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Tuesday, 19 December 1911

Senator KEATING (Tasmania) . - I have been somewhat surprised by the ready acceptance by the Government of the request submitted by Senator McDougall. The honorable senator did not indicate to what extent importations of different timbers from New Zealand would be affected by the insertion of the words " and rimu." One may gather from the debate that rimu is a soft wood, easily worked, and used for building purposes.

Senator Pearce - It is very much like kauri.

Senator KEATING - If rimu is a wood which should have been included with New Zealand white pine, it is remarkable that this did not occur to the Government or to the Department previously. I should like to ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council to what extent, as compared with white pine, rimu has been imported per annum.

Senator McDougall - The importations of rimu are about three to one of white pine.

Senator KEATING - New Zealand white pine is not used so much for building purposes as for butter- boxes and shelving.

Are we to understand that rimu was previously included in the Tariff item covering Baltic pine and deals?

Senator Pearce - The Customs authorities have considered that New Zealand pine covers rimu, kauri, and white pine. They are included under the one heading in the list of importations, and the separate quantities of each are not given. Under the proposal now made, white pine and rimu will be separated from kauri.

Senator KEATING - It is within the knowledge of honorable senators representing Tasmania, as well as of honorable senators who have visited that State, that there are upon the west coast large areas covered with excellent wood, equal to, if not superior to, any New Zealand pine. That these forests have not been tapped, and that our people are not employed in cutting and milling that timber, is due primarily to the fact that it is almost impossible to establish mills there in view of the favorable conditions under which New Zealand timbers are imported. Quite recently there was before the Tasmanian Parliament an application for certain concessions in the extreme south-west of the State, near Port Davey, for the purpose of milling timbers in that locality. Further north, on the west coast, there are excellent forests of the King William pine, the celery top, the Macquarie, and other varieties, which are not surpassed by any New Zealand timbers imported into the Commonwealth. But so long as we adopt the Tariff policy which induces our people to believe that for useful building and other timbers we are dependent upon New Zealand and on foreign countries, we can never expect to exploit our own timber resources. We may, on the contrary, expect to see, as we have seen, excellent timbers, such as the blackwood of Tasmania, used for fencing destroyed by fire. When I had the opportunity, I endeavoured to impress upon this Parliament the desirableness of conserving our natural resources of timber. I believe that we should conserve them as we should conserve our resources of iron ore. Honorable senators will know that there is a vote placed each year on the Estimates to provide that a certain quantity of Australian timbers shall be secured in order that they may be properly seasoned for use in Commonwealth works hereafter. One of the objects is to demonstrate to our own people the value of our natural productions. The policy here adopted with regard to timber aims in exactly the opposite direction. The result of this policy is that many valuable timbers in all the States are ruthlessly destroyed, because it is recognised that it would not pay to enter upon the commercial enterprise of milling these timbersin competition with the importations of New Zealand pine. We are following a policy here which Canada is now regretting, a policy which dictated the course of action of Sir Wilfrid Laurier in connexion with the recent reciprocity negotiations with the United States. The people of the United States also allowed their forests to be denuded, and then levied upon the forests of Canada for timber, not for structural purposes, or the manufacture of furniture, but for wood pulp used in the manufacture of paper. We are following a course here which induces our people to believe that we cannot hope to find in Australia certain necessary timbers, although they are all to be found in different parts of the several States. Because they are depreciated in. our Tariff the public treat them accordingly, and as a result our forests are being, denuded, we are wasting our substance, andi later we shall in reality be obliged to goto other countries for supplies of necessary timber. We have timbers in the Commonwealth which could be utilized for many of the purposes for which the New Zealand timbers are imported, but, because we are constantly impressing upon our people that they must go to New Zealand for these timbers, our own are looked upon. as worthless, and are ruthlessly destroyed.

Senator Rae - Are they ?

Senator KEATING - Yes, they are. I could take the honorable senator to the north-west coast of Tasmania and show him chock-and-log fences constructed in part of some of the most beautiful blackwood. In the same way our native pines are not made use of, because they cannot be milled in competition with the New Zealand importations. Unless we adopt a genuine afforestation policy throughout the Commonwealth we shall, within the next twenty years, find ourselves in a very much worse position than Canada or the United States are today. Australian timbers are regarded by our people as being of the most inferioi quality. If we imposed proper duties upon timbers imported from other countries, whether from New Zealand, the Baltic,or Siberia, we should teach our own people to recognise that we have as good timbers it the Commonwealth as can be obtained elsewhere, and I have little doubt that they will soon begin to utilize those timbers. Senator Givens has spoken eloquently of the qualities of jarrah. That timber is used largely for internal work in buildings, and is one of the best timbers in the world. In regard to inflammability, it is one of the safest of timbers. It is also easy to work. If this request is designed to increase the large amount of timber which is now imported, I must again express my surprise at the ready acquiescence of the Vice-President of the Executive Council in accepting it.

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