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Tuesday, 30 August 1921

Senator PAYNE (Tasmania) .- I think honorable senators will agree with me when I say that during the war period we were able to do a great deal for the proper utilization of our forests that ought to be of incalculable benefit to Australia as a whole. Any one who has had anything to do with land settlement knows, that for many years millions of pounds' worth of timber - I speak advisedly - have been destroyed to make way for the settler. When war broke out, and we were thrown upon our own resources, saw-mills sprang up in timber areas all over Australia, with the result that land which had originally been taken up for timber purposes is now being' occupied by the settler, and instead of hundreds of thousands of pounds' worth of valuable timber having been destroyed in the process of settlement, the marketable timber has been rescued from that fate. The people engaged in the timber industry outnumber by ten to one those engaged in it prior to tho war. When dealing with this matter in another place, the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) distinctly stated that the policy of the Government was to encourage industries which had been in existence prior to the war, as well as industries which had sprung up because of war conditions. If we are going to adopt that policy now, and it appears to me to be a reasonable one, I cannot understand this effort being made, right at the beginning of the debate on this division of the Tariff, to reduce the duties in this schedule. The honorable senator who has moved in this direction made no reference whatever to the altered conditions in the timber .industry. If he had taken the trouble to look up statistics and ascertain from those engaged in the business the cost of producing timber as compared with pro-war days, he must have come to the conclusion that without adequate protection the industry must be abandoned. And if that should happen, what would be our position? Of necessity, many thousands of men must be thrown out of employment, and land settlement retarded for a great length of time, because the saw-milling industry has been of the greatest assistance to land settlement in recent years. An honorable senator has suggested that if we continue to use Australian timbers for commercial purposes our forests will disappear during the next generation. That is all "bunkum." The taking of marketable timber off timber areas that are not suitable for land settlement gives the younger trees a chance of growing into timber of commercial sizes.

Senator Keating - But, unfortunately, timber-getters frequently destroy the young growth while getting out the mature timber.

Senator PAYNE - That is true, but the-State Governments have already taken steps to prevent it, as far as possible, and to' encourage the growth of the smaller trees. If this policy is continued we shall find in the course of a few years that timber areas which have been worked over will again be available ,to sawmillers.

Senator Elliott - Does the honorable senator say that' we can produce all the softwoods we require for making butter boxes and other commercial purposes.

Senator PAYNE - I do not say that, but I shall have a word or two to say with regard to the suggestion made by Senator Pratten that we must cf necessity use Oregon for building operations. I do not know where he gets his information from, but I may tell him that Australian hardwoods half the size of Oregon beams will stand up to a greater test, so that even if Australian timber is heavier it is only necessary to use beams of half the size in order to get the same result.

Senator Henderson - I am afraid the honorable senator is not correct.

Senator PAYNE - I have records of tests made by Mr. James .Mann, of the Melbourne University. These show that oregon 12 x 12 x 6 weighing 85 lbs. breaks with a strain of 9,000 lbs., while stringybark 12 x 6 x 3, and weighing 95 lbs., breaks at 10,944 lbs. In other words, it takes a strain of 1,944 lbs. more to break a . stringybark beam 12 x 6 x 3 than to break an oregon beam 12 x 6 x 6.

Senatorde Largie. - If the test had been with karri or ironbark the difference would have been still greater.

Senator PAYNE - Possibly it would have been. Ishould like to give honorable senators an idea of the increase in the cost of marketing timber to-day as compared with a few years ago, and I shall quote three States. In Victoria, in' 1908, the cost was 5s. 2d. per 100 super. feet as compared with 17s.8d. in 1921. In Queensland the cost for hardwood was 16s. 9d. in 1908 as against 34s. 5d. in 1921, and in Tasmania for hardwood the cost was 8s. 8d. in 1908 compared with 23s.10d. in 1921.

Senator Duncan - Whose figures are those?

Senator PAYNE - They are the records taken, by those engaged in the industry. Honorable senators are quite aware that the wages paid to mem engaged in this hazardous industry of timber getting are now more than twice what they were in the year I first quoted, and if some people had their way they would be four times as much. The figures I quoted are based on the last log, which came into operation a few months ago, but a further claim was put forward immediately that log came into operation, and demanded increases of 50 per cent., and in some cases 100 per cent. The log now in force provides for retrospective pay, and for the payment of wages whether men are working or not. Wet weather no longer counts against the employee. If a man is on the job he has to be paid, and in the bush it is almost impossible to carry on operations in wet weather. Other conditions contained in the log make timber-getting very expensive today.

