Over the last twelve months the administration of Norfolk Island has gradually been assumed by the Australia Federal Government.
Norfolk Island is part of Australia, but has been largely autonomous. No outsiders have been allowed to purchase property there, and those who come from outside to provide services are generally limited to a three year stay before they are required to leave. This would be fair enough if the island were genuinely autonomous, capable of running its own affairs. But it is not. Apart from tourist income which does not even come close to paying the bills, every aspect of life on Norfolk is paid for by Australian taxpayers. After a couple of hundred years of subsidising a lavish lifestyle on a tropical paradise for an exclusive and pampered few, Australian taxpayers have finally had enough.
Now Norfolk Islanders are whining about unfair it is, and how their island is being colonised. See the article on the Norfolk Island transition from the Guardian copied below. Of course if they don’t like what is happening, there is one very simple solution. Declare your independence, and pay your own way.
The former chief minister of Norfolk Island, Lisle Snell, has called for a royal commission into the Australian parliament’s decision last year to revoke the island’s autonomy, and the subsequent running of the island by the commonwealth.
As of 1 July, Norfolk Island will be subject to Australian immigration and border protection rules. Islanders will fall under the Medicare system and will be eligible for social benefits, including the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. They will also fall under Australia’s tax system.
Since May last year, the island has been in a transition period as Australian government buildings are established and the island’s health and welfare systems abolished. The Australian government argued the island relied on the mainland for financial support, and that its laws and government services were outdated.
The changes meant that Snell was left without a job. His anger has only escalated since May.
“I took a very bad turn,” Snell told Guardian Australia. “I was distressed for months after my dismissal. To be dismissed in such a manner as was conducted at that time, so illegally, so unjustly, so unfairly … it took me many, many months to get over that. I was forced into semi-retirement, although I can’t afford to be.”
Snell and other islanders have established the group Norfolk Island People for Democracy, which is calling for an independent review of the process of bringing Norfolk Island under Australian governance, which Snell describes as an “illegal takeover”.
“Really what should be done is, a royal commission into the manner of Norfolk Island’s takeover should be held,” Snell said. “There was no proper process done. There should be a royal commisison into the farcical situation that has occured. We are a peaceful people, we don’t like conflict. But the situation has never deteriorated to an extent like this before.”
On Tuesday the human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson QC delivered a petition against the perceived takeover signed by the islanders to the United Nations in New York. It would take months for the UN to reach a decision, Robertson said.
“There is a special committee on decolonisation which will consider the matter later this year,” Robertson told the ABC.
He said he supported the islanders in their fight for autonomous governance.
‘We’re not Australian’: Norfolk Islanders adjust to shock of takeover by mainland
“They will be kicked out of the commonwealth parliamentary unit, they won’t be able to compete under their own flag at the Commonwealth Games, they will have to join an Australian team,” he said.
“What is more, I think, rather pathetic in fact in Australia’s conduct, the first thing the Australian administrator did was to have the radio station ban any criticism of Australia.
“This is typical colonial behaviour, isn’t it?”
Snell confirmed that the island’s radio station was now under Australian government control, and said islanders were barred from saying anything negative about the Australian government on air.
Guardian Australia has contacted the relevant minister for comment on the claim.
Islanders had also received notices from the government that their jobs were defunct or were likely to become so, Snell said.
“The feeling on the island is now one of great distress,” Snell said. “People in administration, those working in roads or mechanical fields, in forestry and so on, have all had their jobs affected. In some cases, both husbands and wives will no longer have a job from 1 July, so there’s now increased unemployment and financial distress.
“They have not been offered the change to upskill or reapply.”
The word “mutiny” had been scrawled on the new Australian government buildings, Snell said, which he said indicated the levels of distress, because “we are a peaceful people”.
Many of the islanders are descended from the mutineers who captured HMS Bounty in 1789.
Snell said many of the island’s roughly 1,200 citizens would hold a rally on Wednesday at the old military barracks. People were fearful of losing their unique language and culture as they come under Australian law, he said.
“We will gather to talk and assist anyone in easing their pain and try to give them clarity and guidance through this,” Snell said.
The Australian federal minister for major projects, territories and local government, Paul Fletcher, has said islanders would be employed where possible. Last month, Fletcher announced Waterway Construction as the successful tenderer to construct the $13m upgrade of the island’s Cascade Pier. Islanders would be employed, Fletcher said, and local businesses would supply building materials.
“Once the project is complete, nominated members of the Norfolk Island community and regional council staff will receive training in the safe and effective operation of the hydraulic crane,” he said.
The New South Wales premier, Mike Baird, has said his state will help the federal government in providing health and education services to the island. Norfolk Island laws are being rolled in to NSW ones, with any legislation on the island that Australia considers outdated or inappropriate removed or replaced.
“The Australian government is committed to providing high quality, affordable and safe health and aged care services for Norfolk Island,” Fletcher said.
“I am looking forward to working with NSW government agencies to ensure the best possible outcomes for the Norfolk Island community.”