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Thursday, 3 December 1936

Senator LECKIE (Victoria) .- Most of the opposition to this duty appears to emanate from South Au3- tralian senators. Apparently that State has notawakened to the immense development which has taken place in the process of seasoning Australian timber, to which Senator Hardy referred. In connexion with this process, I have secured official figures relating to Victoria; they support Senator Hardy's statement. Whereas kiln seasoning in 1930 was responsible for the production of only 1,000,000 feet of timber, the figure last year was 50,000,000 feet. That is a remarkable increase. A peculiar point about the objection of South Australian senators is their assertion that Australian kiln-seasoned timber will not withstand the climatic conditions of that State; but in the Mallee and the Wimmera, with similar climatic conditions, over 90 per cent. of the timber used by the building trade is hardwood.

Senator Badman - The timber so used is for walls, not for roofs.

Senator LECKIE - No; it is also used for roofing purposes. I understood Senator Badman rather to gibe at the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings), asserting that he had no sympathy with the poor classes. Everybody must be aware of the fact that the cheaper class of dwelling is built entirely from Australian woods. Oregon is not used in this type of construction, because it is too expensive. For that reason, there is no justification for the contention of Senator Badman that the duty on oregon logs will increase the cost of constructing a workman's home. A better realization by architects and builders of the general value of Australian timbers, as turned out at the present time, would be justified, because they are eminently satisfactory for constructional purposes. Unless Australian timbers are used, they become a disappearing asset. The trees reach maturity at a certain age, and if not used, they go to waste and have to be burned. For that reason, Australian timbers should be used wherever possible, in order to save hundreds of thousands of pounds of the natural forest wealth. Senator Badman also referred to the fact that Australia enjoyed an export trade in timber. In my opinion, this controversy in regard to oregon relates only to timber designed for constructional and joinery purposes. The timber to which

Senator Badmanreferred as being exportable hardwood, such as jarrah, is employed as railway sleepers and road blocks.

Senator Badman - But that industry gives employment to many hands.

Senator LECKIE - I admit that it does; but such timber does not compete with the constructional timbers that are under discussion. The labour costs in regard to the milling of Douglas fir logs range from 2s. to 2s. 6d. per 100 feet, whereas the Australian labour used in connexion with the hardwood timber industry costs four times that amount. Royalties must play a large part in the finances of the various States which produce hardwood. The wilful reduction of a large portion of their revenue, which for the most part, is devoted to the work of re-afforestation, would be a most illadvised action. I sympathize with South Australia in that it lacks within its borders areas of timber suitable for milling purposes. The timber to which Senator Badman referred is not indigenous to South Australia; it was introduced into the State through the foresight of a past government, and tribute should be paid to that administration for its vision in that respect. At the same time, such timber does not enter into the controversy in regard to constructional timber. As a consequence ofthe new duties imposed last May, the price of Australian timber has not been increased; the price of scantlings has actually been reduced by 15 per cent.

Senator Herbert Hays - Reduced below cost price.

Senator LECKIE - The sawmills make their profits from flooring boards, weatherboards, and the better classes of timber used for constructional purposes. For that reason, they are able to make a reduction of 15 per cent. below cost price in regard to scantlings. In view of all of these circumstances, I consider that Senator McLeay might, at this stage, withdraw his request. The honorable senator has carried out his duty in pointing out the dissatisfaction existing in South Australia in regard to this impost ; but at the same time he should now be aware that his request, if accepted, would inflict hardship upon the native timber industry. The majority of honorable senators appear to have made up their minds that that industry is most valuable to Australia, and must be preserved.

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