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Friday, 16 March 1928

Senator REID - That is so. I do not know whether my remarks were reported in the Queensland press, or whether the information was forwarded to Queensland from Canberra, but these telegrams have come to hand since I made my speech on the second reading. I have known many of the owners of these saw-mills for 40 years past; I have known the fathers and the families of the present, owners of many of the mills. I know the Campbell family exceedingly well. There are no more honorable men in business in any part of Australia. I am sure they would not lend themselves to such a trick as Senator Chapman has charged against them. Surely practical men engaged in the timber industry are entitled to tell us of the difficult times through which they are passing, and to say they are firmly convinced that if this tariff is passed they will have a better opportunity of keeping their mills going. It has already been shown that saw-mills are receiving orders that they were not getting prior to the step taken in another place to increase the timber duties. Evidence has been brought under my notice to convince me, as a protectionist, that there is need to give further protection to the Australian timber industry. "We. all have our own opinions, but they are not as valuable as those of men engaged in the industry. "We have been assured on many occasions that industries would succeed if given protection, and in many cases they have succeeded as a result of the protection afforded to them. We all know that the position of the saw-milling trade in Australia is precarious, not only because of the insufficiency of the protection afforded, but also because of the bad condition of the building trade in all cities. There is a slump in suburban dwellings, mostly those made of cheap timbers.

Senator Crawford - It is very difficult to sell a house in any of the capital cities now.

Senator REID - That is so. It has been said that if this item is agreed to, it will add to the cost of workmen's dwellings. . In Queensland half the houses are built of softwood with hardwood frames. In my opinion the increased duties will not add more than £12 to the cost of a five-roomed wooden cottage.

Senator Guthrie - Including labour ?

Senator REID - Yes. Any one who has handled hardwood know that it takes a great deal longer to work than it takes to work softwood. Although nails can easily be driven into hardwood when it is wet, if it is dry, no one can drive a nail into it without first boring a hole. That operation entails extra time, which adds to the cost of labour. But against that we have the further fact that it is unnecessary to paint a hardwood house. If the sap is out of hardwood it lasts just as well without paint as with it.

Senator Thompson - Then why is it that all wooden houses, with the exception of about 5 per cent., arc painted ?

Senator REID - Hardwood houses are painted merely for the sake of appearance. The cheapest method of treating a hardwood house is to put a coat of oil on it ; it costs only a few pounds. Paint does not adhere too well to hardwood ; in stormy weather it comes off hardwood much more quickly than it does off softwood. On the other hand, it costs £25 or more to paint a small softwood house, and to maintain a respectable appearance a dwelling built of softwood must be painted every four or five years. The Queensland Workers' Dwelling Act requires a house to be painted every five years. If we set against the extra labour involved in handling hardwood, the cost of painting a softwood house every five years, we must see that it pays to put up a hardwood cottage which does not require the same amount of painting. One of the most serious things affecting the Australian timber industry is the importation of Borneo timbers. Although it cannot be definitely proved that the borer has been introduced into Australia by the importation of timber from Borneo, we have ample evidence that it is the greatest medium we could have for bringing this pest into Australia. Very little good wood comes here from Borneo that does not contain borers. In the circumstances I would vote to prohibit the importation of Borneo timber. I can show honorable senators splendid cabinet work in this building where borers are at work. The white ants we have in Queensland are bad enough, but one can trace them at their work and exterminate them. That cannot be done in the case of borers. They do their work in a most subtle way, and one never knows when one is liable to fall through a floor where they have been at work. The importers of Borneo timber are a menace to Aus: tralia. They may be ignorant of what they are doing, but if they make inquiries they can easily ascertain the immense damage they are likely to do to Australian timber. According to Senator Kingsmill all the difficulties of the timber industry would be removed by the repeal of certain provisions of the Navigation Act. But if we start to interfere with those who are engaged in the shipping industry we shall interfere with all the trades of Australia. The provisions of the Navigation Act affect Queensland as much as they do any other State, but to interfere with them would mean a subsequent attempt to interfere with the Arbitration Act and with every industry in the Commonwealth.

Senator Ogden - Honorable senators should not be afraid to tackle the Navigation Act.

Senator REID - I am' not lacking in courage ; the honorable senator has not all the courage in the Senate. He knows that I am right when I warn the Senate of the dangers of interfering with the Navigation Act. It would be one of the biggest tasks undertaken in Australia.

Senator Thompson - It may be a dangerous, but at the same time a most desirable task to undertake.

Senator REID - I am not disputing that, but one cannot be consistent in matters of this sort any more than one can be consistent in deciding tariff matters. A protectionist may have his. own private opinions, just as I have about the timber industry, because I have a knowledge of the building trade ; but he cannot uphold them against those of practical men engaged in. industry. Senator Thompson has suggested a shandygaff timber tariff; but I cannot submit his proposal.

The CHAIRMAN (Senator Plain).The honorable senator's time has expired.

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