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Thursday, 8 March 1928


Senator ELLIOTT - What about using hardwood?


Senator FOLL - There is a considerable quantity of hardwoods in Queensland, but for a long time now the market for them has not been satisfactory. I should like to see our hardwood mills all working steadily and doing well. I am interested in one of them, to my sorrow, but some of the imported softwoods have taken the place of our hardwoods to such an extent that I do not see any possibility of people reverting to the use of hardwoods until it is no longer possible to get softwoods at any price. I am very sorry to have to say this. My remarks, of course, do not apply to our wonderful furniture timber in the north of Queensland; but this is being rapidly cut out.


Senator Ogden - Repeal the coasting provisions of the Navigation Act and Tasmania, will send Queensland plenty of hardwoods.


Senator FOLL - It might interest the honorable senator to learn that it .costs more to convey our timber from Cairns to Brisbane than it does to bring timber from Baltic ports to Sydney. That is one of the greatest difficulties our timber industry has to face.

As Senator Reid has pointed out, the Queensland Forestry Department has been the principal transgressor in the past, and has been largely responsible for the present shortage of hoop pine. Thousands of pounds paid in royalties have been simply thrown to the winds by the State Government. ' The following table shows the amount .collected by way of royalties, and the1 amount spent in the administration of the Forestry Department, inclusive of reafforestation and every thing else:-

 

In five years the Queensland Government actually made a profit of £548,626 out of its forests, and wasted it on various Government enterprises. The figures for 1925-26 and 1926-27 are even worse.


Senator Herbert Hays - The honors able senator's figures show that about 50 per cent, of the amount paid in royalties was put back into the forests.


Senator FOLL - Does the honorable senator contend that it is a fair proposition to spend only 50 per cent, of the royalties in that way ? To my mind every penny of the money received in royalties should have been spent in reafforestation and administration.


Senator Herbert HAYs -Th amount spent by the Queensland Government compares favorably with the amounts spent on forestry development in other States.


Senator FOLL - The Commonwealth Government is embarking on a forestry campaign that will cost thousands of pounds, yet it is receiving in revenue practically nothing .compared with the amount received in royalties by the Queensland Government. In Tasmania, and almost every other State, an endeavour has been made to do something for reafforestation, although the various governments have not been in the favourable position of the Queensland Government, which can get from royalties all the money it requires for the purpose. The other States have embarked on effective campaigns of forest conservation and development. The Queensland Government has under its system of silly State enterprises been using our great natural forests as a taxing machine. It has not returned to the forests any portion of the assets which have been withdrawn.


Senator Thompson - It is eating up the capital.


Senator FOLL - Yes, and not replacing it. An extract from the official report of the Provisional Forestry Board of Queensland, issued by the Department of Lands, for the year ended 30th June, 1926, contains some very serious comments concerning the fact that the softwoods of Australia are rapidly becoming exhausted. I wish to place on record the following extract from a report issued by that department -

The essential features of the forestry position of Queensland at this opening stage, however, is that an aboriginal insufficiency of building softwoods exists for the needs of the civilized state. It is true that compared with our southern neighbours we are relatively rich in the possession of important hillside forests of hoop pine in the south, and kauri in the north, whence have come our supplies of building softwoods in the shape of hoop and bunya, pine, and. of kauri pine, supplemented by lesser supplies of the harder and more brittle cypress pine of the south-west. These assets, however, were always inadequate to the needs of a colony capable of carrying a population in 60 years' time of 3,000,000 souls, and no amount of husbanding could possibly have overcome the original smallness of the native coniferous timber lands.

The Department of Forests does not make any apology for not husbanding its resources, and is not excusing itself for its dilatoriness in the past. The report continues -

In the beginning of our settlement we possessed natural softwood assets measuring in volume between 3,000,000,000 and 4,000,000,000 feet. Some of these assets have been wasted in pioneering land settlement processes, but from 1883 to 1925 we actually used up for development work 2,450,000,000 super, feet of hoop and bunya pine saw logs, plus 600,000,000 super, feet of kauri and cypress. From a consideration of forest valuation surveys made over the last fifteen years, it is estimated that our hoop and bunya pine reserves at 30th June, 1925, stood at 1,070,000,000 feet of saw logs on Crown forests, and 230,000,000 feet on private areas.

