When Canberra goes to the polls on May 21, the first booth of the ACT to open will be 2000 kilometres away in a remote corner of the South Pacific.
Many of the 1800 residents of Norfolk Island have never set foot in the national capital, but the thousand or so who are registered to vote will do so as de facto residents of the electorate of Bean for the House of Representatives and Senate polls.
Not surprisingly, many Norfolk Islanders see this bizarre piece of electoral geography as further evidence that they are regarded as second class Australian citizens - out of sight and out of mind to most of their fellow Australians and not a priority for the Federal and State bureaucracies responsible for their welfare.
Long ago stripped of effective political self-determination, they see their lack of direct national representation as further evidence that they are treated as little more than an inconvenient outpost of the nation. Their international phone code shows as Antarctica. Their postcode is NSW. Health services and education are currently part of the Queensland system. A breakdown in shipping services has brought shortages of essential supplies and inflated prices. And confusion reigns about which laws apply on the island and which don't.
During extensive conversations with community leaders on Norfolk Island this week, it was evident that at the same time the Morrison Government is losing the trust and partnership of our Pacific Islands neighbours - with potentially grave implications for our national security - it is also losing the goodwill of Pacific island citizens governed by Australia.
Norfolk Island was a self-governing territory for 36 years until May 2015, when the Federal Government abolished its nine-member Legislative Assembly - largely because it was deemed to be too costly. The decision was condemned as "bloodless genocide" by best-selling author Colleen McCullough, who lived on the island from the late 1970s until her death in 2015.
The Assembly was replaced with a local government council. That council was placed under a three-year administration last December after a public inquiry found it had not managed its finances "in accordance with the principles of effective financial and asset management".
The islanders argue that all important decisions affecting their lives, their community and their future are now made by officials with little consultation. They bridle that implementation of those decisions is overseen by the island's administrator - a former one-term Liberal MP from Tasmania - who lives in the grand, World Heritage-listed colonial Government House. At a community meeting this week attended by more than 100 islanders, one woman told me: "We have no representation, no democracy and no rights."
Many islanders believe their population, including descendants of the Bounty mutineers who migrated from Pitcairn Island, was granted independence by Queen Victoria when she decreed in 1856 that Norfolk should be a distinct and separate settlement within the Colony of New South Wales. That case was fought all the way to the High Court and lost. As another woman said at the community meeting: "We were never asked to be part of Australia, we weren't asked if wanted to be part of the Federation."
A referendum conducted by the former Legislative Assembly shortly before it was abolished found that 68 per cent of the islanders wanted the right to determine freely their political and cultural development. While that sentiment might not translate into widespread hostility towards mainland Australia, if not addressed it might well become so.
David Buffett is a former chief minister of Norfolk Island and president of the island's Council of Elders. He is a descendant of John Buffett, an English sailor who was not part of the Bounty mutiny but volunteered to stay with the mutineers on Pitcairn Island, became a teacher and married one of Fletcher Christian's daughters.
Buffett argues that Norfolk Islanders need to be allowed to make and implement key decision affecting their lives not only because it's a right of citizenship enjoyed by every other Australian, but also because it will help end neglect in the delivery of essential services.
"We need our democracy," he says.
If elected on May 21, I will seek to advance the interests, aspirations and rights of all Canberra voters - including the voters on Norfolk Island. Just as we need to give urgent priority to repairing our fractured relationships with Pacific island nations, we also need to deliver much better outcomes for our own citizens in the region.
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