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Tuesday, 19 December 1911

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) . - When this Tariff was entered upon, I set out with the intention of voting for the highest protective duty that I could give on every item, and determined that, wherever it was shown that an industry could not be carried on in this country, that I would vote as far as possible for Free Trade. The kinds of timber that come to Victoria under this heading are Baltic pine and flooring boards. Now, although this timber has for five years paid 50 per cent. duty, I do not know of a single building that has been put up during the recent building boom in Victoria in which imported boards have not been used. I sympathize with the plea made on behalf of Tasmania. I would even vote for a prohibitive duty if it could be shown to me that Tasmania could produce timber in sufficient quantities to supply the needs ot the country, though that State is surrounded by water, and shipping freight is very cheap, Tasmania has not been able to supply our market. The most important item in connexion with imported timber is freight. In proof of that, let me point to this position. As I have said, in Victoria Baltic timber is largely used for weatherboards and floorings. In New South Wales, New Zealand timbers are used for the same purposes. Why are not New Zealand timbers used in Victoria ? The reason is that most of the timber ships that carry New Zealand timber to New South Wales get a back loading of coal. None of those ships come to Victoria, because they cannot get the back loading here. That seems to show that as far as New Zealand timber is concerned the question of transit is more important even than the duty. In the Beech Forest in Victoria we have timbers that are amongst the finest grown in any part of Australia. But the land-holders in the forest, who paid as low as1s. per acre for their land, charge the saw-millers from£6 to £9 per acre for the privilege of cutting timber there. The Beech Forest is only 150 miles from Melbourne. I say unhesitatingly that by no system of Protection could we overcome a difficulty of that kind. Even by dutiesof 2,000 per cent. we could not overcome such a difficulty. If it can be shown to' me that it is by reason of the fact that the duty is too low that Queensland timbers cannot get upon our market, I shall support the item as it stands in the Tariff. Otherwise, I shall vote for the request.

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