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Tuesday, 19 December 1911

Senator READY (Tasmania) .- One cannot help voicing a protest against the action of the Government in agreeing to reduce this duty at the request of the New South Wales senators. The great national asset that Tasmania has in respect of her timber has already been mentioned. The State is heavily timbered, and, with a proper system pf reafforestation, the resources would be of very great value to the Commonwealth generally. But our saw-millers require sufficient protection to enable them to keep the industry going. Not long ago, a demand was made by the militant Wood-workers Union of Tasmania for increased wages. The millers, however, showed that they were not able to pay what was asked unless they had increased Protection under the Commonwealth Tariff. I know that that statement is commonly made by employers when workmen ask for increased wages, but in this instance the truth of what the millers said was proved by the fact that one of the largest sawmilling plants in Tasmania recently changed hands at a very much lower figure than it cost, simply because the millers cannot market Tasmanian timbers in consequence of outside competition. An instance in point was afforded a- little while ago in the southern portion of Tasmania, where, next door to a saw-mill, a building was being erected of New Zealand pine.

Senator Rae - That is characteristic of you unprogressive "Tassies."

Senator READY - The fact was that the persons who were putting up the building were able to buy imported timber cheaper than they could buy Tasmanian timber next door. That is surely an objectlesson of the need for Protection.

Senator Rae - No; it is a reflection on the manhood of the people.

Senator READY - Not at all. People naturally buy in the cheapest market.

Senator Rae - How is it that, with 5s. per day wages, the Tasmanian millers cannot compete with imported timber?

Senator READY - They cannot, because the importers are able to flood the Australian market. We admit that we cannot compete with New Zealand pine.

Sitting suspended from i to 2.30 p.m.

Senator READY - This morning, Senator Rae gave rather a bad account of Tasmanian woods, which, he stated, are too hard to work. For furniture-making purposes, however, these timbers have been proved to be, not only easy to work, but to be amongst the finest woods in the world. Recently, I was looking over Pengelly's factory in South Australia, of which Mr. Matthias is the manager. I saw there over a million feet of Tasmanian blackwood, and nearly a million feet of Tasmanian. hardwood, all of which was to be used for furniture making.

Senator Pearce - Does the honorable senator fear that rimu will take its place?

Senator READY - Not at all. But these Tasmanian timbers are also suitable for building purposes. Except for the furniture trade, however, our saw-millers would not be able to keep going. For building requisites, the cheaper pines are being used all over the country. The consequence is that the market for Tasmanian timber- is decreasing, instead Of increasing.

Senator Rae - Does the honorable senator know that the price of softwoods has trebled within the past twenty-five years ?

Senator READY - I can quite believe that. But in Tasmania we have splendid softwoods that have not yet been exploited.

Senator Pearce - Huon pine?

Senator READY - No; I am referring to a species of pine grown on the west coast of Tasmania, called King William pine. At present it has made no headway in the market. A small syndicate has been formed, and some of the wood was brought over to Melbourne and made into doors. Builders pronounced very favorably upon it, and said that it is as good a wood as could be obtained in the country. But what encouragement is there to place that timber on the market ?

Senator Pearce - Any amount.

Senator READY - A good deal of capital is required to start a saw-mill, and until this Parliament gives a decent measure of Protection, we cannot expect capitalists to be ready to embark their money in such industries. As to wages, I may point out that the Wood-workers Union of Tasmania is a strong and. militant body, which can be trusted to look after the interests of its members. I believe that they are taking a case to the Arbitration Court.

Senator RAE --Is it not a fact that they tried to make a bargain with Jones and Company ?

Senator READY - Jones is one of the biggest monopolists in Tasmania.

Senator Rae - He is the Jonah who has swallowed Tasmania, which ought to be called " Jonesmania."

Senator READY - Incidentally I hope that this Parliament will yet deal with Jones and Company in several directions. I trust that the friends of Protection will rally alongside those who are resisting the request which the Government are supporting. I find that there has been a complete reversal of form on the part of Ministers. In the other House they bitterly opposed any attempt to reduce the timber duties; but now that a proposal has come from a senator representing the influential State of New South Wales, they have changed their attitude completely.

Senator McDougall - There is not enough timber in Tasmania to build a 'bus.

Senator READY - I venture to say that we have more and better timber than is to be found in New South Wales. With Protection, the saw-milling industry can be enormously developed.

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