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Wednesday, 16 November 1927

Senator J B HAYES (Tasmania) . - I was very pleased to hear the Minister, in reply to Senator Herbert Hays, say that this matter is receiving the sympathetic consideration of the Government. I had hoped that it would have arrived at a decision long since ; but in the circumstances I shall make a few observations in the hope that th'ey may lead to a favorable determination respecting the State that I assist to represent. I cordially agree with the remarks of Senators Ogden and Kingsmill regarding the harmful effect of the Navigation Act upon this industry. In passing, I may say tha.t two or three committees and. commissions have investigated the effect of that act, and a majority of their members have decided that the coastal trading sections ought to be repealed. I hope that, concurrently with its decision in relation to the timber industry, the Government will take steps to deal with that act in accordance with what I believe to be the desires of a majority of honorable senators. Sawmilling, in. Tasmania is an extremely valuable industry. The State is not very prosperous.. It does not possess many industries, and its wellbeing is dependent upon the retention of those it now has. It grows some of the finest timber in the world. Its hardwoods are suitable for the construction of the- roughest type of building- as. well as the finest, quality, of furniture. They are adapted to almost any purpose. I should not ask- for increased protection were; it not for the fact that certain, legislation which, this Parliament has enacted renders- it necessary for such assistance to be given as will enable us to market our timber. We have it on the authority of the Conservator of Forests in Tasmania that at the rate of cutting- which was in force, at the time that he made his statement1 - 50,000,000 super, feet per annum - the- supply was sufficient to last1 for 90 years; Because of the closing- down of the mills that quantity is not now being cut. During that period of 90 years new growth would replace what was cut. I believe that that rate could be doubled and maintained perpetually, on account of the rapidityof the growth. The other clay I asked an official of the Sawmillers' Association to provide me with particulars of the total number of mills in Tasmania, and the number that had been closed down. He assured me that the total was 192, of which 132 had closed down. Many of the latter hold timber leases on which there is a quantity of timber sufficient to enable cutting to proceed for 30 or 40 years. These facts furnish conclusive proof that there is no scarcity of either timber or the mills to handle it. The wastage of timber in the Australian bush has frequently been deplored. That is what is going on in the Tasmanian bush. It is an absolute waste to allow the timber to remain there when it should be marketed.Wastage can be prevented only by cutting. I trust that the Government will take that aspect of the matter into consideration. Tasmanian timber can be used for practically every purpose for which imported timber is employed at the present time. In our cities one may see factories and other large buildings in which there is hardly a stick of Australian timber. That fact was brought strongly home to me in Sydney the other day. Those city folk who most insistently claim adequate protection for their own industries purchase, in the way of timber, the cheapest imported rubbish that they can obtain. That is neither right nor economically sound. I favour an increased duty, not with the idea of raising prices, but to assist the producers of timber. Recently we have heard a great deal regarding the desirability of assisting primary producers. No industry has a greater claim than the timber industry to the description "primary." Sawmilling is not easy work. Experts have been brought out to direct the operations of the mills, and thousands of pounds have been spent on machinery which is lying idle and going to rust. I hope that action by the Government will not be much longer delayed, and that when it is taken it will be in the direction of giving protection to this highly deserving and long suffering industry.

SenatorFOLL (Queensland) [5.2].- Queensland is particularly interested in any legislation that relates to softwoods, because it is the largest producer of that commodity in Australia. The stage has been reached when it is the only State that has pine in any quantity. Before the duty on softwoods is largely increased consideration ought to be given to the position which Australia occupies in the softwood industry. A perusal of the Commonwealth Year-Book which was issued at the end of 1926, will show honorable senators that, relatively, Australia's forest area is lower than that of any other country.For example, the forest land in relation to total area is - in Canada 26.78 per cent., in India 20 per cent., in Sweden 57 per cent., in the United States of America 24 per cent., and in Finland 55.80 per cent. Australia's forest land is only 1.29 per cent. of her total area, and its scattered nature adds to the cost of production. But for the huge imports of softwoods in recent years we should have been in a very sorry plight. Unfortunately, the Government that has been in power in Queensland for the last twelve years has done nothing except to profiteer in the softwood industry at the expense of the home builder. Queensland home builders are situated differently from those in the other States, by reason of the fact that practically 99 per cent. of the homes in that State are, with the exception of a number of joists and stumps, constructed of softwoods. Consequently, anything which affects that industry must react seriously upon that State. Practically all the softwood forests of Queensland are on Crown lands. Every time additional protection has been given to the softwood industry of Australia, the Queensland Government has taken the opportunity to increase the royalties paid by the timber cutters in its pine country. The exorbitant price that now has to be paid for Queensland pine is due to the fact that the State. Government, not satisfied with increasing the royalties, has adopted the practice of throwing open only small areas of timber lands quite insufficient to meet the requirements of the people of the State, and submitting them to competition at auction. The Government notifies that on a certain date certain areas will be submitted to auction; an upset royalty is fixed, and the timber merchants compete with one another as to the amount of royalty they will pay. The result is that in many cases the royalties they offer are exceedingly high, and the cost of the timber is so high that a softwood house in Queensland costs practically as much as a brick house in the southern States.

Senator Herbert Hays - What is the average price of pine in Queensland?

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