For the Norfolk Island People, the abolition of the island’s representative democracy in 2015; and the Commonwealth’s failed attempts to impose a Canberra-based administration on Norfolk Island has resulted in the most undemocratic, culturally prejudiced and chaotic governance in our history
Open letter to the Prime Minister of Australia
2 March 2021
The Hon. S J. Morrison MP
CANBERRA ACT 2601
On behalf of the overwhelming majority of the Norfolk Island People, we the undersigned ask that you personally and urgently intervene to restore good governance and representative democracy to Norfolk Island.
Dear Prime Minister
In 2015, the Australian Parliament passed a package of legislation designed to abolish Norfolk Island’s Parliament and to impose a new undemocratic Canberra-based colonial administration on Norfolk Island.
The lack of appropriate consideration, unnecessary haste, and poor planning that informed the above-mentioned legislative changes has now ended in the failure of the newly imposed arrangements after just five years and delivered an appalling outcome for both Australia and the Norfolk Island People.
For Australia, the Parliament’s decision to divert the Commonwealth Government’s attention and resources away from its constitutional role of administering federal responsibilities, and inject itself in the direct administration of a local community, where it has no demonstrated experience or competency, has resulted in massive ongoing financial waste and bureaucratic inefficiencies.
For the Norfolk Island People, the abolition of the island’s representative democracy in 2015; and the Commonwealth’s failed attempts to impose a Canberra-based administration on Norfolk Island has resulted in the most undemocratic, culturally prejudiced and chaotic governance in our history.
As it stands today, Norfolk Island’s newly imposed Council is being run by an unelected Commonwealth appointed interim administrator; we have zero state representation, and the only remaining semblance of democracy available to us is through our federal representation in the land-locked Canberra Seat of Bean - which is a demonstrably ineffective arrangement given that Bean is 1900km away from Norfolk Island and the Norfolk Island People represent less than two percent of Bean’s eligible electors.
It is it acceptable that your government operates under an expressed policy to ‘disengage’ the culture of our People, and to flagrantly disregards its international law obligations with respect to the right of self-determination of the Norfolk Island People.
Nor is it acceptable that the Norfolk Island People are forced to pay the price for the Commonwealth’s inexperience in administering local community responsibilities. This problem is further compounded by the failure of the Commonwealth to empower the knowledge and experience of the locals and the unwillingness to adapt arrangements that may work well in Australia but definitely do not work in an extremely remote location like Norfolk Island. Among these failings is the continuing uncertainty around the provision of health and education services on the Island, and the inability of the Commonwealth to manage the transportation of materials, business stock, food and other essential consumables to our island in a cost-effective, timely and efficient manner.
Although the Norfolk Island People have endeavoured to find a better way forward for both Australia and Norfolk Island by directly approaching the long succession of Australian Ministers who have had responsibility for Norfolk Island - seven in six years - we have received little, if any, regard for our concerns.
We respectfully request that your Office, as the highest authority representing Australia, whose care and protection Norfolk Island was placed under in 1914, intervene to ensure the immediate and full restoration of good governance and representative democracy to Norfolk Island.
David E. Buffett
Norfolk Island Council of Elders
Norfolk Island People for Democracy Inc.
Norfolk Island Chamber of Commerce Inc.