Recommended Proposal For Future Governance


THE NON-SELF-GOVERNING EXTERNAL TERRITORY OF NORFOLK ISLAND

CALLS UPON THE COMMONWEALTH OF AUSTRALIA TO:


  • Modernise Norfolk Island’s governance consistent with the needs and aspirations of its people; and

  • Establish a mutually agreed and sustainable funding model for Norfolk Island.

 

BACKGROUND


On July 1 2015, the Australian Parliament abolished Norfolk Island’s Parliament and imposed new governance arrangements on the Island without the consent or support of the Norfolk Island People. The newly imposed governance arrangements are colonial, undemocratic, complex and operationally inefficient.


Today on Norfolk Island:

  • Unelected Commonwealth Departmental officers administer Norfolk Island’s state-type functions and laws in a manner which lacks appropriate parliamentary oversight procedures and disregards the involvement of the Norfolk Island People.


  • The Norfolk Island People are required to vote federally in the Seat of Bean; an electorate 1900km from Norfolk Island, with little, if any, shared community interests.


  • The Queensland Government delivers Health and Education services to Norfolk Island, despite the Norfolk Island People being unable to vote for, or be represented in the Queensland Parliament.


  • A financially unsustainable Local Council, the Norfolk Island Regional Council (NIRC), was imposed on Norfolk Island in 2016. NIRC is administered by the Commonwealth Government under NSW applied law despite the Norfolk Island People being unable to vote for, or be represented in the NSW Parliament. NIRC was placed into financial administration in 2020 and Norfolk Island has not had any locally elected representatives since February 2021.


PROPOSAL


This proposal uses the current governance arrangements as its starting point. It proposes a pathway that includes a funding framework, methodology and a timeline for resolving some of the key shortcomings of the current arrangements. And importantly, it offers a bridge for a new and strengthened intergovernmental relationship and foundation to jointly develop a more appropriately planned and mutually acceptable governance model for Norfolk Island.

The objectives of this proposal:


  1. Address a range of key shortcomings in the current governance arrangements.

  2. Ensure all laws relating to Norfolk Island are subject to appropriate democratic and parliamentary oversight procedures.

  3. Establish a dedicated intergovernmental steering committee to modernise Norfolk Island’s governance and establish a mutually agreed and sustainable funding model for Norfolk Island going forward.


FUNDING FRAMEWORK


Local government functions - NIRC is not able to sustainably fund its basic statutory service obligations. e.g., roads. The current ad hoc financial frameworks which govern the NIRC remain unclear and deficient. For example, unlike Local Councils in Australia, NIRC does not have a state partner or access to state-equivalent grants and programs. It is critical that the Commonwealth Government, as the architects and administrators of the current arrangement, address these deficiencies.


State-type functions - Funding for State-type functions on Norfolk Island is provided through Norfolk Island’s participation in the Australian taxation system. Forced privatisations and outsourcing of Norfolk Island state-type services to Canberra, NSW or Queensland is undemocratic, administratively complex and operationally inefficient. It will lead to an even greater ongoing financial obligation.


Maximising local autonomy and decision-making will better address local circumstances and needs and create significant cost-efficiencies through the use of local service providers, leveraging local knowledge, and by enabling local economic opportunities.


METHODOLOGY AND TIMELINE


A transitional period of two years will be required to address key shortcomings in the current arrangements and allow time for the election of local representatives.


It is proposed that a dedicated Intergovernmental Steering Committee (ISC) that includes appropriate representatives of the Commonwealth Government and elected representatives of the Norfolk Island People be established in year two of this process to identify and implement the actions required to modernise the island’s governance going forward. Those actions must appropriately consider the interests and obligations of both Australia and Norfolk Island, be jointly agreed, and have clearly expressed and achievable outcomes and time frames.


Timeline

Actions

0-12 months

  1. Conduct local elections, providing voter eligibility to those ordinarily resident on Norfolk Island for not less than one year and candidate eligibility of not less than three years, and removing the requirement that local electors be on the Australian Electoral Roll.

  2. Implement a feasible, locally agreed, and locally managed population sustainability policy.

  3. Re-establish Norfolk Island/Commonwealth Government co-management arrangements in the historically and culturally significant Kingston and Arthurs Vale Historic Area.

12-24 months

4. The Commonwealth Government and elected representatives of the Norfolk Island People: a. Establish the inaugural ISC; and b. Develop a schedule of Norfolk Island Continued laws and state-type functions which Norfolk Island will administer going forward (for example: Lighterage, Museums, Planning, etc) and provide the necessary capacity (skills, training, technical support, etc) where required.

5. Amend legislation relating to Norfolk Island to, amongst other things: a. Reflect the relationship the descendants of the settlers from Pitcairn Island have with Norfolk Island and their desire to preserve their language, traditions and culture; b. Enable the extension of legislative powers and responsibilities sufficient for the island to administer its Continued laws and other agreed state-type functions; c. Replace Land Rates with a more culturally appropriate and equitable revenue source; and d. Rename Norfolk Island’s (partially modified) governing body.

24 months and onward

6. The ISC will continue the process of decolonising and modernising Norfolk Island’s governance at its bi-annual meetings. The ISC will also provide oversight of Norfolk Islands ongoing financial sustainability, resolve problems as they arise, and promote good governance and good relations between Australia and the Non-Self-Governing External Territory of Norfolk Island.