Tasmanian Times

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. No price is too high for the privilege of owning yourself. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. No price is too high for the privilege of owning yourself. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

Economy

The recolonisation of Norfolk Island is a heavy-handed act of regression

Where in the world is “God Save the Queen” a revolutionary call to arms? In Norfolk Island, whose 2,200 citizens – half of them descended from Fletcher Christian’s HMS Bounty mutineers and their Tahitian partners – are resisting the forcible recolonisation of their homeland by Australia.

Their self-governance has been abolished, their parliament locked up, their freedom of speech curtailed and their membership of international sporting and political bodies cancelled. Their autonomy and their identity are being destroyed – they have even been told to stop singing God Save the Queen and learn the words of Australia’s doggerel national anthem.

Norfolk deserves several footnotes in British history. Discovered by Captain Cook, in 1788 it became the place for convicts from Sydney to receive especially harsh punishment. Norfolk became the most brutal of HMG’s prisons, and the convict buildings and graves still stand, as part of a world heritage site.

After the convicts left, the empty island was deployed in 1856 by Queen Victoria’s government to settle the Bounty mutineer progeny – part British tar, part Tahitian – whose existence on Pitcairn has become precarious. All of them (194 men, women and children) were shipped to Norfolk, given land and allowed to settle down with their own laws and customs. Their descendants now comprise 47% of the island’s population. Over the years a few families returned to Pitcairn, and it was their descendants who were involved in the sexual assault scandal of 2004. This did not touch the Norfolk Islanders, who are so law-abiding they do not have, or need, a prison.

The 1856 imperial order declared that Norfolk should be kept “separate and distinct” from mainland Australian states, which federated in 1901 without including Norfolk. In 1913 the UK handed Norfolk over to Australia to administer as an external territory, and in 1979 it was granted a large measure of self-government, with an elected parliament responsible for health, education, customs, immigration, tourism, culture and most matters of democratic concern, excluding defence, aviation and other international matters of which Australia takes care.

It is a tourist idyll, with its trademark Norfolk pine trees framing two of the Pacific’s most beautiful beaches. It has a local language, unique flora and fauna, an indigenous culture, and is pleasantly free of Australia’s person-eating crocodiles, lethal spiders, snakes and jellyfish. It has, for the past 36 years, been effectively an autonomous territory, receiving some (not much) help from Australia but otherwise governing itself.

Such idiosyncratic arrangements, however much they satisfy local aspirations, were not welcomed by a committee of backbench Australian MPs, who decided that the island should be assimilated to free-market Australia, and its ethos of self-help and community service should be ended by direct rule from Canberra, 1,800km away. They issued a 120-page report recommending the recolonisation of Norfolk, making no mention of the advantages of democracy or the principles of self-determination. The government acted quickly to abolish the parliament and the elected executive, and to replace it with administrators from Canberra. The law that will end Norfolk Island as an autonomous territory takes full effect on 1 July 2016.

Read the full article, with full hyperlinks, The Guardian HERE

*Geoffrey Robertson QC is founder and head of Doughty Street Chambers and has argued many landmark human rights cases in British and Commonwealth Courts and the European Court of Human Rights. He has served as first President of the UN’s Special Court for Sierra Leone and is one of the three “distinguished jurists” on the United Nations internal justice council. He has argued hundreds of death sentence appeals, prosecuted Hastings Banda, defended Salman Rushdie, Mike Tyson and Julian Assange and acted for Human Rights Watch in the proceedings against General Pinochet. He is a Master of the Middle Temple and author of Crimes Against Humanity: The Struggle for Global Justice; The Case of the Pope; Mullahs without Mercy: Human Rights and Nuclear Weapons; and The Tyrannicide Brief. In 2011 he was awarded the New York Bar Association prize for achievement in international law and affairs.

SBS on Demand: A Modern Mutiny

Norfolk Island finds ally in fight for democracy

Norfolk Island petition to UN by Geoffrey Robertson

• Mike Bolan in Comments: Local peoples have no right to self-determination in Australia’s ‘democracy’, nor do they have the right to live in a manner which they prefer. Only the government has rights and they have the right to decide for everyone else. That’s not a right earned as a result of successful decisions, policies or practices. No, it’s a right that they have declared for themselves, like the declaration of terra nullius for Australia. Australian government copies the British Imperial overlords – they deem, they rule and they decide. Democracy and the idea of each determining their own destiny is nowhere in it. Only power and privilege to governments and responsibilities and compliance for the people. A horrible shock for Norfolk Island to have their rights of self determination taken away in the 21st century.

