed to increase that “amount to 8s. per 100 superficial- feet. Statistics show that there has been a fairly even cut of timber since 1911. There certainly has been no annual reduction. Last year there was a slight increase in the quantity cut. Western Australia has very successfully marketed its hardwoods. Recently over 1,000,000 feet of.jarrah was .used for flooring .purposes in two buildings erected in Sydney. How is it, then, .that Tasmanian timbers do not find a freer market? Tasmanian representatives complain of the difficulty experienced under the Navigation Act, and of the enormous expense entailed in bringing timber across to the mainland. It is rather difficult to adjust such matters. I have been endeavouring to induce the Government to take some action in that direction. Every honorable member must recognize that if higher duties are imposed the cost of imported timber must increase. I find that during 1923-24 the price margin in favour of Oregon varied from1s.6d. in July, 1923, to3s. 6d. in January; 1924, and4s. from April, 1924, until the end of June in that year. Even if a higher duty is imposed upon Oregon I do not think its use in Australiawill be decreased to any, great extent, but the cost of all softwoods used in the Commonwealth will be greater, thus imposing a heavy burden upon those engaged in building operations. I congratulate the Minister for displaying a little commonsense in connexion with this schedule by allowing the Broken Hill mines to obtain Oregon free of duty. That ought to have been done long ago, as the mining companies on the Barrier have had to use tens of millions of super feet of Oregon. These duties will affect South Australia very materially, as the supplies of timber in that State are limited. Generally speaking, I can see no justification at all for the increase. The Tariff Board, in which I have not the same confidence as the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster), has investigated the question of timber duties and. submitted a recommendation beyond which the Government has gone, owing perhaps to political pressure. I could understand the Government for political and economic reasons imposing lower duties than the board recommended, but I cannot understand its attitude in submitting duties in excess of those recommended by a tribunal specially appointed to make the fullest inquiries. I understand that an amendment is already before the committee, but when that, has been disposed of, it is my intentionto move that the duties recommended bythe Tariff, Boardbe adopted.
.- I trust the Minister will accept the motion moved by the honorable mem- ber f orRobertson (Mr. Gardner), for the postponement of the item, since as, in the absence of the latest information, there is a good deal of uncertainty concerning the actual position. When the Tariff Board first considered timber duties, it presented, in 1925, an interim report. The subject was further considered and additional evidence was taken inNew South Wales, Victoria, and Tasmania, but not in Queensland or Western Australia. The Australian source of softwoods is Queensland, and the principal source of hardwood is, I believe, Western Australia; but additional evidence was not taken in either of those States to bring the information before the board up to date. The Tariff Board’s report suggests that there is a shortage of softwoods in Queensland, but there is a great deal of controversy even on that question. I have before me information from a Queensland source, which reads -
A great deal has been said about the scarcity of Queensland pine. The Queensland Forestry Board, some months ago, “ rationed “ the trade, with the result that importers were encouraged to flood the market and at present the Queensland mills generally have on hand enormous quantities of pine and other timbers for which no market can be found. This position apparently exists even at the State saw. mills, for the Auditor-General in his latest report calls attention to the great increase in stocks of pine timbers which were in the saw-mill yards belonging to the State Sawmills Department. The saw-millers through their association, quite recently asked for a suspension of their contracts for six months, as they were unable to find a market for the enormous quantity of pine logs and pine timber in their yards.
With reference to the Atherton Table land’s softwoods and cabinet timbers, I have before me a letter from theCairns and District Saw-millers Association, in which it is stated-
The present condition of the industry is distressing. It is not developing ; rather is it retrogressing. The capital invested is not merely dormant; it is wasting. Matured timber instead of being marketed and becoming wealth in the form of manufactured goods, is rotting in the bush. Three million super feet of cabinet timbers now mature and waiting harvesting cannot be marketed because foreign timbers supersede it.
The letter was written on the 29th September, 1927, and continues-
In three months time another similar quantity will be available. What then? Must, this wealth be allowed to rot, or eventually find a second or third class market?
The Cairns and District Sawmillers As sociation represents the views of the proprietors of twenty saw-mills in which £750,000 of hard, cold cash has been invested. They object very strongly to the proposed free admission of timber for mining purposes, as they contend that Australia produces the finest quality of timbers for such requirements. I am reminded by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) that there is only one mining district in which imported timber is used ; but even if timber for mining purposes is imported free of duty it will be exceedingly difficult, if not impossible, for the department to exercise sufficient supervision to see that it is used only for that purpose. lt is said that when the forest area of a country falls below .86 acres per head of the population it must import its requirements, but not otherwise. Australia’s forest area at present is approximately 4.08 acres. If our timber areas were properly cultivated and worked, they would supply sufficient for a population of 2S,000,000. Australia has a population of only 6,000,000, yet we are importing enormous quantities of timber. This question cannot be disposed of by merely saying that we have no timber of certain specified types, or that certain timbers may be more suitable than those which we produce. I suggest to the Minister that in view of the different opinions expressed in this chamber the consideration of this item should be deferred until the Tariff Board or some other authority has again investigated the position and reported to Parliament. In the circumstances I intend to support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Gardner), because I believe the schedule submitted by the Minister is not sufficiently comprehensive, since it deals only with undressed Oregon timbers and the protection proposed, in my opinion, is inadequate. I cannot see any reference to dressed timbers or to hemlock, which is grown in large quantities in British Columbia. “We have also suffered from the heavy importations of Baltic. Large quantities of Pacific maple and Russian oak are likewise imported, and these timbers which compete with out cabinet timbers are often seriously affected with borers, which add to the pests which we already have in Australia. I trust the
Minister will accept the amendment by the honorable member for Robertson and postpone the consideration of this item.
