Alvey have been making reels in Australia for a long time phil. More popular in Queensland I believe than in other states.
The reels were made with few moving parts so that they could be pulled down and put back together without getting sand in everything.
I think the original Alvey's were made of bakerlite and later on fibreglass.
Yes, they do cast a mile, and take a little getting used to as a side cast reel. Occassionally if the line is a bit loose you may get a birds nest if unlucky, but they are a good, strong, workhorse of a reel that can crank in some large fish.
I have used these reels in the past and personal preference was to mount them a bit further along the rod in a normal spinning reel seat on the surf rod. Reason being that if you used a rod with a seat at the lower end of the rod it was difficult to place them in a holder on the beach(they tend to get heavy). having the reel further up the rod gave a better fulcrum when slinging a star sinker.