14th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon.G. J. Bell) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Minister for Health whether he can state the reason which influenced the Government of the day, of which he was Leader, in its determination that no Australian horse under any circumstances whatever should be permitted to return to Australia at the conclusion ofthe campaigns in Palestine and Syria?
– The honorable member has asked me to cast my mind hack a long while. I feel something like Browning who, when asked the meaning of certain lines that he had written, said “ “When I wrote them God Almighty and myself knew; now God Almighty alone knows.” The honorable gentleman must be cognizant of recent affairs in Palestine and the unhappy feuds which have occurred between the Arabs and the Jews. No doubt it was in anticipation of this that steps were taken to prevent the introduction of these feuds in equine form into Australia.
-Will the right honorable gentleman inform me whether any representations have been made to him as Minister for Health by any State government suggesting the relaxation of the quarantine regulations so as to permit the importation of horses from India to Australia? If so, what was the nature of the representations?
– Representations were made to me by the Minister of Agriculture of New South “Wales, the tenor of which was along the lanes followed by severalhonorable gentlemen in this chamber.
– Is the Minister for Health aware that the recent annual conference of the Australian Veterinary Association, which unanimously passed a resolution condemning the proposal to relax the quarantine regulations governing the importation to Australia of horses from India, was truly representative of all sections of the veterinary profession throughout Australia? “Will the right honorable gentleman institute ‘ inquiries to ascertain whether the following members of the profession were present at the conference: - The Dean of the Faculty of Veterinary Science, Sydney University: the chief quarantine officers of each State ; the chief veterinary officers of each State: the Professor of Veterinary Science of the Brisbane University: the Director of the McMaster Animal Health Institute; the honorary veterinary surgeon to the Australian Jockey Club; the lecturer in veterinary pathology and bacteriology at the Sydney University; the director of the Glenfield Eesearch Station. New South Wales; the ChiefCommonwealth Veterinary Officer; and the veterinary consultant on animal health to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research ? Will the honorable gentleman also state whether on a subject of this nature he considers that the unanimous opinion of such men should be subordinated to the views of a few practising veterinary surgeons and horse-trainers who stand to gain by a relaxation of the quarantine regulations?
– Order ! The honorable member is very definitely offering his own opinion in the asking of his question.
– I was not, of course, aware of the academic distinctions possessed by the gentlemen present at the conference referred to by the honorable member. Now that I know of them, I shall review whatever tentative decision Imayhavemade. To relieve the honorable gentleman’s mind, I may say that any conclusions I might have thought it advisable to arrive at, have been rudely shattered by the many inquiries and protestations made in this House. This suggests to me that this case might be bracketed with what is known as the Freer case and a general inquiry made into both.
– Will the Minister for Defence inform me whether the statement published in the press regarding the proposed establishment of an air base at Rose Bay is correct? Can the Minister furnish me with any definite information regarding the places at which air bases are proposed to be established throughout Australia ?
– The report referred to by the honorable member is not correct. No definite information regarding the sites of the proposed bases is yet available; information from London on the subject is awaited.
The following paper was presented: -
Repatriation - Summarized Statements showing range of activities, number of pensioners, extra benefits and expenditure under principal Repatriation Act, amending Acts and Financial Belief Acts.
Ordered to be printed.
– Will the Minister for Defence inform me what is the estimated cost of sending the proposed military contingent to the coronation from Australia?
– - About £25,000.
– I lay upon the tablea summarized statement showing the range of activities, number of pensioners, and the amount of expenditure under theprincipal Australian Soldiers Repatriation Act, the amending acts, and the Financial Relief Act 1935-36. I moves -
That the paper be printed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I lay on the table-
Tariff Board - Report and recommendation - Piston rings for internal combustion: engines, imported from the United Kingdom.
I move -
That the report bc printed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I lay on the table a copy of the Tariff Board terms of reference on the manufacture of motor vehicles in Australia.
– I ask the ActingLeader of the House for an assurance that the reference to the Tariff Board on the subject of the manufacture of motor chassis and engines in Australia will besufficiently comprehensive to ensure that the board will report upon the economiceffects upon the country of anyduty recommended for this purpose.
– The honorable member will find that the terms of reference are sufficiently wide for that purpose.
– I desire a definite assurance that the board, when asked to report upon the best means to carry our the policy of the Government on this subject, will also be asked to report upon the possible effects of any recommendation it makes on the economic life of the country.
– I am satisfied that the terms of reference to the board will ensure that it will inquire into the economic effects cf the proposal.
– Will the Treasurer inform me whether the money being collected in customs duties on chassis parts since the 22nd May last is being paid into a trust fund established for the purpose?
– No such trust fund has yet been constituted, but if the honorable member will put his question on the notice-paper I shall obtain additional information for him.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior whether he is aware of the existence of a company that has been formed for the exploitation of the Northern Territory, known as the North Australia Enterprises Limited ? Is not this company connected with the Australian Investment Company Limited, better known as Vesteys ? Are not the offices of both companies located in the same building in Sydney? Is the Honorable Eric John Harrison, M.H.R., whose name appears in the list of directors of this company, identical with the honorable member for Wentworth, a former Minister for the Interior ?
– Inquiries will be made into the subject and a reply furnished to the honorable member.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. With other honorable members I could not help hearing a question just asked by the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green). I assure the House that had the honorable gentleman approached me before he asked his question he would have received an assurance from me that although this co’mpany-
-Order! Does the honorable gentleman claim that he has been misrepresented?
– Yes, and it is in respect of such misrepresentation that I wish to make a statement. Had the honorable member approached me prior to asking his question, I would have told him that this company, which it is proposed to float, although having its offices in the same building as Vesteys Limited, has absolutely no connexion with that company.
– Order ! It is not a matter of the connexion between companies. Has the honorable member been personally reflected upon?
– Yes. The inference to be drawn from the honorable member’s question was that, as an ex-Minister for the Interior, I have associated myself with a company interested in the Northern Territory, and proposed, through contacts established as Minister for the Interior, to associate myself with vested interests for the purpose of exploiting the territory. The company in which I am interested has been brought into existence solely with the object of developing the agricultural possibilities of the Northern Territory, and although its office is situated in the same building as Vesteys, it is no more connected with that company than it could be said that, because I sit in this House along with members of the Labour party, I am connected with that party or, indeed, with the honorable member for Richmond. The fact that the office of the company with which I am associated is situated in a certain building does not indicate that that company is associated with any other company which has its office in the same building.
– I rise to make a personal explanation. I have in my hand the prospectus of the company to which I have referred. It has its office in the same building in which the office of the Australian Investment Company is situated, and this latter company is well known to be a subsidiary of Vesteys Limited. On page 4 of the prospectus the name of the honorable member is mentioned among the directors.
– Order ! This matter cannot be argued in this way, under cover of personal explanations.
– If my honesty is impugned by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. E. J. Harrison), the prospectus of the company to which I have referred is here for all honorable members to read.
– I ask the Acting
Leader of the House whether it is a fact, as reported in the press this morning, that it is intended to set up a special tribunal to consider what is known as the Freer case and any other cases of a similar nature that may arise in the future ?
-It is not correct.
– Has the Minister for Trade and Customs seen a report which appeared in the Melbourne Age on Wednesday, by way of telegram from Sydney, to the effect that it was stated at a meeting of the Sydney County Council that a ring controlled the sale of electric lamp bulbs in Australia, and further, that ten Australian firms quoted the same prices in three separate tenders?
– I have not seen the report but if the honorable member will supply me with the information he has on the subject I shall consider it. The only way in which action could be taken on such a matter would be by reference to the tariff board.
– Will the Minister refer the matter to the Tariff Board?
– I shall give it con sideration.
– Yesterday, the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) asked me a question regarding the AngloEgyptian Treaty. Only one copy of the treaty is in the hands of the Government, but I refer the honorable member to a publication by the External Affairs Department, of which I shall hand him a copy, which gives a complete summary of the treaty. I also refer the honorable gentleman to the statement made on this subject recently in another place by the Minister for External Affairs, in which an assurance was given that the interests of Australia had been carefully watched. An assurance was also given that everything had been done, and would be done in the future to ensure the continued security of the Empire communications through Egypt, including the Suez Canal, which mean so much to Australia.
– Is the Treasurer aware that the Government of New Zealand recently placed the Maoris on the same basis as the white population in that country in respect of social rights such as pension, &c? If so, will he consider the advisability of extending similar treatment to Maori residents in Australia ?
– I am not aware of the development mentioned by the honorable gentleman, but I shall consider the matter.
– I move -
That I have leave to bring in a bill for an act to approve an agreement contained in an exchange of notes between the Government of the Commonwealth of Australia and the Government of the French republic.
– Can the Minister give us any idea of the import of the motion he has just moved.
– I shall proceed with the matter later in the day.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from the 26th November (vide page 2446), on motion by Mr. White (vide page 2220, volume 150)-
That the schedule to the Customs Tariffs 1933, as proposed to be amended by tariff pro posals, be further amended as hereunder set out . . .
By omitting the whole of paragraph (2) of sub-item (c) and inserting in its stead the following paragraph : - “(2) Other-
Douglas Fir(Pseudotsuga Douglasii) . per 100 super feet (Brereton measurement) - British, 4 s.6d.; intermediate, 4s.6d.; general, 5s. 3d.
N.e.i.. ad val - British, 10 per cent.; intermediate, 30 per cent.; general, 30 per cent.”
By omitting the whole of sub-item (d) and inserting in its stead the following sub-item : - “(b) Spars in the rough -
Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga Douglasu) , per 100 super feet (Brereton measurement) - British, 4s. 6d. ; intermediate, 4s. 6d.; general, 5s. 3d.
Other, ad val. - British, 10 per cent.; intermediate, 30 per cent.; general, 30 per cent.”
