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Wednesday, 21 March 1928

Senator GRAHAM (WESTERN AUSTRALIA) - I am sorry if I have misrepresented Senator Duncan in regard to the duty on imported socks; but, judging by his remarks just now, the honorable senator favours the use of inferior foreign timbers to the detriment of the timber industry in Australia. If, as he has stated, the election cry of Government supporters during the last campaign was to build homes for the workers so as to prevent them from becoming bolsheviks, why does not he now stand up for the Australian timber industry, so that Australians may have homes built of Australian timber ? Unfortunately, the volume of importations is undiminished, notwithstanding the higher duties that have been imposed.

Senator Carroll - Why is that?

Senator GRAHAM - I presume it is because production in other countries is cheaper than in Australia. Borneo timber is cut by coolies, who are paid only a few shillings a day, whereas timber workers in Australia receive what is regarded as a living wage, and they work under superior conditions. I totally disagree with those honorable senators who say that Australian hardwood is not suitable for building purposes. In Victoria it is largely used, and is entirely satisfactory.

Senator Foll - I wonder what kind of timber was used in the roof of the Hotel Kurrajong? It leaks like a sieve.

Senator GRAHAM - No .doubt Oregon was used in that building. The Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited uses 16 by 16 oregon sets; but as that class of timber comes in duty free, it is not affected by this item.

Senator Duncan - Why is oregon used in the mines ?

Senator GRAHAM - I presume it is preferred because it is lighter.

Senator Duncan - And it is safe.

Senator GRAHAM - I am not so sure that that is the principal reason for its use in mines in the eastern States. In

Western Australia, jarrah, jam, and salmon gum are used in the mines. I could take honorable senators to many public buildings in Kalgoorlie that were erected 25 or 30 years ago, with Western Australian hardwood. That timber is as perfect to-day as it was on the day when it was put into the buildings. The Leader of the Senate (Senator Sir George Pearce), who is an authority on timbers, will bear me out when I say that our hardwoods in Western Australia will stand up to any tests required of them.

Senator Thompson - Does not the honorable senator think that the imposition of these duties will be reflected in the higher price of hardwood timber for mining?

Senator GRAHAM - Not at all. We have millions of feet of ...good timber available. If the imposition of a still higher duty on imported timber would lead to the cutting of a greater quantity of our own timber, and keep our mills working full time, I would agree to it. The imported softwoods are not all that they are claimed to be. It is argued that the price of building will be increased. The extra cost of a fiveroomed house will amount to not more than £6 12s. 6d. The additional rental, therefore, will be not greater than approximately 3d. a week. Senator Chapman claims to have been inundated with telegrams ostensibly from millers, and has used that as an argument to induce honorable senators who favour the higher duties to revise their views. I have not received a telegram from either a sawmiller or any other source. Senator Kingsmill has argued that if we do not allow the importation' of softwood a substitute will be found. I point out that the substitute in the case of dado linings would be fibro plaster sheets, which are manufactured by Australian workmen under Australian conditions of labour; whereas -the imported softwoods are obtained in many cases from countries in which cheap colored labour is employed.

Senator Duncan - It would not help the timber industry to use fibro plaster sheets.

Senator GRAHAM - It would not do it any harm. I wish to quote from the report of the Forestry Department of Western Australia for the year ended 30th June,' 1924. We. have been told * that borers are not brought to Australia in imported softwoods. That is incorrect. Three months ago an expert who travelled from the eastern States to Western Australia outlined to me the steps which have to be taken to cope with the borer, and said that not only the cargo but also the ships which bring it to Australia are affected. Fumigation of the vessels does not succeed in driving out the pest. Once it gets a hold every subsequent cargo of timber becomes infected before its arrival in Australia. The report to which I have referred reads as follows : -

The inspection of timber ' imported from Borneo and Java in conformance with the Commonwealth Quarantine Regulations has shown the necessity for close supervision. A number of living specimens of particularly destructive varieties of timber' borers have been discovered, and arrangements have been made for the infected timber to be destroyed.

The Government should take every step possible to prevent the borer from obtaining a hold in Australia. Some honorable senators- claim that it has been here for years. If that is so, it is only now manifesting its presence, I have seen in Melbourne imported furniture that has been in use for ten years, yet the borer is only now working its way out through the tops of the tables. We must take a firm stand to prevent its ravages. In Western Australia the life of Oregon used in flooring joists and floorings is only three years, on account of the destruction that is caused by white ants. Even when the piles are sheathed with tin the ants cannot be kept out of the building. The effects of the borer are not immediately apparent. It is time we prevented the importation of foreign timber and encouraged our people to use our own woods. If the softwood forests of the rest of the world should be burnt out a substitute could easily be found in Australia'. When hardwood from Victoria or jarrah from Western Australia has been placed in position it lasts for all time. I saw on exhibition in Perth a piece of jarrah that had been taken from one of the piles of a jetty at Fremantle. It had been under water for 35 years. It was sawn through the centre, and polished until it looked like a piece of glass. There was. not a blemish on it. Sea water would cause a softwood to deteriorate within 24 hours. I shall support the proposed duties.

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