National

Norfolk Island leaders argue against rule by Canberra bureaucrats

Federal bureaucrats in Canberra should not be left to run Norfolk Island, says the Speaker in Norfolk Island's Legislative Assembly, David Buffett Mr Buffett said the federal government's intention to abolish the island's nine-person assembly was unprecedented in Australian history.

He said the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development had "at this stage not demonstrated the capacity" to run the island.

"The bureaucracy is grabbing the limelight," he said.

Mr Buffett travelled to Parliament House in Canberra on Wednesday with the island's Chief Minister, Lisle Snell to lodge a petition of more than 740 signatures advocating the island's residents have a say in how their 35 square kilometre home is governed.

The petition, signed by the island's residents and descendants of the original settlers, called for a referendum or plebiscite before the island's assembly was abolished.

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Federal Territories Minister Jamie Briggs was coy last week about his plans for Norfolk, simply saying that "a range of options" were on the table.

Repealing the Norfolk Island Act 1979 and with it self-governance has been put on the agenda because of the island's dire financial state, particularly following the global financial crisis.

Since 2010 Norfolk Island has not been raising enough taxes to pay for services for its 1670 residents and the island's finances stay afloat on federal government subsidies of up to $8 million a year.

A quarter of the island's population has left since the economic downturn and proposed changes would replace the existing 12 per cent GST on the island with Australia's tax system.

Mr Buffett noted the Queensland Legislative Council voted itself out of existence 90 years ago to form that state's unicameral Parliament but that it was not forced on the state.

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