– I wish to reply to a statement of the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Atkinson), who. said that a person building a home would not object to its cost being increased to the extent of £25 or £30. That would mean a good deal to a married man, and I suggest that before the honorable member repeats his assertion he should undertake the responsibilities of a man who has to maintain a family. I congratulate those persons who have recently been so busy about this chamber in connexion with timber duties, and who, if they applied the same energy to their work as they do to their lobbying activities, would be more prosperous. They would not then be crying out for higher duties. In this connexion I am reminded of - a book which I read some time ago in connexion with the timber industry in Tasmania, entitled The Timber Wolves. I represent a State which may be regarded as one of the lambs which the timber wolves will eventually devour. The South Australian timber supplies are limited, and the people in that State have to carry on as best they can under these heavy duties.
– But Victoria uses most of the imported timber.
– A good deal is used in South Australia, and my State will feel the increase more than any other. Under the 1924 tariff the cost of timber duty per head of population in the different States was : - New South Wales, 3s. 6½d. ; Victoria, Ss. ; South Australia, 8s. 2£d. ; Queensland, 2£d. ; Western Australia, 4½d., and Tasmania, l£d. These increased duties will mean an impost per head in South Australia of lis. 8£d., but will not affect Queensland, Western Australia or Tasmania, so it ill becomes the representatives of those States to act as “ spruikers “ for higher duties. There appears to be growing up in this chamber a practice of exchanging favours, on the principle of “You vote for my duties, and I will vote for yours.”
– No accusations, now!
– Well, I have lad that put up to me. Figures which I have obtained disclose that the total duties collected last year on the items which the Government proposes to so greatly increase approximated £590,000. Competent authorities estimate that these increased duties will mean another £480,000. The timber duties last year realized £1,349,546 so that the proposed increases will mean that the revenue will be £1,830,000. I take this opportunity to remind the representatives of Tasmania that South Australia is a very good customer of that State in connexion with its timber business, and that every good business man looks after his customers. During 1925-26 South Australia imported from Tasmania 10,9S5,927 feet and from Western Australia 36,184,800 feet, or a total of 47,170,727 feet. In the same year the importations of undressed softwoods, including oregon, amounted to 46,292,035 feet. It is gratifying to know that the representatives of Western Australia in this chamber are not decrying the ability of the industry in that State to carry on without being spoon-fed. According to the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) and the honorable members for Swan (Mr. Gregory) the industry in Western Australia is not in need of high protection. That is really the attitude which we, as Australians, should adopt as a general principle. During the war we were able to do many things because we all pulled together. Unfortunately in more recent years there seems to be a disposition on the part of many persons engaged in industry to see in what way they can protect themselves from competition, so as to be able to lead a more or less lazy life. I am much concerned about the trend of events. I am a moderate protectionist. I have been twitted by honorable members with inconsistency because whilst I have been a strong advocate for the payment of a bounty on the production of wine, I have opposed duties on many other items. There is a vast difference between the bounty on wine, which has already been reduced by ls. a gallon, and which it is hoped by the industry will evetnually be unnecessary, and the imposition of high and still higher duties for the protection of certain secondary industries. We are continually being told that if only Parliament will agree to the imposition of higher duties, industry in this country will be placed on a sure and safe foundation. I am wondering where this business will end. These higher duties represent protection to the extent of 150 per cent. Surely it is a reflection upon the enterprise of Australians engaged in this industry, to suggest that without this measure of protection they are unable to carry on. It has been said that our hardwood timbers are unsuitable for building purposes. I have nothing to say against Australian timbers, except that I believe they are far too good to be used as floor joists and for flooring. I should like to see them put to better use. I can speak with some experience on this matter, because I happen to be the owner of a house that was built during the war. At the time there was no oregon available for the roof rafters, so the builders used hardwood, which warped to such an extent that the tiles sagged very badly. An expert advised me that the whole of the fault was with the roof timbers. I then made it my business to make further inquiries, and I ascertained that whereever hardwood timber had been used for roof rafters, it shrank appreciably and the tiles sagged. I do not know what timber’ is used in the roof of the Hotel Kurrajong, but I do know that whenever rain comes the roof leaks very badly. These duties, as the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Atkinson) has told us, will mean an increase of £30 in the price of a five-roomed timber house. Some honorable members dismissed that as if it were a mere trifle, and I remind them of the old Scotch saying, “ Mony a mickle mak’s a muckle.” A little here and a little there in the cost of a house means a great deal to the man who is on the bread line, and whose wages have to be adjusted from time to time to meet changed conditions due to the increased cost of living. Their position reminds me of the man who is chasing a wounded game fowl, but does not succeed in capturing it. Unfortunately for a certain section of the people, they never seem to catch up to the increased cost of living. I am surprised that, when duties are being imposed on practically everything in connexion with timber, we are not called upon to consider an item to impose a duty on wooden tooth-picks. I am very much concerned about this continual increase in the COSt of living. Wheat to-day costs 4s. 7d. to produce. What will happen if the cost of production rises to such a level that it will not be profitable to export our staple product. Is it suggested that wheat production in Australia shall one day be limited to the capacity of the Australian market, or does the Government contemplate paying an export bounty? The same remarks may be applied to the wool industry. All honorable members who have any knowledge of wool-growing know that it is not now so attractive a proposition as it was a few years ago. The time has come when we should take stock of our position. My opposition to these duties is, in effect, endorsed by the honorable member for Wilmot, who should be an authority on this matter. He has told us that these duties will mean an increase of £30 in the cost of a five-roomed house. It is refreshing to have such an admission as that from a supporter of these imposts. I take the view that, if an industry requires more protection than, say, 75 per cent, of the landed cost of an article to keep its head above water, it should no longer be encouraged. I intend to support the ministerial proposal, not because I believe in it, but because I believe that half a loaf is better than no bread. In other words, I should rather be stunned than absolutely killed.
