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Friday, 16 March 1928

Senator ANDREW (Victoria) . - I do not know what correspondence has been received by other honorable senators, but I have with me now about 100 sheets of it, and I congratulate my good friend, Mr. Moore, on the good work he has evidently done in this connexion. But the issue seems to have been clouded. It is not a question of whether we are to have a low duty or a high duty; it is a question of whether we are to have a reduced duty. The Tariff Board, which was appointed to take evidence and report upon the evidence given, is opposed to the high duties on timber set out in the schedule, and we know that the Government after considering the report of the Tariff Board showed that it was also opposed to them, because the duties it first proposed were considerably lower than those we have now before us. No one is more anxious than I am to preserve a local industry, but after reading the various documents submitted to me I am convinced that the timber industry could be carried on profitably with considerably lower duties that are now proposed. I shall therefore support the request that is to be submitted by ''Senator Thompson. It is a compromise which the Govern* ment should accept. I have been informed by contractors that it is impracticable to entirely dispense with the use of Oregon. When coming to Parliament House this morning I noticed that Oregon timber was being used for the boxing of borders of concrete footpaths which are being laid down in front of the Hotel Kurrajong; apparently the Federal Capital Commission consider it essential' to use Oregon even for that class of work. It has been said during the debate that trade has been stimulated since the higher timber duties have been in operation; but according to the returns submitted by the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works for the months of December, 1927, and January, 1928, there has been a reduction of 30 per cent, in the number of building plans submitted, to the board for its approval. In December, 19.26, 469 applications were received by the board, and in December, 1927, the number fell to 370. In January, 1927, 683 were received, and in January, 192S, only 441. This, decrease is undoubtedly due to the increased cost of .imported softwoods, which has been brought about by the imposition of higher duties. If these duties remain in operation higher rents will undoubtedly have to be paid.

Senator Crawford - Who expresses that opinion?

Senator ANDREW - That is the opinion of the Timber Merchants' Association of Melbourne and suburbs, and of the Timber Merchants' Association of South Australia.

Mr GREENE (NEW SOUTH WALES) - It does not follow that we should believe all the silly statements which some persons make.

Senator ANDREW - The members of that association may think that some of the titter ances in this chamber are of the same nature.

Mr GREENE (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Every one knows that the decrease in building operations is due to the stringency of the money market.

Senator ANDREW - If the security is good ample money is available.


Senator ANDREW - The ' Tariff Board, after studying the evidence and journeying through_the forests, reported on the 28th November, 1927, as follows : -

The Tariff Board has carefully reviewed the circumstances surrounding the industry as a whole, and in the light of the evidence tendered and opinions gained from an extensive tour through the forests and around the sawmilling districts, and taking into consideration the position as disclosed by the latest official statistics of importations, has arrived at the conclusion that the granting of inincreased duties to the extent asked for is not justified by circumstances. There is no call for a serious or general departure from the conclusions and recommendations embodied in the board's original report of the 2nd September, 1925.

Senator Thompson - The board thought that the protection recommended at the time was sufficient.

Senator ANDREW - Yes; and the Government also thought so.

Senator Ogden - Does the honorable senator agree with all the recommendations of the Tariff Board?

Senator ANDREW - The board was appointed to collect evidence and make recommendations, and if we do not accept its recommendations, it should be abolished.

Mr GREENE (NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable senator voted against the recommendation of the Tariff Board when socks and stockings were under consideration.

Senator ANDREW - I am entitled to my own opinion. Last week I decided to erect an extensive ceiling in my business premises, and in connexion with that work I interviewed two or three contractors. They informed me in the first place that it would be necessary to use Oregon principals. I asked why Australian timber could not be used, and was told that it would shrink to such an extent that the ceiling would be twisted and torn. As they were experienced men in the trade I accepted their advice. If we continue raising the duties on timber the cost of living must increase. The Government recently passed an act in which provision was made for the expenditure of £20,000,000 on a housing scheme, and if the cost of each house is increased by only £25, the expenditure of a large additional sum will be involved. Working men in particular will have to pay more for their homes.

Senator Herbert Hays - But they will receive better value.

Senator ANDREW - That is a debatable point. I was a witness in a recent Supreme Court case the other day, where one of the parties declined to- pay for a house because he alleged faulty timber had been used in its construction. Th" court, after hearing the evidence, was satisfied that faulty timber had been used, and decided that reasonable compensation should be paid. I am not condemning the use of Australian timbers for certain purposes, because we can produce timber of good quality. The timber industry can be satisfactorily conducted with moderate protection, and if reasonable duties are imposed home builders will save a considerable sum. I sympathize with the difficulties experienced by Tasmania owing to its geographical position. If Tasmanian millers wish to dispose of their products on terms of equality with timber producers in the mainland States, the Tasmanian Government should assist them.

Senator Ogden - "We should repeal the coastal provision of the Navigation Act and impose lower customs duties in certain cases.

Senator ANDREW - I am in favour of lower duties. The Conservator of Forests in Tasmania in referring to the timber industry in that State said -

As a forester I would like to refer more particularly to the question of the difficulties of getting into our hardwood forests. They are genuine difficulties. The Tasmanian bush has almost invariably to be worked by tram lines and log haulers - expensive methods of getting the timber out. Undoubtedly, all the land is patchy; that is to say, you have got to cover country with your tram in which you are noi taking out any timber at all, to get into the beds of timber. When you have cut out the bed you go on again through poor country before you cut another good timber bed. and all that adds very much to the cost of production, and the whole question of getting the logs out of the bush.

I believe it would be an advantage if the timber producers of Australia were to conduct their operations on a co-operative basis, as is done in other industries. It would do away with interstate competition and allow them to sell at profitable rates. Last Monday ' a gentleman from Queensland, who delivered an address on our timber resources, stated that there would be a great demand for Australian timber, particularly in Queensland, for the manufacture of paper pulp.

Senator Kingsmill - For immature timber which is grown for that purpose.

Senator ANDREW - Yes. In certain parts of Queensland, where the rainfall is good, the timber is sufficiently matured in four years for making paper pulp.

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