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Wednesday, 14 March 1928

Senator HERBERT HAYS (Tasmania) . - I have listened with interest to the reasons given by Senator Duncan for his opposition to these increased duties. In the past, he has been a keen supporter of high protection for Australian industries. Now, for the first time, we find that he is a free trader. If his argument were applied to all industries, they would be able to compete on an equal basis. A little while ago I moved the adjournment of the Senate, to draw attention to the position in which the timber industry found itself. I then endeavoured to show that, as a result of legislation that had been passed from time to time by the Parliament of the Commonwealth, this industry had been changed from a thriving into an unprofitable one. The Government of the Commonwealth has on different occasions increased the tariff with the object of assisting Australian industry. Whenever the Prime Minister addresses a public meeting, he refers with pride to the standard of living that has been reached in Australia. I do not defend that standard of living, because I believe it has not an economic basis. But this Parliament is bound to see that those who have invested their capital in the timber industry receive fair treatment from the Government. Senator Duncan doubts whether these increased duties will place it on a more profitable basis. The Minister (Senator Crawford) and other honorable senators have urged the necessity to afford greater protection to other industries which . find it impossible to compete with countries in which the standard of living is lower than that which obtains in Australia. This industry is essential to Australia. Unless our timbers are put to a commercial use, they have to be destroyed. If we wish to encourage their use, we must pass these duties. Some honorable senators claim that the cost of building will be substantially increased. That is a debatable point.

Senator Graham - The difference in rent will not amount to 3d. a week.

Senator HERBERT HAYS - There will not be an appreciable difference in rent. Senator Kingsmill has argued that Australian woods cannot take the place of those that are imported, and that there are particular uses to which Oregon is put and for which our hardwoods are not suitable. I remind him that during the war softwoods were not imported, and our hardwoods were used almost exclusively, although the prices were very high. I admit that Oregon is specially adapted to certain uses. It is true that in some instances Australian hardwood cannot take the place of Oregon. Seeing that protection is the accepted policy of Australia, it is not right that it should be applied to other industries and denied to the timber industry. Each year hundreds of thousands of pounds are sent out of this country for timber which could be obtained in Australia. By increasing the duties on timber, we shall find employment for a number of our unemployed.

Senator Kingsmill - It is doubtful if they would be allowed to work.

Senator HERBERT HAYS - It is true that the sawmilling industry is not immune from industrial troubles, but the industry will not be established on a proper basis merely by repealing the coastal clauses of the Navigation Act. If we set up tribunals for fixing- wages, we must give adequate protection to industries which suffer thereby.

Senator Kingsmill - At whose cost?

Senator HERBERT HAYS - Senator Kingsmillhas on a number of occasions advocated that Australia should adopt a more vigorous policy of reafforestation. Already the Government has established in Canberra a Forestry School, and placed at its head a man who has had considerable experience in forestry. That gentleman has advocated that duties on timber should be so high as to prohibit the importation of softwoods in order to com pel the people of Australia to use Australian timbers.

Senator Kingsmill - The duties have been raised since he made that recommendation.

Senator HERBERT HAYS - Surely it is sound reasoning that if we give protection to other industries we should give protection also to the timber industry.

Senator THOMPSON(Queensland) duties on timber were before us for consideration, I opposed them because I felt that they would adversely affect the mining industry of Queensland. Although

Oregon was not used in Queensland mines, I feared that an increase in the duty on Oregon would be reflected in the cost of Australian hardwood.

Senator Crawford - Oregon required for mining purposes is now admitted free.

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