Writing in The Guardian, Melissa Davey describes–with photos by Zach Sanders–the circumstances that have led to the suspension of the autonomous government of Norfolk Island by the Australian government. In all honesty, if the island is unable to finance services adequately from its own resources, some degree of greater involvement by the national government is probably necessary. (Surgery is impossible to perform on the island due to the lack of facilities, for instance.) This much more involvement? I’m also wondering if parallels can be made with policy on the Australian mainland, specifically with Aborigine settlements that are facing the end of government services and thus depopulation.
The threat of coming under Australian government law, order and taxation has been looming over the island for decades, with the commonwealth claiming the local government is broke, and that it lacks the money and resources to deliver health, education, justice and welfare services to an Australian standard.
Already, memorandums of understanding exist between Norfolk Island and the mainland for the delivery of services including education and healthcare.
But for many islanders, including [Norfolk Island’s chief minister, Lisle Snell], the decision to abolish the Norfolk Island government has hit hard. All Norfolk Island laws will now be rolled in to New South Wales ones, with any legislation on the island that Australia considers outdated or inappropriate removed or replaced.
Australians know little about Norfolk Island, an idyllic, tax-free haven, even though it is just over a two-hour flight from Sydney and advertises itself as an ideal tourist destination. Despite its status as an external territory of the commonwealth, getting to the island requires an international flight, immigration clearance and a passport.
It doesn’t take much time on the island to realise that many Norfolk Islanders, too, have little knowledge of the Australian systems that will soon be imposed upon them. That will no doubt change now the transition period has begun to bring the island’s 1,277 residents under the federal taxation, immigration and welfare system.