Royal commission into matters relating to norfolk island


Attitudes to the above, both Island and mainland



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1.Attitudes to the above, both Island and mainland

  1. The Norfolk Island Council view

This broadly was that social security, education, health compensation and other benefits (to be determined by Council) should be provided for by Island public funds at levels adequate to meet the assessed Norfolk Island requirements, The Council felt that, whilst it would wish to provide for the Island local levels of these services similar to those provided for Australia] citizens within Australia it considered that the local benefits should be related to local requirements which in some cases the Council felt, may even need to be higher than those enjoyed by mainland Australians

In so far as the capacity of the Island to pay for these benefits is concerned, the Council thought this would be governed by the economic viability of the Island, In this connection, Council would require authority to raise finance to pay for the benefits its. Council believed that there were resources in the Island, as yet untapped, capable of yielding sufficient revenue to finance the benefits envisaged.


  1. Individual views of Island residents


These showed wide variation ranging from complete willingness to pay Australian levels of taxation in return for Australian levels of benefits to deep distaste toward paying any taxation whatever to finance any change in the present arrangements. Somewhere in the middle of this wide spectrum a not inconsiderable body of opinion seemed willing to suffer self—imposed taxation (i.e. imposed by the Island) in order to lift benefits to higher levels than obtain at present. Education is an area which quite clearly the Island wishes to control in the same manner as at present, regardless of the nature of the originating finance.
  1. Department of social security

The Department considered that on grounds of equity entitlement to Australian benefits should carry with it an obligation to contribute to the cost of those benefits, on the same basis and at the same rates as mainland beneficiaries contribute.

  1. Department of health


This Department considered that residents of the Island who enjoy full Australian citizenship should carry all rights, privileges and obligations of such citizenship.

If the Island were to assume independence and become self-governing then the Department envisaged all Australian financial support being terminated In this event a heavy burden would immediately fall upon residents

Prior to the Berwick decision the Department felt that in the event of a degree of independence being granted an investi­gation should be made of a scheme which involved an enrolled population contracting on a pre—payment basis for a specified range of services with a managing organisation (preferably elected by the community) which accepted responsibility for a financial plan for providing a reasonably comprehensive range of health services Such a scheme would be in the pattern of the Health Maintenance Organisations as established in North America

The Department recognised, however, that such a scheme would require almost universal participation as well as substantial reserve financial support and managerial expertise from an appropriate source.


  1. Department of education


This Department declined to concern itself with the question whether or not Norfolk Islanders should pay taxes at mainland rates in order to participate in benefits at Australian levels. It hoped that whatever financial arrangements are made for the Island funds would be available to ensure that the standard of education services in the Island would match those in the mainland It believed that it would be unfortunate if the children and their prospects for the future were adversely affected by prolonged discussions between their parents and the Commonwealth Government in relation to taxation and other financial matters

  1. The Department of the Capital Territory

(Which was administering the Island at the time of taking evidence)

This Department took the view that Australian funding should not be the only source of financing Island benefits but that much more could be done by increasing local revenues and by judicious borrowing - envisaging a community which had responsibility for decisions and with authority to act It felt that the residents themselves should determine the level of benefits they wished to have and the manner in which they should meet the costs involved The Department stated that because the Census and Statistics Act 1905-­1973 does not extend to Norfolk Island, it was difficult to assess the revenue production potential of the Island in the absence of basic relevant data, On the question of whether the Island should finance Australian levels of benefits by paying Australian rates of taxation, the Department preferred not to commit itself and felt that the options should be tested in the Island.


  1. The Australian Treasury


The Treasury took the view that while Norfolk Island people are not subjected to Australian taxation, it could be regarded as anomalous and inequitable to pay welfare benefits to them out of Australian taxation revenue Without any contribution to that revenue coming from the Norfolk Island community, That would, in the view of the Treasury, put the Island community in a privileged position vis-à-vis the people of mainland Australia in this regard. The Treasury considered that until Norfolk Islanders are liable to Australian tax on their Island source income, they should remain ineligible for welfare benefits,
  1. The Department of Employment and Industrial Relations

This Department considered that adequate workers compensation protection should be available to all employees in Norfolk Island and that any scheme introduced to the Island should be consistent with the requirements of the relevant I.L.O. Conventions, which have been ratified by Australia, in so far as local conditions allow.

It further considered that, should the need for an employment service and unemployment benefits arise in the Island, they be introduced, and that any measures adopted by Australia with respect to an employment policy be consistent with the declaration by Australia in respect of Convention No. 122. The Department also felt that Convention No. 111 (relating to Discrimination) should be formally declared ‘applicable without modification’ to the Island.

In so far as wages and wage-fixing machinery is concerned, the Department considered that, if a need for this can be seen in the Island, then the requirements of Conventions Nos 26, 99 and 131 should be observed and be consistent with any recommend­ations by this Commission in this area. Further, the principle of equal remuneration for males and females for the same work should be implemented as part of any wage fixing policy.

Regarding freedom of association, the Department felt that no recommendation by this Commission in this area should conflict with the provisions of the three Conventions already declared applicable, without modification, to the Island.

The Department considered that should any moves be made to establish labour inspections in the Island, or to set labour standards, these should conform as far as possible to Conventions Nos 81, 83 and 85, bearing in mind the local conditions obtaining.

  1. The Department of Administrative Services


(Before responsibility for Norfolk Island was transferred to this Departments it expressed a view independently of the Department of the Capital Territory,)

The Department of Administrative Services, which is also charged with the administration of Christmas Island and Cocos (Keeling) Islands, favoured a consistent approach being taken for all Island territories In general the Department aims to secure the provision of social security, health, education, wag( rates, working conditions, compensation and other benefits at levels which are related to and consistent with those enjoyed by Australian citizens in the mainland, These policies embrace, in the Department’s view, the probable consequential need to introduce taxation provisions which are also consistent with mainland levels, The Department, however, realises that local conditions frequently differ from those generally applying in the mainland and that it would not always be appropriate to apply mainland provisions directly. The Department’s overall philosophy is that mainland provisions and standards should apply, subject to adjustment in the light of local circumstances.


  1. The aspect of hardship

Naturally enough, the aspect of hardship in the Island in relation to existing health, social services, education and labour conditions was explored. Hardship, of course, is a relative term and in the eyes of most Island residents there is little or no hardship in respect of these matters, The strongly developed family ties amongst Pitcairn descendants have fostered an attitude of mutual help and this characteristic is the source of a deal of pride, However, while this is a feature of the Island, it is still true to say that there is scope for the standards of care and maintenance of the retired and aged in Norfolk Island to be improved, It was the Commission’s impression that, if these standards were lifted to those obtaining in Australia, then the people affected would undoubtedly be less dependent on charity (however well intentioned) and be happier in consequence.

With respect to health and education, again, while the existing circumstances cannot be said to result in hardship or need nonetheless if the measures recommended in this Report are adopted it is believed that services will improve and standards will be raised When one turns to a matter such as workers compensation the question is more easily answered for the risks involved in working without proper workers compensation cover are very real Although no serious industrial accidents were referred to in evidence no one can deny that there is always the possibility that they will occur and lead to grave physical and economic disabilities With regard to matters such as need for labour inspectorates freedom of association and discrimination in employment, there appears to be no real urgency for measures to be introduced to secure these. To do so would merely place the stamp of formality upon what has obtained for many years.

The question, therefore, in the absence of widespread and serious hardship, comes back t~ the issue of paying for the admittedly significant improvements which could be effected in these areas, and the Commission’s views on this aspect are set out hereunder.



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