.- Earlier in the debate I indicated that, in my view, the Australian timber industry could be protected more effectively by means of a bounty, which would not have the effect of increasing the cost of houses in Australia to the same extent as duties would, and I suggest now that the Minister should submit this proposal to the Tariff Board. Honorable members who did not favour the idea desired to know from what source the funds for the payment of the bounty would be’ obtained. My proposal is that the 1924 duty should stand, and have added to it ls. per 100 feet to create a fund out of which to pay a bounty on all locally-produced timber.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Bayley).Order ! The honorable gentleman is not in order in discussing a bounty on an item imposing customs duties.
– I submit, with all due respect to you, Mr. Chairman, that I am in order in explaining to the committee . the method by which necessary funds for the proposed bounty can be obtained. I am entitled to’ show an alternative system that will provide a fund for the endowment of the timber industry Consequently, I contend that my proposals are relevant to the item before the committee.
– The honorable member may not, on this item, discuss a proposed bounty scheme in detail.
– If I am not entitled to do that, then I cannot demonstrate the merits of my proposal. All I wish to state is that the needs . qf this great industry may be provided for without increasing beyond the ls. for the bounty fund the cost of imported and local timber, as provided for in the schedule and the Minister’s amendment. Take the timber industry of Queensland. There the Provision? 1 Forestry Board takes an opposite view of the industry from that of the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser), and the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. G. Francis), who have described .what is, I believe, only a passing phase of the industry due to financial depression, the falling off in . the building trade, and overmilling Of timber. Those honorable members would have us believe that those conditions have been brought about by the importation of foreign timbers. The report of the Forestry Board of Queeusland for the year ended 30th June, 1926, stated -
Avoiding the free play of the laws of competition and survival of the fittest, the sawmilling industry has chosen to adopt a mutually protective purchasing organization under which it buys raw material for the. industry noncompetitively from the Forest Service at upset prices, and proceeds to allot to each of its Members an apportioned share of the purchases.
This method involves the sharing of the deficiency in supplies of raw material amongst the industry as <i whole, so that each unit sawmill accepts short time rather than that ‘the life of the least efficient should become forfeit at competition.
The arrangement is in the nature of an antisuicide club, and the industry is clearly entitled to adopt it. The Forest Service has no criticism to offer beyond the reflection that the weight of the accumulating shortage inevitably must have its eventual way in determining those units which by reason of efficiency in location and management are best fitted to serve the community’s need in wood.
The honorable member for Wide .Bay challenged a statement previously made by me, and for his information I shall put On record another se:tion of the report -
The general diminution of the pine supplies of Queensland, and the particular diminution at rail, because of the extension of bushmilling operations must fores upon the attention of town and city mills a consideration of other alternatives in raw material.
Already the reduction in the native pine log yield is being marked by a corresponding increase in the importation of cheap building softwoods from abroad.
To supply the accumulating deficit in the local softwood supplies, Queensland has no possible alternative but to enlarge its importations. Between 192G and 1952 we will have to buy from foreign countries over £30,000,000 worth of coniferous wood. .
Surely the Forestry .Board must be the accepted public authority in Queeusland on this subject. What is the use. of saying that Queensland can supply the timber requirements of the Commonwealth?
– I did not say that.
– At any rate, I put the Forestry Board’s statement alongside that of the honorable member. The timber industry of Queensland is in much the same condition as that of the other States. Australia has before it the dreadful spectre of the forests in all States, except, perhaps, two, being denuded within the next 30 to 50 years at the present rate of cutting, unless a vigorous re-afforestation policy is adopted. Unless we materially increase the available supply of locally-grown timber, it will be necessary for us to import more softwoods for our requirements. . Probably no country uses more hardwood in proportion to its timber requirements than does Australia, and I cannot accept the statement that the imposition of the extra duty would make large quantities of Australian timber available to take the place of the imported softwoods. If it did that, our forests would be denuded at an alarmingly rapid rate, and then we should be placed at the mercy of foreign importations even more than we are now. We have too many mill ing plants to-day, a result of the absence of importations during the war years when there was a large demand for local timber 1 1 profitable rates. Those good years for the industry, and the prosperity that followed, have passed. The milling industry, like almost every other, is now experiencing bad times, but on that ground alone we should not impose a duty that will further embarrass the nation by adding to the cost of every home, including . those that the Government will have to finance under the housing scheme. The imposition of a charge of ls. per 100 super, feet ou all imported timbers would raise a sum sufficient to provide £110,000 for a bounty of 6d. per 100 feet, and leave £103,000 for an afforestation subsidy, research work, and organization of the marketing of ‘ Australian timber. I regret, Mr. Chairman, that your ruling prevents the committee from giving the country a sane alternative to the proposed duty. By imposing an additional tax of ls. per 100 feet on imported timber we could create a bounty fund equal to the duty now proposed and provide an additional £103,000 for afforestation purposes. In that case, it is foolish for the Government to persist in imposing the proposed high duties, thus adding to our financial and economic difficulties. We cannot for ever continue to pile ‘tax upon tax, duty upon duty, obligation upon obligation, and expect them to be met by a population of 6,000,000 people. Australia has already incurred a public debt amounting to approximately £l;016,000;000. In many directions we have heavy obligations to meet. Our interest commitments alone represent the value of this year’s wool clip, and . the total pension bill of £17,800,000 will absorb the value of this year’s export wheat. Rather than that we should continue to pile up duty upon duty it would be better for the Minister and the Tariff Board to seek alternative means of meeting the situation such as I have suggested.
