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Wednesday, 21 March 1928

Senator FINDLEY - In that case the statement of the Director-General of Forests is clearly incorrect. In view of the belief held by some honorable senators that there is a very meagre supply of matured milling timber in Australia I desire to read the following report by Mr. D. Ingle, the Commissioner of Forests for Victoria.

Statements having been made publicly that this State has very meagre supplies left in the forests of matured milling timbers, and that, therefore, importations of softwoods should be encouraged in order to eke out as long as possible what are remaining, it has occurred to me that the present position should be reviewed in order to relieve any anxiety which may have arisen regarding this important matter.

It is unfortunate that visiting foresters, in almost every instance, have based their calculations and conclusions on hearsay evidence, instead of gaining the knowledge required on the subject by actual personal inspections. . .

When it is considered that most, if not all, of the forestry experts, who have visited this State from overseas, and who in books, pamphlets, reports to governments and newspapers, stated their erroneous conclusions, have only spent, at the most, a few weeks in the State and it is not possible for any one to obtain an authentic knowledge of the timber resources of this country in less than as many years as have been numbered in weeks by the visitors who have had the temerity to publicly sum up the forestry position here.

In 1923-24 the total output of hardwood ('milled timber) was 108,000,000 super feet; but, owing to the low price of inferior softwoods, only 87,257,456 super feet were cut in 1920-27 and 82,000,000 in 1925-20.

It is quite safe, however, to say that in this State there are supplies of mature hardwood which would produce the peak requirements of 1923-24, viz., .108,000,000 (annually) for at least 45 years. These supplies would comprise the best of furniture, flooring, weatherboards, scantlings, bridge, sleeper, pile and pole timber; at their worst, these trees would give better service than tlie imported softwoods.

It may be pointed out, also, that in all parts of the State where milling operations have been carried on years ago, the regenerated forests, which have been highly improved, large areas of pines have been planted and within 45 years - the estimated life of the existing mature hardwood reserves - these plantations will be ready for use.

The suggestion that the matured forests of Victoria are almost depleted is without foundation, and. utterly absurd, because in addition to the areas in the Yea, Alexandra, Warburton, Upper Yarra, Noojee, Tangil .and Baw Baw districts, which are now being exploited and will produce the hardwood requirements of tb is State, estimated at about 100,000,000 super feet per annum for a period of 20 years, there are the virgin matured forests in the watersheds of the Mitchell, Tambo, Timbarra and Buchan rivers^ containing 178,000 acres, which will supply our requirements for at least a further 20 to 25 years, and further east is the remainder of the county of Croajingolong, comprising approximately 1,000,000 acres and carrying matured eucalypts throughout, so it 'is plain that, for the period stated- 45 year/ least - there will be no dearth of mature hardwood in Victoria, and the probabilities are that, as the old cutout forests are being regenerated, that period may be greatly extended.

This statement is compiled from facts gained by 30 years of personal inspection, not from hearsay statements made by irresponsible persons.

Senator DUNCAN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - That does not answer Senator Kingsmill's contention.

Senator FINDLEY - The statement may not be acceptable to Senator Duncan, who, though evidently not interested in thedevelopment of the timber industry in Australia may yet be interested in thetimber industry abroad. Opponents of these duties say that they will increase the cost of houses, thus placing an additional burden upon the workers. That statement is not in accordance with fact.

Senator Carroll - The Minister admitted that they would do so.

Senator FINDLEY - Eventhough there may be a slight increase in the cost of houses because of the duties, a house erected of hardwood lasts longer than one constructed of Baltic pine, while the upkeep is infinitesimal compared with that of a softwood dwelling. Another objection raised to the higher duties is that no matter what duty is placed upon softwoods, they will still enter this country. I believe that no duties that we may impose will entirely prevent the importation of softwoods; but the imposition of high duties on softwoods will cause Australian hardwood to be used for many purposes for which imported timber is now employed. Throughout the world forestry experts are advocating a greater use of hardwood. The United Empire, the official journal of the Royal Colonial Institute, in its issue of 28th February last, publishes a paper on Imperial Forestry written by the right honorable Lord Clinton, Chairman of the Forestry Commission, in which it is urged that every endeavour should be made to keep out the existing supplies of timber by economizing in the consumption of softwoods and by persuading consumers to utilize hardwood instead of softwood wherever possible. The meeting was under the chairmanship of Lord Novar whose name is well ; known in forestry matters.

I am satisfied thata majority of the members of this committee desire to do the fair thing by the Australian timber industry. I should not have risen had it not been that Senator Kingsmill and others - perhaps not intentionally - would lead the public to believe that our timber requirements cannot be supplied by Australian sawmillers. The facts and figures regarding the industries which I have quoted absolutely disprove their statements. Senator Chapman complained that those interested in the timber industry in this country had communicated with honorable senators, urging them to support higher duties on timber. There is nothing unusual about that action ; similar action has been taken in connexion . with every other tariff schedule which has been introducedinto this Parliament. It is their duty- to mind their own business.What is everybody's business is nobody's affair. The gentleman who is commissioned to look after the work on behalf of the timber producers has done his work well. Honorable senators prefer to meet representatives of various interests, producers or importers, in person, and secure information which assist us in the discussion of tariff matters. We receive a great deal of information from those who favour importations and we get it likewise from those who are deeply interested in Australian industries. But we are not influenced by that information in coming to our conclusions.

Senator Thompson - I believe that the honorable senator has been listening to one side only.

Senator FINDLEY - Senator Thompsonclaims that he studies both sides of a question and draws his own conclusions. I do the same, but I draw one conclusion only, and that is that we should afford the highest measure of protection to Australian industries. One would imagine from the remarks of Senator Chapman that the people engaged in the timber industry in Australia are the only persons moving in the direction he has indicated. Have not the importers sent out circulars and telegrams to honorable senators? Have they never interviewed honorable senators?

Senator Thompson - They have not done it in quite the same way as the sawmillers.

Senator FINDLEY - Perhaps they are not as active in that regard as the producers.

Senator Crawford - Let us get active and take a vote.

Senator FINDLEY - I have not placed any obstacle in the way of taking a vote. I think I was justified in replying to an inaccurate statement. I hope that when the vote is taken it will - show conclusively that the majority of honorable senators are strongly in favour of the proposed duties.

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