Self government

Self government

Are the English ready for autonomy?

“The alleged aptitude of the English for self-government,” writes Bernard Shaw in his preface to Androcles and the Lion, “is contradicted by every chapter of their history. Shaw was, of course, parodying British imperialist rhetoric and his insistence that lesser peoples – including his own nation, the Irish – were not ready to rule themselves. He was villainously provocative, which only the most irresponsible commentators would dare to be in these dire times.

But there is still an element of truth in his words. The ability to be self-governing is not what comes to mind when you look from the outside at what was going on in Westminster last week, when, as Tom Peck so brilliantly put it in London Independent, “the House of Commons was a Benny Acid Hill Race, traversing a Salvador Dali painting in a spaceship en route to infinity.”

Let’s just say that if Theresa May was the head of a newly liberated African colony in the 1950s, Britain’s Tories would have pointed, half sadly, half happily, in her direction and say ‘You see? I told you – they just weren’t ready to rule themselves. At least another generation of guardianship by the mother country was needed.

There is a kind of surreal logic to this. If, as the Brexiteers do, you imagine yourself to be an oppressed colony separating from the German Reich aka the European Union, you may find yourself with a pantomime version of the struggles of the newly independent colonies, including the civil wars that s ‘often follow. national liberation.

And without wanting to touch it, Shaw’s quip highlights two of the deep issues that underlie and undermine the entire Brexit project. First of all, the problem with this imaginary self-government effort is the “self” part. What is the ego of British politics? As in all nationalist revolts, the easy part of “Them versus Us” is Them: in this case the EU. The hardest part is us. Brexit calls for a collective British ego, but it is in itself the most dramatic symptom of the crumbling of this very thing.

Fabulous trip

Westminster Anarchy is the political expression of anarchy in the United Kingdom, the breakdown of a common sense of belonging. Brexit is a fabulous form of displacement – it recognizes a deep and genuine dissatisfaction with the way the British are governed, but sends it back to Europe.

Brexit acknowledges deep dissatisfaction with the way the British are governed, but sends it back to Europe

He simply marked in bright red ink the fault lines that had long been less vivid – the drift of England and Scotland; the economic and cultural divide between what Anthony Barnett calls “England without London” and the rest of the UK (Wales being the obvious anomaly); the social and geographic cleavages between the winners and losers of the long Thatcher revolution. Brexit, in the worst possible time in the world, clears up all of these divisions while doing absolutely nothing to address them. It reveals a regime that cannot create consensus because it lacks a basis in social consent.

Nationalism is a great beast to bring you to the point of independence – and then it becomes a dead horse

The other, closely related issue is English nationalism which is both such a powerful force in Brexit and so poorly articulated. As every former colony knows, nationalism is a great beast in bringing you to the point of independence – and then it becomes a dead horse. Shaw wrote to his friend Mabel FitzGerald (mother of the future taoiseach Garret) in December 1914: sudden and horrible decomposition, that he has been dead for years.

Whipping a dead horse

Brexit is a dead horse, a form of nationalist energy that began to break down rapidly on June 24, 2016, as soon as it entered the realm of political reality. He can’t go anywhere. He cannot transport the British state to a promised land. He can only leave him where he arrived, in a no man’s land between vague patriotic fantasies and persistent irritating facts. But also, due to the result of the referendum, the British state cannot dismount from the dead horse and must continue to whip it.

To fly over this whole idea of ​​English self-government is the myth of loneliness. All independence movements have at their heart the meaning of Sinn Féin – “Ourselves alone”. Being alone is also one of the great motifs of the English self-image, brilliantly visualized in the famous David Low cartoon of June 1940, after the fall of France, showing a Tommy standing on the cliffs of Dover hugging the fist towards the Luftwaffe bombers above their heads. with the caption “Very good, alone”. But Britain was not alone back then (it had a vast empire) and it was never alone. Throughout its history since 1707, it has always been part of a larger multinational entity: empire first, then Europe.

