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Thursday, 10 September 1942


Mr HUTCHINSON (Deakin) . - I bring before the House a matter that concerns the Attoney-General (Dr. Evatt) and the Minister 'for Labour and National Service (Mr. ,Ward). I am concerned about the infiltration of aliens into certain districts' of Victoria. I refer now particularly, to the southern end of my electorate. The Silvan area, which is particularly concerned, is part of the Shire of Lilydale. This infiltration has been going on now for some considerable time, and is continuing. The aliens who are gradually occupying farms and adding to their existing holdings in that particular area are ;men who could not be said to be friendly to this country during a time of war. They are mostly Italians, many of whom do not speak the King's English, and have arrived in this country only of late years. They are, as I say, gradually occupying property after property, and extending the acreages of their existing farms. , So seriously is this matter viewed that I have been communicated with by the Shire of Lilydale, and asked to raise it in the House, and at the same time to press for a most searching investigation into the problem. I have also been furnished with two copies of lists of cases which it is considered ought to be thoroughly investigated, to ascertain whether the National Security Regulations governing the transactions are being complied, with or evaded.

The Lilydale police have been interviewed by a representative of the Shire Council, and the council has been informed that, so far as their investigations have gone, the allegations may be perfectly true, because the men who are allegedly leasing the properties simply state that they are renting them on the share principle, which the police have no means of disproving. The Shire Council states in its letter to me -

The continued increase of enemy occupation of properties in the area is most serious and disquieting, and anything short of a searching investigation into the transactions regarding the land is to betray our own boys serving in the various theatres of war.

There seems to be a good deal of dummying going on in this area, because in some manner or other the enemy aliens appear to be evading the regulations. The cases which I propose to bring before the Attorney-General are given in the documents in quite a fair amount of detail. The Shire Council suggests that if necessary the National Security Regulations should be amended so that land of over an acre in area shall not even be rented to an unnaturalized alien. Even if this should mean depriving the aliens of their land, they could be drafted into labour battalions and made to work for their adopted country instead of being allowed to thrive and grow prosperous while our own boys are away at flic various war fronts.


Mr Calwell - A number of aliens in this country belong to anti-Fascist clubs. Does the honorable member make any distinction?


Mr HUTCHINSON - The whole question, and in particular these two sheets of cases, should be thoroughly investigated by the Attorney-General's Department. Here is a particular case relating to part of CrowD Allotment 39a, Shire of Lilydale. The owner was a man called Bennett, of High-street, Malvern. The occupier was George Cooper, an airplane factory worker for the past six months. The property was leased with the option of purchase five years ago. Notice to quit was served early in July and Cooper walked out on the 25th July, when he secured a house at Mount Evelyn. In the interim an unnaturalized father and son, whose names are given, entered the property and began working the land. It was purchased officially by another Italian on the 26th June, 1942, and this man has since signed a statutory declaration to the effect that, being unable to make a living on 20 acres bought in 1939, he had to increase the area by buying this other allotment. In this particular district, where berry fruits and vegetables are grown, a typical block is 20 acres, and no grower can possibly work it without at least two assistants and many casual workers to assist in harvesting. If this Italian was unable to make ends meet on his own 20-acre block, how did he obtain £700 to purchase the other? The shire council gives me full details, with the names of the solicitors for the purchaser and other parties interested. I have two pages of almost similar cases. I can assure the House and the Government that the matter is serious, because discontent is rife, and rightly so, in those areas.


Mr Forde - Are the men referred to naturalized British subjects?


Mr HUTCHINSON - Many are not. Another point that is causing a good deal of discontent is that, after the last callup of men for the Military Forces, the area has been practically denuded of man-power. The farmers' sons have enlisted or been called up, and the question of carrying on their properties is to-day a very big one. The only relief that seems possible to them is from the Women's Land Army, which entails problems of accommodation, and so on. That is the case from the point of view of the Australian farmer, who has constantly before him the unhappy spectacle of the unnaturalized alien on the next block, with all his old labour available, able to go ahead steadily as if we were still in the days of peace. It is not very difficult to realize that in those conditions the unnaturalized enemy alien is in a most happy position. There is an acute shortage of vegetables, people are being encouraged to grow them, and the price they will receive is going to be good. Quite apart from that aspect, berry fruits to-day sell reasonably well. Therefore, the man who is able to continue to work his farm is on an exceptionally profitable Basis, purely and simply because there is a war on, and these aliens are in the happy position of being on a sure winner, with an assured income and a high standard of living.


Mr Pollard - Is not the problem whether they are subversive or dangerous? If they are subversive they should be shut up; if not, they should be allowed to live like decent men.


Mr HUTCHINSON - That is a matter that requires immediate attention. In the opinion of the shire council, which is a responsible body, many of these people are not favorable in their sentiments towards Australia.


Mr Frost - Are they not producing a commodity that is wanted in Australia ?


Mr HUTCHINSON - I shall come to that in a minute.


Mr Forde - They are subject to callup in the labour companies if they are in the age group.


Mr HUTCHINSON - I am aware of that. The shire council says that the steady infiltration of aliens into the Silvan district, unless stopped, will lead to the whole district being handed over to aliens "whose sympathies quite frankly are with our enemies ". Those words of the shire council should be treated very seriously by the Government.


Mr Pollard - Perhaps one councillor has not been able to sell his fruit.


Mr HUTCHINSON - The honorable member should not try to treat the matter humorously.


Mr Frost - Is that letter from one councillor or more than one?


Mr HUTCHINSON - It is signed by the shire secretary on behalf of the council. This is therefore an official communication from the shire council.


Mr Pollard - Is it objecting to Italians competing with other citizens?


Mr HUTCHINSON - It objects to the infiltration of unnaturalized aliens under various pretexts. This is believed to be against national security regulations, as these aliens are said to have sentiments in favour of the enemy. The Lilydale police have investigated some of these cases and as far as they can ascertain these foreigners are leasing their properties on the share system; but the police have been unable to do anything in the matter. It can be said, of course, that these aliens are producing something of value to the nation.


Mr Forde - They are subject to a call-up.


Mr HUTCHINSON - But most of them are still on the land.


Mr Forde - Then they must be over the age for service.


Mr HUTCHINSON -- Not all. The attitude seems to bethat as they are growing something of value they may as well be there as anywhere else. Many Australian farmers, whose employees have been called up for service and who have been left without assistance, have been told that their only hope of relief lies in an appeal to the Women's Land Army. These aliens, however, can carry on as easily as in the days of peace, with the additional advantage that the prices of their products will be infinitely higher than those received under peace-time conditions Soldiers are now employed in cutting firewood. Surely some of the farmers' sons would have been better employed on the land growing commodities of value to the nation, leaving the wood-cutting to be done by some of the aliens who are profiting from the war.


Mr Forde - Cannot the Australian farmer obtain exemption for his only son?


Mr HUTCHINSON - At the last call-up many strange things happened. Sometimes cases are investigated and relief is given, but frequently the manpower officer seems to think that his main job is to get men for the Army. On some large properties in my own district only one man has been left.


Mr Forde - If these aliens are growing vegetables, would , the honorable member take them off the land and put them into labour companies?


Mr HUTCHINSON - To-day they are receiving better treatment than our own people. I shall hand details of various cases to the Minister, and I hope that a searching investigation will be made.







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