Upon which Sir Henry ‘Gullett had moved by way of amendment -
That paragraph (2) of sub-item (c) be amended by adding the following: - “And on and after 27th November, 1936-
Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga DouglasU) ; Hemlock (all species ofTsuga) ; Larch (all species ofLarix ) ; Spruce (all species of Picea) and White Fir (all species of Abies), per 100 super feet (Brereton measurement) - British, 4s. ; intermediate, 4s. Cd. ; general, 4s.6d. (b)N.e.i., ad val. - British, 10 per cent. ; intermediate. 30 per cent. ; general, 30 percent.”
That sub-item (n) be amended by adding the following: - “ And on and after 27th November, 1936-
Spars in the rough -
Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga
Douglasu); Hemlock (all species of Tsuga) ; Larch (all species of Larix) ; Spruce (all species of Picea) and White Fir (all species of Abies), per 100 super feet (Brereton measurement) - British, 4s. ; intermediate, 4s.6d. ; general. 4s.6d.
Other, ad val- British, 10 per cent.; intermediate, 30 per cent; general, 30 per cent.”
Item proposed to be amended-
Logs not sawn, viz.: -
Other, ad valorem. - British.7½ percent.(net); general, 30 per cent.
Spars in the rough, ad valorem. - British, 7½ per cent. (net); general, 30 per cent.
.- When the committee adjourned last evening I was dealing with the importation of oregon logs from the United States of America, and the effect of these proposals. I pointed out that timber merchants, builders and architects in Australia had suffered” by reason of the fact that they were called upon to pay first-class prices for very inferior grades of oregon, and that this con dition had been brought about as the result of the operations of the overseas sawn timber combine. Now that the log-cutting industry has been established on a large scale in Australia, the local building industry enjoys the advantage of getting something which was previously denied to it, that is, prime cut oregon logs. Previously the trade had to accept inferior grades for which trade first-class prices had to be paid. To give an idea of the amount of employment that has been provided in the cutting of logs and also an emphatic denial of statements made by certain interests in the saw-milling industry, it is only necessary to quote the figures given last night by the Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties (Sir Henry Gullett) which show the enormous growth in log-cutting activities in Australia. In 1931-32 importations of sawn timber represented 86 per cent, of our timber imports, and importations of logs totalled 3,800,000 super, feet, whereas in 1935-36 the respective importation’s were 12 per cent. and 137,000,000 super feet. Those figures give an indication of the enormous growth of employment created in Australia by the establishment of the log-cutting industry. It is idle for anybody, therefore, to say that the importation of oregon logs has adversely affected the local timber trade. Indeed the very fact that importations of logs increased from 3,800,000 super feet in 1931-32 to 137,000,000 super feet within three years refutes that idea. It has always been the policy of both Labour and anti-Labour governments to have low rates of duty on the larger cuts of timber in order to encourage the importation of large cut timber with a view to creating employment in this country. Some country sawmillers contend that more labour is entailed in the handling of imported sawn timber in Australia than in the handling of junk and logs. That claim is ridiculous because when we had no choice in this matter, when all our importations consisted of sawn timber, the only labour needed up to the time that timber reached the machines for dressing was unskilled labour. In addition to the continued employment of that unskilled labour we have now a number of mechanics employed on every cutting machine. From my own personal knowledge I am aware that this section of the timber trade was the first to benefit by the recent revival of the trade in this country. “When the demand increased it was necessary to work these employees three shifts a day in some mills to cut the timber required.
The Minister last night contended that as the result of the lower duty on the log, cutting operations had become concentrated in city mills. So far as importations of timber are concerned that has always been the case, and the only difference between present conditions and past is that whilst, to-day, the cutting of the logs is concentrated in the cities, the cutting of larger sized flitches still goes on throughout Australian mills. I suggest that the Minister should withdraw the item covering log timber and junk timber with a view to calling for a report from the Tariff Board on this phase of the industry. So far as I can gather no report has yet been made by the board on that matter, and the Government apparently has simply taken this action in conformity with its trade diversion policy without considering the full effect of the proposal on the industry. My reason for suggesting that this matter be referred to the Tariff Board is that a large number of cutting mills are not in a position to purchase the expensive plant necessary for the cutting down of logs, whilst, however, they are able to cut down, junk timber; and I would not like to see the log allowed in free whilst a heavy duty existed on junk, because this would mean putting these phases of the industry on an unfair basis of competition. As the result of this position a distinct advantage would be given to the mills engaged in log cutting, because such mills would be able to maintain an expensive plant as against the other section of mills to which I have referred. I believe, therefore, that there should be three distinct grades of duty: first for log timbers; secondly for junk timbers; and thirdly for the smaller cut sizes. By this means we would put all sections of the industry on a fair competitive basis.
By way of interjection and in the course of their speeches some honorable members appear to be concerned mostly with the welfare of small sections of the industry situated in the particular electorates which they represent. I do not view the matter in that way because practically no saw-milling is carried on in the electorate which I represent. But I am concerned about the maintenance of the revival which has taken place in the timber industry. For that reason I hold no brief for any particular section of timber merchants. I do, however, wish to refute the statement that imported Oregon timber competes with Australian hardwood. ‘ There are parts of buildings for which Oregon only is suitable, and for which hardwood cannot he used. Therefore, oregon timber, whether imported in cut sizes or in logs, cannot adversely affect the hardwood industry. It is complementary to, rather than competitive, with that industry. There is another point, which even those honorable members who are unacquainted with the timber or building industries, will be able to appreciate. In recent years, there has been tremendous development in the construction of steel and concrete buildings, particularly in the capital cities. Casings for the concrete are made of oregon, and usually are used once and then discarded. It would not pay the builders to clean the boards, and use them again. Hardwood will neve’]1 be used for this work because it is totally unsuitable, so that the only result of imposing a high duty on Oregon, whether sawn, junk or log, will be to make the builders pay more for the Oregon which they must use, and this extra cost will, in turn, be passed on to the owners of the buildings, and through them to the public. If oregon were really competitive with hardwood I could sympathize with the attitude of those honorable members who have hardwood mills in their electorates, but it is not. Hardwood can never take the place of oregon for certain purposes. Therefore, I ask the Minister to withdraw these duties, and allow the old rates to operate until such time as the Tariff Board is able to conduct a thorough inquiry into the three phases of the imported timber trade, the small cut timbers, junk timber and log timber.
The Government should be careful that it does not impose duties which will prejudice adversely the log-cutting industry, which was one of the first to revive in Australia after the depression. We should be careful, also, not to admit logs at a rate so much below that imposed upon junk timber that the man who cannot afford to instal an expensive logcutting plant will be placed at an impossible disadvantage as compared with the man who can. I desire to encourage the importation oforegon logs, so that they may be sawn in Australian mills, thus providing employment in Australia. Then, instead of the consumers oforegon being forced to take the culls of the American mills, they would be able to get the choice cuts as well as the culls. I was in charge of a mill at one time for a prominent builder, and in that trade two grades, known as joinery oregon and merchantable oregon, were recognized. The firm bought merchantable oregon at a price much below that of first-grade timber, and then put this merchantable oregon into joinery work. My employer estimated that he was able to meet the cost of the men’s wages, and of the running of the plant, out of the difference in the price between first and second-class oregon. By means of judicious cutting, and at the cost of a little more waste, perhaps, we were using second-class timber as first-class. That conveys some idea of what architects, builders and the public have had to put up with in the past. Now, through the operation of log-cutting mills, they are able to get the best quality oregon, but these new duties will have the effect of greatly increasing the cost.
.- This subject has been a contentious one for a number of years, and I am sorry to have to say that the Government’s method of treating it has been far from satisfactory. Irealize, of course, that many honorable members represent timber producing districts, and have sawmills in their electorates, but I cannot agree that the imposition of high duties on imported oregon will be of any benefit to the Australian timber trade. From time to time I, and other honorable members of this House, have asked that the duty on oregon be reduced. I have been somewhat persistent in this, and the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) has at times been inclined to ridicule my persistence. I have repeatedly asked the
Government to table the report of the Tariff Board on oregon but, though the report was presented to the Government in 1933, it was tabled in this House only two days ago. That is not fair to Parliament or to the country. The Tariff Board’s report states that the importation of oregon does not affect adversely the interests of Australian saw-millers. Indeed, it recommends that the duties on oregon be reduced, and I support that recommendation. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear), who has had close personal experience of the saw-milling trade, is of the same opinion. I have had a little experience with sawmills, and a great deal of experience in the building trade, and I know that the best possible timber for certain part3 of buildings, particularly for roofing purposes, is oregon. I urge the Government, even at this stage, to give effect to the recommendations of the Tariff Board, and reduce the duties. It is a strange thing that, when it suits the Government, it acts upon the recommendation of the Tariff Board, but when it does not it ignores those recommendations.
– The Government has accepted every recommendation of the Tariff Board in regard to trade with the United Kingdom. This duty on oregon, however, has nothing to do with the Ottawa agreement.
