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Friday, 2 December 1938

Mr FROST (Franklin) .- I have much pleasure in supporting the bill, which I regard as one of the most important measures that have been introduced this session. The manufacture of newsprint, which this measure is designed to assist, is one of great possibilities. During the Great War, supplies of newsprinting paper in Australia were limited, and newspaperowners were forced to reduce the size of their publications. If another war had occurred recently, a similar position would have arisen. In 1928. a company was formedto investigate the possibility of manufacturing newsprint from Australian hardwoods. Experiments, though encouraging, were not completely successful for a number of years. A paperproducing plant which was exhibited at the Wembley Empire Exhibition, was taken to Tasmania and .sot. up in tho Huon Valley. .Experts were brought to Tasmania, and considerable experimenting in the manufacture of paper from local hardwoods was carried out. Until that time, experts throughout the world had held that good newsprint could not be made from hardwoods. The company which conducted its experiments in the Huon Valley has proved otherwise. It has demonstrated that paper superior to that made from softwoods can be manufactured from Australian hardwoods. All difficulties with regard to such matters as texture and colouring having been overcome, the company sought sufficient capital to commence operations on a commercial scale. About that time, unfortunately, Australia was entering the depression years, and the necessary finance was not available. Some years later the company which is now peeking a bounty, forwarded more than 2,000 tons of hardwood logs to Canada where experiments in the manufacture of newsprint were conducted. The wood was found to bc quite suitable, and the company approached the State Government with a view to securing a large area nf forest land. This company has never before, asked for assistance from any government. It ha.s been conducting all its experiments at its own expense. The situation is ideal, there being ample supplies of timber and water power available. As the natural timber is cut out, the re-growth will be sufficient, to meet the requirements of the industry, ?o that Australia will he independent of outside suppliers of newsprint. The company is asking that, bounty he-paid during the first few years of its operations in order that it may establish production on a stable basis, and in order that, its existence, may not be endangered by powerful overseas companies which could flood the Australian market, and so make local manufacture unprofitable. The -ite which the company has. secured in the Derwent Valley on tho Derwent. River i< one of the best natural industrial sites in Australia. The hardwood forests are within 40 miles, and the State railways will derive considerable benefit from the establishment of the, industry by way of freights. Electricity will be. supplied at cheap rates by the State Government.

When the. first unit is installed, the company expects to produce. 27,000 tons of paper yearly, rising to .100,000 tons a year, when more units have been installed. The amount which will be expended on the establishment of this industry will bc between £3,000,000 and £4,000,000, most of which will be expended on machinery and labour.

In other parts of the world it is practically impossible at the present time to make firm contracts for the supply of newsprint, or any paper over an extended period. Last year the cost of applewrapping paper - an item of some importance to apple-growers in Tasmania - was increased by more than TOO per cent... the reason given being a world scarcity of paper. It was intimated that there would probably be a further increase later. I" understand that the situation is a little bit easier this year, hut there is no guarantee that, the price for this class of paper as well as others will not be increased considerably in the future. The same position exists with regard to newsprint.

This new industry is being started because those who are sponsoring it. believe, that in a few years it will be practically impossible to obtain from overseas adequate supplies at reasonable prices to meet the requirements of Australia. We import about 150,000 tons of newsprint yearly. As the company will produce only 27,000 tons per annum for the first year or two. there will be an opportunity for other companies to enter the field of production and cater for Australia's requirements. I understand that a Victorian company has made, or is making, preliminary arrangements to this end. There is plenty of scope for two companies to operate. I am glad to say that at Burnie a company recently began to manufacture paper of finer quality. Al " one time, it, was said that our hardwoods were useless for the manufacture of the finer classes of paper, but the experiments at Kermandie, supervised by Mr. Avery, have entirely disproved that contention. As a matter of fact, it has been shown that because of the fibres of our hardwoods, it is possible to make stronger and better paper from them than from softwoods. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) said last night that it was not yet certain that the newsprint manufacturing industry would be successfully established, but 1 have been informed that it is now beyond the experimental stage. 1 am sure the honorable member hopes that it will be successful.

This industry will be of great benefit to Tasmania. The new company expects at the commencement of its operations to use electricity equivalent to 12,000 horsepower per annum. When the works are in full production, the volume of current consumed will be the equivalent? of 45,000 horse-power per annum. It is anticipated that between 10,000,000 and 12,000,000 gallons of water a day will be required. The company intends employing 260 men in the factory and in the bush at the commencement of its operations. This is irrespective of roadmakers, bush track-cutters, and men engaged in other work of a more or less temporary character. A good deal of employment will also be given to men engaged in the building industry. The forest which will be drawn upon is from 30 to 40 miles from the factory site. It is provided, in the agreement, that the company will maintain the forests in good order. The timber will be cut out in 40 years, but by that time the first replantings will again be available for cutting and so there will be a perpetual use of country which, under other circumstances, might become useless. It is well-known that when saw-mills are put into a forest, only about 45 per cent, of the timber cut is put on to the market. The remaining 55 per cent, is wasted. All timber of marketable quality cut by this company will be sold as timber. Only what would otherwise be rubbish will be pulped. Seeing that in the past many forest areas in Tasmania and elsewhere have been utterly destroyed or mutilated beyond redemption, it will be a great thing for this company to operate along the lines I have suggested. The activities of the company will be well controlled in accordance with the Forestry Act of Tasmania. The denuding of our forest areas, which has occurred in the past, will not be permitted in connexion with this industry.

Australia has hitherto relied to a very large degree on supplies of both timber and paper from overseas. Last year, the supply of timber was sometimes greater than the demand. This was due to the war in the East and the consequent diverting of timber boats to Australia. I have no doubt that after the war is ended, the price of timber in Australia will rise, and we shall once again experience the shortages that have been known from time to time in the past.

Every country of the. world is to-day drawing too heavily on its forests. While I was abroad, I visited many forest areas. I was informed that the forests of Russia were inexhaustible, but I ascertained that the Government of that country had to withdraw many workers from forest areas because of the fear of depleting supplies. So even the forests of Russia are not inexhaustible. The forest lands of America are also being denuded. In the areas that have been replanted, pests have been experienced which have rendered useless a good deal of the timber that has been grown. There is every reason, therefore, why we should do our utmost to conserve our all-too-limited supplies of timber.

The right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) has, on frequent occasions, directed attention in this House to the serious effects of soil erosion. If Ave can conserve our- forests and replant areas as the timber is taken from them, we shall counteract, to some degree at least, the occurrence of soil erosion. We ought to do our best to keep some forest areas in reserve. Fifty years ago in Tasmania there were very few saw-mills. Most of the timber was won by pit-saw methods, which had the effect of mutilating many thousands of acres of otherwise good forest country. The company that has been formed to establish the newsprint industry will avoid errors of that description.

I commend the bill to the House, and trust that it will be accorded unanimous support. It is pleasing to me thai the Government has seen fit to introduce this measure. The policy that is being adopted will undoubtedly be beneficial, not only to Australia, but also to Great Britain. When the industry is well established, we shall not need to rely so much upon British ships as formerly to bring newsprint to this country, for, in a degree at any rate, we shall become self-supporting. I am sure honorable members will desire to contribute to this desirable end.

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