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Tuesday, 30 August 1921

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) . - In discussing tha request of which I have given notice, I desire to deal generally, as I think I can on this sub-item, with the incidence pf the timber duties. I shall speak first of their alteration in another place, and secondly, of what is good for the timber industry. In the House of Representatives the duty on undressed timber in sizes 12 x 6, or its equivalent, and over, was increased by 2s. per 100 feet in the British' and intermediate schedule, and by 3s. per 100 feet in the general Tariff. The 7 by 2$ inch timber, or its equivalent, was increased by ls. 6d. per 100 feet in the British and intermediate schedules, and 2s. 6d. per 100 feet in the general schedule. Timber less than 7 by 2^ inches waa increased ls. 6d.. per 100 feet in the British and intermediate schedules, arid 2s. 6d. per 100 feet in the - general - schedule. The original rates proposed by tha Government were practically doubled. In my opinion, for what it is worth, the imported softwood timbers do not come into competition with Australian hardwoods at all.

Senator de Largie - Do they not?

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I repeat that they do not. To go back to what occurred before the war, let ma say that Australian hardwood was considerably cheaper than imported Oregon, which was - then sold retail in Sydney at from 18s. to 20s. per 100 super, feet. During the war, as the Minister has reminded the Committee, we were, to some extent, thrown on our own resources, and had to submit to pro-, fiteering by people abroad. As a result pf that and high freights, imported Oregon rose .to a phenomenal price, bub was it not used all the same as building material practically all over Australia in spite of its. increased price? The fact is, that Oregon must be used in the construction of certain parts of houses, and no duty imposed upon it will prevent its importation for that purpose. Consequently, every additional ls. per 100 super, feet imposed in the way of duty upon Oregon has to bo paid by the consumer. Here is another aspect of the case. In Queensland and in New South Wales the State Governments have imposed royalties on timber in accordance with the price it brings. So far as I can see, if, by tha imposition of timber duties, wa raise the price of Australian hardwood^ the State Governments referred to will retaliate by increasing their royalties. These timber duties affect the owners and builders of practically every house going up in Australia. In my opinion they are not in any shape or form Protective duties. We read from time to time forestry reports which tell us that the supply of Australian hardwood and Australian pine is limited, and will be cut out very largely, perhaps during the life-time of another generation. If, then, we oan get cheap soft timber from other countries, perhaps at a lower price than that at which we can supply it ourselves, is it not to the advantage of Australia that we should continue to import that timber, and supplement home supplies, particularly as it is better suited t'han is Australian hardwood for certain classes of building construction? I would remind honorable senators that before the war a large business had' been created in the export of Australian hardwood to other countries,where it is worth very much more to us than itis here tocompete . with importedoregon at normal prices. The hardwoodused locally for buildingpurposes while the export trade was going on, was only the offcuts from large sizes for export orders, and it was consequently sold here at a low price.I am trying bymy request to restore the duties to those imposed under the Tariff as introduced in March, 1920. I would further remind the Committee that sub-items a and h are really the key items of all those imposing duties on timber. Whether it be the will of the Committee that the duties as they appear in the schedule on these subitems be retained, reduced to the rates imposed before they were increased in another place, or still further increased, all the rest of the duties should bear a- reasonable relation to those which we decide to impose on the timber covered by these basic sub -items. I disagree with the view suggested by one honorable senator in dealing with the duties upon logs. If we are going to import soft timber,and I assume we shall do so, it is much better that we should import it in the log than in the piece. I have deliberately attempted, by my request,to secure the importation of softtimber in the log in order that the work of sawing it may be done by our own workmen. If the duty is left as it stands at 10 per cent., it will work out in some cases at 5s.71/2d . per . 100 super, fact, which is altogether unfair as compared even with the duties we are now considering. In support . of this statement, I refer to an actual case . of the measurement of 162 logs, giving a total of 54,000 super. feet.

Senator Sir Thomas Glasgow - Is the honorable senator referring to hardwood or to softwood ?

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) -i am referring to. pine. The loss in sawing amounts to at least 25 per cent. Any honorable senator who is at all familiar withthe timber trade will agree that there is a big loss in sawing. I once owned a sawmill, and I thought I got off fairly lucky when my loss was 381/3 per cent. The loss I am allowing for on this tabulationis 25 per cent., and that reduces the measurement of the logs to which I have referred to 40,000 super, feet. The duty was £114. Clearly, these figures show that the effective duty on the sawn boards, which alone go into consumption, and not the saw-dust, amounted to about 5s. 71/2d. per 100 super feet. Seeing that we must import softwood timber, I contend that it is & fair thing to offer a premium for the importation of logs, in order that theymay be cut up here.

Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN(West ern Australia) . [8.24]. -I am glad, on this comparatively rare occasion, to find myself in complete agreement with the Government.

Senator Elliott - What about the pioneer?

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