– I am talking not about the Ottawa agreement, but about the attitude of the Government to the recommendations of the Tariff Board, an attitude that is bewildering to honorable members and the public. I am in total disagreement with the Government’s policy in this matter. The following is a comparison of the old tariff and the proposed new tariff on Douglas fir logs: -
It will be seen from a study ofthe foregoing figures that the added cost on. account of the new tariff is 5s.1½d. That is a severe handicap on the industry andI do not believe that it will improve the business of the saw-millers of this country. If I thought that it would do so, I should give very careful consideration as to the way in which I should vote. Last night, when the Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties (Sir Henry Gullett) was explaining the provisions of the proposed duties, I asked why the Government had adopted the Brereton measurement. He was unable to give me a satisfactory answer and did not seem to have a full grip of the subject; but he did explain that he was acting in this matter on behalf of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White), who was not well. I cannot understand why the Brereton measurement was adopted when introducing the new tariff, as the Australian standard long measurement is “ Hoppus “. Hoppus measurement is arrived at by squaring one-quarter of the circumference ; that is, a log 48 in. in circumference is calculated as if it were a square piece of timber 12 in. x 12 in. Brereton measurement is a formula which is used to take care of the space wasted in the stowing of the logs in the ships, as logs do not stow nearly so well as sawn timber does. It appears to me to be a trick engineered by the department for the purpose of obtaining greater revenue. I presume honorable members have read the reports on timber which have been submitted from time to time by the Tariff Board. Reference to those reports and to the Government Statistician’s figures will confirm the statement that every tariff increase on imported softwood tim ber, has resulted in a. per capita diminution of the use of all kinds of timbers. This is owing to higher timber costs providing opportunity for the introduction and use of various substitutes. Honorable members must not lose sight of the fact that, although Australian hardwoods are sold for export f.o.b. at two or three times the value of softwoods in their country of production, Australia last year imported only £1,400,000 worth of timber, whereas during the same year timber to the value of nearly £900,000 was exported. This is conclusive proof that each class of timber is used for a specific purpose and’ the higher duties on imported timber only mean an increase of the cost of building. Having emerged from the depression, Australia is now on the fringe of a further period of prosperity, and a fillip has been given to the building trade. I welcome that revival and, as I do. not desire to see the trade hampered in any way, I want the timber necessary for the building of houses to be procurable at the cheapest possible rates, particularly in the case of Oregon, which is generally admitted to be an essential part of building operations. In view of that I. ask honorable members to assist me in the amendment which I intend to move at a later stage. The net result of the adoption of the Brereton measurement in the proposed new tariff is that for every . 100 feet of timber on which duty is paid on Oregon, only 77 ft. 6 in. will be produced when the log is sawn. If the Hoppus measurement were adopted as a basis for the proposed ‘ new duty, the actual duty would be approximately1s. less on, each 100 feet. I know that there are several members in this chamber who represent districts in which Australian hardwood timbers are grown, and. that there are saw-mills in those districts. I admit that those honorable members have up till now won the contest. ,
– The honorable member is trying to put the men in those sawmills out of work.
– That is hot so, but I shall answer the honorable gentleman at a later stage. It may be thought that a way of protecting the sawing up of log timber would be to increase the dutyon imported sawn timber. That, however, would be a very dangerous procedure to adopt, because it would amount to a penalty duty on various kinds of timber which must be imported in any case, and would thus result in an increased cost to all users of timber and those engaged in buildingHonorable members have received a great quantity of correspondence on this subject from saw-millers’ associations. I have received a communication from the Newcastle Timber Merchants Association in the following terms: -
All members of Newcastle association are emphatic that preference should be given to logs for the following reasons: -
Sale of logs in Canada and America is not controlled by any association or group of financiers; Australian buyers are, therefore, able to obtain competitive prices and are not compelled to place their businesswith any particulargroup, as is the case with purchase of sawn timber.
Purchase price of logs is less than that of sawn timber, therefore lesser moneys are required to fund purchases.
The Australian saw-millers’ associations are not unanimous on this subject. As a matter of fact, in the main, they feel that, if Oregon were allowed entry, their business would not suffer. In my opinion, after having given full study to this matter, I am of the opinion that their interests would be safeguarded if the duty onoregon were eased. Although I am well acquainted with the position in other States, I am able to speak with greater authority from the South Australian viewpoint. The position in South Australia is that we must have Douglas fir for building construction, regardless of whether it is imported in the log or in sawn flitches. In South Australia, it is not a question of whether Canadian Douglas fir or Australian hardwood shall be used ; it is a question of whether it is to be Australian-sawn Douglas fir or Canadian-sawn Douglas fir. The proposed duty will, in my opinion, bring the cost of Douglas fir produced from logs so close to that of the imported sawn article that a slight drop of the price of the latter would render the cutting up of logs in South Australia unprofitable. It appears to me that in South Australia the proposed new rates of duty will ultimately have the effect of taking the work of sawing Douglas fir logs out of the hands of the Australian worker and giving it to the Canadians.
– That is the trouble.
– Yes, and I speak feelingly on this matter.
– The honorable member does not want to take work from Australian workmen ?
– No; my concern is to increase employment in this country. The introduction of the previous rates on
Oregon was not welcome to me, and in this Parliament I directed attention to the fact that saw-millers would be forced to install machinery in order to cope with the logs that would be imported instead of the sawn timber. When I did so, the Minister for Trade and Customs said that the duty was designed to give greater employment to the people of Australia. I now think that there was some justification for it, because, as the result of it, a great number of men have been engaged in saw-millers’ yards. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) has already acquainted honorable members with the work that has been provided in Sydney as the result of the imposition of that duty. The cutting of Oregon logs in Australia has had the effect of increasing the volume of employment. The local timber mills have had to instal additional machinery at a cost of something like £150,000 or £160,000. I want these conditions to be maintained.
May I state the actual position of South Australia, and deal with the relative value of Oregon and hardwoods. The climate of South Australia, owing to its intense heat and consequent dryness during the summer months, renders Australian hardwoods, with the exception of jarrah. practically useless for the construction of buildings; and even jarrah. on account of its weight and the shortness of its grain, is suitable for only flooring joists, posts, &c. It is also too costly.
– Why are Tasmanian hardwoods used in South Australia?
– Tasmanian hardwoods are used extensively in South Australia, but not for the particular purpose that the honorable member has in mind. The people of South Australia are prepared to use all local timbers, but they also contend that it is> necessary to have oregon as well in order to obtain the best results. The position of South Australia is quite different from that of the other Australian States which have a more humid climate and indigenous timbers, the milling of which it may be desirable to protect. The only building timber grown in any quantity in South Australia is of the pinus species, which is not suitable for constructional work, furthermore the quantity available is far too small to meet the demands of the building trade. South Australia is, of course, glad to be able to obtain timbers that are grown in the other States, but it does not wish to be prevented from also obtaining oregon. I have gone to considerable trouble to obtain records of imports into South Australia of Douglas fir, jar rah and karri, from Western Australia, and Tasmanian hardwood. The following table, which gives the imports from July, 1932, to June, 1935, inclusive, speaks for itself -
I want the original duties on logs to be retained, and propose to move an amendment accordingly.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Prowse).Such an amendment cannot be considered until the amendment now before the chair has been dealt with.
– Then I shall move it at the appropriate time.
– I am pleased to support the proposed duty on oregon logs, as well as the amendment of the original proposal, because 4s. under the Brereton measurement is equal to 5s. under the Hoppus measurement. I realize that the Government is meeting the immediate requirements of the industry, and I believe that this compromise is acceptable to it.
I cannot agree with the statements of the honorable member for Boothby (Mr.
Price), nor can I accept those of the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear), although they were well made within the limited scope of his review of this great industry. The honorable member for Boothby claims to have considerable knowledge of the requirements of the importers of oregon, while the honorable member for Dalley, because of his attachment to the industry in Sydney over a long period, probably possesses a complete practical knowledge of it. I represent two of the greatest sawmills in Australia, those of Wilson Hart and Company Limited, and Hyne and Sons Limited. Eoi- the breaking down and treatment of the various timbers that our forests can produce, or that can be imported, these mills are unexcelled.
The honorable member for Boothby has argued that building construction should be made as cheap as possible, and that the importer of timber should he enabled to assist in that direction. Only recently, the honorable member advocated the protection of Holden’s motor-body building enterprise. He did not then say that he wanted tff make it possible for Australians to purchase a motor car as cheaply as imported cars could be purchased if a duty were not imposed on the bodies. He is a geographical, and therefore a discriminating, protectionist. His argument in relation to timber would appear to condemn the continuance of Holden’s production, of motor bodies in South Australia. Although that concern does not interest Queensland, I stand alongside the honorable member in supporting the manufacture of motor bodies in South Australia. He, however, adopts a different attitude in regard to tim’ber, because South Australia has no great forests of hardwood and pine.
– We buy Queensland silky oak, maple, and other timbers.
– The honorable member is now referring to furniture timbers. These .have to be bought, because they are the best timbers for that purpose in the world. The honorable member is inconsistent when he says that the Government is directed by the Tariff Board when that course suits it, and rejects the advice of that body when such advice is unfavorable .to its own view. That is the honora’ble member’s attitude towards the protection of Australian industries. He is prepared to support the Government in doing its duty towards those industries that are established in South’ Australia, but will not support what is equitable in this case. He complains that the Government has not accepted a recommendation for a duty of 6s.-, but has imposed a reasonable duty of 10s. 6d. The Government has considered the determination of the Tariff Board that there should be a difference of 5s. 6d. between the two duties. One of 5s. now operates because of the difference between the Brereton and the Hoppus methods of measurement. The honorable gentleman alleges that this is a trick; that he did not understand why the Brereton method was adopted. He says that the oregon importers support the Hoppus method. “We know, of course, that he stated the case for the Oregon importers as against what is equitable and just for the timber industry and the employees who are engaged in it. The honorable member for Dalley was on sound ground when he referred to the employment that might be provided in Sydney in the breaking down. and treatment of imported logs or spars. Actually there were never more than 200 so employed, and no man has since lost his job. I, however, intend’ to do everything possible to guard jealously the interests of those actually engaged in timber-getting in our forests and scrubs. If timber is permitted to; enter Australia practically dutyfree we shall ruin the livelihood of the timber-getters, timber-haulers, roadmakers, surveyors, and others vitally concerned in our local timber industry.’ Every effort has been made to develop the’ sylviculture of Queensland, and, of course, other States, on lines that are fair to all concerned, and the effectiveness of the scientific investigation and practical work that is proceeding should not be impaired by loose tariff arrangements. I very much doubt whether house-building costs would be reduced even if the wishes of certain honorable members were acceded to by the Government. I am certain, though, that such a procedure would, cause a very great deal of additional unemployment iri our timber-getting industry. Some comment has. been made on the respective merits of oregon and hoop pine. I contend that our hoop pine a-nd other pines are second to none in the world as softwoods. There is no need to use imported Oregon exclusively, as some honorable gentlemen seem to think there is. The honorable member for Dalley argued that oregon did not compete very seriously with Australian hardwood timbers. That may be true, but it certainly does compete seriously with Australian softwoods. Last year 148,250,000 super, feet of timber was taken from the Crown lands of Queensland alone, and of this quantity 98,500,000 super, feet was hoop and bunya pine tops and logs. Obviously, the getting of that timber provided a great deal of employment, which should be considered in relation to the amount of employment provided in city sawmills in sawing imported oregon logs. “We must consider the interests .of the people who work in our great natural forests and scrubs. We must also do everything possible to plant new forests for the future. If we fail to do so we shall be guilty of serious remissness. The value to the economic life of Australia of an adequate supply of locally-grown timber is almost beyond calculation.