.- In stating that the Government intends to stand by its proposals, I desire to set out the basis on which they were arrived at. If honorable members will analyse the report of the Tariff. Board they will find that that body recommended the imposition of an increased duty of1s. 6d. per 100 feet on timber 12 inches by 6 inches, 2s. per 100 feet on timber 7 inches by2½ inches, 2s. per 100 feet on dressed timber, and various increaseson box timber. The Government is not desirous of increasing the duty on box timber, particularly in view of the fact that boxes are required to market our primary products. Consequently it does not agree with the recommendation to increase the duties on box timber. Nor does it agree that the small increases proposed in respect of scantling timber would do much to assist the timber industry; they would rather be in the nature of revenue duties. The Government, therefore, while desirous of doing something for the timber industry and those employed in it, submitted proposals to increase the duties on only three items by 4s. per 100 feet - an average of a little more than double the amount recommended by the Tariff Board. It thinks that its proposals afford the maximum of benefit with the minimum of cost to the country. The Government also considers that as the duties proposed will enable the Australian timber industry to attack, with a reasonable chance of success, almost half the importations of foreign timber, the industry is being assisted appreciably. The Government does not propose to make any alterations in the duty on Baltic timber, which comes here as flooring boards and lining boards, and is used chiefly in the more modest dwellings, particularly in the vicinity of the ports of Australia. If the amendment moved by the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Gardner) to postpone the item is agreed to, the Government will regard it as an indication that the committee wants Baltic timber included with theoregon item. The Government is not at all convinced that the proposal is economically sound. There is much to be said as to the value of our unique hardwoods in the markets of the world. I point out that if the importation of timber is increasing, so also is the local production of hardwoods and Australian timbers generally. The Government has no desire to make and will not be a party to making the cheaper timbers required for the smaller dwellings in Australia dearer than they are to-day. In its opinion any increase in duty in respect of Baltic timbers will increase the cost of the class of house to which I have alluded and will not be worth the cost. I repeat that if this item is postponed, to which I hope the committee will not agree, the Government will regard it as an indication that the committee insists that Baltic and other timbers shall be included in the Oregon item.
Question - That the item be postponed (Mr. Gardner’s motion) - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 13
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Items 293 and 308 agreed to.
By omitting the whole item and inserting in its stead the following item: - “ (a) Records for Gramaphones, Phono graphs, and other Talking Machines -
Disc,6 inches and under in diameter ad val. British free, intermediate 15 percent., general 25 per cent.
Disc, over 6 inches in diameter each, British 9d., intermediate1s., general 1s. 3d.
N.E.I. ad val., British free, intermediate 5 per cent., general 10 per cent.
– I move -
That after the word “ Disc,” twice occurring in sub-item (a), the words “(excepting records manufactured by the Hill and Dale process)” be inserted -
I understand that the Australian manufacturers of gramophone records offer no objection to this proposal. The Tariff Board did not recommend it because it understood that it would involve certain administrative difficulties, but my officers have informed me that that is not so.
.- I do not object to the amendment, but I point out that there is a likelihood that it may inflict an injustice upon the Australian manufacturers because of the way in which it is worded. I suggest that the exemption should apply only to records which are invoiced at more than 2s. 6d. each.
– I understand that Hill and Dale records are expensive.
– There is a possibility that they may become cheaper and enter into competition with the locally made records.
.- During the last few years the gramophone record making industry has been developed in Australia in a remarkable way. About 70 per cent, of the records we use are stamped here from the matrices obtained from abroad. In the great majority of cases the master records are made overseas, where artists are available; but Mr. Alfred O’Shea, a notable Australian tenor has recorded twelve or thirteen remarkably fine records for the Columbia Company. As the years go by and our population increases, undoubtedly many artists will record here just as the artists are doing to-day in other countries. We have established this industry, and there are many hundreds of men and women who are engaged in it on good, clean, wholesome work. It does not require a great organization or plant to do the stamping of records. There is, to me, no reason, if Columbia and other gramophone record-makers can establish their plants in Sydney for the mere stamping from Master records, why the Edison Company cannot do the same. If this is such a small matter as has been represented, there has been a remarkable amount of publicity and organization carried on in connexion with it. Manufacturers of records in Australia state that they do not oppose the exclusion of Hill and Dale Diamond Disc records from the tariff so long as they are not below 2s. 6d. each, but while they may not oppose it before the Tariff Board now, I venture to say that in a very short time they will go before the board and ask that Edison records be placed on the same basis as their own. I believe that we should help manufacturers in Australia to establish industries here, and that we should encourage those with capital to come to Australia to set up factories in this country. But while I am prepared to help Australian manufacturers, I cannot, and will not, help manufacturers to exclude from this tariff something which is adversely affecting their trade to-day. No matter what kind of gramophone it is, and no matter what kind of record is played, that record and that pramaphone, if imported, are entering into competition with the Australianmade articles. I ask the Committee and the Minister to leave the item as it stands. I believe that within three months of the passing of this duty as it stands in the schedule the Edison Company, notwithstanding the allegedly small part its products play in the gramophone trade in this country, will establish its industry in Australia under Australian conditions, and that will help to build up what will ultimately become a very great industry. I do hope that nothing will be done to break down the principle of protection of this very fine industry. For those reasons I urge the Minister not to exclude Hill and Dale records from the tariff schedule.
