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New Governance Arrangements For Norfolk Island

New Governance Arrangements For Norfolk Island

Minister for Local Government, Territories and Roads, the Hon Jim Lloyd MP, today announced far-reaching new policy directions to assist the long term financial sustainability of Norfolk Island.

Since 1979, the Commonwealth Norfolk Island Act 1979 has provided for self-government of the Territory without the application of most Australian law, services and programs.

Mr Lloyd said that a number of recent parliamentary and independent reports have indicated that the current self-government arrangements are simply too complex and costly for a community the size of Norfolk Island to sustain.

"An independent financial assessment by Acumen Alliance concluded that the Norfolk Island Government would probably become insolvent within the space of two years," Mr Lloyd said.

"The Australian Government has now concluded that the current arrangements are unsustainable and that an alternative is needed," he said.

Mr Lloyd said two broad categories of possible future governance arrangements will be considered in consultation with the Norfolk Island Government and community:

· a 'modified self government model' - with greater powers for involvement by the Australian Government than currently exist; and

· a 'local government model' in which the Australian Government might assume responsibility for state-type functions.

The options may include the following key features:

· a Norfolk Island territory government with the ability to legislate on territory and/or local government responsibilities;

· reserve powers for the Australian Government to intervene, in the public interest, to develop and amend Norfolk Island laws to address gaps and deficiencies, and to maintain broadly equivalent rights and protections for Norfolk Island residents compared to those of residents elsewhere in Australia;

· extension of all Commonwealth laws unless there is a specific reason for not doing so;

· extension of Australian Government financial assistance to Norfolk Island to provide an equitable level of service delivery compared with Australian communities of a similar size;

· appropriate funding arrangements to be based on advice from the Commonwealth Grants Commission;

· the Norfolk Island community to make an appropriate contribution to meeting the costs of territory and local government responsibilities;

· introduction of appropriate taxation arrangements, in a way that is sensitive to the fact that Norfolk Island's economy has evolved separately from that of the mainland;

· inclusion of Norfolk Island in an appropriate mainland electorate for federal elections and referenda.

Mr Lloyd indicated that while these elements constitute the Australian Government's preferred model, a final decision will be made following the outcome of a series of consultations and investigations, and it was possible that some aspects could change.

"Consultation with the Norfolk Island community and its elected representatives will be an important part of the entire process," Mr Lloyd said.

"To ensure that the Norfolk community and its elected representatives are involved to the greatest extent possible, I will consult regularly with the Norfolk Island Government and meet with community groups and individuals on the Island so that matters can be addressed as they arise," he said.

The Acumen Alliance Norfolk Island Government Financial Advisory Report 2005 can be found at http://www.dotars.gov.au/

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