– The Government of Queensland collects a royalty of 9s. a hundred super, feet on certain pine timbers taken from the forests of that State.
– The honorable member is not aware of all the facts. He does not appear to realize, for instance, that remissions of royalties are made in respect of timbers sent to New South Wales and other States of the Commonwealth. If the Queensland people penalize themselves by the imposition of royalties in order to develop their own forests, that is their affair. The money collected in timber royalties in Queensland is. used- to construct new roads, to make surveys for future forests, and generally to encourage the reafforestation activities of that State. The pursuit of that policy must ultimately be beneficial to the whole of the Commonwealth. The honorable member for Boothby said that he did not understand the Brereton measurement, but I have no doubt that he understands the Hoppus measurement. He also said that the adoption of the Brereton measurement was a trick. I regret that such a statement should have been n’.ade, for, in my opinion, it was most unfair to the Government.
– At any rate the Government blundered, and it is now seeking to correct its blunder.
– We do not expect the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) ever to be interested in the provision of work in Australia for Australians.
– One hundred super, feet Brereton represents only 77£ super, feet from the logs.
– It may give 90 per cent, of usable timber. It all depends on who does the breaking down.
– The Hoppus measurement is undoubtedly the Australian standard.
– When the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. E. J. Harrison) discusses the motor car industry he uses American terms. In discussing the Australian timber industry he ought to be willing to accept the terms used in Australia. The Government’s policy in regard to softwood timbers has undoubtedly been adopted in the best interests of the whole of the people engaged in the Australian timber industry. Certain honorable members, however, have in mind the interests of only one section of this great industry. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) has asked that the item be referred back to the Tariff Board for further investigation, but I entirely disagree with that course. The timber industry has been investigated thoroughly, and very little new light would be obtained if a further inquiry were held. Honorable gentlemen who are opposed to the Government’s tariff policy in respect of timber should visit the great natural forests and scrubs of this country, as the Minister for Trade and Customs has done, so that they may obtain first-hand reliable information.
– I should like to hear the Minister for Trade and Customs express his personal opinion of this item.
– I wish to say definitely that I am not only in terested in the circumstances of the timber millers but also have in mind the welfare of. all the people engaged in this great industry, and I hope the Government will not depart from the attitude it has adopted.
I support the application that has been made by the manufacturers of plywoods for a duty on logs imported for the making of plywoods. All honorable members must agree that the timbers in our northern forests are eminently suitable for the manufacture of plywood. So also, of course, are certain timbers grown in. Western Australia, New South Wales,, and Victoria. It is highly desirable that the interests of the plywood manufacturers should be protected. The development of every branch of our timber industry is important to the Commonwealth and all sections of it should be equitably treated. The well-being of the hardwood and softwood timber-getters and also of the plywood manufacturers should be carefully considered, and even honorable members who have no personal interest in the timber industry should realize that, just as on occasions they need to advocate in this chamber the cause of industries of which they have special knowledge, so honorable gentlemen who are in close touch with the timber industry are entitled on this occasion to urge the Government to maintain effective protective measures for the people who are vitally concerned in this important basic industry, which is of tremendous value to all the people of Australia. My final word is that the subject should be considered broadly and not narrowly.
on his courageous speech; it was a particularly notable effort.
– I rise to a point of order concerning the order of the call from the Chair.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Prowse).There can be no point of order in that.
– I fail to see how my point of order can be disallowed before I have stated it. It is that the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. E. J. Harrison) - and my point of order has nothing whatever to do with the honorable member personally because I always find his speeches interesting - spoke on the general principles involved in this matter right throughout the tariff debate and his time was extended, although not when he was dealing with this particular item, whereas last night, and to-day, I have risen repeatedly, but you, Mr. Chairman, have not seen fit to give me the call. I desire to know by what, principle you, Mr. Chairman, are guided in giving the call.
The ‘CHAIRMAN. - The Chair is guided by the Standing Orders. No point of order has been raised by the honorable member.
– I congratulate the honorable member for Wide Bay on the very good argument which he put up in respect of a bad case. I propose to follow up the remarks made by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear). He has had practical experience in the timber trade, and” knows, therefore, the respective values of oregon and hardwood. The two timbers are closely related. One must perforce take notice of what the honorable member has to say on this subject. The object of the rates of duty in the schedule is to bring about a trade diversion, but I am at a loss to know just exactly in which direction it is intended that that diversion shall take place. Is it the intention . of the Government to divert this trade to Siberia and Switzerland which produce timber of this kind? It cannot be taken against the “United States of America, because that country does not export timber to Australia. It must, therefore, have been taken against Canada; if so, to whom are we going to divert this softwood trade? It is suggested that it has been taken in order to protect Australian hardwoods. It is on that point particularly that I wish to challenge the statements made by the Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties (Sir Henry Gullett).
– This time it is a case of diverting trade to Australian industry.
– Having had that declaration from the Minister for Trade and Customs let me say that, when he was in opposition, there was a phrase in common use in this chamber which one might aptly apply to this particular item.
When the Scullin Government embargoes were being considered it was said, “ This is the greatest ramp- “
– I have never used that word in this chamber.
– Notwithstanding, this was a favorite phrase of the Minister in charge of the bill. To me this particular duty seems to be a peculiar kind of ramp because the Government has no evidence, not even a favorable report from the Tariff Board, upon which it can base its action. As to its claim that the duties have been designed to protect Australian hardwood, all authorities agree, and relevant statistics prove, that over a number of years the demand for oregon moves in sympathy with the demand for hardwood. I shall quote figures later to prove that statement. Oregon is undoubtedly complementary to hardwood in building construction. This action, therefore, cannot have bean taken to protect Australian hardwood. When this schedule was tabled we discovered that it almost prohibited oregon, but made no attempt to deal with timbers practically in the same class such as box, white fir, hemlock and spruce, and we found architects and timber merchants insisting that more favorable treatment should be given in respect of oregon because some timber merchants, who were not quite honorable in their transactions, were supplying hemlock claiming that it was oregon. On this matter I introduced a deputation to the Minister, and a member of that deputation definitely stated that certain millers were selling hemlock for oregon. The Government took action in respect of oregon, but not in regard to hemlock and kindred timbers, when it was only half-informed on the matter, although subsequently it has had to recast its decision in the light of knowledge supplied by practical men.
Let us look at the history of these duties. As the result of the 1930 tariff, many timber yards installed plant to handle Oregon logs to convert it into sawn timber. Those operations had a treble value. The capital value of each plant was increased to approximately £75,000, and, in the city of Sydney alone, over 400 employees were engaged to handle this particular timber, the weekly wage sheet for those employees amounting to £1,700. Their operations, as the honorable member for Dalley has pointed out, enabled Australian purchasers to secure the better cuts of timber, instead of the inferior cuts, which they were previously compelled to accept. This development has been of threefold value; it has created employment, it has increased the capital value of plant, and it has enabled purchasers to secure better cuts.
Tariff enactments which produce such results are undoubtedly for the good of the nation. To-day, however, under the cloak of its trade diversion policy, the Government brings down a tariff that will not benefit hardwoods, but will adversely affect our economic welfare as a whole by penalizing the building trade. Every specialist, who has investigated the incidence of hardwood and oregon in the building trade holds that a certain percentage of Oregon in proportion to hardwood, will always be required in building construction. The Government’s action, therefore, will not give that measure of protection to hardwood millers which the Government claims it will. On the contrary it will adversely affect those millers through its general reaction on the trade by automatically restricting the use of hardwood. If building operations are restricted to any degree the demand for hardwood must also be restricted. Hardwood millers, therefore, will be adversely affected by action of this kind. We must take into consideration the new Brereton standard of log measurement, as compared with the Hoppus, which was previously the Australian standard, the ratio between the two standards being77½ ft. Brereton, to 100 ft. Hoppus. The old duty was11d. per 100 ft. as against the corresponding new duty of 5s. 2d. per 100 ft. Dealing with the change from the Hoppus to the Brereton standard of log measurement, the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Price) said that the Government was “ putting over “ a trick on the millers. I shall not go so far as to say that, but I suggest that had the duty been made 4s. per 100 ft., Hoppus, which would be equivalent, approximately, to 3s. per 100 ft. Brereton, all sections of the industry would be satisfied that that protection would establish a sufficient margin as between sawn timber and log timber, a margin that I suggest should be maintained.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).I have to inform the House that Mr. Kenneth M. Lindsay, member of the United Kingdom House of Commons for Kilmarnock Burghs, and Civil Lord of the Admiralty is within the precincts. With the concurrence of honorable members, I propose to provide him with a distinguished stranger’s seat on the floor of the House, beside the Speaker’s chair.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear!
Mr. Lindsay thereupon entered the chamber and was seated accordingly.
The following bills were returned from the Senate without requests : -
Income: Tax Bill 1936.
Bill returned from the Senate with amendments.
CustomsTariffAmendment (No. 6).