– In order to shorten the discussion, I may say that I largely agree with the remarks of the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley). The figures show that, owing to the establishment of this industry in Australia, the importations have decreased from £488,000 in 1925-26 to £219,000 in 1926-27, and I think, too, that the quality has been considerably improved. I have a telegram on my table to the effect that manufacturers do not oppose the exemption of Hill and Dale records invoiced at 2s. each. Therefore, they do not oppose the exemption of records of good quality, and if the Committee will pass this amendment I promise that, as far as I can, I shall allow no dumping of these records.
Amendment agreed to.
Item, as amended, agreed to.
Item 321 agreed to.
Item 334 (Straw-paper).
.- I have no desire to delay this item, hut representations have been made as to the effect of the duty on straw paper, and perhaps the Minister will make a statement, because the recommendation of the board in connexion with this matter has not been printed and made available to members.
. -For many years straw paper was classified by the department as wrapping paper, but early in 1926 this ruling was disputed, and the department was compelled to concede classification of this item as paper n.e.i., which is admitted at a lower duty. The present duty is the recommendation of the Tariff Board, and under this protection the Australian manufacturer of straw paper was not able to do very well. This amendment restores the item to a fair balance, as far as the whole industry is concerned.
Item agreed to.
Items 348, 352, and 354 agreed to.
By omitting from sub-item (d) the whole of paragraph 4 (twice occurring) and inserting in its stead the following paragraph: - “(4) Chassis, but not including rubber tires or storage batteries -
Unassembled, ad val. - British, free; intermediate, 12½ per cent.; general, 17½ per cent.
Assembled, ad val. - British, 5 per cent.; intermediate, 20 per cent.; general, 25 per cent.”
– I desire to move an amendment in this item so as to include, as well as tires, batteries, shock absorbers and bumper bars. I move -
That the item be amended by adding: - “And on and after 16th December, 1927 -
Chassis, but not including rubber tires, storage batteries, shock absorbers, . or bumper bars -
Unassembled, ad val. - British, free; intermediate, 12½ per cent.; general, 17½ per cent.
Assembled, ad val. - British, 5 per cent.; intermediate, 20 per cent.; general, 25 per cent.”
Amendment agreed to.
Item, as amended, agreed to.
– I should like the Minister to state whether the recommendation of the Tariff Board in the general tariff was for a £30 or £40 minimum. It has been widely stated that the minimum was £30, but, by a reference to the report of the Board, it appears to me that it is set out at £40.
– This item in the foreign schedule exactly follows the recommendation of the Tariff Board. It does not in the British schedule follow the recommendations for this reason: About £50,000 worth of pianos are imported annually from England, and about £1,000,000 worth of pianos from America. It was considered by the Government that if the recommendation of the Tariff Board was followed in the foreign schedule, there would be a possibility of putting a very largeamount of business in the way, not only of local manufacturers of pianos, but of British manufacturers as well. Consequently the foreign schedule is exactly in accordance with the recommendation of the Tariff Board, and the British schedule is identical with the duties that have been in operation for some time.
Item agreed to.
Items 373, 376, and 380 agreed to.
Item 384 (Panchromatic plates), &c.
– I move-
That the item be omitted.
This is a ratherlengthy item. It has been so set out in order to allow Panchromatic plates that are used by printers - particularly colour printers - to be admitted duty free, in accordance with a recommendation of the Tariff Board. That, however, is a rather old recommendation. Subsequent inquiries have shown that the manufacturers in Australia can make these plates satisfactorily. They are, therefore, entitled to a reasonable duty, which now exists. The omission of the item will leave the matter where it stands at the present time.
.- Do I understand that the position in regard to panchromatic plates is not to be altered, but that the duties will remain as they are at the present time?
– That is so.
– I am glad that the Minister has taken this action.
Amendment agreed to.
Items 417, 418, and 427 agreed to.
Item 430 (Straw envelopes) -
.- I wish to direct the attention of honorable members to the fact that anything which is sent in a straw envelope from a foreign country will have to bear the burden of the tax which is imposed on the envelope at the rate of 22s. per thousand. This is an illustration of the absurd and disgraceful position into which we are drifting by taxing practically everything that passes through the customs.
Item agreed to.
New item 431 (Fluorspar) -
.- This item relates to fluorspar, which, I understand, is used at Broken Hill in the manufacture of iron and steel. I believe it is imported from South Africa. Because atin-pot mine in Queensland produces a small quantity, a duty is proposed. I cannot understand the reason for such an imposition. The effect will be to increase the cost of production of the goods in the manufacture of which it plays a part. The owners of the Quensland mine should be able to market their product without this special duty.
Item agreed to.
– I move -
That the following new item be inserted - 381. By omitting the whole of sub-item (f) and inserting in its stead the following subitem : -
On and after 16th December, 1927 -
British, 40 per cent.; intermediate, SO per cent.; general, 55 per cent. Or, per dozen - British, 5s.; intermediate, 6s.; general, 7s. - whichever rate returns the higher duty.
Tooth, scrubbing, paint and varnish brushes, ad val. - British, 40 per cent.; intermediate, 50 per cent.; general, 55 per cent. Or, per dozen - British, 2s.; intermediate, 3s.; general, 4s. - whichever rate returns the higher duty. (3)Nail brushes, ad val. - British, 40 per cent.; intermediate, 50 per cent.; general, 55 per cent. Or, per dozen - British,1s. 6d. ; intermediate,1s. 9d. ; general, 2s. - whichever rate returns the higher duty.
Brushes, n.e.i., ad val. - British, 40 per cent.; intermediate, 50 per cent. ; general, 55 per cent.
