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Wednesday, 16 November 1927


Senator NEEDHAM (Western Australia) . - The importance of this matter cannot be over-rated. I agree with Senator Herbert Hays that the onus, lies upon the Government to render every assistance that lies within its power to preserve and to assist the timber industry of Australia. I cannot, however, follow the honorable senator in this argument that the present parlous condition of the industry is the result of awards of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court.


Senator Herbert Hays - Without a correspondingly increased protection against imported timbers that are produced in cheap-labour countries.


Senator NEEDHAM - I cannot admit the correctness of the honorable senator's contention, even with that qualification. For many years it has been the policy of Australia to make provision for the very best conditions for those who are engaged in its industries.


Senator Herbert Hays - I did not argue to the contrary.


Senator NEEDHAM - No action by any Government should tend to impair those conditions.


Senator Ogden - If they cannot be provided by an industry, it should shut down.


Senator NEEDHAM - Senator Ogdenhas introduced another aspect. Surely he does not suggest that the worker should bear the whole of the responsibility for the continuance of an industry. Are we to countenance sweating so that an industry may continue?


Senator Ogden - No one has suggested that there should be sweating.


Senator NEEDHAM - Senator Kingsmill has introduced a further feature. He has launched an attack on the coastal trading sections of the Navigation Act, and has pooh-poohed the idea that protection - no matter to what extent - would be of assistance to the timber industry. His argument appeared to me to be that no matter what protection was given, the existence of the coastal trading sections of the act would prevent the escape of the industry from its present parlous condition.


Senator Ogden - The honorable senator does not agree with that.


Senator NEEDHAM - I do not. There are two vital points for consideration - first, the conditions under which men are employed in the timber industry; and, secondly, the conditions of the men employed on. the ships that convey the timber to the markets of the world. The coasting provisions of the Navigation Act have stood the test of time, and I hope that the day is far distant when this Parliament will repeal them. It is true that on one or two occasions the. present Government has interfered with them, and particularly for the benefit of Tasmania; but, in my opinion, their excision would make the conditions of the seamen on the Australian coast worse than those under which British seamen work. I hope, therefore, that whatever step the Government takes to give assistance to the timber industry in Australia it will not be in the direction of evading the awards of the Arbitration Court, which, no matter how much the Government might desire it, could scarcely be done; or in the direction of repealing the coasting provisions of the Navigation Act which afford protection to Australian seamen. With Senator Payne, I think that the real remedy lies between the two courses suggested during the course of the debate. My voice and my vote have always been given for a protective policy to foster and preserve Australian industries; but there is a middle course between the imposition of high protective duties and the course which we are to infer was suggested by Senator Herbert Hays in his reference to arbitration awards; or the other course suggested by Senator Kingsmill; the repeal of the coasting provisions of the Navigation Act. The middle course is, in my opinion, a greater display of patriotism by the people of Australia. Do the people of Australia afford to the timber industry the assistance they should give it? I venture to say that Australian hardwoods are equal to Oregon in any position underground or above ground. I think Senator Verran can bear me out that in mining, at any rate, they are equal to oregon underground. Senator Payne touched upon the vital point when he said that the people of Australia do not give sufficient preference to Australian timbers.


Senator Foll - But compare the difference in cost.


Senator NEEDHAM - Many Aus tralians - I do not refer to Senator Foll personally - would rather buyoregon if they could get it cheaper than hardwood than do anything for the preservation of an Australian industry.


Senator Herbert Hays - Workmen's homes are mostly built of softwoods.


Senator NEEDHAM - I have no illusions about what it costs the Australian citizen to give preference to his own products. But if we have that true Australian patriotism and sentiment about which we boast, we ought to be prepared to pay a little more for the timber we use in building our homes, for the commodities we consume, or for the clothes we wear, in order to afford protection to Australian industries. Between the proposal relating to arbitration awards and that relating to the incidence of the tariff there is the factor of lack of patriotism to our own products.


Senator Herbert Hays - What does the honorable senator suggest?


Senator NEEDHAM - I think that we should do something along the lines suggested by the honorable senator - that the timber industry should receive fiscal protection along with other industries; but we must also remember that the people of Australia do not always give to their own products the encouragement they should. I could not for a moment entertain the other suggestion of Senator Herbert Hays.


Senator Herbert Hays - I rise to a point of order. The honorable senator on several occasions has tried to ascribe to me the remark that the only remedy for the timber industry is lower wages. I cannot allow the honorable senator to misrepresent me in that way. What I said distinctly was that, because the Arbitration Court had made certain awards, additional protective duties


Senator NEEDHAM - I have no desire to misrepresent the honorable senator. All I said was that the inference to be drawn from his remarks, standing by themselves, was that the only remedy was a reduction of wages in the timber industry. I cannot entertain for a moment the suggestion by Senator Kingsmill that the coasting provisions of the Navigation Act should be repealed. All I can say, in conclusion, is that I agree with Senator Herbert Hays that if the industry is in the condition he has described the only policy to pursue isto give it the mantle of protection accorded to other industries.







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