10th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. Sir John Newlands) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
The following papers were presented : -
Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government (Administration) Act Ordinances of 1928 -
No. 3 - Trespass on Commonwealth Lands.
No. 4 - Apiaries.
No. 5 - Methodist Church Property.
No.6 - Industrial Board. New Guinea Act - Ordinances of 1928 -
No. 4 - Appropriation, 1927-28.
No. 5 - Contracts.
No.6 - Mining. Northern Australia Act-
Central Australia - Ordinances of 1928-
No. 3 -Birds Protection.
No. 4 - Health.
North Australia - Ordinances of 1928 -
No. 3 - Birds Protection.
No. 4- Health.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers are -
In rolls not less than 10 inches in width. 1924-25, 95,008 tons, £1,932.535; 1925-20, 104,906 tons, £2.079,320; 1926-27, 108.595 tons, £2,089,011.
In sheets not less than 20 inches x 25 inches or its equivalent, 1924-25, 8,438 tons, £.169,423; 1925-26, 3,909 tons, £79,147; 1926-27, 14,833 tons, £287,502.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made and the honorable senator will be advised as soon as possible.
Repairs to Furniture
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -
– The answers are - 1, 2 and 3. A requisition for repairs to cushions, &c, was received by my department, but funds were not available to enable the service to be carried out. The work will, however, be put in hand at the beginning of next financial year.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Markets, upon notice -
– The answers are -
Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The honorable senator’s inquiry relates to a matter of Government policy and cannot be dealt with in reply to a question.
In committee (Consideration resumed from 15th March, vide page 3829).
Division X. - Wood, Wicker and Cane.
Item 291 (Timber).
– During the tariff debate we have heard of geographical protectionists, revenue tariffists, scientific protectionists and fiscalists of other types, but I do not think that Senator Duncan is in any of those categories. He may be regarded as a will o’ the wisp protectionist.
– I am a commonsense protectionist.
– When we were discussing the duties on socks and stockings yesterday, he was a most pronounced protectionist; but immediately we reached the item of timber he adopted a different attitude. He favoured the use of redwood, which I understand is imported from British Borneo, where Chinese coolies are engaged in the timber trade. It is remarkable to find that Senator Duncan is an ardent protectionist when some items are under consideration, but is willing to leave the Australian timber industry to the tender mercies of those who employ Chinese coolies.
– That is not what I suggested. It is a pity the honorable senator cannot understand what I said.
– The honorable senator laid particular stress on the use of substitutes for Australian timber.
– I was not condemning the use of Australian material, but was pointing out the reasons for the present depression in the timber trade.
– I understand from information I have received, that importers stress the use of substitutes in modern buildings; but statistics do not. support their arguments. In 1920-21 the per capita consumption of timber had risen from 136 to 160 super feet. The consumption of foreign timbers increased from 33 per cent. in 1920-21 to 48 per cent. in 1925-26, and the reduction in the consumption of native timber was from 66 per cent. in 1920-21 to 51 per cent. in 1925-26. When I was discussing the timber duties yesterday, I quoted the quantity of timber imported into Australia during a period of six years, the values of which are very interesting. In 1924-25 we imported timber valued at £4,448,000, and exported timber to the value of £1,630,000: In 1925-26 our importations were valued at £5,305,600, whilst our exports were valued at £1,377,000.
– Our imports were of softwoods, and our exports of hardwoods.
– Yes. Our exports decreased by £253,000, whilst our imports increased by £857,600. That position should be entirely reversed. The object of the timber duties under consideration is to place the timber industry, which is now in a languishing condition, on a proper basis. Although we propose to increase the duties on timber, we should concurrently pursue a systematic policy of afforestation and re-afforestation. So far as I understand from the information at my disposal, a majority of our conservators of forests favour high duties and a vigorous policy of re-afforestation.
– Do these authorities recommend high duties and also the protection of our forests?
– They advocate adequate protection in the form of Customs duties, and a vigorous policy of reafforestation. Large quantities of timber are imported from countries where the wages paid are much lower than those ruling in similar industries in Australia, and where the conditions of labour do not approach those which obtain in Australia. Sweden has supplied large quantities of timber to Australia, although the quantity received during recent years has diminished somewhat. In 1922-23 we received from overseas approximately 30,000,000 super feet, in 1923-24 46,000,000 super feet and in 1924-25 45,000,000 super feet. The wages paid in the timber milling industry in Sweden are £2 8s. a week - I do not know the number of hours worked by employees in that industry, but I am certain that they are not 44- whereas the basic wage fixed on 1st August, 1927, was for Sydney £4’ 9s. 6d., Melbourne £4 7s. Brisbane £3 18s. 6d., Adelaide £4 6s., Perth £4 0s. 6d.. and Hobart £4 6s. 6d. These rates do not obtain in Brisbane or Perth because the awards of State tribunals provide for higher wages. The awards for the timber industry in the several States are as follow New South Wales - Males, £4 5s.; females, £2 6s. Queensland - Males,’ £4 5s. ; females, £2 3s. South Australia - Males, £4 5s. 6d.; females, £1 19s. 6d. Western Australia - Males, £4 5s.; females, £2 5s. lid. No awards have been declared in Victoria or Tasmania, but in those states Federal rates are observed. These figures show that in Australia wages are higher, the hours of work are shorter, and the conditions of employment are better than in other countries. This is a state of affairs which we should strive to maintain, and honorable senators therefore should have no hesitation in voting for the increased duties which, it is believed, will materially assist in placing the timber industry on a more satisfactory basis.
– I intend to state my attitude towards this industry in a few brief sentences. Though I may be charged with inconsistency, I propose to support the duties as set out in this item. Since the policy of the Commonwealth is one of high, protection, I believe that all sections should share in its benefits. If nine-tenths of the people enjoy the privileges of high protection which are denied to one-tenth of the community I am not sufficiently altruistic to say to the minority that they must not attempt to share in the plunder. Those engaged i.n the timber industry have as much right as any other section of the people to enjoy the benefits of protection. After all, these proposed duties are only 50 per cent. - in some cases they are less than 50 per cent, - ad valorem. In other items we have passed duties which represent increases of 100 per cent, to 150 per cent. I may be accused also of being a geographical protectionist. I plead guilty to the charge and I suggest that all honorable senators are tarred with the same brush. Yesterday Senator Duncan was at pains to explain his attitude towards this and other items. To me the honorable senator did not appear to be logical. When he resumed his seat I was iti doubt as to whether he was a protectionist or a freetrader. The timber industry, as all honorable senators know, is an important one to Tasmania. The percentage of population engaged in secondary industries in that State is lower than in any other State in the Commonwealth, and I regret to say that the percentage there is declining, whereas in other States it is increasing. Since prosperity in the timber industry vitally affects Tasmania, I feel perfectly justified in supporting a policy the purpose of which is to extend protection to my State. I remind honorable senators also of the steady increase in our adverse trade balance. Last year it was £20,000,000. Timber imports were responsible for £3,000,000 of that amount. I submit, therefore, that protection for the timber industry will materially help Australia to correct its adverse trading position. I should like to see definite action taken in other directions. Personally I would welcome an attempt vo reduce the importations of motor cars which bulk very largely in our volume of imports. Because the timber industry vitally affects the State which I assist to represent in this Chamber,- and because the general policy of protection hitherto has imposed burdens upon it, I consider we are justified now in voting for these increased duties so that our timber mills may be galvanized into activity and the industry brought back to that state of prosperity which it enjoyed a few years ago.
.- During the second reading debate I expressed the view that the imposition of increased duties on timber would not materially alter the position of the industry in Australia. . I am still of that opinion. Nevertheless, I propose to vote for the duties imposed under this item though I. believe that before long representation will be made to the Tariff Board again to inquire into the industry and, if necessary, revise the duties. Senator Kingsmill correctly stated the position when he mentioned the effect of the Navigation Act upon freight between Australian ports. “When one considers that it costs more to ship timber from a North Queensland port to our southern markets than it does to bring timber from Baltic ports to Sydney, one realizes that the higher shipping freights ruling on the Australian coast are a serious handicap to the timber industry. Like other honorable senators I have received a considerable amount of correspondence on this subject. My informants state if these increased duties are passed there will be revival in the industry and I propose, by voting for the item, to give those engaged in the business an’ opportunity to regain some portion at all events, of their former prosperity.
– At the same time the honorable senator believes that the duties will not have that effect on the industry ?
