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Friday, 16 March 1928

Senator CRAWFORD (QueenslandHonorary Minister) . - I cannot understand why there should be any doubt as to the effect which the proposed duties will have upon the timber ^industry. There is no reason for supposing that the protection of that industry will have an effect different from that which it has upon other industries. I am confident that in very many instances the imposition of the duties will lead to the substitution of Australian hardwoods for imported softwoods.

Senator Chapman - The Tariff Board does not think so.

Senator CRAWFORD - In a matter of this kind my opinion is quite as valuable as that of any member of the Tariff Board. Only a few weeks ago I was shown in Melbourne samples of Australian building timbers which appeared to me to be suitable for practically every purpose to which imported timber can be applied. There is no doubt that Australian hardwoods have a lasting quality two or three times as great as that of the softwoods which are being imported from overseas. Even though the cost of building may be a little higher, those who have to meet it will receive full value for their outlay. The need for using Oregon in connexion with concrete buildings has been somewhat overstressed. The quantity required is not very great, because the same' timber is used over and over again, even in the larger buildings that have been and are being erected. Only a few feet is built at a time. That is allowed to stand for perhaps 24 hours. When the concrete is properly set the timber is removed and used in the next section. The practice in connexion with our larger buildings is to erect a reinforced concrete frame and fill in the spaces with bricks. If honorable senators will consider the matter care fully, they will find that only a small quantity of timber is required for even the largest concrete buildings. I hope that Senator Thompson will not persist with his proposal, because it will aim a very serious blow at those mills which are dealing largely in furniture timbers.

Senator Thompson - Have I not suggested a fair compromise?

Senator CRAWFORD - I am opposed to a compromise in this matter, because it would mean the subordination of the interests of the Australian sawmillers to those of the importers of oversea timbers.

Senator Thompson - The interests of the general public have to be considered.

Senator CRAWFORD - I am considering the interests of the general public. An industry of this nature is entitled to the support of every section of the community. The sawmillers are the best judges of the needs of their business. So far only one sawmiller has expressed any doubt regarding the effect of these increased duties, and his business is chiefly in the building of homes.

Senator Guthrie - He knows that the cost of building a home will be increased.

Senator CRAWFORD - He knows that the cost to him will be increased. It is doubtful whether the person who has to pay for and live in the home will be substantially affected. Perth is the only city in which imported timber is not used. In the construction of its buildings Western Australian hardwoods are used, and there is no desire to introduce cheap softwoods.

Senator Kingsmill - Nor is any duty requested.

Senator CRAWFORD - [n some respects Western Australia is a newer country than the eastern States. It has a bountiful supply of first-class timber, which has not been as largely drawn upon as the forests in the other States. Senator Kingsmill is an enthusiast with respect to afforestation. How can we expect private enterprise to engage in afforestation without the guarantee that the people of this country will take all reasonable means to ensure the payment of a profitable price for the timber tha't is grown ? The popularity of afforestation will depend very largely upon the vote which the committee gives in relation to these proposed duties. If honorable senators decline to give to the timber industry, which is essentially a country industry, the degree of protection they are prepared to extend to our town industries, I do not believe that private enterprise will undertake the work of' afforestation, and the whole of the burden of that work will be thrown upon the governments of the'-States.

Senator Thompson - The Minister has read the report of the Queensland Director of Forests. What does he say?

Senator CRAWFORD - He is not in favour of allowing Asiatic and Pacific Island timbers to enter Australia at a reduced rate of duty. That unquestionably would be the result of the acceptance of Senator Thompson's proposal. Building timbers might not be affected, but a very serious injury would be caused to the furniture timbers of North Queensland, because the timbers of the Pacific Islands are similar to maple, cedar, silky oak and other woods. that grow in abundance in that portion of Australia. I admit that some of those timbers are becoming scarce, and that restrictions have been imposed upon those who wish to fell them. The Queensland Government will not allow them to be felled if they cannot be absorbed in a profitable market, nor will it allow the land upon which they are grown to be cleared and settled.

Senator Guthrie - Is a royalty paid to the Queensland Government?

Senator CRAWFORD - Yes ; and I am sorry to say that that Government is not using for afforestation purposes the large revenues it obtains from that source. The royalty is chiefly upon pine.

Senator Guthrie - Is it heavier than that which is charged in the other States ?

Senator CRAWFORD - The other States do not grow the same class of timber.

Senator Andrew - Is it not a fact that at the present time the Queensland furniture timbers are much more costly than the imported timbers, without this duty?

Senator CRAWFORD - It is more costly to produce them because the sawmillers are paying white men's wages. In the Pacific Islands, Kanakas are employed, and in Asiatic countries the ser vices of coolies, who get less for a day's work than Australian timber workers get for an hour's work, are utilized.

Senator Guthrie - The Queensland Government charges excessive royalties, and does not use the money in the right direction.

Senator CRAWFORD - I do not admit that excessive royalties are charged.

Senator Guthrie - What does the Queensland Government do with the money it receives by way of royalties?

Senator CRAWFORD - Some of . it goes into the consolidated revenue, and a small proportion is spent in reafforestation. But one may well ask what encouragement there will be for governments to spend money in afforestation if cheap timber from other countries is allowed to enter Australia. Afforestation and protection must go hand in hand. I hope that the committee will pass the duties in their present form.

Senator Duncan - Are the duties keeping out the foreign timber?

Senator CRAWFORD - According to cables that have appeared from time to time in the press, there has been a substantial diminution in the orders for

Oregon since these duties became effective. I understand that it is now practically impossible to get orders for a full shipload of Oregon. The uncertainty which so far has existed as to the duties which will finally be approved by Parliament has not enabled the full effect of the duties to be felt.

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