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Wednesday, 14 March 1928

Senator NEEDHAM (Western Australia) . - In opening his attack on the timber duties, Senator Kingsmill complained that the remedy generally advocated for reviving languishing industries was an increase of duties. The honorable senator then gave us his remedy. Apparently, his panacea for all the evils that Australia is heir to is the abolition of the coastal clauses of the Navigation Act and the introduction of black labour to vessels trading on our coast.

Senator Kingsmill - That is merely the honorable senator's version of what said.

Senator NEEDHAM - According to Senator Kingsmill Australia's prosperity would be ensured if only the coastal provisions of the Navigation Act were repealed. It is remarkable that a young country like Australia, whose natural wealth in her timber is so great, is importing timber. In 1920-21, when the duty on timber was last under review, we imported 243,000,000 super, feet. By 1926-27 our importations had increased to 464,000,000 super, feet, an increase of 221,000,000 super, feet.

Senator Chapman - The honorable

Senator isquoting an abnormal year.

Senator NEEDHAM - It is curious that that abnormality lasted for nearly six years. Much of that imported timber comes from countries where timber workers are paid wages very much lower than they are paid in Australia. During the general debate it was stated that higher wages were paid in the United States of America than in Australia. That certainly does not apply to the lumber industry, for according to the Bulletin of the United States Bureau of Labour, No. 413, in which, at page 16 statistics dealing with wages and hours of labour in the lumber industry of that country for 1925 are published, in some cases the average full-time earnings for one week is only 17 dollars.

Mr GREENE (NEW SOUTH WALES) - What is thefulltime week?

Senator NEEDHAM - It is 48hours, as against 44 in the timber industry in Australia. In 1925, in this industry, 36,698 labourers working approximately 48 hours a week received an average of 17.77 dollars, which is something like £3 14s. a week, compared with the Australian average wage offrom £5 to £7 a week. Machine feeders in the planing mills receive 20 dollars, which is also lower than the Australian weekly wage. It has been said by some who object to the increased duties on timber that they may affect the number of houses being built; but I have a return prepared by the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works, which shows that, since the imposition of the increased duties, there has been a considerable increase in the number of houses constructed. I could quote a lot of figures in support of the increased duties. A supply of wood is as essential for the nation's development as is a supply of food for the sustenance of the nation's citizens. The low duties we have had in the past have been responsible for the closing down of many mills, and for causing a considerable amount of unemployment. The plea put up by Senator Kingsmill that the increase in duties will add to the cost of building homes, has been answered completely by Senator J. B. Hayes, who has shown that the increased cost in the building of a house is infinitesimal. It is certainly infinitesimal compared with the extra employment afforded to our people, and the better use to which our timber may be put.

Mr GREENE (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Furthermore, the timber industry is a rural industry.

Senator NEEDHAM - One could go on at considerable length in support of the increased duties. I can scarcely understand any one, with any idea of the necessities of Australia's development, opposing them. The figures relating to past importations should be quite sufficient to make any honorable senator consider very carefully what he will be doing if he votes against the increased duties on timber.

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