– I doubt, if the increased duty of 4s. per 100 super, feet on Oregon will materially assist those mills engaged in cutting hardwoods, but in view of the opinion expressed by leading millers that it will, I propose to give it a trial. Messrs. James Campbell and Sons Limited, Brisbane, inform me that the timber industry was never in a worse state than it is at the present time, owing to heavy importations from New Zealand and overseas. Messrs. Hancock and Gore, another Brisbane firm, state that the existence of hardwood sawmills is dependent upon the passing of these duties. I have also received the following telegram from Mr. Headrick the secretary of the Atherton Tableland and North Queensland Timber Merchants’ Association:-
We definitely submit Oregon particularly greatly interfering with local building timbers owing low price almost annihilating sales. Present use extends almost all classes building timbers. Imperative protection be given, and yet more particularly to northern cabinet timber against Japanese oak, Pacific maple, and Noumean kauri. the importation of oregon has undoubtedly cut into the business of the better class of hardwoods produced in North Queensland. I was not aware previously, and I can hardly realize now, that importations of Oregon will injure the production of our furniture timbers such as silky oak and maple; but there is no doubt that the introduction of Japanese oak is seriously interfering with the North Queensland trade in furniture timbers. While I propose to vote for these protective duties, I think we cannot shut our eyes to the fact that increased rates on Oregon will add to building costs in Australia. Senator Needham this morning quoted some figures that were of considerable interest to honorable senators. Can the honorable senator say that if there had been an absolute embargo against the importation of softwoods since the war, we could have supplied Australian needs from local sources? I have received the following telegram from the secretary of the Eacham saw mills : -
Our sawmill closed indefinitely twentythird ultimo, throwing twenty-four men out employment caused through inability compete with imported cabinet woods. Japanese oak selling Sydney to-day 25s. 100 ft. super, less than we offered silky oak last week.
– Will this duty be sufficiently high to give the protection they want?
– I cannot see that it will have any great effect. I have received from practically every big timber centre in North Queensland telegrams calling upon me to render whatever assistance I can so that the mills, may be re-opened and employment be given to a large number of men. I shall vote for the proposed duty to see if it will have the desired effect.
– An experimental vote?
– I confess that that is what it will be. I sincerely hope that the anticipations of the sawmillers will be realized and that their mills will, regain their former flourishing condition.
– What quantity of softwood was imported from abroad during the war period?
– Building was practically at a standstill during that period ; it was not nearly so great as it has been since the termination of the war. Concrete construction, which requires the use of so much timber, was not very widely employed. Senator Needham knows that concrete is now being used throughout our building operations. I sincerely trust that the proposed duties will restore the hardwood timber industry to the condition that it occupied prior to the advent of softwood competition. If the prosperity which the sawmillers expect is realized, I shall be the first to admit that I was in error in supposing that that result would not be achieved. The Tariff Board does not adopt a sanguine view, although it has had a splendid opportunity to investigate the position.
– I cannot understand why there should be any doubt as to the effect which the proposed duties will have upon the timber ^industry. There is no reason for supposing that the protection of that industry will have an effect different from that which it has upon other industries. I am confident that in very many instances the imposition of the duties will lead to the substitution of Australian hardwoods for imported softwoods.
– The Tariff Board does not think so.
– In a matter of this kind my opinion is quite as valuable as that of any member of the Tariff Board. Only a few weeks ago I was shown in Melbourne samples of Australian building timbers which appeared to me to be suitable for practically every purpose to which imported timber can be applied. There is no doubt that Australian hardwoods have a lasting quality two or three times as great as that of the softwoods which are being imported from overseas. Even though the cost of building may be a little higher, those who have to meet it will receive full value for their outlay. The need for using Oregon in connexion with concrete buildings has been somewhat overstressed. The quantity required is not very great, because the same’ timber is used over and over again, even in the larger buildings that have been and are being erected. Only a few feet is built at a time. That is allowed to stand for perhaps 24 hours. When the concrete is properly set the timber is removed and used in the next section. The practice in connexion with our larger buildings is to erect a reinforced concrete frame and fill in the spaces with bricks. If honorable senators will consider the matter care fully, they will find that only a small quantity of timber is required for even the largest concrete buildings. I hope that Senator Thompson will not persist with his proposal, because it will aim a very serious blow at those mills which are dealing largely in furniture timbers.
– Have I not suggested a fair compromise?
– I am opposed to a compromise in this matter, because it would mean the subordination of the interests of the Australian sawmillers to those of the importers of oversea timbers.
– The interests of the general public have to be considered.
– I am considering the interests of the general public. An industry of this nature is entitled to the support of every section of the community. The sawmillers are the best judges of the needs of their business. So far only one sawmiller has expressed any doubt regarding the effect of these increased duties, and his business is chiefly in the building of homes.
– He knows that the cost of building a home will be increased.
– He knows that the cost to him will be increased. It is doubtful whether the person who has to pay for and live in the home will be substantially affected. Perth is the only city in which imported timber is not used. In the construction of its buildings Western Australian hardwoods are used, and there is no desire to introduce cheap softwoods.
– Nor is any duty requested.
– [n some respects Western Australia is a newer country than the eastern States. It has a bountiful supply of first-class timber, which has not been as largely drawn upon as the forests in the other States. Senator Kingsmill is an enthusiast with respect to afforestation. How can we expect private enterprise to engage in afforestation without the guarantee that the people of this country will take all reasonable means to ensure the payment of a profitable price for the timber tha’t is grown ? The popularity of afforestation will depend very largely upon the vote which the committee gives in relation to these proposed duties. If honorable senators decline to give to the timber industry, which is essentially a country industry, the degree of protection they are prepared to extend to our town industries, I do not believe that private enterprise will undertake the work of’ afforestation, and the whole of the burden of that work will be thrown upon the governments of the’-States.
– The Minister has read the report of the Queensland Director of Forests. What does he say?
– He is not in favour of allowing Asiatic and Pacific Island timbers to enter Australia at a reduced rate of duty. That unquestionably would be the result of the acceptance of Senator Thompson’s proposal. Building timbers might not be affected, but a very serious injury would be caused to the furniture timbers of North Queensland, because the timbers of the Pacific Islands are similar to maple, cedar, silky oak and other woods. that grow in abundance in that portion of Australia. I admit that some of those timbers are becoming scarce, and that restrictions have been imposed upon those who wish to fell them. The Queensland Government will not allow them to be felled if they cannot be absorbed in a profitable market, nor will it allow the land upon which they are grown to be cleared and settled.
– Is a royalty paid to the Queensland Government?
– Yes ; and I am sorry to say that that Government is not using for afforestation purposes the large revenues it obtains from that source. The royalty is chiefly upon pine.
– Is it heavier than that which is charged in the other States ?
– The other States do not grow the same class of timber.
– Is it not a fact that at the present time the Queensland furniture timbers are much more costly than the imported timbers, without this duty?
– It is more costly to produce them because the sawmillers are paying white men’s wages. In the Pacific Islands, Kanakas are employed, and in Asiatic countries the ser vices of coolies, who get less for a day’s work than Australian timber workers get for an hour’s work, are utilized.
– The Queensland Government charges excessive royalties, and does not use the money in the right direction.
– I do not admit that excessive royalties are charged.
– What does the Queensland Government do with the money it receives by way of royalties?
– Some of . it goes into the consolidated revenue, and a small proportion is spent in reafforestation. But one may well ask what encouragement there will be for governments to spend money in afforestation if cheap timber from other countries is allowed to enter Australia. Afforestation and protection must go hand in hand. I hope that the committee will pass the duties in their present form.
– Are the duties keeping out the foreign timber?
– According to cables that have appeared from time to time in the press, there has been a substantial diminution in the orders for
Oregon since these duties became effective. I understand that it is now practically impossible to get orders for a full shipload of Oregon. The uncertainty which so far has existed as to the duties which will finally be approved by Parliament has not enabled the full effect of the duties to be felt.
– Unlike other honorable senators, I have not been deluged with correspondence and telegrams, nor have I been approached by the sawmillers, in relation to the duties on timber. Anything that I shall say to-day is the outcome of my personal observations. I cannot understand the objection to these duties on the ground that they will place a heavy burden on the people. My experience has shown conclusively that in the long run a hardwood dwelling is much cheaper than one constructed of Oregon or Baltic timber. A few weeks ago I saw in Tasmania a dwelling constructed entirely of Australian hardwood, which although 42 years old, was still sound. The owner assured me that the cost of upkeep during that period was infinitesimal compared with the cost of buildings constructed of Baltic timber.
– It is unreasonable to suggest that the timber is as sound to-day as it was when used for the erection of the dwelling 42 years ago.
