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Thursday, 3 December 1936

Senator HARDY (New South Wales) . - Senator McLeay mentioned that 137,000,000 super, feet of logs had been imported and asked if this did not create employment. We do not deny that it does, but we say that employment would still have been created if 137,000,000 super, feet of sawn oregon timber had come in, because the actual process of converting the round log into the sawn flitch is a very small one indeed. That is where Senator J. V. MacDonald goes astray. The usual sizes of the flitches imported into this country for the past few years have been 12 in. x 6 in. and 12 in. x 10 in. The only' difference that would be necessitated in the sawing plants that have been erected is that the first headsaw would go out of action. Every other machine in the plant would be necessary, and has been necessary, for the culling of the 12 in. x 10 in. flitches into scantlings and clear products. That is why we said that only 200 men were employed in the actual process of breaking down the round log into the square flitch. The duty on the square flitch was between 10s. and 12s., per 100 super, feet, but the actual duty on the log as fixed by the Tariff Board, always remembering that this was done after evidence had been put before it, -was only ls. 6d., or a margin of from 8s. 6d. to lOd. 6d. Do not honorable senators think that margin too great, seeing that any oregon log mill in Sydney will definitely offer to cut up imported logs at a contract price of 2s. 6d. to 3s. per 100 super, feet? If that is the established contract price for converting the round into the square, and there is a difference of from 8s. 6d. to 10s. 6d. between the duties on the round and the sawn, it is obvious that a duty on logs of 10 per cent, ad valorem is extremely wide of the mark. Even a heavy diminution of the importation of oregon logs would not have a serious repercussion on the allegedly expensive machinery installed by sawmillers in the capital cities. Honorable senators should not overlook the fact that such plants have not been erected solely for the purpose of sawing oregon logs, as South Australian senators would have us believe; many other kinds of imported logs are sawn by this machinery. All kinds of timbers from Queensland, and Borneo cedar, hemlock, &c, milled in 1931-32, totalled 2,000,000 feet; in 1932-33, 3,630,000 feet; in 1933-34, 6,000,000 feet; and in 1935-36, nearly 7,000,000 feet. If the importation of the oregon logs into Australia were prevented, there would be reason to assume that their place would not be taken by hemlock. Hemlock does not compete with Australian joinery timbers, but is used principally in conexion with the manufacture of fruit packing cases, and is now imported in the sawn flitch. I should also like to stress that the real development of the Australian sawmilling industry did not begin before 1932. Hp to that time, it was more or less a scantling industry with a certain output of clear air-dried boards. Certainly some wide boards were sawn to compete in the joinery section, but generally the great majority were scantlings. With the advent of the depression, dry-kiln treatment, under the guidance of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, made its appearance, and for the first time the Australian industry was able to market a product which would not warp or shrink, but would stand up to the most harsh climatic conditions. As the result of that development, Australia is now manufacturing the highest class of joinery timber, which will resist the driest climates, in which imported timber would fail. The .dry kilns are an indication of the fact that the real development of the Australian timber industry has occurred since the Tariff Board made its report on this matter. In 1930, only 50 kilns were in existence. The average capital value of a battery of kilns is £3,000 - not a very substantial sum of money. The 50 kilns were turning out dry timber to compete in the joinery trade. In 1931, the number of dry kilns increased to 60. In 1932, when the industry first began to get its opportunity, the number increased to 138. In 1933, it was 202; in 1934, 224; and in 1935, 31S. This progress was one of the greatest romances in Australian industrial development. Each battery of kilns is composed of from 6 to 24 chambers. As 1 informed .Senator Leckie, the actual production of dry-kiln timber, which is required, not for constructional purposes, but for the manufacture of fittings such as those which have been installed in this Senate,- rose in Victoria alone from 1,000,000 feet to 50,000,000 feet in approximately five years. Surely we must make every endeavour to maintain that progress, because it has a substantial hearing upon the unemployment situation. The competition of oregon, which enters Australia under- the guise of being intended for constructional purposes, must be avoided. Whereas oregon is easily dried, Australian hardwoods require up to 21 days for this purpose. Tour or five years ago I informed the Minister in charge of this bill that if we could ensure that long lengths of oregon, say over 30 feet in length, would not be used for other than constructional purposes, I would vote for the admission of such timber ; but I know that immediately the long lengths of oregon are imported, the timber trad« cuts them into clear grades; this timber is then converted into sashes and boards and sold as moulds and floors in competition with the Australian timber.'

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