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Norfolk Island Amendment Bill 2003 [2004]

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2002-2003

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE PARLIAMENT OF THE COMMONWEALTH OF AUSTRALIA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE SENATE

 

 

 

 

 

NORFOLK ISLAND AMENDMENT BILL 2003

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

EXPLANATORY MEMORANDUM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Circulated by the authority of the Minister for Local Government,

 

Territories and Roads, Senator the Hon Ian Campbell)



NORFOLK ISLAND AMENDMENT BILL 2003

 

 

OUTLINE

 

The Norfolk Island Act 1979 provides the broad framework for the governance of Norfolk Island, which has been an integral part of Australia since 1914 when the Norfolk Island Act 1913 effected the acceptance of the Territory under section 122 of the Constitution.

 

The Norfolk Island Amendment Bill 2003 will amend the Norfolk Island Act 1979 to align electoral arrangements in Norfolk Island more closely with other Australian Parliaments (including those of the other self-governing Territories).  In summary, it will:

·                 extend the right to vote in Legislative Assembly elections to all Australian citizens ‘ordinarily resident’ on Norfolk Island;

·                 introduce an ‘ordinarily resident’ qualifying period of 6 months for enrolment on the electoral roll;

·                 establish Australian citizenship as a qualification for enrolment and for election to the Legislative Assembly;

·                 ensure consistency in the calculation of the ‘residency period’ and, in particular, preserve the existing enrolment rights of persons under the age of 25 who are absent from the Island for education-related purposes; and

·                 preserve the existing enrolment rights of those non-Australian citizens on the electoral roll.

 

Norfolk Island’s current self government arrangements are the result of a decision by the Federal Parliament and given effect by the Norfolk Island Act 1979 .  The Act established and defined the responsibilities and powers of the Legislative Assembly, the Executive Council of Norfolk Island and the Administrator of Norfolk Island.  The Act also defined the Australian Government Minister’s responsibilities in relation to the governance of the Territory.  Those responsibilities reflect the Australian Government’s overarching ‘national interest’ in the Territory’s good governance and representative democracy, and its proper financial management.  The Australian Government also remains responsible for ensuring that Norfolk Island laws comply with national obligations under international law.

 

The Australian Government has a strong and legitimate interest and role in Norfolk Island electoral matters.  Parliament retains ultimate responsibility for Territory electoral systems and parliamentary democracy consistent with the Constitution, Australian Government electoral law and policy, Australia’s international obligations (which include good governance and representative democracy), and the obligation to protect the basic individual rights of Australian citizens.

 

Electoral provisions for the Norfolk Island Legislative Assembly are contained in the Norfolk Island Act 1979 and the Legislative Assembly Act 1979 (Norfolk Island).



·                 The Norfolk Island Act 1979 prescribes qualifications for election to the Legislative Assembly.  Under existing provisions a person can stand for election to the Assembly if aged 18 or over and entitled to vote at elections, and if that person has been ordinarily resident for 5 years immediately preceding the date of nomination.  The Legislative Assembly is the only Australian State or Territory legislative body where non-Australian citizens are entitled to vote and stand for election.

·                 The Legislative Assembly Act 1979 (Norfolk Island) provides that a person is qualified to enrol where that person has attained the age of 18 and has been present on Norfolk Island for 900 days during the period of 4 years immediately preceding the application for enrolment.  This two and a half year qualifying period for enrolment on Norfolk Island far exceeds the one month applying to all mainland States and Territories and the 6 month period in Tasmania.

 

The current electoral arrangements are contrary to the fundamental tenet of representational government that the voters and elected representatives in a nation are citizens of the nation and have the right to vote in the electoral jurisdiction of their usual place of residence.  The previous Attorney-General confirmed that the Island’s electoral arrangements are inconsistent with Australia’s obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

 

Measures almost identical to those now being proposed were introduced into Parliament in 1999 but rejected by the Senate in March 2000.  There was a perception that there had been insufficient consultation.  During debate in the Senate, and in an earlier dissenting Legislation Committee report, the non-government parties suggested that the electoral proposals should be referred to the Joint Standing Committee on the National Capital and External Territories for inquiry and further consultation (particularly with the Norfolk Island community).  This suggestion was acted upon in November 2000.

