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Friday, 18 March 1927

Senator H HAYS (Tasmania) . - I ask the indulgence of honorable senators for a few minutes whilst I deal with a matter of great importance, not only to the State of which I am a representative, but also to the whole of Australia. I refer to the timber industry. I mention this matter now because Parliament will adjourn in the course of a few days, and it is important that action should at once be taken to make the position clear. It is known to those interested that the Tariff Board's report on the industry, if not in the hands of the Ministry now, will be to-day or tomorrow. If I understand the position aright, it is not the intention of the Government to deal with this matter until after Parliament has risen. Judging by the evidence that was given, and the manner in which it was received by the Tariff Board, the report will be favourable to the industry. All over Australia, but particularly in Tasmania, that industry has never been in a more languishing condition than it is at the present time, as a result of the heavy importations of timber. This question needs immediate attention if the industry is to be saved to Australia. Thousands of pounds have been invested, and thousands of men are employed, in it. The Minister (Senator Pearce) has said that it is now a Cabinet matter. I urge him and the Government to give it consideration within the next few days, so that a proposal for the further protection of the industry may be brought down and become operative before Parliament rises, as was done in the case of the steel industry last year. If action is not taken before Parliament adjourns, the mills will close down.If the Government is prepared to give to the industry the measure of protection it has afforded to other industries, employment will continue to be given to our own people and Australia's timber requirements will be met within its own borders. I ask the Minister to see that the report of the Tariff Board is considered, and, if favorable, be given effect to, so that the industry will benefit immediately. If action is delayed until Parliament meets at Canberra, possibly six or nine months hence, it will practically go out of existence.

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