Yet a fantasy of glorious and provocative loneliness is at the heart of making Brexit wishes come true. It’s a great warning to be careful what you want. What we are seeing right now is a taste of England alone. It’s no surprise that this is a preview of a horror show. Cause when you’re really alone, what are you alone with? You are alone with your demons.


A special survey on Brexit and the border
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Self government

The Indigenous Autonomy Perspective

November 14, 2018

Kanaky youth vote for independence in New Caledonia (Nic Maclellan)

On November 4, the French Pacific territory of New Caledonia held a self-determination referendum, the culmination of a twenty-year transition period introduced by the Noumea OK.

After a peaceful polling day, 56.4% of registered voters decided to stay in the French Republic, while 43.6% voted yes for independence.

These raw figures suggest a setback for the independence coalition of New Caledonia, the Before Release national Kanak and socialist (FLNKS), who has been campaigning for independence and sovereignty since 1980s.

In reality, the size of the yes gives the independence movement enough mandate to continue towards a new referendum in 2020. The FLNKS is encouraged by their increased support in working-class suburbs, rural areas and an unprecedented youth vote.

Opinion polls had predicted a massive defeat for the independence movement. However, as the votes were counted, viewers could see the worry on the faces of overconfident anti-independence politicians.

Early in the night, with the independence vote hovering between 25 and 30 percent, there was an air of triumphalism. As the night wore on and the vote for self-government increased to 30%, then 40% and beyond, the faces of anti-independence leaders deteriorated further.

Prime Minister of France Edward Philippe made a lightning visit to New Caledonia the next day. While welcoming the decision of the islanders to stay within the French Republic, he also recognized massive support for independence among the natives Kanak people.

20 years in the making

New Caledonia is one of the three French dependencies of the Pacific, alongside French Polynesia and Wallis and Futuna. The indigenous Melanesian population, known as the Kanak, are a minority of 39 percent in their own country, after generations of colonization and continuous migration.

Annexed by France in 1853, the islands – located off the east coast of Australia – served first as a prison, then as a land of free colonization. The main island’s central mountain range is rich in minerals, and the country holds 25 percent of the world’s nickel reserves. The nickel boom of late 1960s, driven by the Vietnam War and the space race, saw new waves of migration from France and Wallis and Futuna.

There were historical Kanak revolts against French colonialism, led by the chief Atai in 1878 and Chef Noël in 1917. But the modern independence movement was born from the 1970s, based on radicalized students returning from France, one Kanak cultural renaissance and the Union Caledonian change of course of the party from the demand for autonomy to independence, under the leadership of Jean-Marie Tjibaou (a charismatic leader assassinated by a comrade Kanak in 1989).

The establishment of the FLNKS in 1984, armed clashes between separatists, the French state and Right wing settlers. This period of conflict ended with the signing of the 1988 Accord. Matignon agreements and a subsequent agreement in May 1998, known as the Noumea OK.

The 20-year transition under the agreement saw the transfer of many powers from Paris to Noumea and the creation of new political institutions, including a multi-party government, Kanak customary senate and three provincial administrations.

There has also been a significant economic “rebalancing” between the wealthy southern province and the rural north and outlying Loyalty Islands, where the population is predominantly. Kanak. However, New Caledonia is still sharply divided between poor and rich, with poverty marked by ethnicity and geography – rural and indigenous communities lose out on all development indicators.

This chasm is most obvious in the capital Noumea, a city of yachts and squats. The anti-independence vote was strongest in Noumeathe southern suburbs of, where the rich own luxury apartments, boats and 4x4s, drawing massive wages subsidized by French taxpayers. On the outskirts of the capital, more than 8,000 people live in slums.

Two worlds apart

The independence vote of November 4 was drawn mainly from the Kanak the electorate, with a majority of non-Kanaks – European, wallisian, Tahitian or Asian heritage – vote to stay with France.

The more populous south and the capital remain strongholds of anti-independence sentiment, while the regions where the majority of the population is Kanak showed massive support for autonomy: the North Province (75.8% Yes) and the Loyalty Islands Province (82.1%).