 

After a due process of inquiry and consultation, including public hearings both on Norfolk Island and in Canberra, the proposals were recommended by the Joint Standing Committee’s June 2002 report “ Norfolk Island Electoral Matters ” which was tabled in Parliament in August 2002.  The Committee included a further recommendation - Australian Electoral Commission supervision of Territory elections and referenda.  This had not previously been considered by the Government and is still being assessed.

 

 

Financial impact statement

 

The Bill will have no substantial or direct effect on expenditure or revenue.



Norfolk Island Amendment Bill 2003

 

 

Notes on Clauses

 

Clause 1:        Short title

 

Clause 1 provides that the Bill may be cited as the Norfolk Island Amendment Act 2003.

 

Clause 2:        Commencement

 

Clause 2 provides for the Act to commence on the day after it receives the Royal Assent.

 

Clause 3:        Schedule(s)

 

Clause 3 provides for amendment of the Norfolk Island Act 1979 as set out in Schedule 1 of the Bill.

 

 

Schedule 1 - Amendment of the Norfolk Island Act 1979

 

Part 1 - Electoral amendments

 

Item 1 - After paragraph 38(b)

 

Item 1 makes Australian citizenship a qualification to stand for election to the Legislative Assembly.

 

Item 2 - At the end of paragraphs 39(2)(a) and (c)

 

Item 2 is consequential on the amendment to be made by Item 3.

 

Item 3 - After paragraph 39(2)(d)

 

Item 3 provides that a member of the Legislative Assembly vacates office if he or she ceases to be an Australian citizen. 

 

Item 4 - Application of Item 3

 

Item 4 ensures that loss of Australian citizenship causes a member of the Legislative Assembly to vacate office only if elected on or after commencement of this Act.

 

Item 5 - After Division 1 of Part V

 

Division 1A - Qualifications of Electors

 

Item 5 prescribes Norfolk Island enrolment provisions and complements sections 6, 7 and 7A of the Legislative Assembly Act 1979 (Norfolk Island).

 



Section 39A , entitlement to enrolment on the electoral roll , incorporates the provisions of section 6 of the Legislative Assembly Act 1979 (Norfolk Island) with the addition of Australian citizenship as a qualification for entitlement to enrol, and reduces the ordinarily resident qualifying period to 6 months.  The provision also maintains the re-enrolment qualifying period prescribed under subsection 6(1) of the Legislative Assembly Act 1979, but qualifies that the person re-enrolling must be an Australian citizen.  The qualifying period for re-enrolment is 150 days present on Norfolk Island during the 240 days immediately preceding the person’s application for enrolment. 

 

The provision specifically applies section 7A of the Legislative Assembly Act 1979 to ensure consistency in the calculation of the residency period for electoral purposes.  It preserves the existing enrolment rights of persons under the age of 25 who are absent from the Island for full time education or vocational training, and provides that part days shall not count towards the calculation of the residency period.

 

Section 39B, entitlement to vote , confirms the right of those on the electoral roll to vote at Legislative Assembly elections.

 

Section 39C, alteration of electoral roll , provides that persons who cease to be Australian citizens are removed from the electoral roll, an additional removal qualification to those prescribed at section 7 of the Legislative Assembly Act 1979 (Norfolk Island).

 

Section 39D, interpretation , provides that “electoral roll” and “Returning Officer” have the same meaning as in the Legislative Assembly Act 1979 (Norfolk Island) and that “enrolment” means enrolment on the electoral roll.

 

Item 6 - Application of Item 5

 

Item 6 preserves the entitlement of those on the Norfolk Island roll at the date of commencement of this Act to remain on the roll.

 

Part 2 - Statute law revision amendments

 

Item 7 - Gender-neutral language: his or her

 

Item 7 ensures that “his” is followed by “or her” wherever occurring in the Act.

 

Item 8 - Gender-neutral language: he or she

 

Item 8 ensures that “he” is followed by “or she” wherever occurring in the Act.

 

Item 9 - Gender-neutral language: him or her

 

Item 9 ensures that “him” is followed by “or her” wherever occurring in the Act.

 

Item 10 - Conjunctions - Paragraphs 19(2)(a) and (c)

 

Item 10 is to meet current drafting practices within the Office of Parliamentary Counsel.