2 Feb 2016

Australian ban on Norfolk radio labelled childish

2:58 pm on 2 February 2016

A former broadcasting minister in Norfolk says the Australian government is childish to exclude a political group from using the local radio station.

Norfolk Island

Norfolk Island Photo: AFP

The administration tightened the application of the Broadcasting Act, effectively stopping the Norfolk Island People for Democracy expressing criticism of Canberra's controversial reforms.

It has banned live interviews and says as a government station Radio Norfolk cannot broadcast political viewpoints.

Norfolk's executive director Peter Gesling denied this was a curb on free speech.

"The requirement is that there be a balance in approach and specific political views are not to be aired on the radio and all I did was advise the manager of the radio station and the staff of the radio station of their responsibility under the Act and the broadcasting guidelines."

The Norfolk Island People for Democracy movement said it was being censored for telling the truth about Australia's reforms on the island.

A member, Lisle Snell, who is a former chief minister, said part of the group's aim had been to question the validity of the Australian reform process.

"We feel that the process hasn't been done in a consultative manner. A lot of the consultaton reports are false. The people of Norfolk Island and indeed the people of Australia have been given falsehoods, they have been told incorrect information and they have been misled. And we have brought those to the attention of the media, and we have been censored for it."

Tim Sheridan, who was broadcasting minister in the island's last government before its autonomy was removed by Canberra, said this restriction was childish and adding to the tension on Norfolk.

"The decision they have taken to stifle this group's freedom of speech on the local radio, which is a community radio so the whole community should be able to put on air what they wish, it's creating tension on the island and its dividing the community, and it's an unfortunate situation that we find ourselves in."

Opinion in Norfolk is split over controversial reforms initiated by the Australian parliament last year, stripping the island of its autonomy and preparing it to become a regional council under the auspices of New South Wales.

The Norfolk Island People for Democracy is campaigning for Australia to change its mind and hoping to list with the United Nations as a non self governing territory, saying it is upset at the broadcasting limits.

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