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Tuesday, 15 August 1972
Page: 24

Senator WEBSTER (Victoria) - This Bill must have a considerable attraction for all honourable senators. Undoubtedly there was great wisdom behind the planning and development to meet Australia's expected requirements for softwood timber for domestic and industrial purposes. I believe that this Bill is unique in that the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton), who is in charge of the Bill in the Senate, would probably be one of the most experienced members of the Senate or House of Representatives in the matter of softwoods. His conduct of this Bill through the Senate will give confidence to honourable senators that it is a subject well understood by a Minister who is experienced in this matter. The present legislation has been developed from a series of years of assistance to the States for the planting of softwoods. The agreement contained in the Bill will be the second in a series of agreements. We are in the very early developmental stages of softwood forestry. The Minister stated in his second reading speech:

It is estimated that in the financial year 1970- 71 Australian consumption of forest products was in excess of $900m and domestic production was $650m.

I note in that comment that the Minister did not indicate that these figures applied necessarily to softwoods only. I imagine that other species were fairly dominant in that production. The Minister may care to have his officers make that situation clear. Nevertheless, his remark shows that Australia had a deficiency in production compared with consumption of S250m in the past year.

That this Bill will implement a second series of agreements is instanced also by the fact that originally the Australian Forestry Council viewed the situation for some 35 years ahead. For this reason I suggest that in succeeding years we will be most anxious to ensure that the arrangement envisaged in the Bril continues. I wish to make particular comments in relation to that, not only as it will affect the financing of Government instrumentalities, Commonwealth and State, but also in respect of what we should be doing to encourage private planting. In 1965-66 the Australian Forestry Council, which is composed of the 6 State Ministers for forestry, together with the Minister for Territories and the Minister for National Development, undertook a fairly urgent examination of Australia's existing and future requirements of timber and our potential for meeting those requirements from our own resources. It appeared to me at that time that the Council dealt mainly with the problems of our softwoods requirements. Over the past 20 years there has been an enormous growth in the use of . cellulose material. Undoubtedly it will be in that sphere that the demand for forest products of a variety of types will be generated.

In past years there has been a straightout use of hardwoods for very many of our industrial operations, but the situation has changed somewhat from what it was 20 years ago. At that time we saw the use of Australian hardwoods supplemented by imported softwoods, but the situation today is that the greatest use in Australia is now of softwoods, which are used in many areas for which hardwoods originally were used. At its original meeting the Council estimated that Australia would require 3 million acres of softwood plantations by the year 2000. Consequently it recommended that the rate of establishment of softwood plantations be stepped up from the then level of 40,000 acres per annum to 75,000 acres per annum over the next 35 years. The Council estimated that private owners, some of whom own substantial areas of softwoods, and others would contribute to the programme an average of at least 10,000 acres of softwoods per annum. This would leave in the vicinity of 65,000 acres per annum to be planted by State government forestry services. The rate of planting at the time the recommendation was made was about 30,000 acres per annum.

The programme at that stage envisaged an enormous increase in plantings and it was at that stage, as 1 have mentioned, that it was proposed for the ensuing years that the rate of planting be increased by 35,000 acres per annum. It is my view that Australia will never be likely to produce sufficient softwood timbers locally or that we can obviate the need to import softwoods. I think it will be agreed that so far as we can envisage we will need to bring some of the heavy sections of softwoods into Australia for construction purposes. As a consequence of the Council's recommendation the States increased the area of government-owned softwood plantations from about 528,000 acres in March 1966 to about 793,000 acres as at 31st March 1971. It is interesting to note that, in addition, areas of softwood plantation in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory increased from about 27,000 acres to about 36,000 acres in the same period, during which time privately owned softwood plantations increased from 163,000 acres to 213,000 acres. In the 5 years to 30th June 1971 the Commonwealth financed about 113,100 acres of the 256,800 acres planted in the 5-year programme. The total level of plantings by the States in the second 5-year period from 1st July 1971 to 30th June 1976 is expected to be 273,400 acres, of which the Commonealth will finance approximately 125,000 acres. By comparison with the last year of the first programme the annual rate of planting will be reduced from 58,500 acres to 54,680 acres.