– The timber is quite sound to-day. The suggestion that Australian timbers can never take the place of Oregon is ridiculous. If I had the time I could quote the opinions of some of the most eminent architects in Australia that such’ a statement is unwarranted. Complaint has been made regarding the weight of hardwood structures; but there is no necessity to use timber of the same dimensions when hardwood is substituted for Oregon. Senator Duncan said that Australian timber could never replace Oregon.
– For certain purposes.
– It has been urged that for casing for concrete construction
Oregon timber is essential ; but anyone who has witnessed the construction of concrete buildings knows that even in the largest buildings only a comparatively small quantity of timber is used, because the moulds are used over and over again.
– Can Australian hardwood take the place of Oregon for that class of work?
– Yes; I have used it.
– Even if Australian hardwood could not be used for that purpose, the quantity of Oregon which would be required would be small. I desire to quote the opinion expressed by Mr: K. Henderson, of the well known firm of architects, Anketell and Henderson, of Collins-street, Melbourne -
Australian hardwood floor boards - I have never had a failure, and have literally used miles of it. Weatherboards a,re beautiful when stained and oiled, and I have never had any trouble with what I have used. Linings - ditto.
I could continue all day with quotations showing the suitability of Australian timber for the making of furniture. In my own home I have a quantity of furniture made of Tasmanian hardwood, which has shown no sign of warping or shrinking.
– Honorable senators have only to look around this chamber to see the suitability of Australian timbers for furniture.
– Baltic timber cannot compare with Australian hardwood for flooring. The former will not stand staining, or if it is stained it soon shows signs of wear, and must either be covered or replaced. On the . other hand, Tasmanian hardwood or myrtle makes a beautiful and lasting floor. As the result of the flooding of the Australian market with imported timbers, one of our most important industries has practically been destroyed. Nature has provided us with a wonderful asset in our forests; but because of the huge importations of timber during the last ten years, much of our valuable native timber has gone to waste. When, a tree has attained a certain age it should be felled and the timber used. If that is not done it commences to deteriorate. It is a crime to allow magnificent trees to remain standing after they have attained a certain age.
– Some trees remain sound for 600 years; so what need is there for hurry?
– It is true that King Billy pine will last for 600 years; but that is not the case with most trees.
– One of the chief difficulties is to prevent sawmillers from utilizing the timber before it is fit to use.
– I agree that our timber industry should be controlled. I believe it will be, for the conscience of the Australian people as to the value of our timbers is being awakened. Our forests will have to be scientifically utilized, and the timber cut at the proper stage of growth. Since the introduction of this Tariff Schedule a number of sawmills which had closed down, have been reopened. I know also that numbers of men in business on tha mainland hav& recently visited Tasmania to inquire as to future supplies of timber from that State. If sufficiently protected the timber industry will revive. Mr. G. W. Hudson, the managing director of George Hudson Limited, whose establishment .is in Senator Duncan.’s State, is in favour of increased duties on timber. He contends that the duties will overcome most of the grievances of the sawmillers, and give employment to a number of Australians in the milling of flooring, lining and weatherboards, to replace timber now imported from abroad.
– Does he give any undertaking that he will not increase the price ?
– According to officials of the State Savings Bank, Victoria, the additional cost of a timber dwelling, by reason of these increased duties, will be about £8. On the basis of Ti per cent, interest per annum, that represents an additional 12s. a year. But the savings in upkeep which will be effected will more than compensate for that additional capital cost.
– The owner of a building compelled to pay that additional cost could save an equivalent amount by wearing imported socks!
– The right honorable gentleman’s interjection suggests that I am inconsistent in my attitude towards this Schedule. I challenge any one to show that this Parliament has not given to ‘ our secondary industries - although they are not nearly so important as are our primary industry - a greater measure of protection than is now sought for the timber industry.’ Unless we take a stand to-day the position of our timber industry will get worse year by year. Unless we stop the rot that set in a few years ago, when, because of the operation of certain of our laws, the timber industry was practically wiped out, the people of Australia will incur heavier and heavier losses. I agree with Senator Kingsmill that one of the problems we have to face in connexion with our timber trade is the high coastal freights. In the meantime we have an opportunity to bring about a revival in the trade and perhaps, later on, Parliament may see its way to amend the laws which now prevent us from getting cheap freights. I hope that the Senate will approve of the protection now proposed to be afforded to the important timber industry of Australia.
– I have very little to add to my remarks on the second, reading debate in support of the duties on timber; but a great deal that has been said in the present discussion is a little bewildering.
Like other honorable senators I hav.; received all sorts of correspondence of various kinds relating to the timber industry. Most elaborately worked up cases have been presented to rae, but I confess candidly I have not read any of them, because any set of facts in connexion with the timber industry can be worked up into a perfectly good and, in many respects, unanswerable case. The reason of it is that the timber industry is unlike almost any other industry covered by the tariff. For example in the case of textile duties we have in Australia all the raw material for the manufacture of textiles and we can make every ounce of any material or garment we require. But the circumstances in regard to timber an; entirely different. We have not within our borders all the material we require and whether we like it or not, are obliged to’ import a certain quantity of softwood. On the other hand we have a vast quantity of timber which we can and undoubtedly should use and we have a timber industry which we should exploit in exactly the same way as a good protectionist would stand behind any other Australian industry. Difficulty arises from the fact that certain classes of timber which we must import are used in substitution of Australian timbers for which the latter are equally suitable. Australian hardwood may not be as easily worked as imported softwood, but when we put its longevity against the relatively short life of imported, softwoods I think it .will be generally conceded that in the long run its cost will stand favorable comparison with that of “imported timber. The person who is capable of judging one building against another will find very little of our . Australian timber in a jerry built house. It is much easier to work imported material into the jerry built house than it is to put Australian timber into it.
– But the cheap house would cost a lot more if Australian timber were used.
– 1 am not suggesting that it would not. Yesterday Senator Chapman with an enthusiasm which certainly did him credit, attacked an Australian industry with a vehemence which is remarkable. Why he of all men should do so I do not know.
– I object to too heavy a duty.
– In considering the timber duties, we must abandon those theses which can be put up by either side in an almost unanswerable way and get down to the first principles upon which a protectionist tariff is supposed to be built. Looking at the matter from that stand-point what do we find? For a number of years importations of softwoods timber have been constantly increasing while side by side there lias been a gradual diminution of our own Australian saw-milling industry. “We have seen mill after mill in the country going out of action and the workers drifting to the city saw-mills, where they are engaged in many instances in sawing imported timber. That is not a desirable state of affairs, and we have now an opportunity to remedy it. When we see the definite closing up of an Australian industry and money steadily going out of the country for the purchase of material which we can procure within our own borders and from our own natural resources, it is clearly our duty to stop the drift. I do not know whether these duties will achieve that object or not. All I can say is that the evidence tends to show that their imposition will help to restore the Australian timber industry to something of the prosperity it enjoyed during the war. In how many suburban buildings in Australia to-day do we find Australian hardwood joists being used? The joists used are mostly softwood. Yet no one can say that the Australian timber does not make a good flooring job.
– If the honorable senator had to use Australian hardwood for flooring joists he would know the difference between it and softwood.
– Having laid a good many thousand feet of flooring and put the necessary joists into position, I know the difference between using hardwood or softwood for joists, also the difficulty in getting an even floor with hardwood. But no one will say that an Australian hardwood joist when put into position will not stand up to its work as well as an Oregon joist, or that it will not last a good deal longer than the imported timber. I admit that there is room for argument in connexion with this matter, but from a protectionist standpoint the balance is clearly in favour of our adopting the schedule of duties which the Government proposes. Senator Chapman and his colleagues have a unique opportunity to do a definite service to an Australian country industry ; and why Senator Chapman, of all men, should single out gone of our native Australian primary industries for attack is beyond my comprehension.
– I object to the duties being made too high.
– A great deal that has been said in this discussion has, like the flowers that bloom in the spring, nothing to do with the case. I take my stand upon the ground that imported foreign timber is displacing Australian timber in classes of work for which the latter is eminently suited, and that the money which is going out of the country for the purchase of this material should remain within our own borders.
