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Wednesday, 14 March 1928

Senator FINDLEY (Victoria) . - As honorable senators are aware, I believe in the policy of protection, which has been approved by a substantial majority of the people of Australia. I also believe in the White Australia policy, the Navigation Act, and the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act. There are some honorable senators who are opposed to the White Australia policy and to the two statutes which I have mentioned. From time to time we are supplied- with so-called solutions of our difficulties. Senator Kingsmill, for instance, believes that even if we did not have straight out free trade we should have nothing more than a revenue tariff. The honorable senator believes that if we abrogated the coastal provisions of the Navigation Act and wiped out the Arbitration Court the clouds of depression which overhang Australia would speedily pass away and would be followed by the sunshine of prosperity. I believe in affording the highest measure of protection to the' timber industry, which is a natural industry, and has not received the measure of justice it deserves. When I hear Senator Kingsmill and others, who profess to be enthusiastic in regard to afforestation, opposing these duties, I naturally wonder what they really mean. One would expect them to believe that the fullest consideration should be given to our timber resources and to the possibilities of our forests.

Senator Kingsmill - That does not necessarily mean high duties.

Senator FINDLEY - It does. Why do we impose high duties ? Because industries cannot be established in Australia without the imposition of such duties. How is it possible for those engaged in the timber industry in Australia to compete with others engaged in. similar industries in other parts of the world if they arc not protected by customs duties? The

Leader of the Opposition (Senator Needham) referred to the wages paid in other countries, but before I quote them, let me say that I am somewhat amused when I see certain honorable senators seized with sudden spasms of sympathy for the poor settler and the poor working mau whom these duties, we are told, will prejudicially affect if they erect timber dwellings. In my opinion these duties will not mean increased costs to those who build hardwood houses. Hardwood houses will, as Senator J. B. Hayes said, last longer than those built of softwood, and will not depreciate to the same extent. The cost of the upkeep of a hardwood house when compared with that of the upkeep of a house built of softwood is infinitesimal. A softwood tenement has to be painted fairly frequently. In the case of buildings constructed of softwood timber, the cost of painting is much higher. Hardwood does not require to be treated so frequently, and probably it will last twice as long as softwood. Let us now consider the wage conditions in the timber industry in Australia and other countries. I find the following information in the report of the Tariff Board : -

Canada. - Lowest wage payable is 25s. per week (black labour). The average weekly hours are 58.

America. - Lowest wage paid is 40s. Cd. (black labour). Average of 57.5 hours is the working week.

Sweden. - Wages paid, 7s. 7d . per day. Working week 48 hours.

Australia. - Lowest wage payable is 83s., for 48 hours per week.

Canada. - Average hours per week, 58; average weekly wage, £3 14s. 6d.

America. - Average hours per week, 57.5; average weekly wage, £3 14s. Cd.

Australia. - Average hours per week, 44; average weekly wages, £4 13s. in 48 bush sawmills.

In Canada and America no holidays are paid for, whilst nine holidays are paid for in Australia, also travelling time, &c.' In Sweden there is no overtime, holiday pay, or travelling time. In America, of the 45,068 employees in the industry, 25,310 are classed as labourers. Under Australian awards all that we can classify as labourers is between 10 per cent. -and 15 per cent.

Senator Guthrie - - Are those mere statements or facts?

Senator FINDLEY - These statements were given in evidence on oath before the Tariff Board. The Victorian Forestry Commission, in its annual report for 1925-26, stated-

Should the utilization of timber be prevented in any way, not only will an economic area of tremendous value bc lost to the State, but the forests themselves will ultimately be lost, for such is the nature of the species peculiar to these mountain areas, that whilst trees mature rapidly, they also deteriorate in a correspondingly quick time, becoming in their weakened state a prey to the forests pests, and more inflammable.

Senator Thompson - The Conservators of Forests in Queensland and New South Wales have expressed opinions directly contrary to those of the Victorian commission.

Senator FINDLEY - That, at all events, is the viewpoint of the Victorian Forestry Commissioners. In recent years there have been serious bush fires in Victorian timber areas and many lives have been lost. Much of the timber that was destroyed by those fires would, no doubt, have been marketed had these new duties then been operative. We have heard a good deal lately about the need for decentralization. Those who believe in that policy should support the Government up to the hilt with regard to these duties, because sawmilling is naturally a country industry. Many small towns in Victoria are largely, and, in some cases, wholly, dependent upon the timber trade, and, in former years, large numbers of men were engaged in the industry. Unfortunately, overseas competition has seriously interfered with the saw-milling business of Victoria and the other States of the Commonwealth; but the imposition of these duties has given an impetus to the industry. While it may not be true that all the mills will be re-opened immediately, I am sure that many will be profitably employed in the near future. With better organization the industry should shortly be more firmly established, and should give employment to a large number of men. No reasonable argument can be advanced against the Government's proposals. It is true that Oregon, no matter how high may be the duty, will still be imported. It was not contemplated that the duties should be prohibitive. For certain work I believe Oregon is more or less essential.

The CHAIRMAN" (Senator Plain).The honorable senator's .time has expired.

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