Norfolk Islanders seeking UN oversight
Norfolk Islanders present a petition to the UN accusing Canberra of violating their right to self-determination.
Norfolk Islanders say the failure to have an amicable dialogue with Australia has prompted them to present a petition to the UN accusing Canberra of violating their right to self-determination.
The petition was delivered on Monday in New York as a last resort after Australia ended the island's limited self-government.
A former Norfolk Island Chief Minister says Australia continues a heavy handed roll-out of administrative changes which will see the island become a ward of New South Wales from July 1st.
Andre Nobbs told Koroi Hawkins this is despite 68 percent of the islands residents voting against the changes.
ANDRE NOBBS: If you can imagine a foreign government or a larger nation moving into New Zealand and just shoving your government out of the way and saying they are no longer in control we are. We are also going to take all of your infrastructure and assets. And we are going to tell you exactly what to do and not be held accountable to the people. I think it is called collapsing democracy but that is what has happened here. Some might call it a hostile take over.
KOROI HAWKINS: And in terms of a time frame will the effect of your petition come in time as I understand you are already undergoing a transition phase at the moment?
AN: Look we are certainly going through some imposed changes at the moment which have been the result of the Australian government collapsing the Norfolk Island parliament mid last year. And so yes you are quite right there are a range of changes that are impacting on the social fabric of the community . The stress level is high and the economic outcomes are not very good either. In terms of time frame for the petition they run on various time frames and in some cases can be quite rapidly assessed in other cases it might be a two or three year process however once the petition is received and put on the table with the United Nations although it might not reach completion for a lengthy period of time once its on the table it introduces some independent oversight and that is what has been sorely lacking in the treatment of Norfolk Island people by the Australian government.
KH: On that note I understand you have also had issues with the current administrator and are calling for his resignation?
AN: Yes there was a community meeting yesterday afternoon a lot of discussion was had by a lot of community members and towards the end of the discussions I proposed a letter to the administrator identifying where he had not guided the process and not reflected the views of the majority of the people of Norfolk Island and so had a role in really misleading process for the removal of self government on Norfolk Island. And just to give you some idea of quantification of that more than 700 members of the Norfolk Island community signed a petition to the senate in Canberra more than 750 people signed a petition to the house of representatives in Canberra. 68 percent voted against what has occurred with the dissolving of self-government in an official referendum. There have been numerous community calls for recognition that the majority of people on this island do not endorse Australia taking away self-government. Do not endorse many of the changes that have been imposed. So when you have an administrator who has mis-represented those views. And that misrepresentation has led us to the situation we find our selves in now. Where numerous people are not entirely sure where their employment positions are, what their pension accesses are and a range of questions about service delivery. You have got to really take it to the next level and seek some type of correction to the situation.
KH: Right and just going to the Australian government position briefly. Their reasoning behind all of this what is it? Why do they feel the need to impose this on Norfolk Island?
AN: Well it is a very interesting scenario, although Australia has been in deficit more times than it has been in surplus over the last 20 years. And Norfolk Islands has run balanced or surplus budgets for close to or for more than 30 years they feel that because of the GST impacts whereby Norfolk had to approach Australia to have some support that, that has given them enough reason to collapse the parliament remove democratically elected representatives. Remove democratic process, remove accountability and install in this instance an unaccountable administrator who is not equipped to deal with the diversity of roles that are now undemocratically officiated. So it is a distressing time for many in this community because they are not getting a communication that you would expect for this type of change management particularly when it is imposed. There is no empathy for the elderly or those people who are in some distress over whether their employment is going to continue or cease. So it is a very difficult situation. There are far better ways to do what has been done here we have put out the olive branch for collaboration for decades and it has now led us to a point where the only solution is an independent oversight solution such as the UN self determination process.
Andre Nobbs says residents are also distressed by ongoing cuts to public service positions which could see 30 percent of Norfolk Island residents out of a job come July.
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