– I warn the Government that there is a margin that cannot be exceeded. The Government cannot step across a given line, or it will bring about a state of chaos in the timber and building trades. It is common knowledge that in every instance when there has occurred an extraordinary increase of the price of timber for building, there has been a marked tendency to replace timber by concrete, or by pressed boards and similar material.
– The use of steel windows is another example.
– To some extent, perhaps, but I would not go so far as to say that steel windows do not represent a measure of natural progress inthe building trade.Where partitions were formerly constructed of solid sawn timber, they are now made of pressed boards or concrete, because either is cheaper. If, as I contend, there is a definite relation between the use of softwoods and hardwoods, any action which makes it more expensive to use the one kind, will tend also to restrict the use of the other. The Minister has stated that oregon is not complementary to hardwood; but, against. that, I quote the opinion of the President of the Institute of Architects, Mr. A. W. Anderson, a gentleman of wide knowledge and experience. His evidence, -quoted on page 9 of the Tariff Board’s Report, is as follows: -
Q.Do you think you could leave it purely to scientific and natural choice, get oregon as cheaply as you could get it, and expect the hardwood people to keep going interruptedl? -I do not think it would interfere very much with; them, because for what hardwood is used now, oregon cannot take its place. Iforegon were cheaper, I do not think it would displace hardwood to any great extent.
That is the impartial opinion of an expert. He says only what is, in fact, generally known, and what appeals to one’s common sense as being true. There is a definite use for hardwood and a definite -use for oregon, and if we upset the balance between the two, we upset also the building industry, and injure even our own hardwood timber trade. In order to establish the fact that there is a relation between the use of hardwood and softwood timbers, it is only necessary to compare the figures for hardwood exports from Australia with those for softwood imports over a period of years. The price of hardwood, f . o.b. Australian ports, is from two to three times as dear as the price of softwood in those countries in which it is grown. Notwithstanding this, for the year for which figures have been taken out, our exports of hardwood were valued at £900,000, as compared with imports of softwoods to the value of £1,400,000. If softwoods were able to take the place of hardwoods for general purposes, then those softwood producing countries which imported our hardwood would have preferred to use their’ own softwoods at a third of the price. It is evident, therefore, that, even if the duty on softwood were reduced, it would not, to any appreciable extent, replace hardwood timber for general purposes. All this goes to show that the more softwood that is used, the more hardwood is used, also. Both timbers have their allotted place in building. There was recently published a table showing the relative per capita sawn timber use as follows: -
From this it is evident that the utilization of both timbers moves together. Even during the depression period, when one . might imagine that, because of the cheapness of softwood timber, its use would be favored, the proportionate use of both hardwood and softwood remained about the same. It is evident, therefore, that the new duties will not have the effect of protecting the hardwood timber trade from the competition of imported timber, because that competition has been shown not to exist. I cannot see why the Government has increased the duty, particularly having regard to the report of the Tariff Board, which after hearing the evidence from both sides, and weighing it impartially, gives its general conclusions as follows : -
If allowance is made for the stocks of Douglas fir on hand at the commencement of the depression, and for the disorganized state of the building industry, it will be found that the proportion of Douglas fir in the total quantity of building timbers used during the last three years is not appreciably different from the proportion over a long period ofyears, including intervals when the relativity of cost was considerably more favorable to Douglas fir. This only confirms the opinion previously expressed by the board, that the building trade needs various types of timber, and that, however desirable it may he to encourage the use of local timbers, it is not in the best interests of the community to attempt to force the building industry to discontinue the use of Douglas fir.
Everything leads up to that conclusion. This industry deserves better treatment from the Government. In the past, notwithstanding that there was a big margin between the landed cost of sawn and log timbers, those in the trade did not take advantage of it. With the object of stimulating the building trade, they sold the timber at a price which just covered costs. If thesenew duties remain in force, I am afraid that the big Canadian timber combines will come to an arrangement with the ship-owners’ regarding freights, so that sawn timber from Canada will be landed in Australia at a price which will make it impossible to bring logs to Australia, and saw them here. We know that ship-owners prefer sawn timber as freight, because it stows more easily, and is less subject to rolling. If the Government pursues a line of policy which will have the effect of stimulating employment in another dominion at the expense of employment in Australia, it will not be giving effect to the platform upon which it was elected. At the present time, the freight on logs to Sydney is nine dollars fifty cents per 1,000 Brereton, whereas sawn timber pays only seven dollars .fifty cents per 1,000 actual super, feet. Allowing for the waste in the log, the present freight rates mean that importers have to pay 2s. per 100 super, higher freight on the product out of the log than is paid on sawn timber. That is why I stated definitely that, unless the duty is reduced there will be an influx of sawn timber into Australia which, as the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) pointed out, will be of inferior quality, consisting largely of sapwood. The Government has removed the sales tax from oregon-
– It has removed the tax from all timber.
– It has removed the sales tax for the purpose of stimulating building, but it has now clapped on double the previous duty on imported oregon. I cannot understand its reasoning, because the two actions are so inconsistent.
– We are getting too much American stuff here.
– Not one log of oregon comes from America. It all comes from Canada, and I presume the honorable member does not mean to include Canada when he speaks of America. I ask the Minister to refer the whole matter back to the Tariff Board for further inquiry or, in order to prevent the importation of sawn timber, either to reduce the present duty of 4s. to 3s., or to make the duty on Hoppus measurements instead of Brereton. [Quorum formed.’] As I was saying- “ The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Prowse).The honorable member’s time has expired.
– It is incomprehensible to me that the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. E. J. Harrison), who has led deputations to me on this matter, and has had the Government’s point of view explained to him several times, should still say that he cannot understand why the Government has taken this action. First and foremost, the Government’s action in this regard is another part of its trade diversion policy, only in this instance, its intention is to divert trade to Australia. Advantage was taken by certain persons of a gap in the tariff which enabled the entry of logs at a duty of 20 per cent, to bring in huge quantities of the timber, to the detriment of the Australian hardwood mills. The Government has taken action to close that gap. Australia is able to buy goods abroad only to the extent of the value of its exports less its overseas commitments. Therefore, the tariff has to be discriminatory. When the Scullin Government was in power it imposed prohibitions and surcharges in a haphazard way, but this Government has embarked upon its tariff policy in a systematic manner. Every item of the tariff schedule has been dealt with individually, and, as far as possible, the Government has endeavoured to frame the tariff in order that it will be used in such a manner as to enable whatever goods or raw materials that can be manufactured or produced in this country to be manufactured or produced here. My honorable colleague, the Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties (Sir Henry Gullett), has already directed the notice of honorable members to the vast sums that are sent abroad for the purchase of motor vehicles. I now direct attention to the money that has been expended abroad in the purchase of timber. The Government wants to divert’- the flow of that money into Australian channels. If we manufacture in Australia the goods which we have formerly been importing we can spend the money saved thereby on the purchase of machinery and raw materials that we cannot make or produce. So much for general principles! In 1931-32 of the imports of oregon, 86 per cent, consisted of sawn timber; but in 1935-36, as the result of the gap in the tariff, sawn oregon totalled only 12 per cent. of the total oregon imports. The gap occurred because of the fact that when the oregon duties were altered a wide margin remained between the duty on sawn timber and the duty on logtimber, of which advantage was taken by certain businesses on the Sydney and Adelaide waterfronts to the detriment of Australia.
– Not at all.
– No. honorable member who knows anything of the hardwood industry can fail to realize that that industry has been passing through very difficult times. The president of the Hardwood Millers Association of Victoria, referring to the increased duties onoregon logs, has communicated with the Government as follows -
Sincethe granting of the increased duty in May last, there has been renewed activity in the native timber industry in this State and I am pleased to say that every sawmill in the State is now working full handed and right up to capacity.
– That would be due to the increased activity in the building trade.
– I remind the honorable gentleman that the revival in the building trade began long before last May, while this letter refers to the increased activity of saw mills since May when the duty was imposed. The letter continues -
Prior to the new duty our trade had suffered considerably by the vicious competition of cheap oregon sawn locally from imported logs.
In 1931-32, 3,800,000 super feet of oregon logs was imported, while in 1935- 36 the quantity of imported logs had risen to 137,000,000 super feet.
– I commend for the consideration of the Minister the fact that the sawing of that timber is providing a great deal of employment.
– Undoubtedly it is on the waterfront of Sydney, but the Government must also consider that there are sawmills throughout the country districts and in other States in addition to New South Wales. It is because of its realization that the hardwood industry is spread throughout the country that the Government has taken action to prevent it from suffering from undue localized competition. The Government’s policy makes for decentralization. The honor able member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) is out of step with the rest of his party in attacking the Government for the change it has made. Honorable members within his own party from Tasmania., Queensland, Victoria,New South Wales, and Western Australia, are aware of the benefits which this tariff change will confer on the industry in their own States. The honorable member for Wentworth directed attention to impositions that were being practised in the substitution of other timbers for oregon. It was, as a matter of fact, represented to the Government that, unless action were taken, serious competition would be experienced from importation of hemlock, larch, white fir, and spruce in log form. The timber industry feared that some merchants would impose on. the public by selling those timbers as substitutes for oregon, and it was in order to prevent those tactics that the Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties last night submitted an amendment which will place those timbers on the same footing as oregon. Therefore, no criticism can be directed against the Government on that ground.
– Has the Government investigated the prices of hardwood before and after the imposition of the new oregon duty? Interesting information might be adduced if it did so.
– I remind the honorable member that, in other ‘industries, particularly the cement industry, the Government has made investigations and taken action to force down the level of prices and thereby saved the public from exploitation. If necessary, it can take similar action in the case of other commodities. The honorable member for Dalley said that the oregon saw-milling industry in Australia would be destroyed by these new duties. I do not think that that is an exaggerated interpretation of the honorable gentleman’s remarks.
– I did not make that contention. What I said was that it would be difficult for the industry to continue.
