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Wednesday, 16 November 1927

Senator KINGSMILL (Western Australia) . - I agree with the premises laid down by Senator Herbert Hays; but I do not agree with his conclusions as. to the remedy. The Honorary Minister (Senator Crawford)has, I understand made it. clear that he considers the only way out of the difficulty is to amend the tariff schedule. I do not think that that would be of any advantage. It would only mean increasing the artificiality of the position, and that could not possibly be of any benefit. The coastal provisions of the Navigation Act are the worst enemy which the timber industry in Tasmania and "Western Australia has ever had, and there is no doubt that a repeal of those provisions would result in great benefit to the timber industry. Western Australia has not felt the position as much as Tasmania, because, luckily, until a year ago, the timber industry in that State was extensively engaged in exporting to South Africa. Since the Navigation Act was proclaimed the trade in jarrah with the eastern States, which represented a large proportion of Western Australia's timber exports, has languished on account of the excessive freights which the coastal provisions of the Navigation Act necessitate. Those provisions have also affected Tasmania's interstate trade.

SenatorReid. - Do not the vessels of the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers handle timber for interstate ports?

Senator KINGSMILL - No.

Senator Ogden - The management of the Line refused to handle it.

Senator KINGSMILL - The Commonwealth Shipping Board has always been opposed to entering into or interfering with the interstate trade. Even if it had not, it is unlikely that any help could have been obtained from that source. Having once been associated with the timber trade of Western Australia, I know as an actual fact that the freights charged between Fremantle and any of the eastern States are absolutely ridiculous and untenable when compared with those charged between Portland Oregon, and Australia, or Scandinavia and Australia. Under these conditions I have again to saythat unless we come to our senses the Commonwealth will be foolishly building up a wall which will eventually isolate it from the rest of the civilized world. If we are to secure our share of the world's trade we should not create such artificial barriers as we have in the coastal provisions of the Navigation Act. The Public Accounts Committee has found it necessary, in three of its reports, to protest against the coastal provisions of the Navigation Act, and I repeat that if these provisions are retained it will be impossible for Australia to compete on fair terms with the outer world. If the Navigation Act is to remain in operation in its present form., it would be better for the Government to pay the few Australian seamen employed in the coastal trade to remain idle in order that those engaged in commerce should have a fair chance of conducting their daily avocations without restrictions such as that act imposes. I agree with what has been said concerning the state of the timber industry in Australia, and in my opinion the only remedy is the one I have indicated.

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