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Friday, 4 July 1930

Senator BARNES (Victoria) (Assistant. Minister) . - I move -

That the bill be now read a second time.

This measure has been before the Senate on other occasions, and it has met with the approval of another place. It will be generally admitted that the care of our timbers is of very great concern to Australia. Unfortunately, certain happenings previously prevented the finalization of the proposition incorporated in the bill. On the last occasion that the measure was before the Senate it was in the charge of Senator Glasgow. To refresh the memory of honorable senators who were here on that occasion, and to inform the minds of those who were not here then, I propose to detail its history. As far back as December, 1925, the then Prime Minister of Australia, in enunciating his policy speech, made the following announcement : -

Recognizing the importance of forestry to Australia the Government has established a Central Commonwealth Forestry School for the training of foresters. It also proposes to establish a forestry bureau to advise and assist the State Governments in all matters relating to the development and utilization of our timber resources.

Following upon that statement, on the 2nd November, 1927, Senator Glasgow introduced a Forestry Bill for the consideration of the Senate. The bill passed through all stages. Later it was introduced in another place, but it lapsed at the end of that parliament.

Senator Glasgowre introduced the measure in February, 1929, when it differed only in one clause from the original form in which it was presented. Again, the bill met with the acceptance of the Senate. It was, however, destined to meet a similar fate to that which befell the first bill.

The bill now before honorable senators lias been passed by another place. The alterations made there to the measure as last dealt with in this chamber are of a minor character, affecting in a slight degree clauses 3 and 4, and leaving intact the main provisions of the hill as it left this House.

In view of .the expressed intention of the late Government in the announcement of 1925, to which I have made reference, steps have already been taken to establish the bureau and to carry out the functions it is designed to perform. The nucleus of the staff, consisting of the Inspector-General of Forests, and a secretary, has been established; other appointments will be made when the time is opportune. Meanwhile, research students are undergoing a thorough course of training to fit them for the responsible duties they will be called upon to perform in prosecuting research into the forestry problems of this country. In the making of forestry appointments preference is given to students trained in forestry in Australia, a policy which I feel sure meets with the commendation of honorable senators. So that such men shall have opportunity of contact with forestry thought and practice in the older countries of the world, where intensive forestry has been practised for many centuries, their preliminary training includes a refresher course in one of the leading schools in Europe or the United States of America.

In the matter of assistance and advice to the States, the bureau has been called upon by three of the States, namely, Tas mania, South Australia and New South Wales. A valuable report on the forestry position of the island State was prepared after a close investigation had been made. The appointment of a professionally trained forester as Conservator of Forests there is in accordance with a strong recommendation contained in the report that such a step was highly desirable if Tasmania's valuable timber resources were to be properly conserved.

The scheme for the large pine planting programme upon which the Government of South Australia is now engaged was investigated by officers of the bureau before the necessary financial arrangements under the ?33,000,000 undertaking were agreed to. So far as New South Wales is concerned, a project for the planting of a large area of the central highlands with conifers for softwood timber of superior quality is now receiving the attention of the bureau.

The Australian Forestry School is one of the activities of the bureau. It was established in 1926. The question of forestry education formed the subject of discussion at no less than six interstate forestry conferences held between 1911 and 1924, and also at the Premiers' Conference in 1920. The reports of the proceedings of those conferences show that all the States were agreed as to the desirableness of having only one school of forestry for the whole of Australia. For one year the school was held at the university in Adelaide, but upon the completion of the building in Canberra in April 1927, the Forestry School was removed here, where it has continued up to the present. The establishment has had the support of the States which gave undertakings when the school was opened, although it is to be regretted that, in some instances, the support has not been on the same generous scale as was promised. The principle of one Commonwealth school for the training of professional foresters for the whole of Australia met with the approbation of the Empire Forestry Conference at its third great convention held in Australia and New Zealand nearly two years ago. In placing that view on record the conference recommended that the various universities should be requested to award degrees to successful students of the

Forestry School. Four of the six Australian universities have agreed to do so, and it will now be possible for students of the school, who fulfil the necessary academic requirements, not only to secure the diploma of the Australian Forestry School, but also a B.Sc. degree in Forestry.

At the present time the financial position does not permit us to treat afforestation in the comprehensive manner warranted by its importance. This bill is merely a step in the right direction. The organization it is proposed to create will be of immense value at the time when measures are taken to ensure adequate provision for our future timber requirements. That time cannot be very long postponed without serious future loss to Australia. As at least thirty years must elapse before a tree reaches a state of maturity sufficient for marketing purposes, it behoves us to take a long-sighted view, and prepare now to meet the world shortage of timber which it is estimated will occur before 1960. Fortunately, estimates of the exhaustion of natural products usually prove to be inaccurate. I hope in this case we shall have the much needed grace that will enable us to put our house in order.

Apart from this aspect of the matter, the fact that Australia imports timber to the value of £4,000,000 annually represents an economic loss and contributes largely to the present financial stringency. That £4,000,000 should be spent in Australia, instead of being sent abroad to enrich foreign countries.

Afforestation is, of course, mainly a matter for the States : the forests which will provide our future supplies of softwoods must, to a great extent, be planted in areas controlled by the various States. Nevertheless, to the extent that the States have failed to promote this work, the finances of the Commonwealth have been adversely affected, and a vast field of employment left empty.

In addition to placing the Commonwealth Forestry Bureau on a statutory basis, the bill provides for the control by trustees of donations for forestry purposes. No words of mine are needed to convince honorable senators of the desirability of giving serious attention to our natural timbers. Honorable senators are acquainted with the conditions in the several Status from which they come. I am not personally acquainted with the timber resources of all the States, but I know that in Victoria, in addition to the vast areas of valuable naturaltimber, the State Government has embarked ona policy of planting additional areas with different varieties of timber which in the years to come will prove invaluable. On a measure of this kind honorable senators, irrespective of party or State, can speak with one voice, for we all love our country, and wish to do our best folic.. Perhaps, in no better way can wedo a lasting service to Australia than by developing her timber resources. If we do our duty now, those who come after us will have no reason to say that we, in our day, were lacking in vision, in that we made no provision for the time when the timber resources of the world would be depleted.

Senator DUNCAN-HUGHES (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - What will the Government's proposal cost?

Senator BARNES - I have endeavoured to obtain the information sought by the honorable senator, but regret to say that it has not yet come to hand. In order that honorable senators may be placed in possession of all available information, I ask leave to continue my remarks.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.

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