Royal commission into matters relating to norfolk island

The main interests highlighted by residents in their evidence


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7.The main interests highlighted by residents in their evidence

In considering these certain caveats should be recorded

First some items in the list of interests which follows possess different priorities for different residents some items are of greater interest to some residents than are other items; second the list has been compiled generally by noting those matters upon which residents appeared to place the greatest emphasis when giving evidence before the Commission; third when one is ascribing interests to different classes of residents, a clear correlation can be seen to exist between the nature of a resident and his type of interest. For example, usually Pitcairn descendants placed greater emphasis upon the quality and way of life, the need for land-holdings, and some certainly not all wanted freedom from Australian taxation; traders stressed their interest in the tourist industry and exemption from company and personal income tax; retired people were concerned with avoiding both income tax and death duties, while those people connected with tax avoidance companies favoured independence for the Island to the end that there would be no taxation of those companies.

One felt it to be helpful when outlining the interests to keep in the forefront of one’s mind the words of Sir Garfield Barwick:

It is to be hoped that the inhabitants of Norfolk Island, especially those who have lived there long enough to have a real stake in its future, will be allowed a say in its shaping. In this connection it is well to remember that Australians and New Zealanders having an interest in Norfolk Island tend to fall into two groups, those who would like to see its 8000 acres preserved as an ideal setting for a restful and interesting holiday, and those who see it primarily as a• place out of which they can make money. The latter are likely to have the more influential voice.16

Those items which were finally isolated as genuine interests (and which are now listed below) stretch across all types of residents but are essentially matters which were expressed by individuals or groups as holding importance in their view. They could, therefore, be described as the Island’s interests looked at from a subjective point of view. They are as follows:

    1. Retention of freedom from both personal income tax and death duty and the restoration of the non—applicability of Australian company tax laws to Norfolk Island.

    2. Preservation of the way of life of the Pitcairners and their remaining ‘historic rights’.

    3. As large a degree of self—government for the Island as is possible.

    4. Continuation of relative freedom from air and noise pollution.

    5. Maintenance of the natural beauty, tranquillity and rustic charms of the Island.

    6. Retention of the present close ties with the Crown.

    7. An improvement in social services and a clarification of entitlement thereto.

    8. Assurance of effective air transport communication with Australia and New Zealand and related facilities (e.g. airport).

    9. Provision by Australia of service in the fields of foreign affairs, the judiciary, the local police force, defence, currency, the airport, mercy flights, educational services and extensions, a higher standard of hospital treatment and restoration of historic buildings and sites.

    10. Opportunity to protect land—holdings against death duties and other imposts.

    11. More employment opportunities in the Island and higher education assistance for the Island.

    12. Continuation of the relative absence of serious crime.

    13. Maintenance and control of the tourist industry as the basis of the Island’s economy.

    14. Retention of the local ‘Norfolkese’ dialect

    15. Conservation of the indigenous flora and fauna and arrest of the present soil erosion.
    16. A controlled immigration program to prevent excessive crowding and over—utilisation of the Island’s natural resources and developed facilities.

    17. Preservation of historic relics, memorials and artefacts in a museum in the Island.

8.The need for an objective approach

While bearing in mind the above interests, it was essential in preparing this Report and weighing its associated recommendations to take an objective stance in assessing the extent to which those interests should influence one’s final thinking. That is to say, in coming to an objective position, not only the expressed interests were borne in mind, but also those factors discussed under this guideline which are related to them.

With this objective approach, it is possible to say that in general the most important overriding interest of Norfolk Island residents is the• preservation and development of the entire Island as a healthy, prosperous and happy home for all its inhabitants and their descendants.

Such an aim, however, cannot be pursued in disregard of the need to consider fairly and responsibly the financial and related interests of others who will be contributing to the costs involved. Thus it must be accepted that two sets of interests are inextricably intertwined in arriving at balanced decisions upon Norfolk Island and its future; the Island’s interests must be viewed in the context of those other interests and responsib­ilities of the larger entity Australia of which, it is now clear, Norfolk Island is a part.

To adopt any other than this totally objective approach would be an injustice to either Australia or Norfolk Island and could only lead to inequitable treatment being accorded parties within the one nation this is something which, of course should not be tolerated

As an illustration of the partisan thinking which has failed to recognise the fairness of this approach several witnesses revealed a base ingratitude to Australia for help given by making the nonsensical statement that Australia had never done anything for Norfolk Island

Emphasising the need for objectivity is not to deny the desirability of what may appear to residents of the Island to be ideal solutions to some of the Island’s problems It merely assists to explain why at times some of those ideal solutions cannot be achieved in full or as soon as some would prefer

It is hoped that the need for this objective approach — developed as it has been in some detail in this Chapter –is understood and will be kept in mind as the reader progresses through this Report

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