Norfolk Islanders gutted by Australian curb
Anger in Norfolk Island at Australia's intention to push ahead with governance changes, removing the island's long standing autonomy.
There is widespread anger in Norfolk Island at the Australian government's plans to curb the island's autonomy.
The change will do away with a level of self government that has been in place since 1979.
Under the changes Norfolk's legislative assembly will be replaced by an advisory council, before local government elections in 2016.
Norfolk Islands for many years has been tax free but from July next year the islanders will pay personal and business tax but have access to the benefits that accrue to Australians on the mainland.
The assistant regional development minister Jamie Briggs says the changes are long overdue and a number on the island agree with him.
But former chief minister and businessman, Andre Nobbs, told Don Wiseman he is gutted and many Norfolk Islanders hold the same view.
ANDRE NOBBS: I, like many on the island, are gutted. I would say there are a majority of people that are absolutely disgusted with the, in a word - corrupt - process that has taken place here. Just let me define a little bit about the self governance arrangements for the island since 1979. It wasn't full self government, it was to work towards self-government but what actually occurred in 2010 was after Norfolk Island being specifically excluded from any GFC [Global Financial Crisis] stimulus or any assistance whatsoever through that downturn in the global economy, which naturally enough impacted on our major industry - virtually our sole industry of tourism - the result of Norfolk being in a very difficult position and the conditions attached to the Norfolk Island Act which prevent Norfolk Island from gaining access or investment from any other place other than through the Australian government's approval. B y being specifically excluded from any of that financial support, Norfolk Island and the Norfolk Island government was in a very challenged financial position in 2010 and was coerced into signing what's called the Territories Law Reform Act.
The Territories Law Reform Act further reduced the governance capacity of the government of Norfolk Island across expenditure of money, across process within the parliament, in effect leaving the Norfolk Island government, and the people of Norfolk Island, with all of the responsibilities, costs, and blame, but none of the controls and capacities to do what other areas that are responsible for their governments would be able to do.
DON WISEMAN: All right so when you say corrupt you mean that?
AN: I mean that, and I'll give you a couple of examples where I think this process has been corrupt. Let's talk about the Joint Standing Committee inquiry into Norfolk Island which was an inquiry that had a terms of reference specific to economic development. When the inquiry was on Norfolk Island or engaged with anyone who wanted to have a discussion with the Joint Standing Committee they made it very clear they did not want to talk on governance or any of those matters. They specifically wanted to talk on economic development. Now one of my roles is the CEO of Ocean Economic Development Corporation (OEDC). So we submitted a significant amount of data on economic development opportunities for Norfolk Island as well as collaborative economic development opportunities for Australia in Norfolk Island using Norfolk Island's placement as an external territory with some of the Australian legislative framework over it to propose that Australia would get otherwise unobtainable revenues in areas such as offshore banking units, which had been raised by Australian parliament's own report; the Johnson report, at an earlier stage. Equally just one other example is a second international shipping register for Australia could have been held on Norfolk Island. Again bringing new revenues to Australia that it's otherwise losing while assisting Norfolk in a recovery process. There have been numerous options for economic development and in the submission that OEDC put to the Joint Standing Committee no interest was shown in any of them. And although the inquiry in terms of reference was specific to economic development, their first and second recommendations from their report are about removing self government, are about altering the constitution of this island without going through an appropriate process to map it against the community's wants and needs and perhaps in a referendum of self determination and the appropriate information being available. Part of the reason why I say it's corrupt, the other part of the reason that I will happily put on the record, is because the information that the minister responsible for Norfolk Island, the Assistant Minister Jamie Briggs, the information he's put out to the Australian national public through radio interviews and the like has been misleading and has been an abject lie in some cases so that he's either been seriously misled by his officers or he's intentionally misleading the Australian public on emotive issues such as claiming there was no legislation for child welfare, no legislation for guns and firearms, no legislation for drink driving. Each of those statements was absolutely false. We have those legislation and they are operable. Interestingly enough they are also updated regularly and updated through the office of the administrator, who is an appointee of the Commonwealth supposedly to inform both governments and to work with governments.
DW: The Norfolk Island government has this plan for a referendum, is there any chance at all for the Islands have Canberra rethink?
AN: I think at the end of the day Canberra does need to rethink because from a cost benefit analysis what they're stepping into is an extremely costly outcome to the Australian tax payer compared to the model that we were using before that was more about practical delivery and good work ethic and making a productive outcome from the island rather than turning it into a welfare state. Do I think that they will reconsider it in Canberra? I think at some point they're going to have to. I just hope that it occurs before they've decimated the race of people that call Norfolk home, or those people who've moved to Norfolk and committed to Norfolk to make Norfolk their home.
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