– I do not know what correspondence has been received by other honorable senators, but I have with me now about 100 sheets of it, and I congratulate my good friend, Mr. Moore, on the good work he has evidently done in this connexion. But the issue seems to have been clouded. It is not a question of whether we are to have a low duty or a high duty; it is a question of whether we are to have a reduced duty. The Tariff Board, which was appointed to take evidence and report upon the evidence given, is opposed to the high duties on timber set out in the schedule, and we know that the Government after considering the report of the Tariff Board showed that it was also opposed to them, because the duties it first proposed were considerably lower than those we have now before us. No one is more anxious than I am to preserve a local industry, but after reading the various documents submitted to me I am convinced that the timber industry could be carried on profitably with considerably lower duties that are now proposed. I shall therefore support the request that is to be submitted by '’Senator Thompson. It is a compromise which the Govern* ment should accept. I have been informed by contractors that it is impracticable to entirely dispense with the use of Oregon. When coming to Parliament House this morning I noticed that Oregon timber was being used for the boxing of borders of concrete footpaths which are being laid down in front of the Hotel Kurrajong; apparently the Federal Capital Commission consider it essential’ to use Oregon even for that class of work. It has been said during the debate that trade has been stimulated since the higher timber duties have been in operation; but according to the returns submitted by the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works for the months of December, 1927, and January, 1928, there has been a reduction of 30 per cent, in the number of building plans submitted, to the board for its approval. In December, 19.26, 469 applications were received by the board, and in December, 1927, the number fell to 370. In January, 1927, 683 were received, and in January, 192S, only 441. This, decrease is undoubtedly due to the increased cost of .imported softwoods, which has been brought about by the imposition of higher duties. If these duties remain in operation higher rents will undoubtedly have to be paid.
– Who expresses that opinion?
– That is the opinion of the Timber Merchants’ Association of Melbourne and suburbs, and of the Timber Merchants’ Association of South Australia.
– It does not follow that we should believe all the silly statements which some persons make.
– The members of that association may think that some of the titter ances in this chamber are of the same nature.
– Every one knows that the decrease in building operations is due to the stringency of the money market.
– If the security is good ample money is available.
– It is not.
– The ‘ Tariff Board, after studying the evidence and journeying through_the forests, reported on the 28th November, 1927, as follows : -
The Tariff Board has carefully reviewed the circumstances surrounding the industry as a whole, and in the light of the evidence tendered and opinions gained from an extensive tour through the forests and around the sawmilling districts, and taking into consideration the position as disclosed by the latest official statistics of importations, has arrived at the conclusion that the granting of inincreased duties to the extent asked for is not justified by circumstances. There is no call for a serious or general departure from the conclusions and recommendations embodied in the board’s original report of the 2nd September, 1925.
– The board thought that the protection recommended at the time was sufficient.
– Yes; and the Government also thought so.
– Does the honorable senator agree with all the recommendations of the Tariff Board?
– The board was appointed to collect evidence and make recommendations, and if we do not accept its recommendations, it should be abolished.
– The honorable senator voted against the recommendation of the Tariff Board when socks and stockings were under consideration.
– I am entitled to my own opinion. Last week I decided to erect an extensive ceiling in my business premises, and in connexion with that work I interviewed two or three contractors. They informed me in the first place that it would be necessary to use Oregon principals. I asked why Australian timber could not be used, and was told that it would shrink to such an extent that the ceiling would be twisted and torn. As they were experienced men in the trade I accepted their advice. If we continue raising the duties on timber the cost of living must increase. The Government recently passed an act in which provision was made for the expenditure of £20,000,000 on a housing scheme, and if the cost of each house is increased by only £25, the expenditure of a large additional sum will be involved. Working men in particular will have to pay more for their homes.
– But they will receive better value.
– That is a debatable point. I was a witness in a recent Supreme Court case the other day, where one of the parties declined to- pay for a house because he alleged faulty timber had been used in its construction. Th” court, after hearing the evidence, was satisfied that faulty timber had been used, and decided that reasonable compensation should be paid. I am not condemning the use of Australian timbers for certain purposes, because we can produce timber of good quality. The timber industry can be satisfactorily conducted with moderate protection, and if reasonable duties are imposed home builders will save a considerable sum. I sympathize with the difficulties experienced by Tasmania owing to its geographical position. If Tasmanian millers wish to dispose of their products on terms of equality with timber producers in the mainland States, the Tasmanian Government should assist them.
– “We should repeal the coastal provision of the Navigation Act and impose lower customs duties in certain cases.
– I am in favour of lower duties. The Conservator of Forests in Tasmania in referring to the timber industry in that State said -
As a forester I would like to refer more particularly to the question of the difficulties of getting into our hardwood forests. They are genuine difficulties. The Tasmanian bush has almost invariably to be worked by tram lines and log haulers - expensive methods of getting the timber out. Undoubtedly, all the land is patchy; that is to say, you have got to cover country with your tram in which you are noi taking out any timber at all, to get into the beds of timber. When you have cut out the bed you go on again through poor country before you cut another good timber bed. and all that adds very much to the cost of production, and the whole question of getting the logs out of the bush.
I believe it would be an advantage if the timber producers of Australia were to conduct their operations on a co-operative basis, as is done in other industries. It would do away with interstate competition and allow them to sell at profitable rates. Last Monday ‘ a gentleman from Queensland, who delivered an address on our timber resources, stated that there would be a great demand for Australian timber, particularly in Queensland, for the manufacture of paper pulp.
– For immature timber which is grown for that purpose.
– Yes. In certain parts of Queensland, where the rainfall is good, the timber is sufficiently matured in four years for making paper pulp.
– That will mean the denuding of forests.
– We shall have to adopt the policy in operation in Scandinavia, where the saw-millers are compelled to establish nurseries and plant a tree for every one destroyed. Unless we adopt such a policy our forests will be denuded, particularly if the manufacture of paper pulp is ^’undertaken on an extensive scale.
The CHAIRMAN (Senator Plain”).The honorable senator has exhausted his time.
– During the debate on the tariff reference has been made to different types of protectionists, but I do not know in which class Senator Thompson could be placed. It is difficult to understand his fiscal views. South Australia m’ay be regarded as the Cinderella State of the Commonwealth in the matter of timber supplies; but I am not so concerned about the effect that duties will have on a particular State as I am about their effect on the whole Commonwealth. I intend to support the duties proposed in this item, as I think they will be of advantage to the people as a whole
– Higher timber duties will increase the cost of workmen’s homes.
– The honorable senator follows a peculiar line of reasoning. He is prepared to give increased protection to the glucose industry because maize is largely grown in his own State ; but he gives no thought to the added cost of confectionery due to the higher duties imposed on glucose. He takes’ a different stand with regard to the request for increased protection for the timber industry. Senator Kingsmill also is inconsistent. He poses as a staunch advocate of re-afforestation, upon which he advocates the expenditure of many millions of pounds; yet yesterday he protested against increased duties being imposed on timber imported from Borneo, where, I remind him, only coolie labour is employed.
– That also may be said of timber grown in the Philippines.
-That is so. Senator Kingsmill professes to be a supporter of the White Australia policy. If he is sincere in that belief, why is he not prepared to give protection to this Australian industry against timber grown in cheap coloured labour countries?
– Honorable senators on this side are suggesting a fair thing in the way of protection, which is more than the honorable senator is doing.
– These are duties which Senator Thompson might very well support. Senator Kingsmill said not long ago that if we shut out supplies of timber from other countries there will be a danger of timber supplies in Australia becoming exhausted.
– I did not say that, but I propose to do so.
– T have no doubt that Senator Kingsmill will change his views on. this subject when it suits him to do so. .Mr. L. G. Irby, the Conservator of Forests in Tasmania, in his evidence before the Tariff Board in 1925. said -
Of the balance of timber land in Tasmania, 700,000 acres should be a conservative estimate. As the bulk of this is unexplored, let us consider 10.000 feet to the acre as the yield. This gives 7,000,000,000 super, feet in the round, which with a’ 50 per cent, reduction, conversion works out at 3,500.000.000 feet of timber. Therefore, on these figures, the total yield of sawn timber on leased and unleased areas would bo 5,500,000,000 super, feet. … It will be seen that on a very conservative estimate the present rate of timber cut in Tasmania (hardwoods! can be largely increased without risk of a future timber famine. In fact, it is safe to assume that the present cut could be doubled.
The Queensland forestry report for 1926 dealing with the hardwood resources of that State contains the following statement -
There are large untapped resources of semihardwoods and fancy woods -in Queensland of which greater use should be made, sufficient indeed to serve any particular objects catered for by imports from Czecho-Slovakia. Japan and other countries. There are 00,000.000 idle feet of red satinay on Fraser Island, and 00,000,000 idle feet of grey and red satin ash on the Bungella Range near Mackay. There are untold millions of feet of tulip oak in the forests of the west coast line.
