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Wednesday, 16 November 1927

Senator GRANT (New South Wales) . - In considering this question I should like to place on record two planks of the Labour party's platform which have a bearing on this question. Under the heading of "Finance and Taxation Reform " I find the following: -

4.   The new potection, embodying effective protection of Australian industries, prevention of profiteering, and the protection of the workers in such industries.

5.   Import embargoes for the effective protection of Australian industries, subject to the control of prices and industrial conditions in the industry benefited.

That is clear and. definite. Senator Findley looks, I think, to higher and higher protective duties to overcome the difficulty. His attitude is quite logical. He' does not believe that timber required for use in the Commonwealth should be imported, and favours the exclusive use of Australian-grown timbers. That is also the atitude of Senator Herbert Hays.

Senator Herbert Hays - That is not so. I made that clear to Senator Thompson.

Senator GRANT - Sufficient timber is grown in the Commonwealth to meet nil om' requirements. If we inspected the buildings recently erected at Canberra, we should find that the timber used in the wooden portions consists entirely of Australian-grown timbers, which has been well seasoned, and in connexion with which the workmanship is all that could be desired. Whilst that is so, it is an undeniable fact that Oregon is imported from America or Canada and landed at any port in Australia at a much cheaper rate than that at which the locally-grown timber can be obtained. It is also true that Baltic timbers are landed in Australia much cheaper than Australian softwoods can be shipped to any port in the Commonwealth. Scandinavia has a high protective policy, and 'there timber grows extensively. This timber is easily obtained and handled, and can be shipped to Australia at very low rates, because the vessels carrying it expect to obtain rein.u iterative back loading. If Baltic timbers are to be excluded from the Commonwealth - which, I think, is desirable - we must supply a substitute. It is an outrage and a scandal that a person who purchases a home - most persons only buy one in a lifetime - should be compelled to use Baltic timber for flooring purposes, especially when there is no better timber in the world than our Australian hardwoods. Many persons who purchase small bungalows or cottages find that the floors consist; of Baltic timbers, which is a great mistake. For that reason alone it is desirable to entirely exclude such timber from the Commonwealth; but 'that can be done only by an effective protective tariff. That, however, is a policy which the Government is not prepared to adopt. The Government needs Customs revenue in order to protect the landowners of this country from paying direct taxation. It is anxious to obtain large sums of revenue through the Customs House, and has little interest in the in- dustries of Tasmania or any other State. It is true that Oregon, is. the most suitable of all timbers for certain building purposes, as it does not shrink or warp, which is not a feature of Australian hardwoods.

Senator Findley - It is when it is well seasoned.

Senator GRANT - Even well seasoned, stayed, and buttressed, joists in ceilings cause the plaster to crack.

Senator Foll - That is whyoregon is used.

Senator GRANT - Oregon timberis suitable for ceiling joists.

Senator Findley - Even the timber in Nelson's flagship has warped.

Senator GRANT - Yes, and the timber in the Speaker's chair in another place, which was presented by the Empire Parliamentary Association, is not superior to our Australian timbers. Australia is importing millions of feet of timber.

Senator Herbert Hays - Five hundred million feet were imported in twelve months.

Senator GRANT - Yes, according to published information no less than 549,283,898 feet were imported into Australia during the last fourteen months.

Senator Reid - It is nonsense to suggest that we can do withoutoregon.

Senator GRANT - If the importation of Oregon were prohibited the price of Australian hardwood would immediately advance. I can remember when Oregon could be purchased at from 10s. to11s. per 100 feet, and hardwood at about 9s. per 100 feet, but the price today is more than double that figure. The owners oflarge areas on which timber used for commercial purposes is grown substantially benefit by high protective duties, and if we continue imposing higher duties on Oregon and other softwoods those who own these areas will continue to benefit. Some honorable senators are strongly opposed to the retention of the coastal provisions of the Navigation Act under which seamen and others obtain a fair wage. These honorable senators believe that their timber should be carried in vessels on which low wages are paid, and that ships registered abroad should be allowed to engage in the Australian coastal trade. I do not think the Government is likely to repeal the coastal provisions of the Navigation Act. The unemployment in Tasmania is largely due to the stupid attitude of the Government of that State.

The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir John Newlands). - Order! The honorable senator is not in order in reflecting upon any government.

Senator GRANT - At any rate a person who builds a home in Tasmania is immediately pounced upon by the local authorities, and compelled to pay higher taxation just because he has constructed a home for himself. That is the kind of legislation that is causing unemployment in that State.

Senator Herbert Hays - That has nothing to do with the timber industry.

Senator GRANT - It has, and is an important factor in causing unemployment in that State. Many active young men leave Tasmania to settle on the mainland because of the ridiculous restrictions imposed upon them. It is time the policy of taxing industry was abandoned, and the up-to-date methods of Sydney and Brisbane adopted. If that were done the authorities would find that the population would increase, and that there would be no need to ask for greater protection. I do not think that even this Government, with all its shortcomings, will consent to the repeal of the coastal provisions of the Navigation Act. Those honorable senators who have so many complaints to make concerning the position in which Tasmania is placed, should cease to support this Government, which has not the slightest interest in the timber or any other industry in that or any other State. If Senator Herbert Hays, Senator Ogden, and other supporters of the Government from Tasmania wish to see some reform, they should cease supporting an administration which refuses to afford the State they represent any relief. The timber trade in Tasmania is very important. It is important also to the other States. The Commonwealth Year-Book for 1926, page 6926, shows that the sawmill output of native timber in 1924-25 was, in New South Wales, 162,423,000 feet, and in Tasmania, only 50,799,000 feet.

The PRESIDENT - The honorable senator has exhausted his time.

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