It appears to me that if the $20m provided by the Commonwealth to the States during the first 5-year programme was insufficient to enable the States to meet their planting requirements, the Commonwealth should have stepped up its assistance in the second programme to a much more substantial amount than $21m. If the annual rate of planting achieved in the last year was 58,500 acres, obviously there had been a development of professional manpower resources and equipment and a greater land area available at the end of the 5-year term which enabled a planting at a much greater rate than had been achieved during the first 4 years of the programme. The Minister will agree with me that we appear to be suggesting now that there should be a slight outback in the rate of planting to achieve the programme which the Commonwealth has laid out. It would appear to me that the planting of softwood forests in our community is of such importance that the Commonwealth by no means should be restricting the amount of cash that is available for programmes such as are envisaged by this agreement.

The world situation in relation to softwoods has a direct relationship to the work that we are doing in Australia. The meetings of the Food and Agriculture Organisation's Advisory Committee on Pulp and Paper, the International Union of Forest Research Organisations and the International Academy of Wood Sciences have viewed this matter and assessed the future world supply situation. I note that the genera] conclusions of the conferences of those organisations were that 'on a worldwide basis the production potential of forests is greatly in excess of present utilisation rates and in certain areas such as Japan and Europe the wood deficit is increasing steadily'. The Food and Agriculture Organisation's Advisory Committee on Pulp and Paper met in Rome in May 1971 and its secretariat presented its annual survey which reviews pulp and paper capacity, production and consumption and provides forecasts for the years ahead. The 1971 survey estimates that world consumption of paper and paper boards was 123 million metric tons in 1969. By 1985, consumption is forecast to rise to 285 million metric tons, providing production and prices do not impose significant limitations. Over that period, the consumption of printing and writing paper is expected to rise by 154 per cent, which is much more than the anticipated rise of 94 per cent in the use of newsprint. So we have a fairly significant situation in which Australia, looking at the worldwide supplies available to it at the present time and in past years, of necessity must make an investigation into the variety of species which could be grown in Australia. Perhaps Australia should concentrate a little more on this than it has on the planting of pinus radiata, which has been its practice in past years.

An examination of available literature about likely future supplies of forest products has been made by Mr W. G. Carter of the Economics Section of the Forestry and Timber Bureau. The results of his examination were published in the JulyDecember 1970 issue of the 'Timber Supply Review', put out by the Department of National Development, in an article entitled 'World Supply of Forest Products in the Year 2000'. Mr Acting Deputy President, I think that I may seek leave to have the summary of his conclusions incorporated in Hansard.

Senator Cavanagh - Read them to us.

Senator WEBSTER - No, I do not think that I will do that. But I will seek to have incorporated a summary of his conclusions.

Senator Keeffe - Why - just to see whether we will grant leave?

Senator WEBSTER - No. I will read the conclusions to the Senate. I know Senator Keeffe is following me and I know that he would be anxious that I put the full facts of this matter before him. The summary reads:

Total annual growth on commercial forest land in North America (Canada and U.S.A.) has been estimated in 1962 as twenty-seven and a half billion cubic feet. Total consumption in North America of domestic wood products and fuelwood might be expected to rise to twenty-three and a half billion cubic feet by the year 2000. Thus, consumption in North America by the year 2000 would still be some four billion cubic feet below the estimated total of annual growth in the United States, plus allowable cut in Canada in 1962. With the continuation of the present trends in forestry, this surplus over the projected total domestic consumption could readily rise to six billion cubic feet or more by 2000.

In view of the magnitude of the Soviet fo.est resources and the question of economic availability, it is not surprising that estimates of annual growth vary. One author estimates total mean annual increment in the Soviet forests as twentynine and a half billion cubic feet, and total removals at nineteen point eight billion cubic feet (196S). Another writer, in a more recent study, has indicated a much lower potential - an allowable cut of eighteen and a half billion cubic feet. He acknowledges, however, that by reducing waste through more efficient logging and milling, a considerable expansion in production could be achieved without a significant increase in the volume felled.

The only available information on future Soviet consumption of forest products suggests that, even if the norms of utilisation in mining construction, railroad transport, etc., are lowered by one and a half to two times, the national economy will need a yearly supply of more than thirty-five billion cubic feet, which exceeds the natural productivity of the forest'.

