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Norfolk Island Parliament says government bill ignores democratic rights -

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MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: The Federal Government says it's pressing ahead with plans to dismantle the parliament of Norfolk Island, despite a plea from residents.

The speaker of the Norfolk Island Legislative Assembly says the move will deprive residents of their democratic rights.

Thomas Oriti reports.

THOMAS ORITI: If the Federal Government gets its way, by the first half of next year Norfolk Island's Legislative Assembly will have been replaced by a regional council.

It argues the island's administration needs modernising - infrastructure is run down, the health system can't cope and many laws are out of date.

But the assembly's current Speaker, David Buffett, says the plan ignores the will of the people.

DAVID BUFFET: This is about a democratic process and democratic processes are important for one million people, 10,000 people, or 1800 people that live in Norfolk Island. It's the same principle.

THOMAS ORITI: Since 1979 the Norfolk Island Government has been responsible for delivering services, including immigration functions, social services and taxation.

But residents will now be required to pay taxes to the Commonwealth. They'll also be able to access services like Medicare and the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.

The changes place the administration of the territory into the hands of New South Wales and it's that move that David Buffett particularly dislikes.

DAVID BUFFET: There's great respect for New South Wales, but Norfolk Island is not represented in the New South Wales Parliament and therefore the delivery of those services in Norfolk Island will not have a direct accountability.

THOMAS ORITI: The Parliament of Norfolk Island yesterday called on the Government to re-examine the bill passed earlier this month, saying there's nothing wrong with the current structure.

But the Assistant Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development, Jamie Briggs, says the changes have broad support.

JAMIE BRIGGS: Some of the hyperbole in this debate has been really quite beyond the realm. But that's what happens in these situations. We've got on and we're moving past that, and we'll move past that in the coming weeks as we seek to implement what are really important reforms.

THOMAS ORITI: Regional council elections for Norfolk Island are expected to be held in the first half of 2016.

Until then, Jamie Briggs says an advisory council will represent the community, which includes the Speaker, David Buffett.

JAMIE BRIGGS: People have strong views that the current system isn't broken. I do note though that Mr Buffett isn't one of them. In fact he's agreed to be part of the advisory group on the way forward. So it does seem a bit strange that this latest stunt he's decided to take a part of.

THOMAS ORITI: The Government says the majority of Norfolk Island residents have shown overwhelming support for the reforms.