Stanhope / The sad, hypocritical tale of two territories

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All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.

WHILE the sacking of Malcolm Turnbull has dominated the news and taken the focus off the debate on the repeal of the Andrews Bill it is worth revisiting the issue.

Jon Stanhope
Jon Stanhope.

The Andrews Bill, which was enacted to deny the territories the capacity to legislate on the issue of euthanasia, is unarguably an affront to the democratic rights of people living in the territories and in a proud democracy such as Australia, should not be tolerated.

However, the debate in the Senate was captured by people both for and against euthanasia, determined to treat it as a debate about euthanasia and not one about democratic rights and equality. A majority of those in the Senate, including Senator Zed Seselja, ignored the democratic issue at the heart of the debate and voted to maintain the status quo.

Since the vote, Senator Seselja has been under sustained attack from the ACT’s other Federal representatives and from Labor and Greens members of the ACT Assembly, as well as many of his constituents. I too believe that his decision to vote against the motion was wrong. And I say that as a constituent who opposes euthanasia.

I am disturbed by the dripping hypocrisy and double standard of those senators and members, particularly from the ACT and the NT, who justified hooking into Senator Seselja and others who voted against repeal of the legislative ban on euthanasia on the grounds of the affront it was to the right of “territorians” to be treated equally and not as second-class citizens.

The Andrews Bill applies, of course, to all of Australia’s territories, not just the ACT and the NT. For example, it also applies to Norfolk Island, Christmas Island and the Cocos (Keeling) Islands, all of which have permanent populations of loyal and proud Australians.

It was only three years ago that both houses of the Federal Parliament voted unanimously to repeal the Norfolk Island Act and to abolish self-government. That decision, which was fiercely opposed by 68 per cent of the residents of Norfolk Island was led by the member for Canberra Gai Brodtmann and Warren Snowdon from the NT, and supported by every ACT and NT member of the Parliament.

All animals are not, of course, equal and karma is certainly non-discriminating.

IF anyone in the ACT or the NT is feeling like they have been treated as a second-class citizen because they have been denied the right to have a say on the question of euthanasia, spare a thought for the residents of Norfolk Island who have been denied a say in anything relating to any state-type function.

I recently read all of the Parliamentary speeches given in the debate, held on May 14, 2015, to abolish self-government on Norfolk Island. There were five speeches in the House of Representatives and three in the Senate.

MP Gai Brodtmann.

The debate leading to the decision to abolish self-government and to deny the people of Norfolk Island, an entire Australian community, the vote, lasted about one hour.

Not a single speaker had the courage or the integrity to address the consequences or implications of removing from an entire community the most fundamental democratic and human right, namely the right to be involved in decisions relevant to the day-to-day services that govern the quality of their lives, such as health and education.

The Greens, who supported the decision to trash the rights of Norfolk Islanders, didn’t even bother to speak to the motion.

It is interesting to compare the Parliamentary debate on the abolition of self-government on Norfolk Island with the recent Senate debate on restoring a single legislative right to the ACT and the NT.

Gai Brodtmann, for example, summarised her support for the decision to abolish self-government on Norfolk Island, which she represents, in the following terms: “There is no point in having self-government for self-government’s sake. It is clear to me that the current governance arrangements have met only the basic social and economic needs of Norfolk Island. For self-government to have my support it needs to be stable, economically responsible, democratic and in the best interests of the people it serves.”

It is interesting, then, to compare her approach to the democratic rights of Norfolk Island territorians with the territorians of the ACT. A few weeks ago, for example, she said: “I do want to remind Zed Seselja that he is a territorian and he represents the people of the ACT. This is a question of territory rights; this is a question of equality and the right of people of the ACT to enjoy the same rights as those in (the States). In 2018, in a democracy that’s only fair.”

At least Seselja has been consistent. He voted against the rights of both the ACT and Norfolk Island. As much as I disagree with him, I find that more honourable and palatable than the appalling hypocrisy of those ACT and NT members and senators who happily and unthinkingly trashed every right that the people of Norfolk Island once enjoyed but are now bleating about the refusal of the Senate to restore to the ACT and the NT a right on a single issue. Hypocrites.


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Jon Stanhope
Jon Stanhope was Chief Minister from 2001 to 2011 and represented Ginninderra for the Labor Party from 1998. He is the only Chief Minister to have governed with a majority in the Assembly.


  1. Jon Stanhope is completely right – the democratic and human rights of Norfolk Islanders were trashed when their self-government was abolished following a campaign led by Gai Brodtmann, who them demonstrated crass hypocrisy by arguing that such rights were the birthright of ACT residents. She clearly believes that some Australians are more equal than others! Gai and the federal parliament ignored a referendum conducted under Commonwealth legislation which resulted in 68% of Norfolk Islanders voting to retain self-government . Speakers in the federal parliament falsely argued – and continue to do so – that a majority of Islanders supported the enforced abolition of their democratic rights. Hypocrisy or just fake news (ie lies)?

  2. The last Australian Administrator of Norfolk Island-and Norfolk’s last vice-regal office holder-mlslead the Minister of the day (Jamie Briggs) when he stated the majority of island residents supported abolishing self-government. Protest letters to the Governor-General were ignored. Now this botched takeover is costing the Australian taxpayer over $200 million p.a, due to its poor design.

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