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Wednesday, 14 March 1928

Senator J B HAYES (Tasmania) . - I hope that the committee will agree to the proposed duties. I am in accord with all that Senator . Kingsmill has said regarding the baneful effects of the Navigation Act and other acts upon the timber industry. If the Navigation Act had not caused freights to be increased to an unreasonable extent; if the Arbitration Act had allowed sawmillers to manage their own business; and if there was not such an exorbitant tariff on other commodities that are required by the sawmiller, the probability is that there would now be no necessity to advocate these duties. But we have to accept the position as we find it, and endeavour to keep the mills working by imposing a duty on foreign importations, hoping that in the near future the coastal clauses of the Navigation Act will be repealed, and that other laws will be so amended that the sawmillers will be able to manage their own business. I wish to reply to a few of the arguments that have been adduced in opposition to these duties. I have in my hand a nicely prepared pamphlet entitled, "Increased duties on softwoods, and why they should be rejected." Doubtless those responsible for its compilation have put forward the best arguments of which they are capable. The first argument advanced against these duties is -

The increased duties will not assist the local sawmillers because they will not lead to an increase in the consumption of Australian hardwoods.

Unfortunately for that argument, there is evidence of an increase in the consumption and sale of local timber since this schedule was introduced. There is to-day in the sawmilling industry a feeling different from that which prevailed before the higher duties were imposed. Men are being engaged, new mills are being opened, and orders are being received for timber which would not have been the case but for the higher duties. I have received a number of telegrams bearing out that statement. One from the president of the North-Eastern Sawmillers' Association in Tasmania reads -

New tariff helping timber industry substantially. Many mills re-opening. Prospects much brighter.

Another reads -

Mills actually re-opened as result increased tariff; others contemplated on large scale with seasoning kilns making prompt supplies available provided Senate confirms duties. Undoubtedly consumption will vastly increase' as organizations Tasmania, Victoria combining to standardize prices qualities and organized sales. No justification assertion by opposition that sales will not increase. Saw millers can meet any demand that can arise.

Another "reason why it is said that increased duties on softwoods will fail in their purpose is -

The most serious depression in the timber trade of Australia at present is in those sections which use high grade timbers with which softwoods do not compete.

Australian hardwood has to compete against hardwood from the Pacific Islands, Manchuria and Japan. All imported timber competes with our hardwood. Baltic competes with our weatherboards, floorings and linings, Oregon competes with scantlings for the frames of buildings; Manchurian oak and Pacific maple compete with our furniture woods. A third reason why it is said the increased duties on softwoods will fail in their purpose is -

The burden of the increased duties will fall upon those sections of the community which are' least able to bear it, viz., new settlers in the country and the small wage earners.

Fancy new settlers in the backblocks importing timber to build their houses. Some time ago I visited the outback country of Victoria and New South Wales, where I found a great many of the settlers living in houses made of timber and hessian. In Tasmania rough hardwood was used for houses in the early years of settlement. So far as the effect of increased duties on the homes "of small wage earners is concerned I have here some figures which show that for a house designed by the Victorian Savings Bank, the additional cost, by reason of these duties, would be £7 6s., or about 2d. a week. If hardwood were used instead of Baltic, a five-roomed house would cost an additional £25 because of these increased duties. But it would last twice as long. I -have seen in Tasmania houses built of Tasmanian hardwood which after 50 years still look new and are quite sound.

Senator Duncan - Do those additional costs include the higher cost of labour where hardwood is used?

Senator J B HAYES - The figures I have quoted refer only to the timber. The labour costs would be slightly higher with hardwood; but the amount would not be a serious item. It is also urged that the ri42T local timber industry is depressed because of inefficiency in the saw-milling industry. I have always found that those v/ho have been in a business longest know most about it, whereas those with only a superficial knowledge are generally the most willing to give advice. I know of instances in which large sums of money have been expended in the installation of uptodate plant, and in obtaining the best expert advice, and yet the project has failed, whereas smaller mills with plant easily moved from place to place have succeeded. I have no hesitation in saying that Australian saw-millers know as much about their job as do saw-miller's in any other country. It must be remembered, however, that whereas in some countries there is very little waste - no heart or sap, but solid timber right through - in Australia probably not more than 60 per cent, of the timber can be used. It is further contended that -

One of the main causes of the depression in the country milling branch of the industry is that architects, including government architects, will not specify the use of .such timber as blackwood or Queensland maple owing to the excessive prime cost, and the high cost of working them, and Pacific Island timbers take their place.

That is partly true.. The other day I asked a question concerning the timber used for furnishing a branch of the Commonwealth Bank. The specifications provided for Pacific maple and oak - I believe Japanese oak. I saw the timber, which was imported, and I also had an opportunity of learning its cost, which was about twice that of seasoned Tasmanian hardwood. I also" saw specimens of furniture made is the same establishments of Tasmanian hardwood and blackwood, as well as of imported timber, and so far as I was able to judge, the Australian timber more than held its own.

Senator Guthrie - What was the reason given for using imported timber?

Senator J B HAYES - The Treasurer said he had no knowledge of the kind of timber used.

Senator Sir George Pearce - The Government has no control in the matter. Parliament has allowed the bank to manage its own affairs.

Senator J B HAYES - I hope that whoever is responsible will be sufficiently loyal to use Australian timber in the future. One of the best authorities on timber in Australia is Mr. Lane-Poole, who when Conservator of Forests for Western Australia made the following statement : -

Between 500,000 and 750,000 tons of utilizable wood are being burned by sawmillers every year, and this destruction is mainly due to the quantity of small. sizes not required. If there was a proper duty these sizes would be of commercial value. I should welcome a revision of the tariff, and would like to see so heavy a duty placed on imported woods as to force the community throughout Australia to use its own wood.

Senator Kingsmill - How many years ago was that statement made?

Senator J B HAYES - I do not know. But it is more applicable to-day than it was years ago. The only way to save timber is to use it. If forests are allowed to mature without being cut, and settlement advances, the timber is burned either deliberately or accidentally.

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