On the world supply side, it would appear that in the year 2000, North America may have an exportable surplus of six billion cubic feet. It is likely, at that time, that Russia would require all her production of forest industries for domestic consumption.

No literature is available on which to base an assessment of world demand for forest products in the year 2000. It is interesting to note, however, that the combined deficit of all classes of forest products in Europe and Japan in 1975 is estimated to be almost four billion cubic feet log equivalent. If United States' projections are taken as a guideline, this four billion cubic feet deficit would increase to over six billion cubic feet by the year 2000. It must be realised that this expected requirement of over six billion cubic feet in these two regions does not represent the level of demand for coniferous forest products alone. It docs, however, indicate the magnitude of expected requirements for forest products.

It is to be expected that Australia will face severe competition towards the end of the century, in obtaining from North America that proportion of her requirements of forest products which cannot be produced locally. It is also likely that other countries with exportable surpluses of plantationgrown softwoods will find other very willing purchasers, which may provide more profitable markets than Australia. These considerations lead to the conclusion that countries in which natural softwood resources are deficient would do well to develop softwood plantations, as is being done in Australia.

What are the obvious facts relating to timber for those who are involved in the timber industry or associated with timber importation? Our imports in previous years have generated from the Scandinavian countries and in more recent years have come from Canada and America. The present increase in the volume of softwoods imported from islands to the north and the volume of timber that is now entering Australia from the Soviet Union together with the significant imports coming to Australia from New Zealand are interesting. These factors indicate that there is great wisdom not only in the campaign in which we are involving ourselves at the present time but also perhaps in a campaign that requires some expansion of thinking during the third 5-year cyclical period. The points made by the previous speaker on the preservation of our environment and related matters are significant when one comes to consider the types of forests to be planted. I acknowledge that many people including Senator Mulvihill have spoken on this subject, and my own colleague Senator Prowse has been vocal to me about the great problems relating to generation of flora and fauna where there are large plantings of pine forests.

This could lead one to suggest that since plantings have been made near cities as in both the small State of Victoria and the larger State of New South Wales, the Commonwealth should look further into the possibility of planting in other areas. Still, I believe the Commonwealth Government is to be congratulated on the work of this type it has carried out in the A.C.T. for obviously this will produce a great asset in the future from the thousands of acres that have been and will be planted in and around Canberra.

A paper on the subject which has interested me greatly is that produced by Mr J. P. Hauser, B.Sc. Forestry, Dip. Forestry for the 43rd Congress of the Australian and New Zealand Association for the Advancement of Science in Brisbane from 24th to 28th May 1971. His paper speaks of the role of forest development in northern Australia. A main point that he made is shown at page 12 of the copy of his paper that I have. It reads:

(i)   There is an urgent need for resources evaluation to provide for all the future needs of an expanding community in Northern Australia; and (ii) a reservation programme to meet present and future needs of conservation of timber, soil, water, wildlife and environment before committal of the land to single purpose exploitation.

Mr Hauserthen speaks of the role of the forester in Northern Australia in the face of conflicting pressures and the general lack of resource evaluation or policies of conservation. He says:

The future markets for forest products must be examined to establish the extent and location of forest resources. The future developments of integrated industries is foreshadowed and economic areas for such industries established, and supplemented with productive plantations where necessary. The development of optimum financial yield from multiple resource management through timber production, grazing and tourist yields of the forest estate.

To advance the claims of environmental conservation, wildlife protection and recreational requirements for future needs of the community.

That summary by Mr Hauser appears to me to be most appropriate to the Northern Territory and to all other land under the control of the Commonwealth Government. I would urge the Minister to give consideration to the work which this gentleman has produced. If the Minister does so he may also take into account some of the quite astounding statements that were made by Mr Hauser during his address to the Congress. It is this area of what species should be planted to which we should give our attention. I do not doubt that the Minister will agree that our whole-hearted devotion to pinus radiata species has produced timber of great value. Nevertheless, we shall have to rind areas which are appropriate for the growth of other types of timber. Mr Hauser indicated that the major species planted in northern Australia are northern cypress pine, which covers 4,200 acres, hoop pine, 1,680 acres and pinus carbeaea 1,700 acres. These timbers have particular significance because of their utilisation value. Mr Hauser suggests that yield figures of 150 cubic feet per acre per annum from northern cypress pine are providing a favourable cost./ benefit ratio. Of pinus caribaea he says yields in excess of 300 cubic feet per acre are not uncommon, even in some of the older plots. I am not attempting to quote all that he has said on this subject, but 1 add that he says of African mahogany that it has been developing extremely well in the Northern Territory on a wide range of sites. He goes on:

Some rough provisional data is indicating growth rales in excess of 500 cubic feet per aor with diameter growth in excess of 1 inch per annum.

