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Thursday, 8 March 1928

Senator REID (Queensland) . - In continuing the debate on this subject, which has been very fully discussed from time to time, I wish to direct attention to certain phases of our fiscal policy which require earnest consideration. Senator Findley, when speaking last night was very emphatic concerning the necessity of. making Australia a selfcontained and self-reliant nation, and even went to the extent of declaring that he favored the prohibition of imports I once held very strong views concerning the necessity for imposing very high customs duties, and of even, in some instances, prohibiting the importation of goods which could be manufactured in Australia; but the position has altered to such an extent during recent years that we have now to consider whether the imposition of higherduties may be of injury to Australia.The way to make Australia self-contained, according to Senator Payne's interpretation of Senator Findley's remarks, is to live within ourselves. I do not know whether Senator Findley accepts that . interpretation; but it is well known that no nation can live solely unto itself. It is a nation's exports which enable it to prosper. Under ourprotective policy a large number of secondary industries have been established, and it is pleasing to know that some of them have been able to make progress. The most disquieting factor, however, is that under our present fiscal system, which provides such substantial protection, these industries have not reachedthe stage at which they can profitably produce for export. I am an ardent protectionist, but I cannot overlook the fact that with the small population we have it is impossible for our secondary industries, which cannot export at a profit, to successfully continue and expand while dependent solely upon the home market. Notwithstanding that our supply of practically all the raw materials we require in production is unlimited our market is limited to a population of about 6,000,000. Honorable senators opposite who are opposed to immigration take a very narrow view of the situation. They do not realize that with a much larger population the prospects of our secondary industries would be considerably improved.

Mr GREENE (NEW SOUTH WALES) - To which particular secondary industries is the honorable senator referring?

Senator REID - I am referring to our secondary industries generally which cannot profitably export their products owing to the high cost of production and the long distances which separate them from the markets of the world.

Senator Crawford - We have not yet overtaken thehome market.

Senator REID - Some commodities are being produced in excess of the local demand and cannot be profitably sold overseas. The industry in which the Minister is directly interested is an example.

Senator Crawford - The honorable senator is referring to a primary industry.

Senator REID - - Honorable senators are aware that rich sugar lands are lying idle in northern Queensland because the industry cannot be developed as it should be. Australian sugar cannot be sold overseas at a profit. Is there a secondary industry which can profitably export its products?

Senator Guthrie - We have not yet overtaken the home demand.

Senator REID - There are many industries which ought to be producing for export. I am -a protectionist, but I cannot understand how our secondary industries can expand unless our population is increased. The Tariff Board; which has conducted many important investigations, has complained that awards of the Arbitration Court have interfered with the work which this Parliament has done in protecting industries.

Senator Findley - The Tariff Board should mind its own business.

Senator REID - The Tariff Board has directed attention to an important fact. The employees engaged in secondary industries go to the Arbitration Court, as do other employees, with the result that when their wages are increased or their working conditions improved the higher duties imposed for the protection of an industry are rendered ineffective. I do not blame the employees for approaching the court; that is their right. But I am anxious to know how our secondary industries are to continue under our present system. I do not think any one wishes to interfere with the wages paid to and the conditions enjoyed by Australian workmen, but it seems to me that we cannot go on increasing customs duties indefinitely. We are simply proceeding in a vicious circle. With other honorable senators I am anxious to solve this difficult problem, and I believe that the remedy lies in the opening of our doors to the. introduction of more migrants from overseas. If honorable senators opposite surveyed the situation in its true perspective, they would realize that additional population will not jeopardize the interests of that section of the community, which they claim to represent in this chamber.

Recent statements by the Development and Migration Commission indicate that that body is cognisant of the difficulties that confront our primary producers, and particularly those engaged in the dried fruits industry. I remind honorable senators that ten years ago the late Senator Senior predicted the difficulties which now beset producers of dried fruits. He urged that unless adequate measures were taken, to find a market for their products, the growers would be faced with insolvency. Unfortunately the world's market is now supplied, and primary producers in the industry are in great difficulties. This problem also touches the River Murray waters scheme, on which many millions of pounds have been expended by the Commonwealth, New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia. As a protectionist, I am anxious to find a solution for all these difficulties, but I fear that if we adopt the expedient of reducing production costs by cutting down the cost of living, it will merely be a case of the survival .of the fittest. Actually, no one in Australia wishes to see a lowering of our present standard of living.

Only two of our primary industries are able to stand alone, and one of them is in a precarious position. But for the high price that has prevailed in recent years for wool, Australia would be in financial difficulties. The outlook for wheat is not so favorable. Production in Canada is expanding, and if, within the next few years, the peasantry of Russia produce on any thing like the prewar scale, Australian wheat-growers will be shut out of the world's market, owing to the high cost of production in this country. In recent years there has been an astonishing development in wheat production in Western Australia, the total for this year being estimated at 35,000,000 bushels. What will happen to the wheat-growers in that State if, as is anticipated, production in Canada and Russia expands to any appreciable extent? Butter, another important primary industry, is not in a satisfactory position. It is estimated that as the result of the Paterson scheme, consumers in Australia are penalized to the extent of 2d. per lb. on all butter exported, and I was informed recently by a member of the butter board in Queensland, that the people in that State have to pay 5d. per lb. more for their butter than prior to the establishment of the Queensland pool for export. How long will the people of Australia be able to support these artificial aids to production?

