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Thursday, 3 December 1936

Senator J V MACDONALD (QUEENSLAND) . - I remind Senators McLeay and Badman that the Government has decided that Australia buys too much from the United States of America, and that country too little from Australia.

Senator Badman - Ninety-two per cent, of the imported log timber comes from Canada.

Senator J V MACDONALD (QUEENSLAND) - Australia should endeavour to supply its own requirements of tim'ber, and, indeed, of all commodities. Nature has been good to us,, in that the Australian timbers which constitute the first crop of the land, are equal to the best imported timbers. It may be that Oregon is better than hard wood for mining purposes, but I point out that oregon used in mines is admitted free of duty. It has been said that the retention of these high duties will throw out of work about 200 men now engaged in sawing logs, but thousands of Australian workers will be without jobs if the duties be reduced, as suggested. When I have seen huge stacks of imported timber on the banks of the Brisbane River 3" have never been able ,to understand why, in, a country so well supplied with timber, it should be thought necessary to bring other timber 6,000 miles from other countries for use here.

Senator Cooper - The imported timber, moreover, comes here in foreign vessels.

Senator J V MACDONALD (QUEENSLAND) - I have never held that trade should not flow both ways - to and from Australia - but I always objected to the importation of those things with which nature has richly endowed this country. In the past hundreds of millions of super, feet of the best timbers in the world have been destroyed to make way for increasing settlement. I cannot understand why honorable senators from South Australia, should become so heated about what is, after all, a comparatively small matter, particularly when those who stand togain most from their efforts are American suppliers of timber. I have here a letter from the Australian Federated Sawmillers Association, dated the 2nd November, 1936, in which the association asksmembers of this Parliament to giveearnest consideration to the question of the ratification of the increased duty onoregon logs, as set out in the tariff schedule introduced in May last. The association's letter states -

We are in the happy position of being able to say that every promise and undertaking made to the Government and to the Tariff Board by us have been kept and honoured 100 per cent, and our obligation to the public, as a protected industry, has been fulfilled to the letter ...

It is, perhaps, the only primary industry that ha3 never asked for, or received, any form of government assistance other than the tariff protection to which it has a rightful claim . . .

Once the old prejudice against the use of Australian timbers is broken down, builders will realize that better Australian timbers are available at cheaper prices than imported, oregon.

It has been contended that the competition of oregon does not mean much to the Australian timber trade, but, on that point, the Australian Federated Sawmillers Association, says -

Those badly-informed people who contend that Oregon does not compete with our Australian timbers are only proving their ignorance of the prevailing conditions in Australian timber production.

A proof of this is in the fact that before the log duties were imposed in May last our mills were slack of orders and stocks could not be cleared, whereas, to-day, every mill is working full-handed and sales are good.

We claim to have made a first-class industry in a remarkably short space of time, and we now confidently appeal to our Federal Parliament to demonstrate their faith in our industry by passing this very necessary tariff amendment.

This is not a party question. On a previous occasion, a Labour senator from South Australia voted against other members of the party in this chamber when the duties on oregon were being considered. All honorable senators favour a reasonable measure of protection for Australian industries, and are, I am confident, desirous of doing their best for Australia. I have shown what is best in the interests of Australia. The Queensland Timber Protection League has also written to me, and I suppose to other honorable senators, regarding the duties on oregon. In its letter to me, the league states -

We have every reason to thank the Government for the service they rendered to the timber industry of Australia on the occasion when the duties on log timber were advanced to the present rates. Prior to that event, we were aware of more than one project to establish saw-mills on the Brisbane waterfront to take advantage of the lower duties then prevailing.

This would have created serious competition with established Queensland industries. The successful exploitation of the timber trade with imported log timber would have been nothing short of a national disaster, as the operations would have been supplemented by many other saw-millers in Brisbane at the expense of a large number of timber operatives, and of our own timber resources.

We feel confident that the representations of interested importers will not be allowed to do this incalculable injury to the timber industry of this State, when the tariff schedule comes before Parliament.

The Government's proposal is sound, and, when the vote is taken, I hope that SenaMcLeay's amendment will be defeated.

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