Some explanation of this item is due to the committee. It follows exactly the report of the Tariff Board. This is a good industry, and I have an assurance in writing from the proprietors that the local price will not be increased as a result of the impositionof the duties.
Proposed new item agreed to.
Postponed item 58, (Cornflour).
– I move -
That the item be omitted.
This item was included with the intention of rectifying what is clearly an anomaly in the tariff. The duty on starch flour is different from that on cornflour. It is difficult to distinguish between the two commodities, and for some time past the department has had to analyse every consignment that has been sent to Australia. The importation under the heading “ cornflour “ is not great. Since this proposal was made, I have ascertained that cornflour is the raw material for several other substantial industries connected with the manufacture of custard powder, and that the rectification of this anomaly would create another by upsetting the balance of those industries. I propose to take an early opportunity to have the whole position inquired into.
Amendment agreed to.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) - by leave - agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to amend sections four and five of the Parliamentary Allowances Act 1920.
Bill presented by Mr. Bruce, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of the measure is to overcome a difficulty that has occurred in connexion with the Senate, and to remove an anomaly in connexion with the House of Representatives. The act provides that the parliamentary allowance shall be reckoned -
When an election for the Senate is held concurrently with that for the House of Representatives, senators standing for reelection receive their parliamentary allowance up to the following June. But in the case of a new senator, because of the time occupied in completing returns the certification of his election to the Senate by the Governor of the State may be delayed for from six weeks to two months. Although he was to all intents and purposes elected on polling day, he does not become entitled to his allowance until he has been duly certified a considerable time later. That has occurred on two or three occasions at recent elections, and the practice has been for the Government to place an amount on the Estimates to pay the senator during the period intervening between his election and the certification by the Governor of the State’. It is felt, however, that it would be better to amend the Parliamentary Allowances Act and provide for this payment by statute rather than to leave it to the Government of the day to place an amount on the Estimates to cover the payment which would ultimately have to be passed by Parliament. The other alteration proposed in regard to senators is to overcome a difficulty that arises in the event of a double dissolution. Every senator who is elected receives his parliamentary allowance for his full period of six years. There is no break; he is continuously paid for the whole of the period. But, if a double dissolution takes place, instead of half the senators going out, as at a triennial election, all the senators go up for election, and from the date of the dissolution until the election is held they do not receive their parliamentary allowances. This bill provides that in the rare event of a double dissolution any member of the Senate who presents himself for re-election is paid up to the date when he is again returned, or his successor is elected. The real effect of the provision is that, irrespective of whether it is a double dissolution or an ordinary election at which one half of the Senate seeks re-election, a senator seeking election is paid either for the six years for which he has been elected, or until he is defeated at a poll in the event of a double dissolution. Clause 5 deals with the allowance to a member of the House of Representatives during the period which intervenes between a dissolution and the election of a new parliament. Most people are under the impression that members of Parliament are paid for the full period of the parliament for which they are elected; but, as a matter of fact, the Parliamentary Allowances Act was so drafted that after a dissolution a member of the House of Representatives who seeks reelection, and may be returned, does not receive his parliamentary allowance from the date of the dissolution until the date of his re-election. I think this must have been an oversight when the original measure was framed. Many members of the House of Representatives are returned time after time. They continue without break as representatives of their individual electorates. Yet for certain periods their parliamentary allowances cease. The Government thought that, when it was dealing with the position of senators, it would also insert a provision in this bill to provide for the payment of a member of the House of Representatives to the time of his reelection or until his successor is elected. If, when a dissolution takes place, a member does not present himself for reelection, his payments cease from the date of the dissolution. These two proposed alterations are just and equitable, and I think effect should be given to them. I was anxious to get this bill on the businesspaper so that it might be dealt with when Parliament re-assembles after the new year.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Charlton) amended.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
In Committee of Ways and Means: (Consideration resumed.)
Postponed item 291.
By omitting the whole of sub-item(f) and inserting in its stead the following subitem : - “(f) Timber, undressed, in sizes of 12 in. x6 in. (or its equivalent) and over -
By omitting the whole of sub-item (g) and inserting in its stead the following subitem : - “ (g) Timber, undressed, in sizes of 7 inches x inches (or its equivalent) and upwards, and less than 12 inches x6 inches (or its equivalent) -
By omitting the whole of sub-item (h) and inserting in its stead the following subitem : - “(h) Timber, undressed, in sizes less than 7 inches x 2½ inches (or its equivalent) -
Amendment (Mr. Pratten’s) to subitem (f), by leave, withdrawn.
Amendments (by Mr. Pratten) agreed to-
That the following be added to sub-item (f):- “ And on and after 16th December, 1927 -
Timber, undressed, n.e.i., in sizes of 12 inches x 6 inches (or its equivalent) and over -
Redwood, per 100 super feet - British, 3s.; intermediate, 3s.; general, 4s.
Oregon for use underground for mining purposes as prescribed by departmental by-laws - British, free; intermediate, free; general free.
Other, per 100 super feet - British, 8s.; intermediate, 8s.; general, 8s.”
That the following be added to sub-item (g):- “And on and after 16th December, 1927 -
Timber, undressed, n.e.i., in sizes of 7 inches x 2½ inches (or its equivalent), and upwards, and less than 12 inches x 6 inches (or its equivalent) -
Redwood, per 100 super feet - British, 3s.; intermediate, 4s.6d.; general, 5s. 6d.
Other, per 100 super feet - British, 9s. 6d. ; intermediate, 9s. 6d. ; general, 9s. 6d.”
