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Wednesday, 16 November 1927
Page: 1425

Senator PAYNE (Tasmania) .- Senator HerbertHays deserves the thanks of not only those directly interested in timber production in Australia, but the whole of the Australian people for bringing this matter before the Senate. It must be recognized that a valuable asset such as our timber resources should be utilized to the fullest possible extent. I know a good deal concerning the forests of Australia and the saw-milling industry, particularly in Tasmania, and I have no hesitation in saying that during the last few years, Australia has lost millions of pounds owing to handicaps imposed upon the industry. After a tree reaches a certain age it ceases to become a useful commercial commodity. There are in Australia to-day hundreds of thousands of beautiful trees which have outlived their usefulness owing to the widening of the vicious circle referred to by Senator Kingsmill. The conditions imposed have deprived the industry of the opportunity to work in the interests of the community. It is a fact, as Senator Herbert Hays has observed, that more than 50 per cent. of the sawmills in Australia have closed clown. Every effort that was humanly possible was made twelve or eighteen months ago by those who are interested in the preservation of the industry and the welfare of the thousands of persons who are dependent upon its continuance to have a favourable decision arrived at by the Government so that it would be enabled to continue. Scores of mills within my own personal knowledge were at that time in such a position that the management had to receive a quick assurance of the necessary protection if they were to carry on. Since then many mills have closed, and large numbers of workmen have been added to the ranks of the unemployed.

Senator Herbert Hays - One hundred and two out of 17S mills iri Tasmania have been closed.

Senator PAYNE - I am pleased to have the assurance of the Minister that this matter will receive the very early attention of the Government. I endorse the contention of Senator Herbert Hays respecting the fairness of giving a primary industry of this character consideration equal to that which has been meted out to many of our secondary industries, which have been maintained by a liberal measure of protection. So far as I have been able to gather, it has received very much less protection. The future of Australia is dependent upon the maintenance of our primary rather than of our secondary industries. This, of all industries, is conducive to the welfare of the community. Our hardwoods are noted all over the world for their lasting qualities. That should convince our people of the advisability of using them wherever possible in preference to imported softwoods. At the present time, wherever one looks one finds that softwoods which have been imported from Scandinavia or the United States of America are used for purposes for which Australian hardwoods are much more suitable, if they could be produced and delivered on the spot at a price that will compete with importations. Why can they 'not be deliveredat this price? Simply because the freight from Tasmania to the mainland is considerably in excess of that which is charged on timber from Scandinavia- or the United States of America and the absence of adequate protection. We have the assurance of those who are at the head of the industry that they are asking for additional protection not with the object of increasing the price, but in order that they may be able to compete with the timber which is imported from overseas, and continue the work on which they were engaged so successfully until a couple of years ago.

Senator Thompson - As only softwoods are imported, where is the competition ?

Senator PAYNE - Many of the purposes to which the imported softwoods are applied could be better served by the use of Australian hardwoods. I hope the outcome of this discussion will be that the Government will take up the matter in all seriousness. We want to know whether the industry is to be saved for Australia, or abandoned. I agree with Senator Kingsmill that eventually it will be necessary to consider whether there should not be-some measure of relief in regard to freights. But we cannot afford to wait until Parliament has had the time to deal with that farreaching problem ; action must be taken before this part of the session closes, so that Ave may be assured of the revival of the industry in not only Tasmania but also the other States of the Commonwealth.

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