Norfolk Island just hours from becoming part of NSW
The president of the Chamber of Commerce on Norfolk says the island is not at all ready to become a part of New South Wales this Friday.
The president of the Chamber of Commerce on Norfolk says the island is not at all ready to become a part of New South Wales on Friday.
Canberra has deemed the island, which had its autonomy taken away a year ago, will become a regional council in the state on July 1st.
Don Wiseman asked John Brown whether the island was prepared for the change.
JOHN BROWN: Not at all, not at all.
DON WISEMAN: What is not done?
JB: Well Don to give you an example, I work as a lawyer. The question of what will be the law in Norfolk Island in two days time, is very much unresolved. I would have thought by now that those who are imposing the change would have had a four or five page booklet that I could get hold of to tell me exactly what the implications of the changes are to be. But nothing such as that is available. The commercial sector looks very much as if it will be depleted by the end of this week because there are many, many businesses closing. And even in our public service there have been wholesale terminations. Some people have been successful in applying for new jobs in the proposed regional council, but many of those jobs have been filled by people from off-shore. Heaven only knows where the island will stand come the middle of next week.
DW: The businesses that have gone, these have gone in just the past few months?
JB: The economy in Norfolk Island has been going through difficulties for a period and unfortunately the Australian government did not appear to be prepared to sit down with the local community and say 'How can we help back on its feet' because that certainly could have been done. But businesses are closing for various reasons. Some are closing simply because they cannot see a prospect of returning to profitability in the foreseeable future. Others are closing because they can see that the burden of paper work and additional costs will be thrust on them from the end of this week, is a burden that their business simply cannot sustain. As a result along the length and breadth of the main street there are many businesses which have either closed in very recent times or are about to close, but there would be very few businesses that have not been adversely affected by what is happening.
DW: The island gets to vote in an electorate in Canberra. Have you had any visits from politicians in the lead up to this weekend's election?
JB: Well I am fascinated because I know the politicians in Canberra and I have not heard from one of them. Certainly I have not noticed an advertisement in the local paper saying 'vote for me.' I have not heard an interview on the local radio station. I have not received a 'how to vote' card in my letter box, and yet the Australian election will take place on the 2nd July.
DW; We know that there have been jobs lost and you mentioned a lot of people are going to be looking for work. Are people going to be on welfare, because this is one of the things that Canberra has been touting - this is now available.
JB: Well if one listened to the Canberra bureaucrats and the politicians and our local administrator, one could be forgiven for thinking that the plan was to create a welfare led economic recovery. But people are now starting to see that although they may have been on a Norfolk Island pension until now, many of them will not qualify for an Australian pension. For example they may be asset rich but cash poor. They may have been able to be appropriately assisted with our local pension scheme but that will end this week. And I have no doubt that there are going to be many people who are affected in that way. One reads of the dole that's paid in Australia, but it's got fairly strict rules, and people appear to have a fairly long wait before they are entitled to collect their first cheque. So although there are going to be unemployed people here it is going to be some time before they can obtain any assistance. But that doesn't alter the fact that Norfolk Island is a wonderful place. No one who has Norfolk Island at heart would want to move from here to live anywhere else. Our visitors when they come won't notice a lot of broken hearts, they'll just see a lot of big, wide smiles and Norfolk Island will continue, despite the pain.
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