That the following be added to sub-item (h):- “And on and after 16th December, 1927 -
Timber, undressed, n.e.i., in sizes less than 7 inches x 24 inches (or its equivalent) -
Redwood, per 100 super feet - British, 5s.; intermediate, 6s.; general, 7s.
Other, per 100 super feet - British, 11s.; intermediate,11s. general, 11s.”
That the following be added to sub-item (h) (second occurring) : - “By addingafter sub-item (l) the following: -
And on and after 16th December, 1927 -
Timber, dressed, n.e.i. -
1 ) Redwood, per 100 super feet - British, 6s.; intermediate, 7s. 6d.; general, 8s. 6d.
Other, per 100 super feet - British, 12s.; intermediate, 14s.; general, 15s.”
Item, as amended, agreed to.
Preliminary paragraphs to Customs Tariff agreed to.
Motion (by Mr. Pratten) proposed -
That the schedule to the Excise Tariff be amended.
Preliminary paragraphs agreed to.
Item 2 agreed to.
– I move -
That item No. 5 be omitted.
The object of this amendment is to abolish the excise duty upon starch. A duty on rice hasnow been imposed, and it would be unfair to the manufacturer that he should have to suffer the imposition of two duties.
Amendment agreed to.
Standing Orders suspended; resolutions adopted.
That Mr. Pratten and Mr. Bruce do prepare and bring in bills to carry out the foregoing resolutions.
Bill presented by Mr. Pratten, and passed through all its stages without amendment or debate.
Bill presented by Mr. Pratten, and passed through all its stages without amendment or debate.
Motion (by Mr. Pratten) - by leave - agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to provide for the validation of. collections of duties of customs under tariff proposals.
Bill presented by Mr. Pratten, and read a first time.
– by leave. - I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill validates collections of customs duties in connexion with resolutions that were placed upon the table of the House on the 11th August, 1926, 23rd March, 1927, 28th September, 1927, and also the resolutions that were agreed to to-night.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
– Last night, on the adjournment, the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) suggested that I had been guilty of what looked like a breach of faith in not doing what I said I would do in connexion with the Land Tax Assessment Bill. I point out that I have carried out exactly the promise I gave to the House on the 7th December. I then said -
If the honorable member will allow the clause to pass I will undertake to give full consideration to his proposal with the object, if the proposal meets with the approval of the Government, of introducing a clause in another place.
I stated further -
The bill is just passing through its final stages in this House, and, therefore, has not yet reached another place. I promise the honorable member that, prior to its introduction there, the Government will take every opportunity to obtain the necessary information.
Within five minutes of my making my first statement the Taxation Commissioner telegraphed to the Deputy Commissioners of Taxation throughout the Commonwealth to obtain the desired information. As soon as the Land Tax Assessment Bill appeared in committee in the Senate, Senator McLachlan who was in charge of the measure, made the statement on behalf of the Government that, on account of the administrative difficulty and loss of revenue that, it would entail, it was impossible to accept the honorable member’s proposal. The honorable member will see, therefore, that I carried out to the last detail the promise that I made to him.
– I thank the Treasurer for making his personal explanation. When the bill came down from another place last night I was not aware of what the Treasurer has now explained. That is why I was perturbed at the honorable gentleman’s statement when the bill was presented.I should not have made my remarks had I then possessed the information contained in the Treasurer’s explanation.
– (by leave)- I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-1921, it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work - Sydney General Post Office - Installation of mail handling appliances and extension thereof - which said work was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, and upon which the committee has duly reported to this House the result of its investigations.
The installation of mail handling plant at the General Post Office, Sydney, was referred to the Public Works Committee for investigation and report in August, 1926. The proposal was to instal in the General Post Office building, at present in course of being remodelled, certain mechanical aids to ensure the more expeditious and economical handling of mail matter, and to eliminate tedious repetition work now being performed by hand. The equipment proposed, which is described in detail in the committee’s report, consists mainly of lifts and bucket elevators, belt conveyors, and letter and packetsorting machines, and is estimated to cost £41,400. On the 22nd October, 1927, on motion submitted by myself, the House of Representatives referred to the Public Works Committee for investigation the question of the extension of the. mail handling appliances at the General Post Office, Sydney. I explained on that occasion that this question was previously referred to the Public Works Committee for investigation and report, but because of certain alterations to, and the enlargement of the scheme to meet present and prospective requirements involving additional expense, it was’ considered that the committee should carry out further investigations in order that the Government might be fully informed before submitting any recommendation for the approval of Parliament.
The estimated cost of the extended installation is £71,000. The committee has completed its investigations and has recommended that the larger scheme should be adopted.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) was promised by the Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Marr) that tomorrow he would give him an answer to a question that the honorable member raised concerning the occupants of houses under the control of the Commission in theFederal Capital Territory. The Federal Capital Commission has issued a circular to the effect that any one may purchase any rented house if the present occupant does not intend to purchase. As we shall not be sitting tomorrow I should like to have the honorable gentleman’s reply.
– In reply to the question raised by the honorable member for Ballarat. I consulted with the Federal Capital Commission to-night with regard to the circular referred to. That circular is quite a fair one, except with regard to one clause, which makes reference to houses occupied by public servants on a rental basis, which may be purchased by any one desiring to acquire them if the tenant does not desire to do so. Personally I do not think that there is any likelihood of such purchases occurring for some time to come. As honorable members are aware, the Government undertook to take over the Melbourne houses of public servants on the understanding that those public servants should purchase homes on arrival at Canberra. To date only ten have done so, which has created a very serious position. I consider that those public servants should carry out the terms of their contract with the Government.
– Perhaps the financial obligations may be much greater than they anticipated.
