Norfolk Islanders mourn loss of self-government
The soon to be abolished Parliament of Norfolk Islands says the majority of its people are in a state of shock and grief at the removal of their political autonomy by Australia yesterday.
The acting head of the soon to be disbanded Parliament of Norfolk Island says most islanders are in a state of shock and grief at the loss of their political autonomy.
The final reading of the Norfolk Island Legislation Amendment Bill was completed in the Australian Senate on Thursday in just a few minutes, without any dissenting comment.
Norfolk Island has had significant autonomy since 1979, but the law change will shut its parliament and reduce the administration to that of a local-level regional council.
Canberra has claimed the majority of people back a change they say was vital because the island no longer had the capacity to administer its federal and state powers.
Norfolk Island's Acting Chief Minister and Minister for Culture, Robin Adams told Koroi Hawkins, Australia ignored the results of a recent referendum which showed the vast majority of Norfolk Islanders opposed the change.
ROBIN ADAMS: Two thirds of the community voting at the referendum made it quite clear that they wished to have a say at referendum on the future model of governance for Norfolk Island. The commonwealth parliament has ignored the wishes of the people expressed at referendum. So there are two thirds of the electorate who expressed a view. There will be a view in the community in some areas that people are pleased with what has happened. But I would say that the large proportion of this community is in a stunned state of shock. Grieving, grieving for a momentous loss for this community. Bearing in mind that the Pitcairn Islanders when they arrived in 1856 were a self-governing people. 1896 that self-governing power was taken away. Once again it was given back in 79 and now its being taken away again. What the community, steps the community will take I am not able to say around this. At the moment let us say that they are in, a lot of the people are in mourning.
KOROI HAWKINS: In terms of the effects of this legislation on the lives, the daily lives of people on Norfolk Island what changes can we expect to be seen in the coming weeks, days months.
RA: Well the way the legislation has been crafted for the next twelve months up to one July 2016 there is to be put in place an unelected. In other words an appointed advisory council, appointed by the administrator or the federal minister. You could put up your hand and say whether or not you wanted to be considered. It is not an election by the people. And so within that 12 month process up to one July 2016 it is anticipated, expected that this advisory council of five people will assist the commonwealth in deciding how the community should move forward. However they are not elected by the community they are chosen, people chosen. There is a loss of democracy to begin with and there will be effects on this community. For example on one July 2016 people who are on Norfolk Island social services and we have a great social welfare system on Norfolk Island. They will lose their Norfolk Island pension entitlements and they will have to apply under the Australian system. To what applies in Australia will be deemed to apply here on Norfolk Island. The problem there is on Norfolk Island women at the age of 60 men at the age of 65 are eligible for pensions. That is to cease because that isn't the rules in Australia and probably we will see women who are currently on pensions having to if they dont meet the Australians age criteria, having to apply for new staff allowance, the dole. That is causing me more concern than anything, that people here are going to lose their pension entitlements here and be brought in to the Australian system its asset tested which isn't the case at this present time. And that is just one disadvantage, I could go on and on. But I can tell you there will be impacts, but what we have got to do as a community now is to try and come together pull together help us to work towards uniting on a common front. Its a stressful period for people and you know its early days it only happened yesterday and the pain is very raw.
KH: Are there any positives at all to this new arrangement?
RA: Koroi that is a very hard one to answer. That is up to us as a community as to whether we find positives in this arrangement. For some people there is the thought that the entry into the Australian taxation, medicare, PBS system will be positives for them. And I can't answer for those people. One can only hope that there are good things on the horizon for people. But only time is going to tell Koroi. We have got twelve months in which, before all this legislation comes into play and it is up to us the community to make sure that going forward we have the very best outcome.
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