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Wednesday, 21 March 1928

Senator J B HAYES (Tasmania) . - Senator Lynch has asked what justification there is for the duty under the general tariff being increased from 4s. to 8s. Those engaged in the industry were quite satisfied with a duty of 4s. when it was imposed; but conditions have altered considerably since then. I think it was in 1920 that Oregon was sold at 70s. per 100 super, feet; it was later reduced to 40s.; and to-day, owing to the cheap labour available in the country of production and to other factors, softwood timber is now being sold in Australia at 29s. per 100 feet super.

Senator Duncan - Is that the price to-day ?

Senator J B HAYES - According to the latest figures available, that is the price being charged this year. The costs of the sawmiller have, in consequence of awards made by the Arbitration Court and the conditions imposed under the coastal provisions of the Navigation Act increased to a remarkable extent. On the one hand the costs of the sawmillers have increased and on the other, timber is being imported at a much cheaper rate. In these circumstances the Australian sawmillers have, to seek increased duties to enable the industry, which is not getting consideration com mensurate with that received by other industries, to continue.

Senator Elliott - If the men engaged . in the sawmilling industry receive further awards from the Arbitration Court, the sawmillers' costs will be increased, and these duties will be ineffective. :

Senator J B HAYES - That may be so. The Navigation Act and the awards of the Arbitration Court are affecting industries t04 such an extent that we cannot continue the present system much longer. The duties which are now sought are only sufficient to enable the saw mills to keep in operation; but if many of the obstacles with which the sawmillers now have to contend were removed, they would not be necessary. It has been stated during the debate that certain forestry officers view with alarm the depletion of our Australian forests. I have ^before me extracts from statements made by certain forestry officers in Australia. Senator Findley referred to what has happened in Victoria, and I now wish to quote what was stated in evidence by the Conservator of Forests in Tasmania in relation to the Tasmanian forests being cut out. He said -

There are at present under leases and permits some 300,000 acres of forest land, of which it is assumed some 100,000 acres are cut out. By assessing the balance of 200,000 acres to a yield of 20,000 feet to the acre, one thousand million super, feet in the round is reached. Suppose 50 per cent, of this is lost in conversion, a net balance of two thousand million super, feet of sawn timber would be produced. Of the balance of timber land in Tasmania 700,000 acres should be a conservative, estimate. As the bulk of- this is unexplored, let us consider 10,000 feet to tlie acre as the yield. This gives seven thousand million super, feet in the round which, with a 50 per cent, reduction, conversion works out at 3,500,000,000 feet of timber. Therefore on these figures the total yield of. sawn timber on leased and unleased areas would be 5,500,000,000 super, feet. As Tasmania produces approximately 60,000,000 feet of sawn timber per annum, the forests would last at the present rate of cutting, about 90 years. ...... Sufficient data has been collected to show that the rate of growth is rapid and the annual increment in the Tasmanian eucalypt is very high. Be-growth 25 years old is at present being cut for board and case material, and in such localities 40 years should prove ample to produce sawmilling timber.

From this it will be seen that even if cutting is undertaken at three or four times the present rate, it can proceed indefinitely. I am- not conversant with the conditions in Queensland; but in regard to that State it is stated on page 33 of the Forestry Report of 1926, that -

There are 60,000,000 idle feet of red satinay on Fraser Island and 60,000,000 idle feet of grey and red satin ash on the Bungalla Range near Mackay. There are untold millions of feet of tulip oak in the forests on the west coast line. ,

The other day I quoted a report issued by Mr. Lane-Poole when he was in Western Australia.

Senator Thompson - What does the Director of Forests in Queensland recommend ?

Senator J B HAYES - All the for- 'estry officers recommend that we should conserve our supplies, but although it may seem paradoxical, the only way to save our timber is by cutting and using it. When Mr. Lane-Poole was Conservator of Forests in Western Australia, he said -

Between 500,000 and 7/50,000 tons of utilizable woods are being burned by sawmillers every year.

He recommended the imposition of a duty, and went on to say -

I should welcome a revision of the tariff and would like to see so heavy a duty placed on imported woods as to force the community throughout Australia to use its own wood.

From these opinions it would appear that Australians need not be afraid of their supplies of timber becoming exhausted. Some have said that Tasmanian timber is not fit for roofing purposes; but in Tasmania and also in other parts of Australia, some of the best houses are roofed with properly seasoned timber.

Senator Duncan - " Properly seasoned " ! That is an important qualification.

Senator J B HAYES - It is in connexion with any timber. No sane person would use green wood in any structure.

Senator Elliott - But when it is properly seasoned it is difficult to work.

Senator J B HAYES - Durable woods cannot of course be worked as readily as pine woods. Honorable' senators have noticed that some of the lamp posts in Canberra are of pine, and anyone who knows anything about timber will realize that pine is not likely to last long under the ground. Hardwood would be preferable, and I believe that peppermint would be four times and ordinary stringybark three times as durable for that purpose. Although I do not wish to criticize the action of the authorities here, 1 think it is surprising to see soft wood being used for lamp posts when plenty of our own serviceable hardwood timber is available. Tasmanian hardwoods can be used for all classes of work from rough fencing posts to the highest quality of furniture; these should be given preference over imported woods. The sawmillers have undertaken not to increase the price if these duties are imposed. They are. only anxious that Australians .shall use Australian woods to a much greater extent than they do, and this, I think, is only a fair request.

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