Aus Government Has Hands On Norfolk Island

Saturday, August 01, 2015

Last weekend I watched the Sunday Night programme about Norfolk Island. Norfolk Island is situated approximately 1600 km off the coast of NSW between New Zealand and Australia. The beauty of the island is in its tranquility, people, scenery and autonomy. I know because I holidayed there in December 2014.

The island was colonised by Great Britain as part of its settlement of Australia in 1788, at which time is was uninhabited. A convict penal settlement was established until May 1855, except for an 11 year period between 1814 and 1825 when it was abandoned. The second penal settlement was wound down after 1847. The last convicts were taken to Tasmania in 1855. Once again the island was uninhabited.  

In 1856 the descendants of Tahitians and the HMS Bounty mutineers, including those of Fletcher Christian,194 in total from Pitcan Island, took up permanent residence on the island in 1856.

The new inhabitants of the island took advantage of the remaining buildings left from the penal settlement and made them their homes. They gradually established traditional farming and whaling industries on the island. Lisle Snell, the Chief Minister at the time told me the island was granted to the inhabitants by Queen Victoria. They believe they have their own sovereignty and self-determination.

In 1979, Norfolk was granted limited self-government by Australia, under which the island elects a government that runs most of the island's affairs.

In 2006, a formal review process took place, in which the Australian government considered revising this model of government. The review was completed on 20 December 2006, when it was decided that there would be no changes in the governance of Norfolk Island. 

Financial problems due to the Global Financial Crisis, which in turn saw a reduction in tourism led to Norfolk Island's administration appealing to the Australian federal government for assistance in 2010. In return, the islanders were to pay income tax for the first time, but would be eligible for greater welfare benefits. However, by May 2013 agreement had not been reached and islanders were having to leave to find work and welfare. 

An agreement was finally signed in Canberra on 12 March 2015 to replace self-government with a local council but against the wishes of the Norfolk Island government. A majority of Norfolk Islanders have objected to the Australian plan to make changes to Norfolk Island without first consulting them and allowing their say. The majority of people I spoke to, told me they were not consulted, had no idea what was going to happen, and didn’t want to be taken over by Australia.

The Norfolk Island Legislative Assembly decided to hold a referendum on the proposal. On 8 May 2015, voters were asked if Norfolk Islanders should freely determine their political status and their economic, social and cultural development, and to "be consulted at referendum or plebiscite on the future model of governance for Norfolk Island before such changes are acted upon by the Australian parliament". 68% out of 912 voters voted in favour. The Norfolk Island Chief Minister, Lisle Snell, said that "the referendum results blow a hole in Canberra's assertion that the reforms introduced before the Australian Parliament that propose abolishing the Legislative Assembly and Norfolk Island Parliament were overwhelmingly supported by the people of Norfolk.

What I find most interesting about Norfolk Island is that the Australian Government has put restrictions on the island that would have allowed them to prosper. Fishing off the island would be a big drawcard for tourism, with pristine waters and variety of reef fish, Australia said no. I see  potential in exporting fish, why has our government not supported this? The island is of interest to cruise ships, if it had a safe wharf for passengers to disembark, why has this not been supported. 

Australia was giving $650 million to Indonesia in foreign aid till this year, now reduced to $350 million, who now say they don’t want it. Do we have a say in their governance and accountability of money given?

The Australian government gave $12.5 million to Norfolk Island this year and decided to strip the island and its inhabitants of self determination which now comes under New South Wales and its legislation from the 1st July 2015.

The people of the island as friendly and I take offence to Gary Hardgraves comment that they hate Australians. This is not true, they hate him. He is unapproachable, arrogant and has no time for the locals. He lives in his government mansion on the island as an Administrator, supplied with his own personal chief, housekeepers and gardeners, paid for by the Australian taxpayer. 

The people are very grateful for all that Australia has done. They only want a helping hand not a take over. The island has barely any crime. There has been 2 murders on the island one in 2002 which was the first since 1893, wouldn’t we love that in Australia. Most of the residents have 2 or more jobs. They pay no income tax, but have a GST of 15%. They pay a high health care levy, and there is no welfare system. 

My concern is that they will loose all of this and businesses will close, with all the extra taxes they will be up for and not being able to buy their goods directly from other countries as they do now but will have to go through Australian agents adding more cost, as one business man told me. The island will then become too expensive for tourism. 

I heard talk there may be oil and gas near the island, is this part of the reason why our government wants it? Gary Hardgraves talks of condominiums on the island. Can he see Chinese development happening. This is the last thing this island wants or needs. He made a smart ass comment with regards to their water supply. I had no problem drinking it. Some places in Australia I have no desire to drink our water, because of additives, taste and lack of maintenance we have here. 

Does Australia plan to use the island as a dumping ground for refugees from the detention centres? I can see it becoming a haven for dole bludgers and welfare dependents because of its way of life. 

I felt I had to share my concerns with regards to the Norfolk Island in light of having been there and spoken to the people. I fear for their future and way of life apparently they do to, but our government is not listening, surprise, surprise.

My suggestion - Gary Hardgraves is a waste of space and money as Administrator, get him off the island to start with and give the people the respect they deserve and a say in their future instead of railroading them.

Pauline Hanson



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