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Tuesday, 30 August 1921


Senator PEARCE (Western AustraliaMinister for Defence) - In connexion with imposts on timber, this may be regarded as a primary duty, because the logs are imported in the whole, and are subsequently dressed. If we reduce the duty on logs we shall reduce the protection of one of our primary industries, that of timber-getting. I do not pretend to say that for all our timbers we require protection, as I do not suppose there is any danger of hardwood being imported into the Commonwealth; but some of our soft timbers have to compete against those imported from abroad. Before the war no less than 14,000,000 super, feet of the timber mentioned in sub-item o was imported from Japan and 8,000,000' super, feet" from Russia; but during the war period Australia was thrown on its own resources and her timber trade developed probably to . a greater, extent than-, any other. Before the war it was an unusual sight -to see suites of furniture made from Australian timber; but now one seldom sees any others. If we are to use Australian timber - if we admit that Protection is right, and I take it that the majority have - I cannot see any reason why we should attempt to destroy the protection afforded to the timber-getter. His work is certainly the hardest of those engaged in the timber trade, because it has to be done in the back country, and a fairly large- amount of capital has to be invested. There are in Queensland, Tasmania, and New South Wales timbers although not technically soft timbers when compared with jarrah and karri - which enter into competition with those imported from Japan, Russia, or Siberia, and if they are displaced the earnings of our timber-getters will be decreased. If we are to be consistent in imposing timberduties, and admit that the timber-getters have as much right to protection from foreign competition as any other section of the timber trade, wo must support these rates. Our hoop pine and silky oak are equal to anything obtained elsewhere; but the cost of labour, and the distance logs have to be hauled make it difficult for the Australian producer to stand up to the competition of other countries. We are hoping that under, a policy of reafforestation our future supplies will be fully assured. We are imposing a duty of only 10 per'cent., which Senator Pratten suggests reducing to 5 per cent. I do not know what the natural protection is; but I do not think it is great, because logs can be loaded into ships and carried long distances at a comparatively Tow rate. I am not talking simply by the book when I say that we have large supplies of suitable timber, because I have Seen the forests in the north-west of Tasmania and in the northern parts of Queensland, where I was assured that what I saw was only a fraction of what actually existed. I appeal to the Committee to leave the duty as it is. It is not high, but it affords some protection to the primary industry of timber-getting in Australia.

Senator DUNCAN(New South Wales) T8.5]. - I intend to support the Minister (Senator Pearce) in connexion with the general duty in this particular sub-item. Representations have been made to me by timber-getters and saw-millers who have plants in the back country and dress the timber in the preliminary stages. The dost of getting logs out of the forests is increasing in consequence of the extra distance they have to be hauled. In one part of New South Wales which has' produced a quantity of timber in the log and in the rough, to-day, very ' largely as a result of the competition of timber from other parts of the world, a number of the saw -mills are closed down. One man, who was conducting about eighty mills in the New England district, has been compelled to close down fully one-half in consequence of the competition from outside. This gentleman explained to me that as the timber is cut out the mills have to be moved, further back, the haulage is greater, the distance to be travelled longer, and the cost9 of working correspondingly increase. Our timber-getters experience very many disadvantages as compared with those of other countries. Many of our imported timbers come from America and Canada, where the cost of haulage is not great,, because in many instances the logs are merely thrown into the river and allowed to drift. Australian timber has to be hauled long distances before it reaches the first mill, and afterwards has to be transported by rail. Although the distance from the forest to the market may not appear great when compared with the sea carriage of imported timber, the cost is much heavier, and the natural protection is, therefore, not of great importance. Considering all these circumstances, it is fair to. say thatsome degree of protection is necessary . even on logs, and the proposed duty of 10 per cent, is not excessive. It is certainly not sufficient to increase to any appreciable extent the cost of timber to the consumer, and it is not likely to add considerably to the price which the sawmiller will have to pay. For these reasons we ought to extend to the timber industry the same measure of protection that we are giving to other industries. I am not so much concerned about giving protection to the big timber importers in the cities, because they are able to look after themselves, and in the past I am convinced that they were largely responsible for the tremendous increase in building costs. The price at which timber was supplied by the Timber Importers Ring, was inflated to an unreasonable extent. If by encouraging timber-getters in various areas we can .assist in reducing prices, and. enable men to construct homes or factories more cheaply, we shall be doing good.

Senator DELARGIE (Western Australia) T8.10]. - It is so seldom during the discussion of the Tariff that- we have had am opportunity of doing anything to assist country industries or men who work in the back-blocks that I feel sure honorable senators will be prepared to give this duty favorable consideration. It is to be regretted that specimens of the Western Australian timbers, such as are at present being exhibited in that State, are not now on viewin Melbourne. If honorable senators were able to see the native timbers, dressed and made up into various articles of furniture, I feel sure this sub-item would pass without much discussion. When this question was before another place, samples of Victorian timbers were displayed in the Queen's Hall, and honorable senators had an opportunity of seeing the various uses to which they can be put. We know something concerning the wonderful timbers of Queensland and Tasmania, and as useful timbers are being produced in every State in the Commonwealth, the industry of timber-getting is one that should be encouraged. We have been showing consideration to all and sundry, and the timber-getter is as much entitled to consideration as any one else, and I trust honorable senators will bear that in mind in discussing this sub-item.







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