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Friday, 16 March 1928

Senator KINGSMILL (Western Australia) . - As this very interesting and extremely, varied debate proceeds, new issues are introduced' and further points are raised which are susceptible of a different meaning from that which is stressed by their sponsors. I shall deal first of all with the views of forestry experts; secondly, with the Tariff Board aspect; and thirdly, if I have not exhausted my fifteen fleeting minutes, with one or two other features. Those who are supporting this proposed increase of the timber duties have quoted in support of their case views that have been expressed by men who hold prominent positions in regard to forestry in the Commonwealth, but more especially by Mr. Lane-Poole, whom I regard as the foremost forester in Australia. He has had in forestry more comprehensive technical training and practical experience than any other person whom I can call to mind. -I wish to lay stress also upon Mr. Norman Jolly's views. Probably the most important document on forestry to which Mr. Lane-Poole has appended his signature is the report which he furnished to the Parliament of the Commonwealth on the 30th February, 1925, after he had become thoroughly acquainted with the forests of Australia, Papua and New Guinea. In it he made the following observations.

It will be asked how is it that with a population of a little under 6,000,000, the country is unable to provide its own timber requirements from an area of 24,500,000 acres which should obviously be yielding over 1.2,000,000,000 super, feet per annum. Why are we importing 304,500,000 super, feet? I have already partially answered these questions, and have stated that on the one hand our hardwood forests are not adequate and our demand is for softwoods, which we must import. The inadequacy of our hazelwood forests is duo to the gross overcutting which has taken place in the past, and to the very paltry efforts tha states have made to restore their forests and so manage them as to get a maximum yield per acre.

I stress the sentence " our hardwood forests are not adequate and our demand is for softwoods, which we must import." As I view the position, those who are supporting the higher duties demand that we shall displace imported softwoods with our hardwoods to a far greater extent than has been the case in the past. That would immediately lead to a material increase in the quantity of hardwood cut. Yet Mr. Lane-Poole has told us that gross overcutting has taken place in the past, and that only paltry endeavours have been made at replacement. How would it be possible in less than 25 or 30 years, to grow a sufficient quantity of softwood or hardwood to take the place of the imports which this tariff seeks to prohibit? Obviously it would be impossible. Softwoods can be produced in Australia ; but we should not waste our time with pinus -insignis, which is a second or a third grade timber.

Senator Ogden - What species does the honorable senator favour?

Senator KINGSMILL - Pinus ponderosa.

Senator Ogden - It does not do so well as the other varieties.

Senator KINGSMILL - It will grow just as well, though not so rapidly. If the honorable senator will stroll over to Westridge, near the .'forestry school, and also visit the nursery at Yarralumla, he will see some very wellgrown specimens which have an exceedingly healthy appearance. When the action that I have suggested has been taken it will be time enough to increase building costs by placing higher duties on imported timber. Such a policy at the present time would be uneconomical, unstatesmanlike, and in the highest degree foolish, The opinion of Mr. LanePoole that I. have read to honorable senators is from the actual report, not from any collated synopsis, such as that with which I understand honorable senators have been furnished. While they may be absolutely accurate in their text, they are robbed of a great deal of their value by the absence of the context. The opinion of Mr. Jolly, Chief Commissioner of Forests in New South Wales, is regarded very highly by every one who is acquainted with his scientific and practical attainments. In his report for 1925 he said-* -

The right policy for the State would be to fix the amount of timber it would sell from its own forests in any one year, and to utilize by the medium of importations the timbers of other countries for the purpose of supplying the balance of requirements.

Senator Herbert Hays - Who would be responsible for estimating the quantity that should be taken from the local forests ?

Senator KINGSMILL - Naturally that estimate would be. made by skilled officers in the department of each State, and be based on the experience of past years.

Senator Herbert Hays - The matter would then be under State control.

Senator KINGSMILL - Not to any greater extent than the forests are now. All State forests should undoubtedly be under State control. I know that my friends, from Tasmania are not used to this sort of thing, because Tasmanian forestry has been shockingly neglected for many years.

Senator Herbert Hays - Because the honorable senator says so, that does not prove it is so.

Senator KINGSMILL - I am not alone in holding that opinion. If my honorable friend will look up a little book entitled, A Discussion of Australian Forests, written by Sir David Hutchens, who was knighted for his services to forestry- and who has an acquaintance with the forests of the world,, he will learn that gentleman's* opinion of Australian forestry. Although his opinion of the other States: was fairly bad, with respect to Tasmania it- was almost unfit for publication.

Senator Ogden - In what State has perfection been reached?

Senator KINGSMILL - Not in any; but New South Wales and Western Australia have approached most closely to it. For nine or ten years Western Australia had the advantage of the services of the gentleman whose opinion I first quoted; and in recent years forestry has been far better controlled in New South Wales than in the other States. The fearful effect of a lack of proper control has been illustrated by the devastating forest fires that have occurred time and again in' Victoria. They could have been avoided if reasonable principles of forest fire prevention had been adopted. The Queensland forest authority, Mr. Swain, has the following to say: -

To supply the accumulating deficit in the local softwood supplies, Queensland has no possible alternative but to enlarge its importations. Between 1920 and 1952 we will have to buy from foreign countries over £30,000,000 worth of coniferous wood.

If the proposed additional duties are imposed, the burden will be further increased by the higher price that will have to be paid for imported softwoods. It is recognized that until our afforestation reaches the stage when we can legitimately compete with importations, those importations will have to continue. The Government must be aware of the circumstances that are operating. Why, then, does it propose to make more difficult and more expensive the task of those who are developing the country by building houses and putting up other works? It has undertaken to finance an immense building scheme.

Senator Ogden - That, is a joke.

Senator KINGSMILL - I am glad that the honorable senator's sense of humour is so well developed. Unfortunately, when a joke touches us so closely we have to regard it seriously. The £20,00.0,000 which the- Government proposed to. make available for housing will not go nearly' so far if these additional duties are imposed. Is the Government willing to make harder the lot of its clients, and reduce the value of the security they are likely to offer ? Before -dealing briefly with the recommendations of the Tariff' Board, I should like to point out that, in this chamber,, at all ©vents, no1 adequate' reason has. been given for declining to accept its advice. The Minister ( Senator Crawford) said he did not accept the advice of the board because he knew more than its members, and his opportunity for obtaining information was as great as theirs.

Senator Crawford - The point with which I was dealing was the lasting quality of the timber.

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