11 May 2016

Norfolk Island residents want change in political status with Australia

Territory's leaders to seek inscription on the United Nations list of non self-governing territories

Norfolk Island residents request United Nations help to maintain self-rule


The Norfolk Island People for Democracy are petitioning the United Nations to protect them from what they consider a takeover by the mainland Australian Government.

Key points:

  • Commonwealth moves to close down local legislature June 30
  • Group asks UN to uphold their right to self-determination
  • Dozens of local jobs lost as Australian Government takes over providing services
  • Territories Minister says changes will benefit islanders
The Commonwealth has moved to close down the local legislature on June 30 and replace it with a new regional council under Australian law.
Media player: "Space" to play, "M" to mute, "left" and "right" to seek.

  00:00             00:00       
AUDIO: Norfolk mutiny: Islanders ask UN to help them regain independence from Australian Government (AM)
But a Norfolk Island residents' group devoted to independence from mainland Australia wants the UN to help islanders maintain self-rule.
"For Norfolk Islanders and people here, it takes a hell a lot of to get angry about something but it takes even more for us to express that anger," said Chelsea Evans, member of the Norfolk Island People for Democracy.
The group say their trump card was the bid to ask the UN to uphold their right to self-determination.
And a phone call from New York has brought them confirmation that final preparations were underway to lodge their petition against what they characterised as Australian colonialism.
Lisle Snell, a former chief minister of Norfolk Island and now one of the key figures leading the insurrection against Canberra, said their proposal was not a declaration of independence.
"It's a declaration to seek listing on the decolonisation committee of 24 in New York to give the Norfolk Island the right to self-determination in free association with Australia."
Ms Snell said self-determination was described in the UN Charter.
"And that charter will give the people of Norfolk Island hopefully the right referendum to decide their own future, total independence of Australia or in free association with Australia," she said.
Not all Norfolk Islanders oppose the end of self-government. Some believe the takeover will bring the island better services and infrastructure.
But local anger has been growing.
Roads and other public spaces, including World Heritage-listed buildings have been defaced with the word 'mutiny'.
The end of self-government is already hitting some Norfolk Islanders hard, with dozens of locals losing their jobs as the Australian Government takes over providing many services on the island.
"When you take 50 people and drop them into employment pool on an island that traditionally has no unemployment, and then all of the sudden, there's 50 unemployed people, you can only imagine how horrifying that is," Troy Hamilton-Irvine said, another member of Norfolk Island People for Democracy.
Territories Minister Paul Fletcher has argued the changes will benefit Norfolk Island, with the economy of the island expected to grow by about 14 per cent, and residents able to claim social security and Medicare.

Administrator 'bans any criticism of Australia'

The Norfolk Islanders' petition to the UN was personally delivered by leading human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson.
He said it would take some time for the UN to make their decision.
"There is a special committee on decolonisation which will consider the matter later this year," Mr Robertson said.
He said there were a number of consequences for the islanders being forced to join mainland Australia.
"They will forced to sing Advance Australia Fair over their preferred national anthem, which is God Save The Queen," Mr Robertson said.
"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.
"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?"
A number of people have noted that Norfolk Island has been financially propped up by the Australian Government and have questioned whether they could survive as an autonomous state.
Mr Robertson said that the island has had financial problems, but he said there were different ways to deal with that problem, "without ending democracy".