The departmentgoes on to point out that there are at present 257 mills in Queensland, a large number of which are depending upon supplies from the State forests, and that these will soon be in a serious position if they have to depend upon that source to enable them to continue working. The Forestry Commission of Queensland has stated quite candidly that the sawmillers will have to look elsewhere for their timber supplies. They cannot rely upon the forests of Queensland, because sufficient timber is not available theretokeep them working. The commission also states that if it embarked upon a policy of cutting out the forests there would in 20 or 30 years be no pine timber left in Queensland. They have now undertaken a system of rationing, which assists in husbanding the forests; but which places the timber millers in that. State in a very unfortunate position. If they are unable to obtain sufficient from the State forests to keep them in operation, they must look elsewhere for supplies. I am not directly objecting to the imposition of a duty on Oregon, shiploads of which I have seen coming into our Australian ports.I think, however, that it is a pity that we should receive such large consignments of sawn oregon and baltic when the sawing could be done by many of our mills which are not working full time. It would be much better to restrict the importation of sawn oregon, and allow junk timber to come in free.


Mr GREENE (NEW SOUTH WALES) - What would be the result ?


Senator FOLL - I know the honorable senator is assuming what the result would be.


Senator Thompson - But it is by no means certain.


Senator FOLL - Australia has been a very good customer of those who have been exporting softwoods to Australia. I presume Senator Greene is inferring that if we did not purchase consignments of sawn softwoods, the exporters would not supply us with junk timber.


Mr GREENE (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Oh, no!


Senator FOLL - The point I have raised has been mentioned in many quar ters when this phase of the matter has been under consideration. Shiploads of junk timber, which have been unloaded at Queensland ports, have been sent to the sawmills, and have enabled them to continue in operation. If it can be shown by honorable senators, or by the Minister when he is replying, that the duties on Oregon and baltic timber, or other softwoods, which have now been in operation for four -months, have been of benefit to Australia, we may be justified in supporting the higher rates. We should like to know if the impositionof these duties has enabled some of our hardwood mills, which have been closed, to be re-opened, and that renewed activity in the hardwood timber industry has followed. We have had some particulars from honorable senators representing Tasmania, concerning the position in that State; but we have not been supplied with sufficient information to enable us to determine whether the duties proposed are necessary.


Senator Findley - Honorable senators have received communications showing that as the result of the imposition of higher duties, employment has been found for idle men.


Senator FOLL - That information should have been supplied by the Minister. Australia is in a very serious position at present in the matter of softwoods. We should be planting trees instead of cutting them down. That point was emphasized by the Minister for Defence (Senator Sir William Glasgow) when introducing the Forestry Bureau Bill, under which a School of Forestry has been established in Canberra.. Perhaps the Minister will say what has resulted from the imposition of a duty of 4s. per 100 super feet.


Senator Findley - The restriction on imports will quicken the demand for local timber.


Senator FOLL - It depends upon the extent to which hardwoods can be used in place of softwoods. . Even a very high duty would not prevent the use of softwoods for some classes of work.


Senator Crawford - One effect of the imposition of this duty is that 22 sawmills in Tasmania have been re-opened.


Senator FOLL - That information should have been supplied by the Minister when he moved the second reading of the bill.


Senator Crawford - A more appropriate time to give the information will be when the item is under discussion in committee.


Senator FOLL - If honorable senators are supplied with such information at the outset, it is much easier for them to discuss the general principles of protec-tion. I have briefly outlined my views on several phases of the Government's proposals, and shall have an opportunity of dealing in detail with some of the items when the schedule is under consideration.







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