Standing up for Canberra

Norfolk Island

Two weeks ago, I had the great pleasure of spending a week on Norfolk Island, which is in my electorate. I held a day of constituent meetings and got an update from a range of Commonwealth service providers on the progress of the reform program. I had a tour of the Commonwealth-funded Cascade Pier upgrade and also Kingston and Arthurs Vale Historic Area. I met with the Norfolk Island Regional Council; the AFP; childcare providers; the accommodation and tourism association; the chamber of commerce; the council of elders; EcoNorfolk; and the health and aged care service.

I presented the designer of my Norfolk Island Christmas card calendar, young Lani Hooper, with a book voucher for her and her school. I congratulated the Norfolk Island outrigger canoe club on its Stronger Communities Program grant for a tracking system. And I discovered that many of the transition glitches I identified and complained about after my last visit in September: pensions being cut off when people leave the island, websites not recognising Norfolk Island phone numbers and people being told to present for Centrelink assessments in meetings in regional New South Wales still have not been resolved, which made me very cross.

The Norfolk Island reform program enjoys bipartisan support, and I have been an advocate of it for years. While the implementation of the reform program is not without its teething problems, which I am addressing through a mountain of letters to the minister and relevant government agencies, the majority of people I spoke with are grateful for the benefits that the reform is delivering.

They are grateful for a Medicare card. They are grateful for the PBS. They are grateful for family tax benefits. They are grateful for their age pension. They are grateful that fairness and equality of access to opportunity now exists on the island. So we must ensure these teething problems are ironed out and do not stall the program. We must maintain community confidence in this process, and that relies on transparency and openness and seeing this reform program through.

There are a lot of people who have invested a lot of time, energy, emotion and skin in this. We have to keep faith with them, and we have to deliver for them, because this journey has not been without personal challenges for many working and living in a small, remote, island community. The Turnbull government must maintain the momentum and instruct relevant government agencies to maintain the momentum. It must remain committed to the island's economic recovery and to putting in place modern, best practice legislation. The Turnbull government must announce the next steps in the reform process, particularly when it comes to the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development, which is responsible for project delivery. It also has to outline its plans for telecommunications and corporations.

Many are grateful for the benefits, but they are anxious. They are just anxious about New South Wales legislation being applied to them. The Turnbull government must announce what is planned for 2017, 2018 and 2019. The community deserves to know what the timeline is for future legislative reform. It is vitally important for the wellbeing of Norfolk Island.

Download a copy of this speech.