Norfolk businessman urges Canberra rethink
A prominent Norfolk businessman has written to the Australian prime minister and governor general to plead for a Canberra rethink on the removal of the island's limited self government.
A businessman and former Norfolk Island government minister is pleading with the Australian prime minister to rethink his government's plans for the island.
Norfolk is now in a transition to becoming a regional council within New South Wales after its limited autonomy, which had been in place for 36 years, was removed.
Canberra has claimed the island could no longer pay its way but many on the island are disputing both this and the way Australia has gone about the process.
Andre Nobbs told Don Wiseman he has written to both Malcolm Turnbull and the Australian governor general Sir Peter Cosgrove.
ANDRE NOBBS: The letter identified issues and actions to the Prime Minister and the various agencies that it's copied to, and to the public. It demonstrates just a few of the many instances where Norfolk Island has sought independent review or acknowledgement of the views of the majority of people who call Norfolk Island home and demonstrates that, really, we've attempted to use every mechanism available to us, but there's really a brick wall that's thrown in front of us by the Australian Government representatives.
DON WISEMAN: Presumably, that's going to be continued by the Prime Minister since, in the end, he's at the heart of it, isn't he?
AN: Well he may well be, or he may well be misinformed. I mean, one of the issues that really became evident prior to the amendment of the Norfolk Island Act in the Australian parliament was a group of community and Norfolk Island government members went to meet with senators prior to the Senate decision on the amendments, and what we found when we met with those senators was that either they had been misinformed, or there was very, very little information available to them to make a decision on Norfolk Island's future governance, future constitution, and future economic outcomes.
DW: Is there a sense among the people who are supporting Norfolk Island People for Democracy that the Australian mainland doesn't really give a damn?
AN: I think people all around Australia and New Zealand, particularly those who understand the issues or have been to Norfolk Island, absolutely empathise with us and they absolutely are aghast at what the Australian government representatives are doing to Norfolk Island. They are going against the wishes of the majority of the people; they're ignoring referendums, they're ignoring petitions to the Governor General, they're ignoring petitions to the Senate, to the House of Representatives, various letters, letters from our government before the Australian government destroyed our parliament and our self governance. I think many of the general public are well aware that there's something going on here that is absolutely not right. They're probably not aware that they can have any role in repairing the damage that's been done but I do think those that are aware of Norfolk Island, its location, and its history would understand that the dialogue and propaganda put out by the Australian government has largely been false, and the realities of Norfolk Island are far different they depicted in historic terms, as well as in current terms.
DW: As a result of the letter what are you hoping for?
AN: The aim of the letter is in many cases to put on the public record that there has been a number of appropriate uses of mechanisms available to the people of Norfolk Island there's been, through the official referendum obviously, a very strong majority demonstrating that they do not support the removal of self-government and they want a say in their future governance. Through the petitions, through all of the things that are listed in the letter, it basically gives the Prime Minister of Australia an opportunity to review this process which has been very flawed and has utilised some very misleading dialogue and has left many of the senators for example, as I mentioned before, poorly informed on a decision making process that has huge tax implications for the Australian taxpayer, it has huge economic downsides for the entire Norfolk Island economy, as has been pointed out by one of the key organisations, the ACA on Norfolk Island. So what the letter aims to do is put all of these things out in the open, demonstrate to the Prime Minister that there's been a poorly carried out process that has robbed Norfolk Island of its democracy and self-governance, it's also taken away a lot of its opportunity to be economically viable and to be tourism destination competitive and, at the end of the day, if we do not get any kind of review out of this, then really as a member of the Commonwealth and as an island that should be recognised under the United Nations charter, we obviously have exhausted all local remedies with Australia if they choose to ignore the letter and continue ignoring the Norfolk Island community's demands for a process that has integrity and independent oversight.
DW: There's a transitional period up to the first of July when the island will, at this stage, become part of New South Wales and you'll vote, I think, in the Canberra electorate, there's an advisory council and I think that was set up to be consultative. Is that happening?
AN: The advisory council is a group of people that were appointed by the minister, Jamie Briggs, at the time, that don't represent the views of the majority of people on Norfolk Island; when they're challenged on statements they're making on Norfolk Island's future they can't provide any detail, particularly when it comes to the economics.
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