– In any case, the firms which have intalled the machinery for the milling oforegon logs will be able to carry on. The duty on oregon logs before this schedule was in- troduced was10d. per 100 super feet, and in the previous schedule the duty on sawn timber was placed at 10s. 6d. per 100 super feet. It was subsequently found that the difference was entirely out of proportion, and all that the Government has now done is to bring the two classes of timber into line. After careful consideration, it has been ascertained that a margin of ls. 2d. per 100 super feet exists in favour of the timber cut from the imported log No. 2 as against oregon cut from sawn 12-in. x 10-in. oregon. The total duty including primage, paid on 12-in. x 10-in. junk oregon is11s.1d. per 100 super, feet of sawn timber, whilst on the same quantity of sawn timber cut from the log the total duty paid under the proposed amendment is 5s.5½d. This leaves a total margin of 5s. 7½d. in favour of the log.
The report of the Tariff Board on this subject was held up by the Government in the hope that it would be able to come to terms with Canada, but agreement could not be reached. Honorable members have been able to get valuable facts and figures from the board’s report. In the rates recommended by the Tariff Board, provision was made for a margin of 5s. 6d. per 100 super feet between sawn oregon and logoregon. The board indicated that, in making provision for this margin, it was being exceedingly generous to the log-cutters ; it stated that a margin of 5s. should afford adequate protection. I invite the attention of honorable members to the fact that the Government has provided a margin of 5s. 7½d. ; despite that, the honorable member for “Wentworth sees fit to criticize the Ministry. Does he advocate that the importers of logs, who have had a very good innings by being able to import logs at the rate of duty which was nominal, should be allowed to continue to exploit their advantages to the disadvantage of the Australian mills? Yet that is exactly what has been happening. The further amendment covers the other logs that could be imported in substitution for oregon. The hardwood timber mills support the action that has been taken, and also the reduction of the duty under the amendment from 4s. 6d. to 4s. The margin about which the honorable member forWentworth is so anxious is retained.
Both the honorable member for Wentworth and the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Price) have asked why the Brereton measurement had supplanted the Hoppus measurement. The Brereton is an over-all measurement, while the Hoppus measurement is only approximate. The Government had to be assured that it would give the full amount of protection that it intended to give. The Brereton system allows for waste, and, if we had used the Hoppus system, the duty instead of being fixed at 4s. would have had to be fixed at 5s. or 6s.
The honorable member for Lilley (Sir Donald Cameron) and the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) sought information regarding the alteration of the duty on oregon used for veneers,’ which comes in at a nominal rate. That matter is not before the committee and cannot be debated at this stage, but it will be looked into by the Government, although I can give no assurance that an alteration will be made. As a matter of fact, I do not think there will be any alteration. The matter before the House is the diversion of trade from Canada, with which country we have a most adverse trade balance, to Australia, for the purpose of creating greater employment. It is working out in the way in which the Government Intended it should. Oregon for mining, in which industry it has very valuable uses, is allowed entry under by-law, and it is not intended to interfere with the continuance of that.
Sitting suspended from1.43 to2.30 p.m. Progress reported.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon.G. J. Bell).I wish to inform the House that the Most
Honorable the Marquess of Harrington, M.B.E., member of the United Kingdom House of Commons for West Derbyshire, and Under-Secretary for the Dominions, is within the precincts. With the concurrence of honorable members I proposeto invite His Lordship to take a distinguished stranger’s seat on the floor of the House, beside the Speaker’s chair.
HonorableMembers. - Hear, hear !
The Marquess of Hartington thereupon entered the chamber, andwas seated accordingly.
In committee (Consideration of Senate’s amendments) :
.- I move-
That the amendments be agreed to.
The Senatehas made seven formal amendments in clauses 3 and 4 making more precise the provisions of the bill for the itemising of details of claims with respect to each particular parcel of a number of parcels of land. There is no alteration of any substance.
.- 1 offer no objection to the course proposed by the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) in this case, but do. rather object to the method that is being followed. We have not had time to consider the purport of these amendments. It so happens that they are not of substantial moment, but they might easily be of a character that would involve more reasonable consideration by this committee. I understand that they have been made by the Senate on the initiative of the Government. That brings me to a point that I have previously had to state, namely, that bills are dealt with in this chamber in a hurryscurry fashion, with the result that the Senate has to make amendments to them which would not be necessary if they were properly or adequately drafted. Furthermore, if the necessity for amendment should escape the notice of the Government before a measure passes the Senate, an amending measure has to be introduced. Already we are amending during this period of the session bills that were passed but six months ago. Some of these amendments, one grants, are the result of departmental experience: but too many of them are the result of inadequate consideration by this chamber.
Motion agreed to.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
Bill, amended accordingly, returned to the Senate.
.- I have listened very attentively to the argu ments that have been advanced, and am astonished at the opposition to the proposal of the Government which the committee is now considering. I have been enabled to gain an intimate knowledge of the timber industry. Nearly 40 years ago, I worked on the Dover breakwater in England. The timber for that work was o’btained from Australia. Some of the most decorative interiors of buildings in London are veneered with Australian woods, principally from Queensland. During my recent visit to Europe I was assured that the best veneers in the world are , of Queensland walnut. It has been argued that the duties imposed by the Government will not benefit the timber industry. In 1928-29 the majority of the sawmills throughout Australia had to close down, with their racking yards filled with timber. When the Scullin Government came into power in 1930, it imposed duties on the importation of foreign timber, and as soon as the very large stocks oforegon were cleared, the sawmills were able to dispose of their holdings. The Scullin Government had the foresight to realize that, if it allowed the existing conditions to continue for a further twelve months, the Australian hardwood industry would be ruined. When those huge stocks of hardwood were cleared, prosperity returned to the industry. Certain honorable gentlemen on both sides of the committee have said that timber imported in log form is of better quality than timber imported already sawn; but that argument cannot be substantiated. People get the quality of timber that they pay for, and if they pay for third grade timber they get third grade timber. Those who pay for the best timber get it if they know their business.
– The honorable mem ber would know differently if he worked in the timber trade.
– I worked in the timber trade for many years. When soft timbers are handled, such asoregon and other pines, the whole of the log can be used, including the sap and the heart; but it is not practicable to use the whole of a hardwood log when it is milled, for the heart is of no use. We get only about 50 per cent. of usable timber out of our local logs, whereas about 90 per cent, of the imported oregon is usable. It has been said that because certain companies have incurred heavy expenditure in the establishment of mills in the cities to saw imported oregon logs, their interests should be protected; but the Government did not encourage these people to establish their saw-mills. It has also been said that if oregon timber continues to be admitted already sawn, many city timber workers will remain out of work. It must be borne in mind, however, that if we encourage the use of our own hardwoods and hew it from our own forests, very much more work will be provided than is necessary for simply sawing imported oregon logs. Many timber mills in Victoria and also on the north-west coast of Tasmania have had to close down. At one time, there were 3,000 members in the Timbers “Workers’ Union of Tasmania, and to-day there are only a few hundred; but I am glad to say that in consequence of the encouragement that is being given to the local timber industry, it is reviving and additional employment is being provided. I offer no objection to the importation of Oregon for purposes for which it is essential, but I dispute the contention of honorable gentlemen who say that oregon must be used for building construction and the timbering of mines - to take only two examples. The Mount Lyell mine is one of the most efficient in the world. All its stopes are timbered with hardwood. I worked in the Mount Lyell mine 40 years ago, and I know that when timber was taken out of some of the stopes after having been there for many years, it was in sufficiently good order to be used again. The Government has given concessions to the Broken Hill Proprietary Company in connexion with the importation of Oregon timber, but I contend that the company should use Australian hardwood timbers.
– Freight charges would kill all possibility of using hardwood timbers at Broken Hill.
– It is regrettable that the freights on timber from the northwest coast of Tasmania, and even from Hobart, are excessively high and in some cases involve as great an expenditure as freight charges on timber brought from abroad; but that is not the fault of the timber industry. The rapacity of the shipping companies should be curbed. The Government has power to take action in this connexion and it should do so. The shipping companies should not be allowed to make large profits at the expense of the timber industry.
The honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Price) complained that hardwood timber warped under the climatic conditions of South Australia, but the honorable gentleman must have been talking of years ago when timber was racked and dried. Such a condition does not apply to-day when our hardwood timbers are kiln-dried. All the sap is evaporated in the kilns and the timber is then safely usable for practically all purposes.
As a rule, when additional protection is accorded to an industry, the prices of the commodities which it produces rise, but that experience has been reversed in the timber industry, for despite the fact that the timber companies have incurred heavy expenditure in the construction of kilns to process their timber, the price of Australian hardwood has fallen. In these circumstances there is every reason why the Government should maintain the existing duties. It has been said that it costs 2s. per 100 super, feet to saw the imported oregon logs in Australia; but I remind honorable members that the cost of getting our local timber from the forests and sawing it at the mills, is about 9s. a 100 super, feet, so that the use of Australian timber is beneficial to the Australian people to the extent of an additional 7s. a 100 super, feet. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. E. J”. Harrison) said that unless we were careful all timber would be brought to Australia in sawn lengths. There is no reason why that should be so. I cannot believe that the shipping companies will charge a lower rate for sawn timber than for logs. In any case the Government must take effective steps to protect the interests of the local timber industry. I am glad that the recommendations of the Tariff Board in this connexion are not being adopted by the Government. Unless we exploit and develop our own timber resources, hundreds of thousands of pounds will continue to be taken from Australia yearly to pay for imported timbers. The argument that Australian hardwood timber is useless for certain purposes has been disproved again and again. It was said at one time that hardwoods were not suitable for paper manufacturing, but in consequence of the experiments conducted in this country it has been demonstrated that hardwoods make a paper far superior to the paper made from, softwoods. Seeing that we are able to use only 52 per cent, of the hardwood logs for timber, and that the remaining 48 per cent, would be waste unless it could be used for making pulp, there is substantial reason for encouraging our paper manufacturing industry.
