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Thursday, 16 September 1971
Page: 1515

Dr Everingham asked the Minister for External Territories, upon notice:

(1)   Has the Companies Ordinance of Norfolk Island been amended to curb tax avoidance by companies based on the island.

(2)   If so, could the remedy have been achieved by a change in Commonwealth law.

(3)   Can he say whether a majority of residents of the Island signed a petition, supported unani mously at a large public meeting, opposing the " Ordinance.

(4)   Have a majority of elected councillors on the island resigned in protest over the Ordinance.

(5)   Will he extend domestic principles to Norfolk Island at least tothe extent of including the island in a Commonwealth electorate.

Mr Barnes - The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1)   No. The Companies Ordinance has 2 objectives. It seeks to secure a proper regulation of companies on the island for the protection of shareholders, creditors and the general public. The legislation previously applicable was for the most part the Companies Act of New South Wales of 1899 and its provisions were out of date. The second objective of the Ordinance was to secure additional revenue for Norfolk Island by imposing increased fees on the filing by companies of their Annual Returns. In this respect a distinction is drawn between local companies actively carrying on business on the island and other companies.

(2)   Not applicable.

(3)   A petition has been signed by some 454 persons on Norfolk Island. The total permanent population is about 1,400 persons so that the petition was signed by less than one third of the inhabitants. Not all of the signatories were permanent residents or were entitled to be enrolled as Council electors. My understanding is that the public meeting referred to in the question was called to consider a future form of government for Norfolk Island and that the petition was a separate issue. The meeting did not express an opinion, so far as I am aware, on the question of a petition to the Governor-General.

(4)   Five of the eight elected members of the Norfolk Island Committee resigned recently. With the exception of 2 Councillors, the reason offered by the resigning Councillors' was that they objected to the making of the Companies Ordinance 1971 without adequate consultation with the Council. One Councillor who resigned was about to leave the Island permanently. None of the Councillors who resigned, however, gave as a reason for resigning, his objection to any of the provisions of the Companies Ordinance 1971.

(5)   It is not the Government's present intention to include Norfolk Island in any Commonwealth electorate.

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