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Thursday, 10 September 1942

Mr PROWSE (Forrest) . - I spoke on the matter mentioned by the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson) on the motion for the adjournment of the House some time ago, and the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) promised to investigate complaints similar to those voiced by the honorable member. In the last war the Italians were our allies, and communications were received from the Government of Italy with a view to an increased migration of Italians to Australia. A certain quota of migrants was agreed upon. When the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin), as Prime Minister, called upon Mussolini, he informed the Duce that the Italians in Australia were good citizens and they were received as such. They leased land and became naturalized, not because they desired to be Britishers but because it served their purpose to become naturalized. They are not our allies now ; they are our enemies. Whether naturalized or unnaturalized, they cannot be trusted to give this country a fair deal, but they have burrowed themselves into various parts of Australia by purchasing or leasing land. The Government requires potatoes for the Army, and has called for contracts. At Waroona, one of the potato districts of Western Australia, 75 per cent, of the contracts have been obtained by foreigners, both naturalized and unnaturalized, and they will do well out of the business. Many Australian farmers cannot accept these contracts because their sons and workmen have joined the fighting services. It is not a pleasant thing to know that a foreigner who belongs to an enemy nation is making a good profit because Australia is at war with his country. With him it is a case of " Heads I win and tails you lose". I have submitted correspondence to the Government on this matter, and I have received a long letter from the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin). I listened patiently last night to the Prime Minister in his remarks on the war situation and on the manpower position. According to him, the Army must be retained intact. He said that that was most important. Our sons in the fighting forces are paid 6s. or 7s. a day, yet Italians are demanding £1 a day for hay-making and the like, and are disinclined to work on dairy farms when asked to do so.

Mr Pollard - They are splendid workers.

Mr PROWSE - I agree. In some respects they put our own people to shame. I ask the Government to grapple with this problem as with a nettle. I suppose that we cannot put these aliens into the fighting line, but we should compel them to work under conditions similar to those which apply to our own sons. In this connexion I do not blame the present Government more than I blame its predecessor. This matter is causing a great deal of resentment among soldiers, particularly those whose fathers are unable to carry on the farms in their absence. Following remarks which I made on this subject some time ago, I understand that an inquiry has been made and that certain information in respect of aliens has been tabulated, but the position is not entirely satisfactory and I ask the Government to take the necessary action.

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