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Luigi

    April 26, 2016 at 12:43 pm

    I think we need to re-invade Norfolk Island. You know: spread a bit of terra nullius love around the place. Even the Navy’s old subs should be up to that task.

    It would be over by Christmas.

  2. Mike Bolan

    April 26, 2016 at 12:00 am

    Local peoples have no right to self-determination in Australia’s ‘democracy’, nor do they have the right to live in a manner which they prefer. Only the government has rights and they have the right to decide for everyone else.

    That’s not a right earned as a result of successful decisions, policies or practices. No, it’s a right that they have declared for themselves, like the declaration of terra nullius for Australia.

    Australian government copies the British Imperial overlords – they deem, they rule and they decide. Democracy and the idea of each determining their own destiny is nowhere in it. Only power and privilege to governments and responsibilities and compliance for the people.

    A horrible shock for Norfolk Island to have their rights of self determination taken away in the 21st century.

  3. Bazzabee

    April 24, 2016 at 5:55 pm

    I had the pleasure of visiting Norfolk Island last year and while there I met the leader of the Islands assembly, several of the Island’s Legislative Council members and descedents of the Bounty mutineers. I also had the pleasure of being invited to sit in the visitors’ seats and watch the Island democratically elected representatives at question time.

    Yes, it is true the island may seem quaint to the eyes of some worldly-wise-tired outsiders. And yes, it seemed odd to this outsider to be sat in the small legislative council chamber in a building listed by the World Heritage Authority perhaps even more so when I had had to walk past some of the healthiest cows I have ever seen grazing on the roadside outside the islands parliament buildings.

    But I feel certain that question time in question time in Tasmania’s upper house would seem quaint to a member of the British House of Lords or a visiting American Senator. Yet all four houses of parliament represent the people and deserve our respect and recognition. The smaller houses should not be judged on their international power or the size of their budget but on the good they do for the local communities they represent. And nowhere does a parliament represent their local community with more pride and commitment than the one I saw in action on Norfolk Island.

    Norfolk Islanders are truly proud of their history, language and culture and so they should be because they are unique. To outsiders who are unwilling or unable to see beyond the ends of their upturned noses Norfolk Island may very well seem like a South Seas Brigadoon. But to anyone who is willing to take the time to look and listen Norfolk Island is so much more than a out-dated outpost of a decayed and dying empire.

    The arrogance of the Australian Government and the current Administrator is shameful to say the very least at its worst it is deeply unpleasant and it is to our shame if it continues or as I fear worsens from July this year. The imposition of what is in reality a foreign culture, a foreign way of life will change the Island and its people forever. I fear that such change will see all that is best about the island and the people destroyed by an unyielding Canberra. A Canberra that refuses to value what it can’t measure in dollars.

    Tragically both major Australian political parties’ have refused to recognise and understand what a magnificent albeit hidden gem that lies a thousand kilometres off our East Coast. Inexplicably our politicians are incapable of seeing let alone appreciating this enigmatic and entrancing Island community.

    It is true the island needs investment; outside the World Heritage Site the Island looks tried even weary. Norfolk Island needs investment not to mention some sensitively planned infrastructure.

    The cost of living on the Island is high with many everyday essentials costing twice as much as are paid in Hobart or Sydney but not that much more than paid by many in the Northern Territory. Telecommunications are poor and the island is at the mercy of the Pacific Ocean for almost every item it consumes but this doesn’t mean that it has to remain so sensitivity to the Islands uniqueness is surely the key to the future.

    The imposition of Australian government, values, culture is short sighted, it is arrogant it might even be racist. One thing however is clear a blindly unsympathetic administration will lead to the destruction of a rich vibrant life style unique in the modern world. Worse yet it will surely see the end of one of endangered languages, which would be an act of cultural genocide.

    A rich and friendly neighbour such as Australia can well afford the cost of preserving all that is good about Norfolk Island; its people, its history, language, flora and fauna. Australia doesn’t need to break the heart or destroy the soul of this our very own south sea treasure island to help it survive. In fact the very opposite is true.

    I would argue that it is our duty to protect and preserve all that is good about Norfolk Island and its warm, welcoming people because if we fail in our duty we will be lessened as a people and as a caring nation.

    I therefore am pleased to learn that Geoffrey Robinson QC has taken up arms on behalf of Norfolk Island and will present the Island’s case to the UN.

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