Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Thursday, 13 May 1915

Senator BAKHAP (Tasmania) . - Having recently addressed myself at some length to this Chamber, I do not intend on the present occasion to unduly occupy the time of honorable senators; but I wish to offer a few observations on a matter which has been very properly introduced by Senator de Largie, and which, perhaps, affects Tasmania quite as much as it does Western Australia. I believe that something satisfactory and financially sound can be done to relieve the existing unemployment in the timber industry, both in Western Australia and Tasmania. After protracted negotiations, we know that Tasmania was granted a contract for the supply of 100,000 sleepers to the Commonwealth.

Senator Gardiner - As an experiment.

Senator BAKHAP - I do not know that it was much in the nature of an experiment. Quite recently I found Tasmanian sleepers in use in China. In the Han Yat railway yard they are set apart for particular work. They are really too dear for use in ordinary work, seeing that allegedly Californian redwood, which serves for railway sleepers moderately well, can be landed in China for considerably less. That is the only reason why Tasmanian sleepers are not used there more extensively. In the cutting of the 100,000 sleepers which Tasmania has contracted to supply the Commonwealth, a good deal of employment has been afforded. Unfortunately, the contract is now approaching completion. Half the required number of sleepers has been delivered, and nearly all the balance has been cut. The timber industry in Tasmania is not flourishing, and there is practically no overseas export at the present time. The war has interfered with freights, which, as a result, are both scarce and high.

Senator Gardiner - There is a good demand for timber in New South Wales if Tasmania will only sell it at a reasonable price.

Senator BAKHAP - Does not the Vice-President of the Executive Council know that the drought and war have substantially curtailed building operations in many parts of Australia ? As the result of this unhappy combination, some five or six hundred men in Tasmania are threatened with unemployment. Most of them are married men, who have settled down in the vicinity of the timber mills. I can truthfully say that milling operations in the State which I re present have not resulted in anything very satisfactory to the capitalists who have invested their money in the erection of mills there. If anything is done by the Government in the direction outlined by Senator de Largie, it is unquestionably the workmen who will obtain the chief benefit. I have yet to learn of any joint stock company connected with this industry in Tasmania which has paid a dividend.

Senator Russell - Do I understand the honorable senator to support Senator de Largie's statement that we could sell these sleepers at a later stage if we desired to do so?

Senator BAKHAP - I do not say that. But we know that there is a good deal of talk about building a strategic railway, and that there are other indications of a very large demand for sleepers in the near future. We are not likely to import Californian redwood sleepers for railway purposes; and, although Tasmanian, Western Australian, and New South Wales timber may be fairly dear, we must recollect that it is also very good.

Senator Russell - If we had stocks of these sleepers, what does the honorable senator suggest that we should do with them ?

Senator BAKHAP - I say that they should be tarred lightly and stacked just as the Chinese engineers tax them, with a view to protecting them against the ravages of white ants.

Senator de Largie - The powellising process is even better than that.

Senator BAKHAP - I am not acquainted with the details of that process, but I understand that its merits are debatable.

Senator de Largie - Not now.

Senator BAKHAP - I do not think that the Commission which was appointed to investigate that system gave it its unqualified indorsement. Seeing that the drought and war have produced conditions of acute distress in the milling industry, I do not think it would be out of place for the Commonwealth to secure, at the present juncture, an ample supply of sleepers for future requirements. The adoption of such a policy would unquestionably alleviate existing and future distress on the part of hard-working men who are engaged in the timber industry in the various States.

Senator Grant - Why does the honorable senator's party discourage building so much in Tasmania?

Senator BAKHAP - The honorable senator has made a. statement which is not correct.

Senator Grant - One cannot build a house in Tasmania without being fined for so doing, and the more houses one builds the more one is fined.

Senator BAKHAP - The honorable senator must be dreaming in the daytime. He has made the cold-blooded assertion that in Tasmania we fine a man for building a house. Such a statement is not sober talk, but midsummer madness.

Senator Grant - It is a fact, and you do not like it.

Senator BAKHAP - I hope the honorable senator can give us something more approximating to fact than is disclosed to us in his utterance. Tasmania is one of the most progressive of the Australian States; and I might tell the honorable senator that if New South Wales carried the same population as Tasmania per square mile, she would have 7,000,000 or 8,000,000 of people instead of 1,500,000, as at present. Senator de Largie has made out an excellent case, which will have the merit of providing for the future railway requirements of the Commonwealth, and do something to save the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of able-bodied workmen, with their families, from that distress which is incidental to unemployment. He has introduced this discussion most opportunely, and I am heartily in accord with him, hoping that my State will receive a fair allocation of any timber that may be required for public works in the Commonwealth.

Suggest corrections