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Tuesday, 30 August 1921

Senator BOLTON (Victoria) .- My honorable friend Senator de Largie has said that we have in Australia ample supplies of timber for certain purposes, and that there is no need to import any. I havebefore me the report of the Inter state Conference on Forestry which was held in Hobart last year, and which, as setting out the opinions of experts on this matter, deserves our serious consideration. In this report there appears an interesting table showing clearly how Australia' stands as compared withother countries so far as its timber supplies are concerned. It shows that 52 per cent. of the total area of Sweden is. forested, and that the proportion in the case of other countries is as follows: - Japan, 48 per cent.; Russia, 39 per cent.; Austria, 31 per cent. ;. Hungary, 29 per cent. ; Germany, 25 per cent.; France, 18 per cent.; and Australia only 5 per cent.

Senator Henderson - But compare the total area of Australia with that of France.

Senator Payne - Five per cent. of the total area of Australia would be more than the total area of some of the countries named.

Senator BOLTON - Only 5 per cent. of the total area of Australia is timber country. The quantities of timber available in each of these countries is also set out in the report. As to this item, it is a case of protection which is not protection, but rather the destruction of a very valuable and very limited asset. It is set out here that there are 5,000,000 residents in Australia who consume annually 1,800,000,000 feet of logs, and that at the end of sixty or seventy years a population of 25,000,000 must be provided for, and to do so a log yield of 10,000,000,000 feet will be needed. Then, assuming that we can produce an average annual increment of 400 super. feet per acre the extent of re-afforestation necessary to produce this log yield will be 25,000,000 acres, and to accomplish this task we shall have to spend at least £4,000,000 a year. If our resources are so limited as to need this tremendous expenditure to overtake our consumption, it seems very desirable, as suggested, that we should conserve our timber supplies, and be rather gladthat we can doso.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Get cheaper timber from abroad while we have the chance.

Senator BOLTON - Yes. Two motions were placed before the Conference, and what was done with them is rather significant. The first motion was -

That this conference urge upon the Commonwealth Government the advisability of subsidizing the forestry operations of the States and of guaranteeing, in addition, adequate loan funds for the purpose.

That motion was debated and carried, but the second resolution was not carried. Is was this -

That the Commonwealth Government bc urged, firstly, to impose a Tarin" upon timber sufficient to maintain the present market prices; and, secondly, to fund the proceeds for the purpose of subsidy and loan to the States for the carrying on of forestry operation.

It was decided after discussion that it was not opportune to advise the Government to put into force any such thing as a Tariff on imported timber. I think this shows very clearly that those experts, who were sent by each State to consider the timber resources of Australia, had come to the conclusion that Ave have a very limited supply, and that, having regard to future generations and their needs, heavy expenditure would have to be undertaken in carrying out a system of reafforestation to adequately meet those needs. It lias been said that during the war circumstances compelled us in Australia not only to realize the value of our local timber, but to very much increase its use. According to the returns the local production of hardwood timber in Australia in 1915 was 669,000,000 feet, whereas the local production in 1919 was 472,000,000 feet, u reduction of 197,000,000 feet. This is rather a contradiction of the statement that war conditions compelled the Australian people to realize the advantage of using their own timber.

Senator Pearce - The imports of logs fell from 23,000,000 super, feet to 278,000 super, feet.

Senator BOLTON - We all know the difficulty there has been of late years in housing the people of Australia. This is really one of our national problems; and we find some very significant information in the figures relating to the imports of timber during the last few years. We find that in 1915 there were 17,000,000 feet of dressed timber imported into Australia from Norway, whereas in 1919 not a single foot wa3 imported. Then, in 1915, we imported 7,000,000 feet of dressed timber from Sweden, whereas in 19.19 we imported only 500,000 feet. In 1915 there was used altogether in Australia something like 925,000,000 feet of timber for building purposes, and that had been reduced in 1919 to 600,000,000 feet, a difference of 300,000,000 feet, and that at a tune when timber was never in greater demand for building purposes. These facts show that there is something wrong in the arguments used by honorable senators against the proposed request of Senator Pratten. As I said before, this is a protection which is no protection ; real protection means the protecting of a valuable asset for the use of future generations. We are wasting a great deal of our local timbers on purposes for which they are really not suited. Much of our timber is cut down only half matured, and great effort and expense are involved in. treating it artificially in order to make it acceptable to the builder. If this timber were allowed to grow to maturity it would 'bring bigger prices as an article of export than can be realized by its use in Australia. Quite recent returns show that our export trade with the United States of America, has been growing wonderfully during the last two years. We are wasting a. valuable asset in using our timber for ordinary purposes of construction instead of putting it to uses for which it is eminently more suited.

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