Friday, June 16, 2006

Australia has eyes on Norfolk Island

It appears that the Australian government of John Howard, also known as Dubya's boy, has its eyes on taking over Norfolk Island. Maybe they won't go as far as Bush style armed invasion but the Aussies smell riches and want them for themselves. Oil fields around the island have not been tapped and it is thought that the Aussies want to take over the island to get their hands on the oil.

Norfolk was settled by descendents of the Bounty mutiny. Originally on Pitcarin Island these people were offered Norfolk by Queen Victoria in 1856. The small island is home to 1,800 people who rule themselves and don't want Australian intereference. The New Zealand Herald reports: "the locals fear that the introduction of welfare payments and a new immigration regime will trigger an influx of Australian "dole bludgers" seeking an easy life in the sun. At present only people with a job or money to invest are allowed in."

In addition the locals say that becoming part of Australia will destroy their way of life. They don't want to have to wear seat belts if they choose not to do so and said they enjoy not having to lock their doors and being able to leave the keys in their car. As the most recent Chief Minister of the island, Geoff Gardner said: "
This is a place that was given to the people of Pitcairn to inhabit as their own for ever and a day," he said. "They wish to continue to determine their own destiny, and not have it determined by a colonial power wanting to extend its influence."

The island is one of the few places outside the US that celebrates the American holiday of Thanksgiving. This is the result of American whalers who settled on the island in the 19th century. There are more telephones than people on the island though none of them are cullular and their local phone numbers are just five digits long. About 700 locals use the internet. And there is almost one television per person.

One Norfolk website notes that many of the islanders wonder exactly what it is that Australia could offer them since have virtually no crime, no unemployment, almost no taxes and no foreign debt. The island has 77 tax-free shops. There is no income tax, no land tax, no council rates, and no tax on companies. Nor are they any traffic lights or snakes. The government of Norfolk seems to be 11 people. And it has no political parties.

The island does have a health scheme for residents who pay $150 twice a year with a $2,500 annual deductable. There is a local benefit scheme which is paid out to the elderly but there are no unemployment benefits and no sole parenting benefits. I suspect that one excuse for a take over of the island offered by the Australian government will be that they are doing it to "help" the islanders by offering them welfare programs comparable to that offered in Australia itself.