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Tuesday, 30 August 1921

Senator LYNCH (Western Australia) . - The timber schedule imposes only very slight increases upon the previous Tariff. In respect of some varieties, and having to do with certain stages of their preparation, no increases have been imposed. Is it right to single out the timber industry for such unsympathetic treatment, especially in view of the fact that it is a country activity ? I have no fear for the future of our forests, remembering the fertility of Australia's soil and the recuperative powers of our forests. In Swain's valuable work on Australian timbers, having to do particularly with Queensland forests, the writer testifies to a growth on Fraser Island of 40 feet of bole in the short space of five years. Professor Wilson, of Harvard University, in the United States of America, who recently visited Australia, favorably commented upon this remarkable feature of our forest growths; he remarked that very few of the timbers of the United States of America could equal them in that respect. It is good to know that, while, on the one hand, we hear of the destruction of our forest areas, our timbers have such recuperative qualities. The hardwoods, of course, do not grow so rapidly. I under stand that to re-stock a hardwood forest after it has been cleared takes from forty to fifty years.

Senator Pearce - The Jarrahdale forest, within 50 miles of Perth, is being cut over for the second time in fifty years.

Senator LYNCH - We can face the situation, then, without apprehension. I trust that the Government will assist in placing the Australian timber industry upon a footing at least approaching the favorable circumstances in which city industries have been established. Imports of timber have been formidable in point of value. In 1913 the value of timber brought into Australia was £2,800,000; in 1921, the value was £5,000,000. Values have increased enormously, but actual quantities have decreased. As for the variously argued effects of a Protective Tariff upon prices, so far as the timber industry is concerned - even without the slight increases proposed elsewhere - the quotations of several years ago were the same as to-day. According to Melbourne merchants' latest price list, the cost of oregon in 1914 was 17s. per 100 super. feet; in 1917 the price was 40s.; in 1920, 70s. ; in April of this year, 55s. ; and, during the present month, 40s. per 100 super. feet. That is to say, the price of oregon at this moment is the same as it was four years ago, although the duties in 1917 were a shade lower than the present rates. The imposition of higher rates has not Had the effect of increasing quotations.

Senator Bolton - The effect has been to decrease the quantities imported.

Senator LYNCH - We need to decrease the quantities even more markedly, because we have the timber here; it is only cumbering the landscape to-day, while there are very many hundreds of men idle. Statistics concerning the local industry, as furnished byKnibbs for 1919, show that it has reached very considerable proportions. The number of men employed in timber-getting was 22,000 ; the value ofplant and machinery was £2,700,000; wages paid amounted to £2,800,000; and the output was worth £9,000,000. The industry cannot be said to be an infant. It possesses added importance because it provides a livelihood for men, not upon the coastal fringe, but in our inland forests. I trust that requests for further slight increases will be accepted in order more adequately to cover the cost of converting growing timber into a commercial commodity.

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