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Tuesday, 30 August 1921

Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN - I am still speaking up for the pioneer, as ray gallant and distinguished . friend knows is my constant habit. If he has road the various reports which have appeared upon forestry in Australia, he will realize that the stupidity of the Australian people in dealing with their forests has been simply colossal. We have regarded our forests as mines to be worked out and exhausted.

Senator Gardiner - Is there any occasion for adding to that stupidity?

Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN -No, there is not. I think it is time that the various Governments of' Australia, Federal and State, ceased to add to that stupidity. All the State Governments are attempting to put their houses in order, so far as the preservation of their forests is concerned. The only Government in Australia that has done nothing up to the present in thatregard is the Federal Government, . and being in controlof the Customs it holds the key to the whole situation.

Senator ROWELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - They are doing a little at Canberra. They are starting a forest there.

Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN - I am speaking broadly of the forestsof Australia. The Federal Government are setting a very good example in their attempt at re-afforestation at Canberra, but that can only be regarded as a very minor item in view of the importance, of the forests of Australia as a whole. Broadly speaking, up to the present the Federal Government have done nothing to assist in the preservation of the wonderful heritage of nature represented by our forests. During the war we could not obtainthe softwoods which were previously imported from abroad, and people in Australia were very much amazed to discover that they could get along very well without them, I know more of the timber industry in Western Australia than of the industry in the other States, and I am able to. say that people in Victoria and in South Australia found that jarrah and karri scantlings were perfectly good and useful for practically all purposes for which oregon had formerly been used. I want honorable senators to realize what that means to the mills in Western Australia, whose forests constitute a very important part of the forestsof the Commonwealth. As soon as a saw-mill is erected and in going order in Western Australia, those controlling it start a. bonfire, which is constantly supplied from cuttings, and scantlings in fact, from the mill. A tremendous amount of timber is burned every year in this way, which might be used for building purposes throughout Australia. Only 35 per cent. of a jarrah log goes into timber of the sizes ordered from abroad, principally from, India, and South Africa. In dealing with jarrah, it is found that 35 per. cent. is sound timber, 10 per cent. saw-dust, rotten hearts and sap represent 15 per cent., and engine fuel 10 per cent. The sound timber burned for lack of a market represents 30" per cent. The amount of waste that goes on in the mills in Western Australia in connexion with the treatment of jarrah alone is perfectly appalling. We found during the war, when foreign softwoods could not be obtained, that quite a large proportion of scantlings which previously were burned could be utilized in Victoria and South . Australia for practically every purpose for which oregon had. formerly been used. Is it not a perfectly sound proposition that we should use this) valuable asset represented by these scantlings which otherwise must continue to be used to feed the huge bonfires that are burning at every mill in Western Australia'? Is it not a sound proposition that we should establish a market for the 30 per cent. of. jarrah timber cut in our mills which is now destroyed?

Senator Duncan - Would it not pay to market that timber at the price which now has to be paid for oregon ?

Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN - I am not, at the moment, prepared to say at what price it would pay to. market that timber, but I understand that this duty is just sufficient to enable. it to come into competition on favorable terms with the imported article. If that be so, then it seems to be a sound reason for retaining; the duty on this item. I have seen the destruction of huge stacks of timber goingon in Western Australia. Prior to the war I was like the average Australian, who regards the timber areas of this country as something to be cut out and done with. It was not until I got to Europe and realized what on extraordinary shortage of timber there was in the world, that I began to appreciate and value our own forests. Not a fractionof a log is allowed to go to waste in Belgium or France. They even preserve and use all the bark. In fact, they get 100 per cent. of use out of every log cut, whereas in Australia we get only 35 percent. Therefore, it seems tome that our methods of handling our forests, to put it mildly, require to be revolutionized.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Does this duty make it more costly to build a house?

Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN - No. The Protectionist argument is that it will make the article cheaper. We have had this statement rammed down our throats continually during this Tariff debate: If we do make use of all these waste timber products we shall be doing something to obtain greater revenue for the various State Governments that are now trying, rather late in the day, to preserve our forests. Senator de Largie mentioned an exhibition of Australian timbers which he had recently seen in Perth. It is a pity that that exhibition could not be made available to honorable senators during this debate. I never fully appreciated the beauty of our Australian timbers until I got to Belgium, for, curiously enough; I say in Brussels the finest collection of Australian timbers that I have ever seen. Indeed, I have not yet seen some of the varieties that were included in that collection. In Melbourne and the other cities of the Commonwealth office fittings prior to the war were constructed of oregon coloured to look like some other limber. How many offices, I wonder, could any honorable senator name that, before 1914, were furnished with Australian timber? But what a change has been made since then. Office fittings now arc usually carried out in stringy-bark, silky oak, Tasmanian oak, swamp gum, blackwood, jarrah - the most beautiful of the lot - karri, salmon gum, and many other varieties. It is well, therefore, that we should, by every possible means, further the use of our Australian timbers, and encourage the preservation of our forests, which have been deplorably neglected hitherto. Let us support the action of the State Governments in this matter, and, by imposing the duties in the schedule, do something of a practical, nature to preserve the remnants of our forests.

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