Senator de Largie - All our timber is found in wet country.

Senator PAYNE - Yes. In Tasmania the best timber comes from the West Coast, which is the wettest portion of the State. I am pleased that Senator Pratten is determined to see that a fair ratio is observed between the various classes of timber as described in the schedule in proportion to the basic rate of duty per 100 super feet, and I know thatI shall pet his support when I move later on for the removal of two anomalies which I shall point out.

Senator GARDINER(New South

Wales)[8.48]. - Senator Payne, in comparing Australian hardwood with oregon for building purposes, quotes the breaking strain of two samples, and imagines that he has completed his case. If that were all to be considered there would be nothing, more to be said on the subject, but' as a practical builder, with many years experience, I know that for roofing purposes, and for ceiling joists, we have no timbers in Australia equal to oregon. A 7-inch by 2½-inch hardwood joist, stretching from wall to wall, would by its own weight sink and buckle, and the ceiling plaster, no matter what workmanship was put into it, would crack in no time, whereas an oregon beam would remain firm and straight.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - No Sydney architect would specify Australian hardwood for such a position.

Senator GARDINER - I resent very much Senator Drake-Brookman's statement that the war brought our Australian furnishing timbers into use. I could take the honorable senator into churches, business places, banks, and shipping offices, which were' beautifully furnished with Australian woods prior to the war.

Senator Drake-Brockman - There would be mighty few of them.

Senator GARDINER - In benighted Western Australia there might be few, but in enlightened Sydney they were the coming timbers for furnishing purposes fifteen years ago.

Senator Drake-Brockman - Can the honorable senator mention half-a-dozen places in Sydney fitted with jarrah, which is the most beautiful of Australian hardwoods?

Senator GARDINER - I am aware of the beauties of jarrah, but it cannot' be compared in regard to suitability far furnishing purposes with Queensland maple. Our cedars, our blackwoods, and our Tasmanian oak, as it is called, although it is really not an oak, make beautiful and excellent furniture. The two gentlemen in charge of the Sydney Technical College, fifteen years ago. published a book on Australian furnishing timbers containing plates depicting, not only the beauties of these timbers for that particular purpose, but also different establishments already fitted up with them. However, for practical building and mining purposes, oregon is much superior to Australian hardwood.

Senator de Largie - For strength ?

Senator GARDINER - For general uses. Oregon will creak and give warning when a stress is telling on it, whereas hardwood breaks suddenly without giving warning. But if. any honorable senator is anxious to test the comparative values of timber formining purposes, let him go to Broken Hill and see what the astute mining companies use there. He will find that it is oregon. Senator Pratten's proposal that the log should come in at the rate of 5 per cent. will not interfere very much with bush workers. The labour employed in getting a log is simply the cutting downof the tree, trimming it, and hauling it to a mill. Therefore, one cannot claim that the difference on a log is the difference between good wages paid here and poor wages paid elsewhere. My main contention is that although we ought to be proud of our very fine timbers, we must also pay. regard to the fact that Australia is rather poorly supplied in respect of quantity. Australia is a rapidly-growing nation, but. when we see how scarce our timbers are getting already, while our numbers are few, what will be. the position in a. few years when our numbers are great. Is it wise for- us to deplete our forests now when we can get timber elsewhere at a reasonably cheap price? I suppose that by the time our timber is cleaned up we will be just about making arrangements for growing further supplies. Our timbers have been wasted, extravagantly used, carelessly handled, and poorly marketed. Senator Drake-Brockman was quite right when he said that they had been stupidly wasted. But we are becoming gradually wiser. Let us also look at the matter from the builder's point of view. Could there be a worse time for making timber dear than the present? Just when the Federal Government are spending millions of pounds on building, why should they propose to make oregon 4s; 6d. per 100 super. feet dearer ? Returned soldiers, for whom we are buildinghomes, will have to pay it. Although the amount of timber used in a house is not all in all, nevertheless it is an item, and if we could keep the price down to bedrock, thus saving 4s. per 100 super. feet on every house, it would make a considerable difference. It would not doany injury to Australia, because our forests ore nothing like what they should be. We can import cheaply from other countries timber which will not come into competition with our own hardwoods, and which for many purposes are more serviceable than our hardwoods.

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