NSW says no to Norfolk voting in state elections
An Australian MP has slammed fellow legislators in New South Wales for denying Norfolk Islanders a vote in state elections.
A Greens MP in New South Wales says the way Australia's political leaders are treating Norfolk Island is the height of arrogance.
Australia is folding Norfolk into New South Wales from next month, having stripped its autonomy a year ago.
David Shoebridge, an MP in the state's Legislative Council, says in legislation passed this week in Sydney, Norfolk Islanders will not have a right to vote in state elections.
While the island's citizens will have a vote in a Canberra seat in federal elections, but David Shoebridge told Don Wiseman, this week's move in Sydney denies them a basic democratic right.
DAVID SHOEBRIDGE: Norfolk Island will effectively be given a local government to run its local affairs which will be modelled under the New South Wales Local Government Act. They will have the ability to vote at a Federal level in Australia in a electorate that is 1800 kilometres away, in Canberra. But they will have no representation at all at a state or territory level in Australia. While they will be governed by the laws of NSW they won't have a vote on who goes to the New South Wales parliament to make them.
DON WISEMAN: Why don't they at least have a vote?
DS: We simply couldn't understand that when we looked at the Commonwealth legislation and in fact the Bill that was passing through the NSW parliament this week, was putting in place the machinery provisions so that NSW laws and services can be extended to Norfolk Island. And we asked the government, the NSW government well surely you will join with us in doing everything we can to extend the franchise to Norfolk Island. If they are going to be governed by the laws of NSW obviously they should have a vote in the NSW parliament. But the coalition government here in NSW refused to treat and literally have treated Norfolk Island like a 21st century colony.
DW: Elements of the American Revolution here aren't there?. No taxation without representation.
DS: What is so frustrating about the situation with Norfolk Islands is that there is already a working model. If we are going to go down the path of the nation and remove self-determination from the people of Norfolk Island, which is a move which as a Greens MP I don't agree with, but assuming that has been the policy decision made by both major parties in Australia well then surely we should be looking at ways that we give them full and equal democratic representation in Australia. And Lord Howe Island which is also of the coast of NSW, a little bit closer, Lord Howe Island actually forms part of a state electorate as well as part of a federal electorate. And they have a vote at local, state and federal levels of government and obviously we should be doing the same to the people of Norfolk Island.
DW: Who made the decision to include Norfolk Island as part of a Canberra seat?
DS: The decision about incorporating Norfolk Island into Canberra had nothing to do with any kind of community of interest with Norfolk Island. It had nothing to do with where they would best be placed as Norfolk Islanders to exercise their vote. It was simply because all of this sucking up of Norfolk Island has been done by the Commonwealth Parliament's constitutional power over territories. And the Commonwealth Parliament can pretty much do what it likes in relation to territories. And so they simply attached one external territory, in the form of Norfolk Island, to an existing internal territory in the form of the Australian Capital Territory, ACT, where Canberra is. So, as a matter of legislative convenience, as opposed to anything at all to do with the appropriate outcome for Norfolk Island.
DW: As someone looking from the outside it seems like not a lot of thought has gone into this process by Australia?
DS: When you look at the debate in the Federal Parliament, if you can call it that, there was little if any scrutiny of this. It seems very much as though, Australia is a big place, this is a couple of thousand people in a distant Pacific Island and they were just sort of swept through the Federal Parliament without any real criticism I think from any political party. But now the reality is becoming clear. Now many of those people are getting there first vote in a Federal Election and they realise they are voting in Canberra, you know a land locked electorate 1800 kilometres away. And now they are about to have the laws of NSW imposed upon them, and they are saying well, why don't we get a vote in the NSW parliament. There is a lot of unfinished business here. There is very little legitimate democratic self-determination claimed for the people of Norfolk Island and we are committed to doing what we can to raise there concerns and in the long term give them that democratic legitimate vote.
DW: As far as political representation within the Australian parliament goes, that is a secondary consideration I think for many, many Norfolk Islanders. They want their autonomy back. Do you think there is any chance at all of a reversal?
DS: In the short term it seems that both major parties in Australia are committed to the take over of Norfolk Island. Of course they have a complaint to the UN, complaining about effectively the recolonisation of the people of Norfolk Island and they have a proud independent history. In 1856 they were the first jurisdiction anywhere to give women a vote and they have been feistily and proudly independent and democratic ever since and I don't think they are going to give in the short term, I don't think they are going to give in in the long term. And they deserve, if they want it, self determination.
DW: Why do you think Australia has gone down this road?
DS: This is one of these decision which is made it looks like for administrative convenience and again like many colonial decisions there is this arrogant assumption that Canberra or in the case of the legislation in the past, this week, Sydney knows what is right for the people of Norfolk Island. And despite their vociferous complaints, despite them saying, look you haven't even heard from us, they are just imposing their legislative agenda imposing their power on Norfolk Island and at the core of this is some supreme legislative arrogance.
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