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Friday, 16 March 1928

Senator FINDLEY (Victoria) .- I should not have taken part in the discussion to-day but for a statement made by Senator Kingsmill to which Senator Reid has just referred. It is true that Senator ' Kingsmill and others from Western Australia who support his opinions, as well as certain honorable senators representing Tasmania, have often said that the timber industry of Australia is severely handicapped by the coastal provisions of the Navigation Act.

Senator Ogden - There is no doubt about that.

Senator FINDLEY - That is mere assumption, and I challenge any honorable senator to prove it.

Senator Thompson - I have already done so.

Senator FINDLEY - No honorable senator can say that those who have been affected by what they term high freights have made any attempt to charter a vessel to carry timber. '

Senator Ogden - I can give the honorable senator one or two instances.

Senator FINDLEY - Let me proceed with my answer to those who favour the repeal of the coastal provisions of the Navigation Act. In 1919, before those provisions were in force the .freight on 100 super, feet of timber from Western Australia to Port Adelaide was 5s. 5d. The .Navigation Act came into operation on the 1st July, 1921, and in 1922 the freight on a similar quantity of timber from Western Australia to Port Adelaide was 5s. 2d., or a reduction of 3d. per 100 super, feet.

Senator Ogden - Where did the honorable senator obtain those figures?

Senator FINDLEY - From the report of the commission which inquired into the operations of the Navigation Act. At that time the cost of the timber despatched from Western Australia to Port Adelaide was £7 18s. 6d. a ton; but those engaged in the timber industry in that State increased the price to £13 5s. 3d. a ton. Following upon that increase the ship-owners raised the freight by 2s. a ton. Although the timber exporters increased their price by £5 6s. 9d. per ton, the increase in freight was only 2s. per ton. The argument that the timber industry is in difficulties because of the coastal provisions of the Navigation Act is untenable, since, as I have already shown, freights on timber were reduced after the coastal provisions became operative. In what way would we benefit by the abrogation of the provisions ? Would tramp steamers come to Australia and enter into competition with organized ship-owners trading on the Australian coast ?

Senator Ogden - Yes.

Senator FINDLEY - The honorable senator is very innocent. If we attempted to trade with tramp steamers or with ships that were not wholly engaged in the coastal trade, we would probably have to rely solely upon those vessels for the carriage of our timber.

Senator Ogden - Would certain ships be declared black ?

Senator FINDLEY - No, there is a shipping combine on the Australian coast.

Senator Kingsmill - Between the owners and the workers?

Senator FINDLEY - There is a worldwide shipping combine. I know what is in Senator Kingsmill's mind. He is opposed to the Navigation Act and to the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act, and thinks that with cheap coloured labour we should be on the road to prosperity and happiness.

It has been said that imported timbers do not enter into serious competition with Australian hardwoods. I contend that they ' do. The proof is forthcoming not merely from within Australia but from persons directly interested in the timber industry overseas. In the Commercial Intelligence Journal, No. 1087, dated' Ottawa, 28th November, 1924, and issued by the department of Trade and Commerce of Canada, the Acting Canadian Trade Commissioner in New Zealand, Mr. C. M. Croft, when dealing with the question of imported timber, stated -

It is now used to a great extent for studs, rafters, &c., and it is taking the place of certain native timbers to which it is equal though probably not superior. The price has proved the deciding factor.

In his opinion, imported timber is equal but not superior to the native timber; but the price is the deciding factor. The position is similar in Australia, and the price has been the deciding factor. The case submitted in support of increased duties on timber is unanswerable. I congratulate those engaged in the industry on the splendid case they placed before' the Tariff Board, and for the. untiring efforts they have displayed in an endeavour to get that measure of justice to which they are entitled. The representatives of the industry stated before the Tariff Board that forestry opened up the country and assisted immigration. That statement is absolutely correct. Without forestry- there would be no small farms. Next to food they state thatwood is an article of which an abundant supply is essential to- the nation, and that on many of our railways 84 per cent, and up to 93 per cent, of the traffic carried consists of timber. They further state that many of our main ports have been built up as a result of the export wharfage rates on timbers, and that if these ports were forced to close, the backbone of many of our rural industries would disappear. Those statements are indisputable. Senator . Kingsmill based most of his arguments, against the imposition of these duties, on the coastal provisions of the Navigation Act ; but later he changed his ground.

Senator Kingsmill - I did not.

Senator FINDLEY - He said that if we were to meet Australia's requirements of hardwoods, our forests would be depleted.

Senator' Kingsmill.That is the opinion of an authority on the subject.

Senator FINDLEY - When was that opinion expressed.

Senator Kingsmill - In 1926.

Senator FINDLEY - Mr. Lane-Poole'sstatement is at variance with the one which SenatorJ. B. Hayes quoted last night, in which it was stated that hardwoods should be more extensively utilized in Australia?

Senator Kingsmill - For what purposes.

Senator FINDLEY - For varied purposes. There are no finer timbers in the world than those grown in Australia. Have honorable senators inspected some of the magnificent panelling and flooring in some of the most modern buildings in Australia? The woodwork in Australian pianos is most beautiful, and compares more than favorably with that in the best instruments produced overseas. Architects have been unstinted in their praise of the artictic beauty of Australian timbers, and some of the most modern private buildings in Australia are panelled throughout with Australian woods. Is there any imported timber which is better than Australian hardwood for flooring purposes? I have seen magnificent floors, but not any which can equal those of Australian hardwood. The buzzer gives them a beautiful surface, and after they have been polished they please the most- artistic tastes; I have recently seen in Melbourne motorlorries and horsedrawn vehicles heavily laden with imported timbers on their way to the timber yards, when many timber mills in Australia have been closed owing to overseas competition. The time has arrived to give the timber industry the protection which the Government now proposes. I do not intend to deal with the question of the possible increase in the cost of building.

Senator Kingsmill - No. I suppose the honorable senator will leave that alone.

Senator FINDLEY - Higher, duties will not add to the construction costs. I endeavored to show last night, and other honorable senators emphasized the point, that hardwood houses are cheaper because they last longer. They are more satisfactory, and the maintenance costs are lower. It is incorrect to say . that these higher timber duties will increase the cost of houses by £7 or £8. Even if it means, as some honorable senators assert, that houses will cost more - a statement which we deny - members of the Labour party in this chamber will vote for this item, just as our party voted for it in another place. If we measured every proposal for higher duties by what it would cost the country, industry in Australia would make little or no progress.

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