Mr. Lane Poole, when he was Conservator of Forests in “Western Australia, made the following statement concerning the position in that State: -
Between 500,000 and 750,000 tons of utilizable wood are being burned by sawmillers every year, and this destruction is mainly due to the quantity of small sizes not required. If there were a proper duty, these sizes would be of commercial value. I should wel- come a revision of the tariff, and would like to see so heavy a duty placed on imported woods so as to force the community throughout Australia to use its own wood.
– Why not quote more recent opinions?
– These are recent opinions. Sincere protectionists should offer no objection to these increased duties. Let us be honest in the expression of our convictions, whether we be protectionists or freetraders. Our purpose should be to impose such duties as will ensure the establishment of industries in Australia on a sound footing.
– We must consider the effect-on all sections of the people.
– Did the honorable senator take that view the other day, when we passed an item imposing a duty on butter from Great Britain.
– But the timber industry already is protected to the extent of far more than 25 per cent.
Senato’r HOARE. - If existing tariffs are not high enough to protect the local industries, we should be prepared to vote for higher duties. South Australia, in 1897, established a ‘ pine plantation for commercial purposes. At the end of last year upwards of 28,000 acres had been planted out in softwoods. In his evidence before the Tariff Board a representative of the South Australian Government stated -
It is urged that the tariff protection of locally-grown pine timber should be continued. At present over 0,000,000 super, feet of beautiful pine timber is waiting to be cut. but the Government is unable to dispose of same owing to the keen competition of imported timber.
The late Mr. Walter Gill, F.L.S.. who was Conservator of Forests in South Australia, in his evidence before the Interstate Conference on Forestry, said that South Australian locally-grown pine had proved very satisfactory for the construction of the framework of houses, stables and sheds, and also as weatherboards, floorings and linings, and, when varnished, had a most effective polish. The federal executive of the Australian Timber Workers’ Union, in supporting the increased duties, urged all its members to vote for .the further protection of the timber industry, so that it could be stabilized in the interests of from 20.000 to 30,000 employees. What will happen to. our reafforestation schemes if we allow the importation of timber from cheap labour countries?
– Can the honorable senator say how long it takes to make an afforestation scheme effective?
– I understand that pine trees become marketable in about 25 years.
– The Conservator of Forests in Queensland recommends the importation of large quantities of foreign timber in order to conserve the growing forests in that State for 30 years.
– South Australian forests date from 1879. Already a considerable acreage of the Wirrabarra forest has been cut, and the timber utilized for the making of export fruit boxes.
Sitting suspended from 12.46 to 2.15.
– As this very interesting and extremely, varied debate proceeds, new issues are introduced’ and further points are raised which are susceptible of a different meaning from that which is stressed by their sponsors. I shall deal first of all with the views of forestry experts; secondly, with the Tariff Board aspect; and thirdly, if I have not exhausted my fifteen fleeting minutes, with one or two other features. Those who are supporting this proposed increase of the timber duties have quoted in support of their case views that have been expressed by men who hold prominent positions in regard to forestry in the Commonwealth, but more especially by Mr. Lane-Poole, whom I regard as the foremost forester in Australia. He has had in forestry more comprehensive technical training and practical experience than any other person whom I can call to mind. -I wish to lay stress also upon Mr. Norman Jolly’s views. Probably the most important document on forestry to which Mr. Lane-Poole has appended his signature is the report which he furnished to the Parliament of the Commonwealth on the 30th February, 1925, after he had become thoroughly acquainted with the forests of Australia, Papua and New Guinea. In it he made the following observations.
It will be asked how is it that with a population of a little under 6,000,000, the country is unable to provide its own timber requirements from an area of 24,500,000 acres which should obviously be yielding over 1.2,000,000,000 super, feet per annum. Why are we importing 304,500,000 super, feet? I have already partially answered these questions, and have stated that on the one hand our hardwood forests are not adequate and our demand is for softwoods, which we must import. The inadequacy of our hazelwood forests is duo to the gross overcutting which has taken place in the past, and to the very paltry efforts tha states have made to restore their forests and so manage them as to get a maximum yield per acre.
I stress the sentence “ our hardwood forests are not adequate and our demand is for softwoods, which we must import.” As I view the position, those who are supporting the higher duties demand that we shall displace imported softwoods with our hardwoods to a far greater extent than has been the case in the past. That would immediately lead to a material increase in the quantity of hardwood cut. Yet Mr. Lane-Poole has told us that gross overcutting has taken place in the past, and that only paltry endeavours have been made at replacement. How would it be possible in less than 25 or 30 years, to grow a sufficient quantity of softwood or hardwood to take the place of the imports which this tariff seeks to prohibit? Obviously it would be impossible. Softwoods can be produced in Australia ; but we should not waste our time with pinus -insignis, which is a second or a third grade timber.
– What species does the honorable senator favour?
– Pinus ponderosa.
– It does not do so well as the other varieties.
– It will grow just as well, though not so rapidly. If the honorable senator will stroll over to Westridge, near the .’forestry school, and also visit the nursery at Yarralumla, he will see some very wellgrown specimens which have an exceedingly healthy appearance. When the action that I have suggested has been taken it will be time enough to increase building costs by placing higher duties on imported timber. Such a policy at the present time would be uneconomical, unstatesmanlike, and in the highest degree foolish, The opinion of Mr. LanePoole that I. have read to honorable senators is from the actual report, not from any collated synopsis, such as that with which I understand honorable senators have been furnished. While they may be absolutely accurate in their text, they are robbed of a great deal of their value by the absence of the context. The opinion of Mr. Jolly, Chief Commissioner of Forests in New South Wales, is regarded very highly by every one who is acquainted with his scientific and practical attainments. In his report for 1925 he said-* -
The right policy for the State would be to fix the amount of timber it would sell from its own forests in any one year, and to utilize by the medium of importations the timbers of other countries for the purpose of supplying the balance of requirements.
– Who would be responsible for estimating the quantity that should be taken from the local forests ?
– Naturally that estimate would be. made by skilled officers in the department of each State, and be based on the experience of past years.
– The matter would then be under State control.
– Not to any greater extent than the forests are now. All State forests should undoubtedly be under State control. I know that my friends, from Tasmania are not used to this sort of thing, because Tasmanian forestry has been shockingly neglected for many years.
– Because the honorable senator says so, that does not prove it is so.
– I am not alone in holding that opinion. If my honorable friend will look up a little book entitled, A Discussion of Australian Forests, written by Sir David Hutchens, who was knighted for his services to forestry- and who has an acquaintance with the forests of the world,, he will learn that gentleman’s* opinion of Australian forestry. Although his opinion of the other States: was fairly bad, with respect to Tasmania it- was almost unfit for publication.
– In what State has perfection been reached?
– Not in any; but New South Wales and Western Australia have approached most closely to it. For nine or ten years Western Australia had the advantage of the services of the gentleman whose opinion I first quoted; and in recent years forestry has been far better controlled in New South Wales than in the other States. The fearful effect of a lack of proper control has been illustrated by the devastating forest fires that have occurred time and again in’ Victoria. They could have been avoided if reasonable principles of forest fire prevention had been adopted. The Queensland forest authority, Mr. Swain, has the following to say: -
To supply the accumulating deficit in the local softwood supplies, Queensland has no possible alternative but to enlarge its importations. Between 1920 and 1952 we will have to buy from foreign countries over £30,000,000 worth of coniferous wood.
If the proposed additional duties are imposed, the burden will be further increased by the higher price that will have to be paid for imported softwoods. It is recognized that until our afforestation reaches the stage when we can legitimately compete with importations, those importations will have to continue. The Government must be aware of the circumstances that are operating. Why, then, does it propose to make more difficult and more expensive the task of those who are developing the country by building houses and putting up other works? It has undertaken to finance an immense building scheme.
– That, is a joke.
– I am glad that the honorable senator’s sense of humour is so well developed. Unfortunately, when a joke touches us so closely we have to regard it seriously. The £20,00.0,000 which the- Government proposed to. make available for housing will not go nearly’ so far if these additional duties are imposed. Is the Government willing to make harder the lot of its clients, and reduce the value of the security they are likely to offer ? Before -dealing briefly with the recommendations of the Tariff’ Board, I should like to point out that, in this chamber,, at all ©vents, no1 adequate’ reason has. been given for declining to accept its advice. The Minister ( Senator Crawford) said he did not accept the advice of the board because he knew more than its members, and his opportunity for obtaining information was as great as theirs.
– The point with which I was dealing was the lasting quality of the timber.
– Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– Senator Hoare has accused some honorable senators of inconsistency. I desire to point out the inconsistency of the party to which the honorable senator himself belongs. Senator Hoare favours increased duties on timber, which will have the effect of increasing the cost of houses throughout Australia, including South Australia. But what is the attitude of the Labour party in South Australia in regard to this matter? Some time ago the leader of that party in the State Parliament asked the Premier of South Australia whether he would make representations to the Prime Minister in connexion with the iniquitous timber duties, which were raising the cost of houses to the people of South Australia. We, therefore, have the Leader of the Labour party in the State Parliament opposing further duties on timber, whereas in the Federal sphere the representatives of the same party, not satisfied with the increased duties proposed by the Government, voted for still higher duties. A political party cannot speak with two voices for other than purposes of political propaganda. I am also at a loss to understand the attitude of Senator Foll towards this item. The honorable senator confesses that he does not believe that the increased duties will have the desired effect; yet, because he has received a number of telegrams urging him to support them, he proposes to do so.
– I said that I should vote for the higher duties in order to give the saw-millers an opportunity to prove whether their mills could be kept going.-
– The honorable senator said that .he did not think the increased duties would have the effect claimed for them.
– Nor do I think that they will.
– Honorable senators may not be aware that about a fortnight ago the interests concerned in Victoria, Queensland and New South Wales issued a circular to the country saw-millers urging them to communicate with their representatives in this Senate’ pointing out that unless the higher duties were agreed to the mills would have to close. A),
– Unless the honorable senator has definite information that that circular was issued, he should not make the statement.
– Honorable senators should know the real source of the communications they have received. I remind honorable senators who may fear that they will lose support in their electorates if they do not vote for the increased duties on timber, that housebuilders, farmers and home-seekers are watching their actions. It is true that, since 1920-21 the importations of timber have increased considerably; but that was not a normal year, because, owing to conditions immediately due to the war, the importations of timber during that year were considerably lower than they were in pre-war years. The Tariff Board would not accept the importations for 1920-21 as a proper basis for comparison. A more correct idea as to the importations of timber will be gained from the following table : -
It will be seen that the average importations during 1912 and 1913 were about the same as they were between 1923 and 1927. During 1926-27 the importations of timber dropped considerably below the quantity imported during the previous year. To meet the slightly increased importations, the Tariff Board recommended a small increase in the duties. If we consider this question from the per capita stand-point, we find that the importations have decreased considerably since 1912, the figures in 1912 being 93.33 per cent., dropping to 67.16 per cent. in 1924- 25, increasing to 82.68 per cent, in 1925- 26, and falling to 75.50 per cent, in 1926- 27.
SenatorGreene. - My figures show the reverse.
– I have given the Tariff Board’s figures. During the same years the native timber produced was as follows: -
From that table it will be seen that the production of native timber has not varied to any extent. I have already shown that importations have been practically stationary, comparing the normal years 1912-13 with 1924-27. With a considerably larger population there should have been a bigger demand, and the only explanation of the fact that there has not been a greater increase in the use of timber is that housebuilders, instead of using timber, have used substitutes. Honorable senators who claim that further duties on timber will force builders to use Australian hardwoods, should realize that their action will tend to a still further use of substitutes. Already the people of Australia pay over £1,000,000 annually as duties on timber. It is unreasonable to expect them to pay the further £700,000 per annum which these duties would impose. In its report the Tariff Board says -
Witnesses in favour of the request for additional duties admitted, however, that hardwood could not be used as a substitute for Oregon for many purposes, and that no matter what duty was imposed Oregon would still be imported. There are many purposes for which hardwood is not suitable and for which oregon is essential, amongst which might be mentioned -
Falsework for bridges;
Facing boards for concrete work;
Operations where very long lengths are necessary.
Considerable evidence was tendered as to the respective selling prices of hardwood scantlings and those of competitive oregon.
From the figures submitted it would appear that in some cases, even with the additional duty asked for, the hardwood would be at a disadvantage in the matter of. price as compared with oregon. As in the case of other timber it is obviously not practicable to provide a duty that would meet what are regarded as the needs of the various local saw-millers concerned, operating as they do under different circumstances and conditions.
Towards the end of its report the Tariff Board has a good deal to say regarding the inefficiency of many of the timber mills. It points out that there are many ways in which the industry by its own efforts can improve its conditions. I have never seen a more scathing comment on any industry than is contained in the Tariff Board’s report on timber. We are not justified in imposing high duties to encourage inefficiency. Instead of asking for assistance in the nature of increased duties, thus placing a further burden on the people of Australia, the timber industry should organize to help itself.
SenatorREID (Queensland) [2.45]. - All sorts of statements have been indulged in during this discussion, but Senator Chapman has just made a charge which I do not think should be made in this chamber. He asserts that a letter has been sent out to all the country saw-millers advising them to deluge the Senate with telegrams saying that they will have to close unless we pass these duties on timber. No responsible man should make a statement of that kind without absolute proof of its correctness. Like other honorable senators, I have been deluged with telegrams. On the second reading I quoted from the report of the Tariff Board and the Queensland Forestry Department, and I said that unless evidence was brought forward to convince me that I was wrong I should not vote for the increased duties on timber.
– Subsequently the honorable senator received his telegrams.
– That is so. I do not know whether my remarks were reported in the Queensland press, or whether the information was forwarded to Queensland from Canberra, but these telegrams have come to hand since I made my speech on the second reading. I have known many of the owners of these saw-mills for 40 years past; I have known the fathers and the families of the present, owners of many of the mills. I know the Campbell family exceedingly well. There are no more honorable men in business in any part of Australia. I am sure they would not lend themselves to such a trick as Senator Chapman has charged against them. Surely practical men engaged in the timber industry are entitled to tell us of the difficult times through which they are passing, and to say they are firmly convinced that if this tariff is passed they will have a better opportunity of keeping their mills going. It has already been shown that saw-mills are receiving orders that they were not getting prior to the step taken in another place to increase the timber duties. Evidence has been brought under my notice to convince me, as a protectionist, that there is need to give further protection to the Australian timber industry. “We. all have our own opinions, but they are not as valuable as those of men engaged in the industry. “We have been assured on many occasions that industries would succeed if given protection, and in many cases they have succeeded as a result of the protection afforded to them. We all know that the position of the saw-milling trade in Australia is precarious, not only because of the insufficiency of the protection afforded, but also because of the bad condition of the building trade in all cities. There is a slump in suburban dwellings, mostly those made of cheap timbers.
– It is very difficult to sell a house in any of the capital cities now.
– That is so. It has been said that if this item is agreed to, it will add to the cost of workmen’s dwellings. . In Queensland half the houses are built of softwood with hardwood frames. In my opinion the increased duties will not add more than £12 to the cost of a five-roomed wooden cottage.
– Including labour ?
– Yes. Any one who has handled hardwood know that it takes a great deal longer to work than it takes to work softwood. Although nails can easily be driven into hardwood when it is wet, if it is dry, no one can drive a nail into it without first boring a hole. That operation entails extra time, which adds to the cost of labour. But against that we have the further fact that it is unnecessary to paint a hardwood house. If the sap is out of hardwood it lasts just as well without paint as with it.
– Then why is it that all wooden houses, with the exception of about 5 per cent., arc painted ?
– Hardwood houses are painted merely for the sake of appearance. The cheapest method of treating a hardwood house is to put a coat of oil on it ; it costs only a few pounds. Paint does not adhere too well to hardwood ; in stormy weather it comes off hardwood much more quickly than it does off softwood. On the other hand, it costs £25 or more to paint a small softwood house, and to maintain a respectable appearance a dwelling built of softwood must be painted every four or five years. The Queensland Workers’ Dwelling Act requires a house to be painted every five years. If we set against the extra labour involved in handling hardwood, the cost of painting a softwood house every five years, we must see that it pays to put up a hardwood cottage which does not require the same amount of painting. One of the most serious things affecting the Australian timber industry is the importation of Borneo timbers. Although it cannot be definitely proved that the borer has been introduced into Australia by the importation of timber from Borneo, we have ample evidence that it is the greatest medium we could have for bringing this pest into Australia. Very little good wood comes here from Borneo that does not contain borers. In the circumstances I would vote to prohibit the importation of Borneo timber. I can show honorable senators splendid cabinet work in this building where borers are at work. The white ants we have in Queensland are bad enough, but one can trace them at their work and exterminate them. That cannot be done in the case of borers. They do their work in a most subtle way, and one never knows when one is liable to fall through a floor where they have been at work. The importers of Borneo timber are a menace to Aus: tralia. They may be ignorant of what they are doing, but if they make inquiries they can easily ascertain the immense damage they are likely to do to Australian timber. According to Senator Kingsmill all the difficulties of the timber industry would be removed by the repeal of certain provisions of the Navigation Act. But if we start to interfere with those who are engaged in the shipping industry we shall interfere with all the trades of Australia. The provisions of the Navigation Act affect Queensland as much as they do any other State, but to interfere with them would mean a subsequent attempt to interfere with the Arbitration Act and with every industry in the Commonwealth.