– There are a considerable number of . cottages . available in the Federal Capital Territory for letting purposes. The Commission promised me that they would go into the question more fully and give me their reply to-morrow. Unfortunately, I did not then know that the House would not be sitting to-morrow.
.- I move-
That theHouse at its rising adjourn until a date and hour to be fixed by Mr. Speaker, which time of meeting shall be notified by Mr. Speaker to each member by telegram or letter.
It is quite impossible for me to fix definitely the date of our next meeting, as it must be governed by circumstances. The present intention of the Government is that we shall meet about the second or third week of February.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
.- I move-
That the House do now adjourn.
I am sure that it is the wish of all honorable members that I should express to you, Mr. Speaker, our appreciation of the way in which you have presided over the debates of this House; and to the Chairman of Committees for the manner in which he has performed the very arduous duties that have been his during the session. I think, also, that every honorable member would like me to express our appreciation of the way in which the officers of the House have carried out their duties, and our admiration of the way in which they have met the difficulties which confronted thom on arriving in this new sphere of action. The tragic happening at the beginning of this session threw a tremendous burden upon the clerks at the table. Their courtesy, and their desire to assist honorable members have impressed every one of us. The Hansard staff, too, has had a difficult and arduous time. My admiration of the manner in which the debates of this Parliament are reported becomes the greater each session. We desire to express our thanks to the messengers also, and to the other attendants for the services they render and their uniform courtesy. In this new and large building theirs is a difficult task, and in this first session the change to our new quarters has made it more so. They have done all in their power to ensure the smooth working of the Parliament in its early days at Canberra.
To-night we have to bid farewell to a very old officer of the Parliament, who has been in the service of the Commonwealth for many years: I refer to Mr.
Wadsworth, the Librarian, who is about to retire. He will carry with him the knowledge that several generations of members will hold his memory dear, remembering with deep appreciation the assistance he always so willingly rendered to them.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear !
– We have now reached the end of the first period in which the Commonwealth Parliament has sat in its own home in the Federal Capital, and we can look back on a very fruitful series of meetings notwithstanding our disagreements and differences. Ministers appreciate the co-operation which they have received from the Opposition, so far as it is possible for an opposition to co-operate with a government. I think we all feel that in the national capital we are surrounded by a different atmosphere. The difficulties, inconveniencies, and troubles inseparable from the change from Melbourne have been met in a proper spirit by all concerned, and there has been a general endeavour to minimize them as much as is possible. As Leader of the Government I express to every honorable member of this House and those associated with the Parliament our good wishes for the Christmas season which is now almost upon us, and for the New Year, which I hope will be one of increasing prosperity to Australia and provide a greater measure of happiness for its people.
.- I join with the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce), in expressing to you, Mr. Speaker, and to the Chairman of Committees our appreciation of the manner in which you have carried out your duties during the first session in our own building in the .Federal Capital. Although we have not been sitting long we have had a strenuous time, thanks to the Prime Minister and his gallant band, who have managed to keep us here sometime* for as long as 35i hours at a stretch. It is creditable to the Parliament that during the whole session the utmost good order has prevailed, due largely to you, sir, and the Chairman of Committees. You have both carried out your responsible duties in a most satisfactory manner. The officers of the House have rendered excellent service in the positions they occupy. As men who have recently been promoted to these positions, they have shown that you, sir, exercised good judgment in appointing them. I join with the Prime Minister in expressingmy appreciation of the manner in which the debates in this Parliament are reported by the members of theHansard staff. They carry out their duty ina very satisfactory manner, and are a credit to the Parliament. I, too, wish to place on record my appreciation of the valuable service Mr. Wadsworth,who is about to retire, has rendered to the Parliament.We feel sorry that he is leaving us, but, in turn, all reach that stage when one must retire from public life. He has been an excellent officer. The other officers of the House, including the messengers and attendants, have done their work well, and have always endeavoured to render good service, and to make us comfortable. I express my satisfaction with the services of the staff inthe dining-rooms. They have done excellent work at times under trying conditions, and their services are worthy of our praise. I trust that you, sir, honorable members, and the whole of our officials will have a very happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year.
– Before I put the question I should like on my own behalf, and onbehalf of the Chairman of Committees, to thank the right honorable the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce), and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) for their kind expression of appreciation. I feel sure that the staff of this Parliament would desireme to say how they value the goodwill manifested towards them. The Chairman of Committees and myself know of the very great difficulties which the staff hadto face in this new building in getting the parliamentary machine to run smoothly under entirelynew conditions. We are deeply indebted to every member of the staff from the officers at the table to the messengers and attendants for the efficient, loyal, and willing mannerin which they have carried out their work. They have all endeavoured to do theirbest, and to make their work worthy of their surroundings.
I desire also to express my appreciation of the excellent services rendered by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Librarian (Mr. Wadsworth), who is about to retire. The Library Committee has placed upon record its appreciation of his service. The members of the committee have been closely associated with Mr. Wadsworth in his work, and we all know that he is a gentleman who has read extensively, who possesses a cultured mind, and has a large knowledge of the technique of library organization. He gave of his best to the Library, and in leaving he is carrying with him our very best wishes for happiness in his retirement.
On behalf of the staff I offer to honorable members our. best wishes. I trust that therecess will be one of recreation, enjoyment, and happiness, and that honorable members will return refreshed and prepared to carry on their important duties in a manner worthy of the National Parliament of the Commonwealth.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– The House stands adjourned until a date and hour to be fixed, and notified to each member by telegram or letter.
House adjourned at 11.40 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 15 December 1927, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1927/19271215_reps_10_117/>.