In what are called our moist areas, our forests replenish themselves. This is a most important consideration. Certain honorable gentlemen opposite seem to be obsessed with the idea that nothing we can do can preserve our forests or assure us of a continuity of supplies of suitable timbers; but this is not the case. I am glad that steps are being” taken to ensure, not only the protection of our selfreplenishing forests, but also the planting of new forests. Many forests which are being cut out in other parts of the world cannot be replanted, for the erosion that has taken place has made replanting impossible. In these circumstances Australia cannot expect to look to overseas countries to supply it indefinitely with timber. Undoubtedly the timber supplies of some overseas countries at least will become exhausted in the course of the years. In any case replanted forests require 70 or 80 years to reach maturity. Some people say that forests in this, or that, country are inexhaustible. In Russia and Germany to-day timber is being hewn from hundreds of thousands of acres, but invariably replanting is carried out in those countries because the necessity for reafforestation is fully realized. We grow, in Australia, all the timber we require and, therefore, there is no need to import any. I have noticed an agitation in some quarters that all our fruit for export should be shipped in pine cases. When I visited England last year I observed that Tasmanian fruit, on the London fruit markets, was packed in hardwood cases and brought as high a price as any other fruit. I also saw fruit packed in red jarrah cases. These were particularly distinguishable on the selling floors and, when I questioned the vendors on the suitability of jarrah for casing, 1 was informed that it had proved most successful and that a demand had grown up among a considerable section of buyers for fruit packed in the red case. Those cases were well-trimmed and neatly finished off and were a credit to the people responsible for their construction. I trust that our fruit exporters who now use those cases will not accede to the agitation of the fruit merchants to have all our export fruit packed in pine cases. The merchants are offering an extra 3d. a case to growers who follow this method, but, actually, on each pine case the merchant makes an extra profit of 6d. In view of the fact that such timber must be imported the people who compel its use are disloyal to Australian interests. They must be aware that the greater use of Australian timber for the packing of export fruit would give increased employment and would lead to the utilization of much local timber that has now to be wasted. I could understand opposition to these duties if we needed to import timbers to preserve our own forests, but no such need exists. All timber, as if matures, must be cut out. Of course, we may have to go into forests further afield but no matter where it is situated, a forest, once it is cut out, can be worked again if it is replanted. I pay a tribute to the excellent work that has been done by forestry departments in all of the States, in educating our people on the importance of our forests. We must look to the future; it is useless to hew out: forests to-day and make no provision for our needs in years to come. If not in our time, well then, at some time in the future, Australia will need all the timber that can be grown in this country.
I repeat the hope that the Government will not relax its endeavours to provide effective protection for our valuable timber industry.
.- This matter has been discussed from two aspects. First, we had what is known as a second-reading debate on the tariff embodying the Government’s trade diversion policy and, now, we are discussing the particular items in the schedule. At the outset I protest against the haphazard method by which the call has been given in this debate from the Chair.
The honorable member is not in order. He must confine his remarks to the question before the Chair.
– I submit, Mr. Chairman, that I am in order in commenting on the method by which honorable members have been given the call in this debate.
– If he persists in disobeying the Chair the honorable member must resume his seat.
– Some honorable members opposite have said “Hear! hear “ ! to your ruling, Mr. Chairman,, but if they desire to ensure free discussion
– Order ! I have already warned the honorable member and I shall not do so again.
– Since these proposals were brought down in May last various suggestions have been submitted to the Minister arising out of facts that were disclosed at the time the proposals were introduced. I have assisted in making various representations to the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) on this particular item, and I thank him and the Government for having acceded to some of those representations. I strongly support the amendment now before the Chair. I regard it as a very fair compromise which will deal out even-handed justice to every section of the timber industry. It will help those men who are engaged in the back country felling, hauling, and trimming the timber before its despatch to the city, and will also help to develop the timber industry generally in this country. It will also pay due regard to the contentions submitted by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) that the claims of the importing manufacturer should be considered. I was delighted to hear the Minister read in this chamber a communication which he received from the Timber Merchants’ .Association of . Victoria, which clearly shows that the industry has progressed considerably in recent years as the result of certain actions taken by this Government including, principally, the complete removal of sales tax on timber. That improvement has also been due to the recent revival in the building trade.
– That revival is responsible for 99 per cent, of the improvement which has taken place in the timber industry.
– But the letter I read referred to improvements which have taken place since May last.
– I *m referring to the improvement which has taken place since May last. The Government’s action in this matter is in keeping with its endeavour to implement a wellbalanced policy in respect of our customs legislation generally. I am particularly pleased that the Government has seen fit not to accept the recommendation of the Tariff Board that the duties on timber should be reduced.
I am definitely a protectionist. In the past I believe the Government has invariably accepted the recommendations of the Tariff Board without giving them, sufficient consideration, and its refusal to do so in this instance is most pleasing to me. In respect of cement, however, the Government did not hesitate to accept the board’s recommendation that the duty on that item should be reduced by 100 per cent.
– But our trade with the United Kingdom was involved in- that instance; here it is not.
– I do not think that such a consideration should have been allowed to weigh the Government.
– We must recognize our obligations to the United Kingdom.
– The paramount consideration is the welfare of Australian industry, and I stand wholeheartedly in support of Australian, industry. There should not be any alteration of the basic principle of protection of our industries, both primary and secondary, whether the competition or imports come from the United Kingdom or one of the dominions. The main point with which I intended to deal in this discussion related to the duty on plywoods and veneers. Those woods are covered by an item which the Standing Orders will not permit me to discuss, but I hope that the Minister will examine this matter very carefully and ensure that the industry in respect of those woods will be effectively protected. I hope that he will see that no importations are allowed which will adversely effect the development of our natural veneers and plywood. Queensland is particularly interested in woods suitable for veneering, and the use of them has gone ahead by leaps and bounds.’ It is a phase of activity that should not be retarded in any way, because it has given employment to thousands of persons. I hope, therefore, that no hasty, or ill-considered, action is taken which may directly or indirectly adversely affect its further development. I repeat that I have much pleasure in supporting the Gove*nment’s proposals, and particularly the amendment now before the committee. I am grateful to the Minister for his assurance that he will give careful consideration to the future of our plywood and veneer trade. I am sorry, however, that the Standing Orders and the ruling of the Chair have prevented me from dealing with other matters with which I had hoped to deal in this discussion.
– I remind the honorable member that, in its rulings, the Chair is guided by the Standing Orders; the honorable member is not in order in making insinuations against the Chair as he has done.
.- - Strange as it may seem, I support, in this instance, the proposals of the Government. It is not often that I am prepared to support the Government, because it is so often wrong, but when it is right, either by accident or design, I am prepared to give it credit. I agree that at the present time we should do everything in our power to encourage our timber industry, which undoubtedly, in the near future, will be capable of supplying all of our requirements. I consider the Government’s trade diversion policy as an unfortunate misnomer; titles, however, are not of much account. In these days of economic nationalism, when each country, except our Mother Country, is prepared to prohibit our imports, we should do our best to promote an industry which is of prime importance to Australia. In these circumstances, we cast our vision to the countries which are supplying us with softwoods to-day. In the past, these importations have been almost exclusively Douglas fir, which is better known as oregon. Most of this has been imported from Canada. Although that country is our sister dominion, we must pay attention to its adverse trade balance with us, and decide that, until it is prepared to deal more fairly with us, we will do everything we can to enable our timber industry to supply the whole of our needs. According to the report of the Tariff Board Australia, in pre-depression times, utilized about 200,000,000 super, feet of oregon each year. .During the depression, that quantity fell to a little less than 40,000,000 cubic feet a year, but in 1932-33, when already there had been a substantial recovery in the building trade, 59,000,000 super, feet was imported. It is interesting to notice how oregon importations were distributed among the various States. I can understand the anxiety of the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) to preserve the industry of cutting up oregon logs which gives considerable employment to men working in city sawmills. I agree that if oregon must be brought in at all, it is better that it should be brought in as logs, but the question is whether it is necessary to import any oregon. New South Wales used about half of the oregon imported in the year 1932-33, while Victoria, where the building boom had been just as great, and where, indeed, the trade was never so slack as in New South Wales, took only 14 per cent. The reason, of course, is that Victoria is one of the forest States of Australia, and the builders there were able to utilize more of the timber produced in their own State. There are extensive forests in New South Wales also, but the population of that State is large, being more than one-third of the population of the whole continent. Queensland, which is also a timber-producing State, was able to get along with only 865,000 super, feet of oregon. As a matter of fact, Queensland practically went off the oregon market altogether. Tasmania, whose representatives in this Parliament have put the case of the Australian timber industry so ably, used only 190,000 super, feet of oregon, while Western Australia used less than 1,000,000 super, feet. It is clear therefore, that those States which have timber resources of their own, even though they consist entirely of hardwood, were able to do with very little imported Oregon. Thus the case for the protection of the Australian hardwood industry is clearly established. I do not suggest that oregon should be shut out altogether, but sufficient duty should be placed upon it to prevent it from competing actively with our own hardwood timbers. I admit that difficulties arose in the use of hardwood timber in the past, but since the introduction of the kiln-drying process, these difficulties have been overcome. Jarrah timber, when polished, looks very much like mahogany, and the jarrah panelling in the State Parliament House in Perth proved entirely satisfactory. Hardwood treated by the modern processes is immune from the defect of shrinking. Christopher “Wren, the famous architect who designed St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, is buried in that building, and the translation of his epitaph, which is in Latin, reads: “ If you would see his monument, look around !” If honorable members wish to see an example of what can be done with Australian hardwoods for decorative purposes, let them look around the chamber in which we now are. Indeed, the English oak, of which the Speaker’s Chair is made, does not compare for appearance with our own Australian hardwoods.