– Honorable senators should not be afraid to tackle the Navigation Act.
– I am’ not lacking in courage ; the honorable senator has not all the courage in the Senate. He knows that I am right when I warn the Senate of the dangers of interfering with the Navigation Act. It would be one of the biggest tasks undertaken in Australia.
– It may be a dangerous, but at the same time a most desirable task to undertake.
– I am not disputing that, but one cannot be consistent in matters of this sort any more than one can be consistent in deciding tariff matters. A protectionist may have his. own private opinions, just as I have about the timber industry, because I have a knowledge of the building trade ; but he cannot uphold them against those of practical men engaged in. industry. Senator Thompson has suggested a shandygaff timber tariff; but I cannot submit his proposal.
The CHAIRMAN (Senator Plain).The honorable senator’s time has expired.
.- I should not have taken part in the discussion to-day but for a statement made by Senator Kingsmill to which Senator Reid has just referred. It is true that Senator ‘ Kingsmill and others from Western Australia who support his opinions, as well as certain honorable senators representing Tasmania, have often said that the timber industry of Australia is severely handicapped by the coastal provisions of the Navigation Act.
– There is no doubt about that.
– That is mere assumption, and I challenge any honorable senator to prove it.
– I have already done so.
– No honorable senator can say that those who have been affected by what they term high freights have made any attempt to charter a vessel to carry timber. ‘
– I can give the honorable senator one or two instances.
– Let me proceed with my answer to those who favour the repeal of the coastal provisions of the Navigation Act. In 1919, before those provisions were in force the .freight on 100 super, feet of timber from Western Australia to Port Adelaide was 5s. 5d. The .Navigation Act came into operation on the 1st July, 1921, and in 1922 the freight on a similar quantity of timber from Western Australia to Port Adelaide was 5s. 2d., or a reduction of 3d. per 100 super, feet.
– Where did the honorable senator obtain those figures?
– From the report of the commission which inquired into the operations of the Navigation Act. At that time the cost of the timber despatched from Western Australia to Port Adelaide was £7 18s. 6d. a ton; but those engaged in the timber industry in that State increased the price to £13 5s. 3d. a ton. Following upon that increase the ship-owners raised the freight by 2s. a ton. Although the timber exporters increased their price by £5 6s. 9d. per ton, the increase in freight was only 2s. per ton. The argument that the timber industry is in difficulties because of the coastal provisions of the Navigation Act is untenable, since, as I have already shown, freights on timber were reduced after the coastal provisions became operative. In what way would we benefit by the abrogation of the provisions ? Would tramp steamers come to Australia and enter into competition with organized ship-owners trading on the Australian coast ?
– The honorable senator is very innocent. If we attempted to trade with tramp steamers or with ships that were not wholly engaged in the coastal trade, we would probably have to rely solely upon those vessels for the carriage of our timber.
– Would certain ships be declared black ?
– No, there is a shipping combine on the Australian coast.
– Between the owners and the workers?
– There is a worldwide shipping combine. I know what is in Senator Kingsmill’s mind. He is opposed to the Navigation Act and to the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act, and thinks that with cheap coloured labour we should be on the road to prosperity and happiness.
It has been said that imported timbers do not enter into serious competition with Australian hardwoods. I contend that they ‘ do. The proof is forthcoming not merely from within Australia but from persons directly interested in the timber industry overseas. In the Commercial Intelligence Journal, No. 1087, dated’ Ottawa, 28th November, 1924, and issued by the department of Trade and Commerce of Canada, the Acting Canadian Trade Commissioner in New Zealand, Mr. C. M. Croft, when dealing with the question of imported timber, stated -
It is now used to a great extent for studs, rafters, &c., and it is taking the place of certain native timbers to which it is equal though probably not superior. The price has proved the deciding factor.
In his opinion, imported timber is equal but not superior to the native timber; but the price is the deciding factor. The position is similar in Australia, and the price has been the deciding factor. The case submitted in support of increased duties on timber is unanswerable. I congratulate those engaged in the industry on the splendid case they placed before’ the Tariff Board, and for the. untiring efforts they have displayed in an endeavour to get that measure of justice to which they are entitled. The representatives of the industry stated before the Tariff Board that forestry opened up the country and assisted immigration. That statement is absolutely correct. Without forestry- there would be no small farms. Next to food they state thatwood is an article of which an abundant supply is essential to- the nation, and that on many of our railways 84 per cent, and up to 93 per cent, of the traffic carried consists of timber. They further state that many of our main ports have been built up as a result of the export wharfage rates on timbers, and that if these ports were forced to close, the backbone of many of our rural industries would disappear. Those statements are indisputable. Senator . Kingsmill based most of his arguments, against the imposition of these duties, on the coastal provisions of the Navigation Act ; but later he changed his ground.
– I did not.
– He said that if we were to meet Australia’s requirements of hardwoods, our forests would be depleted.
Senator’ Kingsmill. That is the opinion of an authority on the subject.
– When was that opinion expressed.
– In 1926.
- Mr. Lane-Poole’s statement is at variance with the one which Senator J. B. Hayes quoted last night, in which it was stated that hardwoods should be more extensively utilized in Australia?
– For what purposes.
– For varied purposes. There are no finer timbers in the world than those grown in Australia. Have honorable senators inspected some of the magnificent panelling and flooring in some of the most modern buildings in Australia? The woodwork in Australian pianos is most beautiful, and compares more than favorably with that in the best instruments produced overseas. Architects have been unstinted in their praise of the artictic beauty of Australian timbers, and some of the most modern private buildings in Australia are panelled throughout with Australian woods. Is there any imported timber which is better than Australian hardwood for flooring purposes? I have seen magnificent floors, but not any which can equal those of Australian hardwood. The buzzer gives them a beautiful surface, and after they have been polished they please the most- artistic tastes; I have recently seen in Melbourne motorlorries and horsedrawn vehicles heavily laden with imported timbers on their way to the timber yards, when many timber mills in Australia have been closed owing to overseas competition. The time has arrived to give the timber industry the protection which the Government now proposes. I do not intend to deal with the question of the possible increase in the cost of building.
– No. I suppose the honorable senator will leave that alone.
– Higher, duties will not add to the construction costs. I endeavored to show last night, and other honorable senators emphasized the point, that hardwood houses are cheaper because they last longer. They are more satisfactory, and the maintenance costs are lower. It is incorrect to say . that these higher timber duties will increase the cost of houses by £7 or £8. Even if it means, as some honorable senators assert, that houses will cost more - a statement which we deny - members of the Labour party in this chamber will vote for this item, just as our party voted for it in another place. If we measured every proposal for higher duties by what it would cost the country, industry in Australia would make little or no progress.
– The Government is asking honorable senators to agree to an increase of 100 per cent. in the timber duties. If they do this with their eyes open I shall have no complaint to make. For my part, I think the case for increased rates is wholly inadequate. Unfortunately, I was not able to attend the Senate during the earlier stages of this debate. Sickness in my family prevented me from being here, and illness, as honorable senators know, will admit of no postponement. If that were possible, however, it would pay the people of Australia to postpone all their sickness so as to come together and resist this tendency to increase duties, to ensure prosperity for a limited number of people. In the light of the knowledge that the proposed new duties represent an increase of 100 per cent, on the cost of a certain class of imported timber that is in general use, it is surprising that there has not been a greater public outcry against the Government’s proposal. A year or two ugo, when the Government attempted to levy an impost of a few pence per gallon on petrol, there was a united protest from one end of the Commonwealth to the other. Similarly, any proposal that may have the effect of increasing the price of a suit of clothes, or even the price of beer, is immediately resisted ; ‘ but in this case, because of the incidence of the new timber duties, there has not been a public outcry. The wholesale importer will, as I have shown, actually be called upon to pay an increase of 100 per cent. on the price of certain timber imported, which can be bought at 8s. per 100 feet. He will pass this added cost on to the builder, who ‘in turn will pass it on to the landlord and the latter will recoup himself at the expense of his tenant. Levied in this way the additional duties do not appear to be so burdensome. Nevertheless, they are wrong in principle. Unfortunately, certain business men are under the impression that unless they can get assistance from Parliament by way of increased protection, they will have no chance of success. There are in this country two classes of people - one that is indisposed to seek government assistance for the carrying on of industry, and the other which has developed a chronic habit of appealing to Parliament for assistance in every shapeand form. The timber industry must be placed in the latter category. Senator Ogden takes the stand that, as protection is the policy of the Commonwealth, there is no reason why the timber industry should not share in its benefits. Senator Greene appears to be of the same opinion. Their viewpoint clearly implies - this is particularly true of Senator Ogden - that protection in itself is not a sound public policy; that, on the contrary, it is pernicious; but that as it is the settled policy of the Commonwealth, the timber industry should enjoy its share of whatever benefits it confers. I” fail to understand the attitude of the honorable senator. The arguments of supporters of these duties are extraordinarily contradictory. We had Senator Reid a little while ago suggesting that protection for the timber industry was, after all, such a little thing, affecting only certain phases of the building trade, that it was not worth while seriously contesting it. Senator Greene, on the other hand, invited the attention of honorable senators to the huge volume of timber imports and urged that increased duties should be imposed to check them. We have also been told about the danger of introducing timber parasites in imports from Borneo, and we have heard Senator Needham argue that all posible means should be taken to check timber imports from cheaplabour countries. I remind the Leader of. the Opposition that the bulk of our imports comes from the United States of America and Canada, where the conditions of labour and wages are as good as, if not better than, those in Australia.
