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Tuesday, 18 April 1961

Mr. FREETH(Forrest- Minister for the Interior and Minister for Works. - by leave - The Government has decided to establish a Forest Research Institute to strengthen and extend the work of the research sections of the Forestry and Timber Bureau. The institute will function as a division of the bureau in close association with the Australian Forestry School and appropriate divisions of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization.

An Australian Forestry Council will be created under the Forestry and Timber Bureau Act to serve as a national advisory body on forestry matters. The advice of the council will be used by the bureau to ensure that its work is co-ordinated with related activities in the forest services of the Australian States and Territories, in C.S.I.R.O., in the universities, and in the timber industry. The final composition of the council will require further consideration, but it will contain representatives of the forest services of the Australian States and Territories, the timber industry, C.S.I.R.O., the universities, and, if considered desirable, other appropriate organizations.

Through the Australian Forestry Council, the Forest Research Institute and other divisions of the Forestry and Timber Bureau, the Commonwealth Government will extend its activities in the field of forestry and thereby give added assistance to the timber industry from a long-term point of view. This long-term approach, it should be pointed out, is entirely separate from the detailed examination of the immediate economic stresses being felt by the industry, which the Government is currently undertaking.

In essence, the task ahead is to assist in bringing Australia's forest estate to a condition of maximum productivity. The annual growth of the forests in 1955 was estimated as 6,216,000,000 super, feet. Against this increment, we meanwhile harvest for annual use 6,132,000,000 super, feet of timber, waste over another 1.200,000,000 super, feet in the process, and lose another 1,716,000,000 super, feet to borers, insects, and fire damage. At present, therefore, our annual debit in timber exceeds the replacement capacity of the forests by a figure of no less than 2,832,000,000 super, feet - or more than half the volume actually harvested. Even that fails to convey the full gravity of the situation because the above losses do not include arrested forest growth due to periodic defoliations and other injuries following bushfires, disease and insect attack. Loss of potential growth on this account adds up to at least another 6.000,000,000 super, feet a year.

After allowing for some unavoidable waste in harvesting, the 9,000,000,000 super, feet or so of forest growth at present being lost every year would, if it could be saved, be worth, at present-day prices, about £25,000,000 standing in the forest. If research resulted in a saving of only a mere 10 per cent, of this loss the value of that 10 per cent, at mill door in the form of logs and pulpwood would be around £7.000,000, and in the term of sawn timber, fibreboard and paper its final value at consuming centres would be about £30,000,000. The return from the increased production would more than cover any extra cost incurred in growing it, and it is confidently believed that scientific research can, within a few years, result in a much greater saving than 10 per cent, of the present losses.

One of the main activities of the Forestry and Timber Bureau during the past 35 years has been the development of the Australian Forestry School. This school was established by the Commonwealth at the request of the States, to provide a national centre of forestry education to graduate or post-graduate level.

Graduate forestry training in Australia is celebrating its jubilee year. The Australian Forestry School started as a Commonwealth activity in Adelaide in 1926, when it took over the degree course in forestry established by the University of Adelaide in 1911. The University of Adelaide generously agreed to forgo a field which had been allocated to it by the vice-chancellors of the Australian Universities in favour of a national school which could be staffed at an acceptable international standard. The course at Adelaide had been built up by staff trained at the forestry schools of the Universities of Oxford and Edinburgh.

To develop further a suitable Australian course in forestry, the Commonwealth Government created a Board of Higher Forestry Education under the Forestry and Timber Bureau Act. This advisory board consists of representatives of the Australian State universities and forest services. With the advice of this Board, the Commonwealth appointed staff trained at leading forestry schools in Europe, America and New Zealand. The lecturing staff has included graduates from the Australian States, New Zealand, Oxford, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, London, Yale (United States of America), Nancy (France), Dresden (Germany) and Copenhagen (Denmark). Features from all these institutions have been incorporated in the Australian Forestry School course and adapted to the Australian scene. As a result, the school has been accepted as a major forestry training centre and its ex-students now make up the greater part of the graduate staff of our forest services.

This system of co-operation and coordination will be used to make the work of all the divisions of the Forestry and Timber Bureau fit the requirements of Australian forests and its timber industry. During the past 35 years the bureau has carried out a great deal of research work in the fields of forest management and assessment, timber supply economics, bush fire control, introduction of suitable exotic conifers and other trees, tree breeding, forest soils and nutrition, forest botany and tree physiology. In carrying out this work the Forestry and Timber Bureau has co-operated with the forest services and other institutions, but the research sections have not had the type of support given to the Australian Forestry School by the Board of Higher Forestry Education. The advice of the Australian Forestry Council will be usedto assist the Forest Research Institute and other divisions of the bureau to develop and coordinate their work with appropriate institutions in Australia and her Territories.

At present, successful students of the Australian Forestry School can only graduate at the universities at which they carried out their earlier training. The Government realizes that the development of the School of General Studies within the Australian National University might provide a more suitable means of graduation for Forestry School students, particularly in the post-graduate field, if use could be made of the various fields of research in Canberra which deal with problems influencing the growth and use of timber. Conferences will be invited between the Australian National University and appropriate authorities to see if a mutually satisfactory association of the Forestry School with the University could be developed, which would retain the present collaboration between the institutions which support the school and on which its students must depend for later employment.

In addition to research and education, the Forestry Timber Bureau Act 1950-1953 gives the bureau functions of advice, the awarding of forestry scholarships, the collection, publication and distribution of statistics and information on forestry and timber and the management of forests placed under its control. The Government has received strong representations from the timber industry to strengthen the bureau so that the effectiveness of its work can be increased.

Measures which might properly come within the functions of the bureau and which might assist the development of the timber industry are being considered.

I lay on the table the following paper: -

Forestry and Timber Bureau - Ministerial Statement - and move -

That the paper be printed.

Debate (on motion by Mr. Pollard) adjourned.

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