Before the depression, 878,000,000 super, feet of timber was used in Australia for building purposes, of which 578,000,000 was produced in Australia Thus 300,000,000 super, feet was imported, but of course, not all of it was oregon. Some was Baltic pine, and some was American redwood, used for making panels of doors.’ That timber is to-day very scarce and very dear. In 1932-33 we managed to do with less than 60,000,000 super, feet of oregon.
Some members have suggested that: if restrictions are placed upon the importation of oregon, the Australian saw-millers will take advantage of the fact to raise prices. Every contractor knows that there is a danger of this, but the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) claims that, in such instances, a remedy can be applied by reducing the duty, and thus encouraging imports. Whether that can be done quickly enough to be effective, or whether this Government would be prepared to do it quickly enough to check rising prices, I cannot say ; but this possible difficulty should not prevent us from attempting to make ourselves practically self-supported in regard to timber. Let us jump the hurdle when we come to it. There is no reason why we should not be able to supply the whole of our needs in both hardwood and softwood timber, except, perhaps, for some veneers, &c, for furniture-making.
The matter of transport costs is one of great importance. The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) has brought this subject up on many occasions, and I have listened to him with interest. It is true that Australian shipping charges on timber carried from Tasmania to the mainland, or from Western Australia to the eastern States, are inordinately high compared with freights on oregon from the Pacific coast of America to Sydney. When I was in the building trade some years ago, American timber was brought across the Pacific to Australia in fivemasted schooners, which were able to carry enormous cargoes, but which were manned by comparatively small crews, so that the cost of running them was very light. In Canada, the big timber firms have their own ships, and our own timber-millers in Australia should take such steps as will ensure that transport charges do not make the price of timber unduly high. Of course, if they are content to have their timber carried on passenger vessels, or on small steamers, freights must necessarily be high, and will represent a large proportion of the landed cost of the timber. It has been estimated that Australia could manage with 160,000,000 super, feet of oregon each year. The Tariff Board has suggested that a similar quantity is cut from the hoop pine, forests of Queensland without being missed. I have been given to understand that hoop pine is an excellent softwood, and it has certainly proved satisfactory for the manufacture of butter boxes. Whether this timber could be used for other purposes I am unable to say; if not, would it be an impossible task to grow Douglas fir trees on the waste lands of the west coast of Tasmania where the rainfall is similar to that of the home of the fir, the State of Oregon in the United States of America? We should take a long view of this matter, and try to make ourselves independent by developing our own softwood industry.
Bill brought up by Sir HENRY Gullett, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
Hint the bill be now read a second time.
I have pleasure in submitting to this chamber a bill to approve a trade agreement with France. In my speech delivered in this chamber on the 29th October last, when introducing the agreements with Czechoslovakia and Belgium, I stated the considerations which moved the Government to enter into negotiations for the conclusion of trade agreements with foreign countries. I do not think it necessary for me to go over the ground again. I shall, therefore, limit my remarks to-day to a summary of the trading position with France and the provisions of the agreement.
France stands third amongst the great wool-using countries of the world. Its demand for wool is exceeded only by that of the United Kingdom and the United States of America. Except for the United Kingdom, France imports more fleece wool than any other country. Up to 1933 imports averaged about 506,000,000 lb. annually, which is equivalent to more than 1,600,000 Australian bales. Importations declined heavily in later years owing, no doubt, to exchange difficulties. With the devaluation of the franc, it is expected that a revival in demand will occur. In addition to this great import of fleece wool, France imports large quantities of woolled skins, the annual imports of wool in this form being equivalent to about 50,000,000 lb. of wool, or, roughly, 170,000 bales. Supplies of wool from domestic sources yield n further 50.000,000 lb. annually.
Although direct exports of Australian wool to France have declined greatly during the last three years, France has, for long, been one of the largest users of Australian wool and the greatest buyer of sheepskins. Australian trade with France, which is, at the present time, confined almost entirely to wool and sheepskins, is overwhelmingly in Australia’s favour. Here, I may mention that, owing to the absence of a trade agreement, Australian products have, for many years, been exposed to the maximum duties in France. These maximum rates are variously from two to three times the minimum rates with a few exceptions such as wool and sheep skins.
According to Australian statistics, exports to France during 1935-36 were valued at £5,137,000 sterling, and imports at £790,000 sterling. The French statistics reveal a very much greater balance in Australia’s favour, due to large indirect imports of wool. The French figures for 1935 show imports from Australia equivalent to £S,S90,000 sterling, and exports to Australia of £600,000 sterling. These figures are typical of the trade for several years past. As I mentioned when introducing the agreement with Czechoslovakia and Belgium, it is the accepted practice in trade treaty negotiations to use the import figures of each country as the measure of the trade between them. On this basis the trading position with France is more than eleven to one in Australia’s favour.
A word of explanation perhaps is needed to account for the fact that, despite a marked economic recovery in Australia during the last few years, and a consequent expansion of our total imports, our purchases from France have continued to decline both absolutely and relatively. For several years prior to 1931-32 France supplied 2-J per cent, of the total Australian imports. The percentage has steadily declined since, and is now only 1 per cent, of the total. During the year ended’ 30th June, 1929, total imports from France averaged over £4,000,000. They declined to £790,000 for the year ended 30th June, 1936, representing a. decline of SO per cent. Although total imports declined by 50’ per cent, over the same period, the fall of imports from France has been quiteout of proportion. The most noticeable fall is in respect of silk and artificial silk piece goods. Imports from France of these- goods formerly reached £1,000,000. Last year they amounted to only £40,000. France’s failure to advance in the Australian market has been, I suggest, due not so much to the Australian tariff as to French monetary policy, which has made French goods relatively dear in external markets. We welcome, therefore, the recent decision of the French Government to devalue the franc, particularly as this action was accompanied by a general reduction of duties and the abolition of the import quotas on more than 100 classes of goods. This is a very welcome trend. Although, up to the present, it has not extended to products of great Interest to Australia, we are hopeful that, as the international monetary position becomes stabilized, the quota restrictions generally in France will gradually disappear.
Mr.Archie Cameron. - Hear, hear !
– We sincerely hope that it will stimulate a freer flow of trade between France and Australia. The adjustment of the franc to the level of about 100 francs to the £1 sterling still leaves the franc somewhat above the sterling level.
In addition to the maximum duties mentioned in the foregoing, the Australian products were also subject, until a few weeks ago, to an exchange surtax of 15 percent., to counterbalance the depreciation of the Australian £1. Australian goods also carried the highest importation tax, a tax which is equivalent to the Australian primage tax. Furthermore, when the importation of many classes of goods was also restricted by quota, no quota was allotted to Australia. The cumulative effect of these restrictions was tantamount to prohibition on all but a few Australian products, the exception being wool and woolled skins. Such was the position which confronted the Government in its negotiations for the agreement which has been signed to-day.
In dealing with the details of the agreement, I shall first deal with the concessions which the Commonwealth Government undertakes to accord to French products. Briefly enumerated these are as follows : -
A consolidation for the minimum period of the agreement - that is, one year - of the duties on high-power insulators for use in the manufacture of electric switch-gear and transformers.
– Has the Minister calculated what loss of customs revenue would occur as the result of the reduction of primage duties?
– I am sorry, but I do not think that I have. I shall, however, supply the honorable member with that information before the debate is resumed. The honorable gentleman, of course, has raised an important point. Reductions of primage that have been effected by this Government up to the present time have ‘been very heavily preferential to the United Kingdom, although they were not obligatory under the Ottawa agreement. The action taken under this bill is merely, to some extent, a levelling of the primage concessions to foreign countries. In no case, however, has the primage duty on goods imported from France under this treaty been reduced to a level which is below the level of the primage duty on British goods. The intermediate rates to be accorded to France are supported, except in a few minor instances in which special circumstances obtain, by recommendations from the Tariff Board.
In return for concessions granted by Australia, full details of which are given in an explanatory memorandum circulated for the information of honorable members, the French Government has agreed to accord the following benefits to Australian exports: -
It is necessary to explain that, while the French quota restrictions remain in force - only 100 of them have recently been removed - it does not necessarily follow that the grant of the minimum tariff completely opens the way for great imports of those commodities to France. There are some items on which France, although granting the minimum tariff, has been unable to grant quotas. In such cases, however, the French Government has undertaken to examine with goodwill any request which the Commonwealth Government may make to France for a percentage of the global quota.
Definite quota allotments have been obtained for barley and apples. These will permit an annual importation of 20,000 quintals of Australian barley, equivalent to about 88,000 bushels, and a’bout 64,500 bushel cases of Australian apples.
The agreement has been made for one year, but it continues thereafter until terminated at two months’ notice from either side.
If honorable members read the formal notes constituting the agreement with France they will see that one note deals with the vexed question of wine appellations. In France so much importance is attached to the matter that I feel it necessary to make a special reference to it. In commercial negotiations with other countries it is customary for the Government of France to require from the other party an undertaking to prohibit the use of wine names bearing the name of a French district. The efforts of the Government of France in this direction in its negotiations with many countries have been attended with success, and in most cases the countries with which France has made trade agreements in recent years have met its wishes in this respect. The most notable exceptions are the agreements with Great Britain and the United States of America. The principle is, however, embedded so deeply in French policy that it appeared for some time as if no agreement could be reached with France unless the Commonwealth Government subscribed to the French viewpoint. It was only during personal discussions at Paris that I succeeded in securing the withdrawal of the French demand. I have said that the Commonwealth has given an undertaking to use its best endeavours to have Australian wine clearly marked to show that it is of Australian origin. I am glad to be able to say that the Australian Viticultural Council, at a recent meeting in Adelaide, undertook to urge its members to comply with this request. There is nothing binding on the Commonwealth.
Mr.Curtin. - Does that apply to all wines exported, or only to those exported to France?
– It applies to all exported wines that bear old French names. I cordially commend the bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Curtin) adjourned.
Motions (by Sir Henry Gullett) . proposed -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 27 November 1936, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1936/19361127_reps_14_152/>.