Delivering a stronger and more prosperous Norfolk Island
19 March 2015
The Australian Government is delivering on its election commitment to introduce taxation, social security and healthcare arrangements on Norfolk Island effective from 1 July 2016.
These significant reforms will help deliver equity and economic stability to Norfolk Island and ensure residents have access to essential services that all Australians deserve.
Unlike any other community of its size, Norfolk Island has been required to deliver local, state and federal services since 1979. Asking a community of around 1800 people to deliver federal functions such as immigration, quarantine and customs, social services and taxation; and state and local government services, is neither appropriate nor sustainable.
The reality is, infrastructure on Norfolk Island is run down, the health system not up to standard and many laws are out of date with all other Australian jurisdictions.
For decades governments have failed to address these issues with numerous investigations including a Royal Commission, twelve Parliamentary enquiries and twenty commissioned expert reports all calling for significant change and reform to Norfolk Island's governance.
This is why we are putting in place the necessary structural reforms to improve service delivery and boost economic growth, whilst preserving the island's culture and local representation.
The island's economic sustainability is dependent on reforms which provide a modern legal framework, remove impediments to investment and provide certainty to local business.
Our first priority is to assist the most vulnerable members of the Norfolk Island community who have been struggling for years.
As Australian citizens, residents on Norfolk Island deserve equal access to government services and entitlements as those residing on the mainland and other external territories.
They will be required to pay taxes, including all personal and business taxes, but not the GST at this time. However, they will also be entitled to access social security payments, Medicare and the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme which they are currently denied.
Norfolk Island Reform will require the Norfolk Island Act 1979 (Cth) to be amended to transition the Norfolk Island Legislative Assembly to a Norfolk Island Regional Council, with elections to be held in the first half of 2016.
In the interim, a five member community Advisory Council will be established to represent the local community. I have invited the Chief Minister, the Hon Lisle Snell MLA, and the Speaker, the Hon David Buffett AM, MLA, to be members of this new Council, and we will be seeking nominations from the community for Council membership.
Extensive consultations with Norfolk Island residents revealed overwhelming support for reform.
Bringing Norfolk Island in line with mainland Australia was an election commitment to improve the quality of life and social equity for all local residents. I look forward to working with the Norfolk Island community to progress these important reforms.
I have written to all Norfolk Island residents encouraging their continued participation in this process as the success of these reforms will rely on their valuable input.
Further information is available at - www.regional.gov.au/territories/norfolk_island/