The timber industry is one in which we are all interested. Although a representative of a timber producing State, I can not conscientiously vote for higher duties onoregon, because of the important part which that timber plays in all constructional work throughout the Commonwealth. Nearly all modern buildings are now erected in concrete, and millions of feet of Oregon timber are required for framing and boxing. Practically the only timber employed in modern buildings is that required for doors and fittings; the floors for the most part being of concrete and the window frames of iron. If higher duties are imposed on oregon, building costs, even in regard to dwellings, will be affected. No Australian timber is as satisfactory asoregon for concrete boxing. As a matter of fact, Australian softwood, because of the shortness of the grain, is rarely used as beams. Whereever possible, iron, one of the products of the secondary industries, takes its place. Even the ordinary lintels in dwellings are now in concrete. The following statement which appears in the last report of the Tariff Board, sums up the position. Referring to the timber industry in Queensland, the Board states: -

Queensland once occupied a position unique among the States of the Commonwealth in that it possessed, within its boundaries, a wealth of timber unequalled for variety and for value. In addition to great forests of hardwoods, there once existed large forests of softwoods, as well as areas rich in valuable and rare furniture woods. Owing to reckless prodigality and an almost utter lack of any attempt at re-afforestation, the situation in this State is fast becoming serious. From the Queensland Forest Service Report for year ended 31st December, 1922, it appears that - "At this date Queensland is within clear sight of the end of its important timber resources In five years' time there will, be scarcely a maple tree outside the State forests, and upon the State forests the maple resource is so limited that sale must be restricted considerably."

Fortunately, it is definitely established by fruitful results, indeed, that a now maple crop may be produced by the forester but in the meantime the community must be content with a severe rationing of its most valuable cabinet- wood. The samemay be said almost of hoop and Bunya pine. The original 2,500,000 acres of this most valuable coniferous wood have dwindled to 1,000,000 acres, capable of yielding only 40,000,000 super. feet of timber per annum, as against the present demand for 120,000,000 'super feet, now being satisfied from farm lands in process of clearing for cultivation. Of hardwood it may be said that the chief resources of Queensland went with the farming development along the north coast line, and in five years' time the Forest Service expects to have to go out 50 miles to get ironbark girders.

The timber is cut down to make way for settlement. I have seen millions of feet of some of the best timber in Australia, burned, because it did not pay to transport it to market. This is a serious problem. The report continues -

The red cedar resource is now restricted to Bungella Plateau, of allplaces in Queensland the only one free fromthe red cedar twig borer, apest which renders impossible the reproduction of red cedar forests. Of kauri pine the southern resource is utterly gone. In North Queensland a considerable stand-still exists. In no other country in the world are so many valuable timber species collected together as in the remnant forests of Queensland. It is the duty and the profit of Queensland to conserve and to farm these remnant forests to a greater productivity.

The following is an extract from " The State's Saw-mill Output, 1914 to 1923, Queensland ", page 28 -

The business of the Forest Service in North Queensland should be - and, undoubtedly, in the future will be - on a scale of vastly greater magnitude. In this region there are probably 5,000,000 acres of the sub-tropical forest containing not less than 20,000,000,000 super. feet of cabinet woods, sufficient to supply Australia's needs in perpetuity and leave a margin for export to Europe and the United States of America. Unfortunately, however, a state of ruinous congestion exists in the timber trade of the north, and, despite the clamour from the south for supply, supply cannot be assured. Meanwhile, prodigious waste ensues.

Local government has been partly responsible for that state of affairs. The Tariff Board stresses the necessity to preserve our softwoods, but the Queensland Government nullifies the efforts of the Commonwealth Government. The report of the Tariff Board also says : -

The result as far as softwoods are concerned is that according to this witness " the average royalty on pine throughout Queensland is much greater than the rates of duties paid on softwood timbers imported."

Whenever an additional duty is imposed on imported timbers, theQueensland Government increases its royalty charge and scoops thepool. According to another witness

The royalty is an appreciable charge on the Queensland timber industry, and in regardto nearly half the output neutralizes to some extent the protective incidence of the Tariff.

Mr GREENE (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Surely the honorable senator does notsuggest that hoop pine is a substitute fororegon!

Senator REID -Oregon is used in work for which no other timber is suitable.

Mr GREENE (NEW SOUTH WALES) - The royalty on hoop pine has no connexion with the duty on Oregon.

Senator REID - Queensland pine can be used for frames, sashes and doors.

Mr GREENE (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Those purposes do not represent the bulk of the consumption of Oregon.

SenatorCrawford. - Why should the timber industry in other States be penalized because of a misdemeanour of the Queensland Government?

Senator REID - It is not a question of misdemeanour. The Tariff Board has said that no duty on softwoods will prevent the importation of Oregon, because that wood is necessary for certain work. Therefore we are merely placing a tax on industry.

Senator Crawford - Why are the importers so strongly opposed to the increased duty?

Senator REID - They are afraid that it will interfere with their trade. We are increasing the cost of buildings in which Oregon must be used, and indirectly the dwellings of the workers are affected. I have always held strongly the opinion that every worker should own his home and that the cost should be kept down as low as possible. All these taxes are increasing the cost. In Queensland timber is used in the majority of houses; but bricks are now beingresorted to, because the difference in costis so slight and the maintenance of abrick house is not nearly as great as that of a wooden house. Another reason is that the impression that the climate ofQueensland is not suitable, is gradually being dispelled. There is another aspect of the timber industry that requires consideration. At the present time millions of feet of tops are wasted, when they could be used with excellent results for cases.

Senator Herbert Hays - Why is that wood not used for cases ?

Senator REID - Because imported timber is used. It is well known that Queensland pine is one of the best timbers that can be obtained for butter boxes. I am quite willing to support any proposal that will prevent the wastage of the tops. Unless the Minister brings forward some good argument in favour of the increased duties I feel that I must oppose them, notwithstanding that I desire to assist the timber industry, particularly in the direction of preventing the waste which now goes on.

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