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Tuesday, 8 November 2016
Page: 2220


Senator HANSON (Queensland) (19:32): Last month, at the request of the local community, I travelled to Norfolk Island at my own expense. Over a busy four days I met with business groups including the Chamber of Commerce and the Accommodation and Tourism Association. I sat down with the council of elders and I was joined by dozens of primary producers and fishermen. I heard from pensioners, schoolchildren and the non-Australian citizens who have called the island home for decades. I attended community gatherings and addressed a public meeting of more than 300 people. I also heard from the Norfolk Island People for Democracy, who, with the assistance of leading human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson QC, have taken the community's fight to the United Nations.

What I heard was alarming. The Norfolk Island people are overwhelmingly opposed to the Australian government's decision to abolish their parliament, overturn local laws and forcibly take over—without compensation—public assets such as their school, hospital and radio station. I was shown letters, petitions and requests sent to successive ministers, prime ministers and even the Governor-General, all of which have been ignored and disregarded. Business groups spoke of being prevented from meeting with the Minister for Local Government and Territories, Fiona Nash, during her only visit to the island since taking on the portfolio. I was told how the island had lost revenue sources, such as by the abolition of the GST, the closure of the postal service and a ban on the issuing of Norfolk Island stamps. I heard how the Australian government had collected millions in royalties from the island's exclusive economic zone while prohibiting Norfolk Island from having its own commercial fishing industry.

Perhaps most shocking were the reports regarding the Australian government's appointed administrator, Gary Hardgrave. Despite having no experience in administration or governance, Mr Hardgrave took control of the island's management following the parliament's axing. Since then he has shown contempt for the local population, making arbitrary decisions without consultation. I was provided with documents outlining serious allegations against him. These include that contracts have been awarded without tenders, that he intervened to have less qualified people awarded jobs and that he has been responsible for the waste of millions of dollars of taxpayers' money.

Also clear was that Mr Hardgrave has misled the Australian parliament. His false statements were used to justify government changes against the will of the Norfolk Island people. His claims that a substantial majority of Norfolk Islanders support the changes and that the community overwhelmingly wanted the island's legislative assembly abolished are clearly untrue. A referendum on the island last year showed that two-thirds of voters were opposed to the loss of self-governance. My own experience suggests that that number has only grown.

Mr Hardgrave also used the Commonwealth takeover of the island's radio station to impose a ban on political free speech, including any criticism of his actions. As a reward, Mr Hardgrave received an $83,000 pay rise this year. His total remuneration package is now almost $300,000. He also gets to live rent-free in a Georgian mansion overlooking pristine Emily Bay, with a staff of taxpayer-funded cooks, cleaners and groundskeepers.

Considering the current issues facing One Nation at the moment, people may be wondering why Pauline Hanson, a senator from Queensland, is concerning herself with these issues facing Norfolk Island. I have always stood up for people and their right to protect their homes, their country, their heritage and their integrity. For 160 years, the people of Norfolk Island have shown a toughness, determination, work ethic and passion that the Australian government should be looking at for inspiration, not trying to wipe out. For three decades, until the global financial crisis struck, their legislative assembly was well able to fund local, state and federal services without budget deficits. Watching schoolchildren speak the native Norfolk tongue and perform traditional Tahitian dances, and hearing the passion as they sing their national anthem and raise the Norfolk Island flag, it is impossible not to be inspired by their plight. Their unique history, traditions, language and culture should be celebrated, not trampled by our bureaucrats and politicians 2,000 miles away in Canberra.

That is why— (Time expired)