– Wages in America ai-e considerably lower than in Australia.
– I should like evidence of the correctness of that statement. I know that the wages of employees engaged in the manufacture of farming machinery in Canada and the United States of America are higher than are the wages of similar employees in Australia, and I apprehend that the same conditions obtain in the timber industry.
– The honorable senator is wrong there.
– Then I must content myself with the general statement that competition in the Australian timber market comes not so much from the Baltic countries as from Canada and the United States of America. These increased duties are an admission that the Australian workmen and those controlling the timber industry in Australia are only 50 per cent, efficient, as compared with American or Canadian competitors.
– It is much easier to cut Oregon than Australian hardwoods.
– I give all that in. Let us consider the historical aspect of this demand for higher timber duties. I well remember what happened several years ago in Melbourne, when first a request was made for the protection of this industry. The sponsors of the appeal went away rejoicing. They had obtained much more than they had expected.
– That is the case now.
– Notwithstanding that at the outset they had obtained more than they had expected, they came back to Parliament in 1921 for a further measure of protection. Once again they were sent away rejoicing. Four or five years later we were informed .’ that the position of the industry was as bad as ever, and that further assistance was required. The Government is now asking Parliament to sanction the imposition of these additional duties. In the name of all that is rational, when will this industry be on a proper footing?
– A telegram was received to-day asking for duties even higher than those in the new schedule.
– I believe that is so. Many of those who are engaged in industry are like cormorants - they are never satisfied. Notwithstanding the alleged unprofitableness of the industry, many men connected with it have been able to amass considerable wealth. The same thing has happened in other industries. When this Parliament was sitting in Melbourne a gentleman closely identified with the iron and steel industry was a frequent visitor to thu House. He also appeared before the Interstate Commission on every available opportunity to ask for increased duties on iron and steel. That man died a millionaire. His property in the heart of Sydney looms up from among the adjoining buildings like a huge colossus. If his business had been unprofitable, would he have been able to acquire such a magnificent property as that ? I do not blame men engaged in industry for coming to this Parliament to ask for assistance; but I do blame members of this Parliament if they allow themselves to be misled as they have been in the past, and if they sanction excessive duties on certain lines of production which bear so heavily on the bulk of the bread-winners in this country. In a modified sense, perhaps, these new duties will have that effect, and that is one reason why I intend to oppose them. According to the Commonwealth YearBoole the wages and conditions of labour in this industry have not been materially enhanced during the last four or five years. Between 1921 and 1926, wages increased by only 4s. lOd. a week, or a little over 4 per cent. The State Governments also have not imposed conditions that would warrant any change being made in the tariff.
The CHAIRMAN (Senator Plain).The honorable senator has exhausted his time.
. - I wish to indicate where I stand on this matter. In all my political life I have not been in such a state of mental confusion as that in which I find myself in approaching the determination of my attitude towards the tariff. The discussion yesterday and to-day has led me to the conclusion that this is a geographical - -tariff, every man advocating the claims of his own State, and caring not whether the devil takes the others.
– Western Australian senators are divided on it.
– Just so far as they can afford to be. The idea is for one to give another more than he now possesses. It cannot be denied that the result of these higher duties will be an increase in the cost of living. I am not a rabid protectionist, and I cannot see any justification for these proposals. I can, of course, readily appreciate the desire of a new ministerial head to bring down a fresh tariff. “Honorable senators have been supplied with documentary matter of exceptional volume, but it really tells us nothing. I have not had a very liberal education, but I know the difference between eighteenpence and a hen and chickens. A man who can juggle with figures can prove almost anything. I had an experience recently with one whose ability in that direction is amazing. He belongs to a firm that is endeavouring to obtain a higher tariff. I recognized from Senator Lynch’s description the gentleman to whom he referred. He was born a. man, but unfortunately died a millionaire. It is an awful thing to build up a country in such a way that a few men become very wealthy at the expense of the majority of the people. Undoubtedly the proposed duties on timber will increase the cost of house-building.
– There are more millionaire importers than manufacturers.
– That has to be proved. I am able to see daylight through a small hole. The housing aspect is to me a very important one. It has been said that Australian hardwoods should be used. What hardwoods have we? All our forests are being rapidly depleted. Will any honorable senator say that we have a sufficient quantity of timber in Australia to meet our requirements? Certainly we have not. In his early days Senator Kingsmill travelled through the principal parts of the northwest, and he knows very well that the planting of forests has been undertaken only in the last few years. A period of from 30 to 35 years is necessary to bring a tree to maturity. It is” merely a “ gag “ to say that these duties will set the mills at work. If they should cease their operations at any time, will the tariff be taken off?
– It has already set 22 mills going in Tasmania.
– As a Cornish woman once said, “ That is all my eye and Betty Martin.” Let us have the proof.
– I cannot lay the mills on the table.
– Senator Reid ha3 referred to the Navigation Act. That act has been nothing but a nuisance. It has created a number of difficulties and interfered considerably with the progress of our industries. If we decline to alter it, we shall be moral cowards. No matter how difficult the problem may be, if any legislation is detrimental to the welfare of Australia, it must be removed from the statute-book. I put it to honorable senators that this tariff will not help us in any way, but, on the contrary, will increase the cost of living. Hardwood boards are not suitable for concrete work; they buckle and cannot be made true. That is not the case with oregon. One-half of the hardwood in Australia can be used for only one or two purposes : when it is required to sustain a weight, it gives. There .is no necessity to bringdown a new tariff merely because a few squeakers want it. When I was a Minister, I was constantly sought after by’ that class of person. Will this tariff better Australia?
– Of course, it will.
– In what way?
– It will keep a lot of money in Australia, and be responsible for additional employment being provided.
– I have heard that catch-cry until I am tired of it. The poor working-man is not a milksop, and will not swallow these things unquestioningly. Some time ago a firm was established in New South Wales to make artificial flowers. Report has it that the management was bad, and failure was the result. But the tariff was not removed. We shall have a similar experiencewith these timber duties if the millers fail to act up to their promises. At one time I wasa rabid protectionist, but with advancing years I have become moderate in my views. If I live a few years longer I shall probably not be a protectionist at all. ACornishman once said that he was nothing in particular, and less in general. If I am obliged to listen very much longer to a debate on the tariff. I shall probably reach the stage when I, too, shall be nothing in particular and less in general.
– Having listened attentively to the arguments advanced both for and against this item, I have come to the conclusion that the interests of only two sections of the community-: - the importers and the mill-owners - have been voiced. Little or nothing has been said regarding the interests of the section most concerned - the general public. The increased duties, if agreed to, will have to be borno by the consuming public whose interests we, as a Parliament, must consider. I do not hold that the importers are necessarily paragons or that the mill-owners are vampires, sucking the life blood of their fellows ; in my opinion each section is trying to make out the best case possible from its own point of view. I was glad to hear the Minister’s honest admission that increased duties on timber will mean a slight increase in building costs. There is, however, a considerable difference of opinion as to the degree to which costs will be increased.
– I added that, because of the greater durability of Australian timber, it was worth paying more to get it.
– If protection does not mean added costs, it is valueless. The chief argument of protectionists is that further duties are necessary because the existing duties will not’ enable local products to compete with those from other countries. That is an admission that increased duties mean higher costs.
Senate adjourned at 3.52 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 16 March 1928, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1928/19280316_senate_10_118/>.