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Friday, 25 November 1927

Senator NEEDHAM (Western Australia) . - I realize that in dealing with this bill, we are getting out of the stormy waters of party warfare and are -able to address ourselves to a matter concerning which there is not a great difference of opinion. Throughout Australia the public conscience is being awakened to the necessity for preserving and developing our timber resources. If there is any difference of opinion in the matter, it is as to why so late a start has been made with the establishment of a Forestry Bureau. The history of this country, so far as the treatment of its forests is concerned, probably does not differ greatly from that of other countries. Australia possesses timbers of first-class quality which are eminently suited not only for the building of our homes but also for their decoration. They can be used in any class of constructional work, both above and below the surface of the ground. When manufactured into furniture or used for decorative purposes, Australian timber is a thing of beauty, and a joy for ever. Unfortunately, this valuable asset has been ruthlessly and recklessly squandered, and to-day we are paying the penalty of our folly. There has been no systematic treatment of this valuable source of wealth. In a young country like Australia, still in its developmental stages, softwoods are essential; yet we have not made provision for continuous supplies of this class of timber. The establishment of a Forestry School, which this bill proposes, will, it is hoped, remedy that state of affairs. The Australian School of Forestry will do valuable work in training the young, mind of Australia in the preservation and development of its forest wealth. The result should be the creation and preservation of a forest conscience which is most desirable. The students who will pass through the school will return to the several States whence they came and assist to develop their timber resources to the advantage of those States and of the Empire generally. I realize that the progress of this new school of forestry must necessarily be slow at first. I understand that there are already 16 students from all the States in the school. That, I consider, is a very satisfactory beginning. I had the opportunity yesterday morning, at the opening of the school, to meet some of those students, and I feel sure that before long Australia will have reason to be proud of them and of their work in connexion with reafforestation. The importance of a forestry school can scarcely be overestimated. It is, unfortunately, true; as was pointed out by the Minister in his second-reading speech, that because of the ruthless treatment of our virgin forests in Western Australia, the export of jarrah is in danger of ceasing entirely. The value of that timber alone is incalculable. Properly controlled, our forests would support a population eight or nine times greater than that of Australia to-aay. It is, therefore, necessary that we hasten to make amends for our past neglect and shameful squandering of this great source of natural wealth. I do not know whether the curriculum of the forestry school will include the seasoning of Australian timber. Whilst we possess the timber wealth of which I have spoken-

Senator Herbert Hays - At present it is unmarketable wealth.

Senator NEEDHAM - Some of it is, but I believe that the difficulties of marketing will eventually be satisfactorily overcome. It has been found that the method by which Australian timbers are seasoned seriously interferes with their use in connexion with building operations. It is gratifying to note that the forestry school is not to be under the sole control of the Commonwealth, but that the Commonwealth in conjunction with the six State Governments is to be responsible for its work. This shows that the State authorities are willing to co-operate in an endeavour to improve our forest areas. In setting out on a policy of forest conservation, we are fortunate in having the services of Mr. Lane-Poole as Inspector-General of Forests. I have not had the 'opportunity of meeting that gentleman, but I have read of his work and believe that, with the extensive scientific knowledge he possesses, his services in that capacity will be of inestimable value to the Commonwealth. It would I believe be difficult to obtain the assistance of any one with more scientific knowledge of the subject, powers of application, and enthusiasm than Mr. LanePoole. Although we are practically in our swaddling clothes in the matter of forestry, and have made mistakes in the past I feel sure we shall benefit from the experience we have already gained. The scheme to be established under this measure will be of benefit to the people generally and to the whole of the Commonwealth.

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