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Tuesday, 19 December 1911

Senator GARDINER (New South Wales) . - In almost the same breath, Senator Keating complained of the loss and waste of Australian timbers, and then advocated the imposition of a duty which would tend to the quicker using up of them. Since I went to a trade which handled and used timber twenty-five years ago, the price of softwoods in New South Wales has increased three-fold, while the price of hardwoods has doubled. We hear about many timber forests in Tasmania, which await development. I think that Tasmanians ought to take a sensible view of the situation, and ask why these forests are awaiting development. It is because the timber rings of Australia control the timber trade, which, of course, include the importing of timber.

Senator Millen - The increasing of the duties will not lessen the number of importers.

Senator GARDINER - Not in the slightest. .If we increase the duties, the timber-dealers will not sell the local article more cheaply. New South Wales hardwoods, which were sold retail in Sydney five years ago at 10s. per 100 feet, are now sold at £x per 100 feet. There are portions of a building for which hardwoods are more suitable, but for roofing we have no Australian timber which can compete with the

Oregon. Tasmania is, I think, lucky to have untouched timber forests. If its representatives would put their heads together and try to discover the real cause for this state of things, they would find that while the timber rings of Queensland and New South Wales can control the trade, their forests will await the time when the rings are ready to use them for their own profit. There is a simple way out of the situation. Senator Keating should set to work and show the Government where these magnificent forests in Tasmania are situated. The cost of installing a Government plant to cut up and market the timber would be very small. We never hear a proposition of that kind from the senators for Tasmania. On the contrary, they are anxious to help working men by giving the timber ring more protection, so that they can get a larger profit, and they will be thankful if they are working men, to get a small percentage of it.

Senator Ready - The timber industry in Tasmania is so bad that a saw-miller had to sell out at a third of the cost price.

Senator GARDINER - If the timber trade in Tasmania is at such a low ebb that it is not possible for a man to continue in it, I shall have to take with a grain of salt the statements about the splendid growths of timber there. The Protectionists want a heavy duty to develop these timber forests at once. What Australia will suffer from in the course of a few years will be the hasty development of the timber industry by recklessly denuding the forests of all the valuable timber. For fitting and furniture work, Australian cedar is possibly the world's best timber. It is three or four times as dear as it was fifteen or twenty years ago. It has become too expensive to be used for the purposes for which it was formerly used. Yet some honorable senators want to give the timber ring a stronger grip upon the timber trade - an opportunity to increase the prices until it makes the cost of building homes much dearer than it was. The object of the request, I understand, is to bring certain varieties into a particular class, and the object of the amendment is to include a timber which is used for similar purposes. It is absolute absurdity to impose a high duty, because timbers which are much mors suitable than Australian hardwood cannot be kept out any more than our timbers could be shut out of other markets where they are found to be more suitable than American timbers.

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