He goes on to say that survival after 6 to 10 years is still excellent - a survival rate which is important for our consideration. He speaks also of the species Anthocephalus cadamba

Some 2 years old plots of the species are already in excess of 20 feet in height and it appears that a thorough testing of this genera in relation to species, environment, provenance and phenotype is warranted. 1 am not familiar with some of the words in that paragraph, but I believe his point is well taken. If these facts can be proved by an investigation of forestry in northern Australia, then I believe the Commonwealth should be making a much greater effort to ensure that the numbers of untrained workers which surely must be available in the Northern Territory are utilised. We are all aware of the great problems attaching to labour both in the Northern Territory and in northern Queensland, and I would urge that this large work force be engaged on this simple method of establishing such a wonderful asset for Australia.

The final matter to which I wish to direct the attention of the Senate arises from a comment that I made earlier on government plantations and on the encouragement that is given to private plantings. The legislation under consideration is designed to encourage the States to make further plantings. But there is nothing of which I am aware which suggests the Commonwealth has given ready encouragement to private owners for the expansion of softwood plantings. In the years that I have been in the Senate I have raised this matter on a number of occasions with the present Minister. I have suggested that finance should be made available on reasonable terms to encourage private planters. Some of the companies deeply involved in planting appear to be substantial and to have no great financial problems. It would therefore be very difficult for the Commonwealth to make cash available on reasonable terms to such huge organisations. This is acknowledged, but the Commonwealth has indicated its great interest in this matter by providing $21m for the States over a period.

If the Commonwealth is convinced that it is in the national interest that softwood forests should be planted, surely it would be in our interest in the coming months to suggest that cash will be made available on a particular basis to private foresters. This could well be done. Undertakings of Australian Paper Manufacturers Ltd and of Softwood Products Ltd in the Mount Gambier area of Victoria could probably be diversified and do much greater work if the companies had available to them bank finance at a reasonable rate. I believe that this suggestion has been put to the Department of National Development by one or two individuals. The suggestion was contained in a letter which went to the Department that assistance could be given in 3 areas. It was suggested that the money could be made available by loan on the achievement of particular standards of forestry and on the demonstration of a volume of acres to be planted each year. It was also suggested that there could be a basis of providing half the actual cost of the planting of a particular pine species.

There need not be assistance in the acquisition of land although this could be given in some instances. Once a private forester had planted his area and it appeared to the Commonwealth on investigation that the work was of a professional quality, perhaps the annual cost of planting of each acre - say $25 or more - could be made available to the private planter as a loan to be repaid when the first thinnings came off the plantation. That would mean that a loan could be made available each year until the plantation had been in existence for, say, 15 years. A supplemental amount could be paid each year to cover the costs of tending the forest, improvements and maintenance until a proportion of trees had reached a merchantable age. This appears to me to be quite possible and the Commonwealth would thereby do itself great justice.

The Commonwealth could demonstrate practically that its sees forestry planting throughout Australia as an important issue. It could even encourage private foresters to go into areas under the control of the

Commonwealth Government. It could encourage private planters to associate themselves with Aboriginal groups who at present control Aboriginal reserves. 1 could speak on this point at great length in order to indicate the futility of providing such Aboriginal reserves if they are not to be put to some use for the future benefit of Aborigines. The Minister may appreciate the possibility of expanded thought whereby the Commonwealth at the end of a 35-year period - or perhaps at the end of a 28-year period, looking to the year 2000 - could promote a situation in which in most areas of softwood supply for our domestic market we would be free of import requirements. It gives me particular pleasure to support this type of measure which will provide for the great national interest in years to come.

Debate (on motion by Senator Willesee) adjourned.

Sitting suspended from 5.40 to 8 p.m.

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