Australian completes Norfolk takeover today.
Despite strong opposition over the past year Australia will today complete its removal of autonomy from Norfolk Island.
Despite strong opposition over the past year Australian will today complete its removal of autonomy from Norfolk Island.
Under Canberra's new plan, Norfolk Island will be run by a regional council under New South Wales instead by its own parliament.
The move has angered many on the island but as Don Wiseman reports the Canberra appointed administrator, Gary Hardgrave, see things differently.
For weeks from the end of April the opponents to the changes, which began with the abolition of the legislature a year ago, had occupied the now empty chamber, setting up a tent city in the grounds. It was of a number of efforts aimed at encouraging Canberra to rethink its move amid reports of businesses closing and jobs being lost, but Gary Hardgrave, a former talkback radio host, has never wavered.
GARY HARDGRAVE: People are very upbeat and very optimistic about where Norfolk Island's possibilities are now lying ahead of it. The very big, heavy lift items, the cost of government doing business on the island is now being met completely by the Australian Government.
Politicians from both main Australian parties have claimed the changes are what the island needed and wanted, but hundreds on the island disagree. They argue the Australian removal of their autonomy was illegal. Mr Hardgrave paints a rosy picture but the Chamber of Commerce president John Brown has a very different view.
JOHN BROWN: 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. Heaven only knows where the island will stand come the middle of next week.
Norfolk's most recent former chief minister Lisle Snell, who will also serve on the new regional council, says the situation confronting the islanders is grim.
LISLE SNELL: I know of three businesses that are closing on the 1st of the July principally because they no longer wish to conduct business here because of the taxation system. The new regulatory requirements that are being imposed there is still a lot of uncertainty on the island.
Mr Hardgrave dismisses the opponents of the take over as a minority. Yet there seems little doubt they represent bulk of the population, and certainly many who have been there for a long time, if not their entire lives. This group has had strong backing and most recently approached the United Nations for listing as a no self governing territory. Another former chief minister, Andre Nobbs, says they hope for this to be heard in November - in the meantime they have launched a case at the UN's Human Rights Council in Geneva. And he says that is not all. Meanwhile Gary Hardgrave is to stay on as Canberra's man and will have to deal with a regional council of which three of its five members support those wanting self government.
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