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Friday, 16 March 1928

Senator FOLL (Queensland) .- During the second reading debate I expressed the view that the imposition of increased duties on timber would not materially alter the position of the industry in Australia. . I am still of that opinion. Nevertheless, I propose to vote for the duties imposed under this item though I. believe that before long representation will be made to the Tariff Board again to inquire into the industry and, if necessary, revise the duties. Senator Kingsmill correctly stated the position when he mentioned the effect of the Navigation Act upon freight between Australian ports. "When one considers that it costs more to ship timber from a North Queensland port to our southern markets than it does to bring timber from Baltic ports to Sydney, one realizes that the higher shipping freights ruling on the Australian coast are a serious handicap to the timber industry. Like other honorable senators I have received a considerable amount of correspondence on this subject. My informants state if these increased duties are passed there will be revival in the industry and I propose, by voting for the item, to give those engaged in the business an' opportunity to regain some portion at all events, of their former prosperity.

Senator Duncan - At the same time the honorable senator believes that the duties will not have that effect on the industry ?

Senator FOLL - I doubt, if the increased duty of 4s. per 100 super, feet on Oregon will materially assist those mills engaged in cutting hardwoods, but in view of the opinion expressed by leading millers that it will, I propose to give it a trial. Messrs. James Campbell and Sons Limited, Brisbane, inform me that the timber industry was never in a worse state than it is at the present time, owing to heavy importations from New Zealand and overseas. Messrs. Hancock and Gore, another Brisbane firm, state that the existence of hardwood sawmills is dependent upon the passing of these duties. I have also received the following telegram from Mr. Headrick the secretary of the Atherton Tableland and North Queensland Timber Merchants' Association:-

We definitely submit Oregon particularly greatly interfering with local building timbers owing low price almost annihilating sales. Present use extends almost all classes building timbers. Imperative protection be given, and yet more particularly to northern cabinet timber against Japanese oak, Pacific maple, and Noumean kauri. the importation of oregon has undoubtedly cut into the business of the better class of hardwoods produced in North Queensland. I was not aware previously, and I can hardly realize now, that importations of Oregon will injure the production of our furniture timbers such as silky oak and maple; but there is no doubt that the introduction of Japanese oak is seriously interfering with the North Queensland trade in furniture timbers. While I propose to vote for these protective duties, I think we cannot shut our eyes to the fact that increased rates on Oregon will add to building costs in Australia. Senator Needham this morning quoted some figures that were of considerable interest to honorable senators. Can the honorable senator say that if there had been an absolute embargo against the importation of softwoods since the war, we could have supplied Australian needs from local sources? I have received the following telegram from the secretary of the Eacham saw mills : -

Our sawmill closed indefinitely twentythird ultimo, throwing twenty-four men out employment caused through inability compete with imported cabinet woods. Japanese oak selling Sydney to-day 25s. 100 ft. super, less than we offered silky oak last week.

Senator Guthrie - Will this duty be sufficiently high to give the protection they want?

Senator FOLL - I cannot see that it will have any great effect. I have received from practically every big timber centre in North Queensland telegrams calling upon me to render whatever assistance I can so that the mills, may be re-opened and employment be given to a large number of men. I shall vote for the proposed duty to see if it will have the desired effect.

Senator Kingsmill - An experimental vote?

Senator FOLL - I confess that that is what it will be. I sincerely hope that the anticipations of the sawmillers will be realized and that their mills will, regain their former flourishing condition.

Senator Needham - What quantity of softwood was imported from abroad during the war period?

Senator FOLL - Building was practically at a standstill during that period ; it was not nearly so great as it has been since the termination of the war. Concrete construction, which requires the use of so much timber, was not very widely employed. Senator Needham knows that concrete is now being used throughout our building operations. I sincerely trust that the proposed duties will restore the hardwood timber industry to the condition that it occupied prior to the advent of softwood competition. If the prosperity which the sawmillers expect is realized, I shall be the first to admit that I was in error in supposing that that result would not be achieved. The Tariff Board does not adopt a sanguine view, although it has had a splendid opportunity to investigate the position.

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