On the other hand, the Southern Province, mainly no kanak the electorate, voted strongly 73.71 percent to stay with France, with just 26.29 percent of voters in the south opting for independence.

For many months, a slow wave of popular campaigning led by the FLNKS and other separatist groups led to a mobilization on ‘D-Day’. With non-compulsory voting, thousands of Kanaks turned out, many of whom had never voted before.

The final victory is not very comforting for the anti-independence right. Successive opinion polls had suggested that the yes would be between 27 and 35 percent. Conservative politicians had publicly threatened that a massive yes vote would pave the way for a rollback of many of the achievements made by the Kanak people since Noumea Agreement, including restrictions on the voters list for local political institutions, funding of rural provinces and land reform. The right-wing hoped that the victory would allow Paris to push for the removal of New Caledonia from the United Nations list of non-self-governing territories.

But the result of the referendum is only one step in a longer process. The Noumea Accord provides for a second referendum in 2020 in the event of a non-vote, which can be called by a third of the members of Congress. The separatist parties currently holding 25 seats out of the 54 members of Congress, they have the figures to proceed to another referendum after the provincial elections next May.

The day after the vote, most realized that the Kanak independence movement has a new wind in its sails. The quest for independence lives in the hearts of a new generation.

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Self government

The End of Self-Government on Norfolk Island – Rear Vision

For several decades, the small population of Norfolk Island was self-sufficient and self-sufficient. But the final steps in making them ordinary Australian citizens will take place on July 1 and, as Keri phillips reports, not everyone is happy.

Since the descendants of the Bounty mutineers took up residence on Norfolk Island, there has been a debate over the independence of the island.

While the people there have long viewed their home as an independent nation, the story of whether they were granted full ownership is murky.

I thought it was direct democracy that worked the best I have ever seen.

Captain Cook was the first European to visit Norfolk Island in 1774, and when Governor Phillip arrived in Sydney with the First Fleet in 1788 he almost immediately sent Lieutenant Philip Gidley King to establish a penal colony there.

At the start of the 19th century, the penal colony was closed, but there were problems on another small island, Pitcairn, where the descendants of the Bounty mutineers were struggling.

They petitioned Queen Victoria, who agreed to move them to Norfolk.

Peter Maywald, who was the Norfolk Island government secretary from 2003 to 2010, said the Pitcairners all moved by 1856.

“This is where the story gets murky, as Norfolk Islanders or Pitcairn descendants claim that Queen Victoria gave them the island in perpetuity on the condition that there are no punitive taxes.” , he said.

“The Australian government is disputing this, and the paperwork is ambiguous, I would say.

“But they still believe they were given Norfolk Island, it’s theirs, it’s not part of Australia, and Australia claims it’s outside territory.”

A successful democracy

Over the years, Norfolk’s administration fell to New South Wales and the federal government, until in the 1970s a royal commission recommended it be completely absorbed into Australia.

But, says Maywald, the locals weren’t happy with this. They communicated their feelings in no uncertain terms to then Home Secretary Bob Ellicott, who surprisingly enough agreed to empower them.

The Norfolk Island Act was passed in 1979, granting the island limited autonomy.

After the passage of the Norfolk Island Act, a legislative assembly, similar to that which governs the ACT, was established. As an advisor to this government, Maywald said he was surprised to see how well the system worked.

“I thought it was direct democracy that worked the best I have ever seen,” he says.

“They had citizen-initiated referendums, they didn’t have political parties, so all members were elected on their own political platform and expected them to deliver when they arrived. Cabinet ministers became the four or five who got the most votes, so the public really elected ministers.

“And parliamentarians were totally accessible to the people. It’s inevitable in a small community … If they were at the Foodland supermarket on a Saturday morning, people would come and ask about roads, retreats or whatever. And the other thing was that all of their parliamentary decisions were totally public and they were all broadcast live.

“It was a functioning parliament on the model on which I thought democratic parliaments should function.”

How the GST and GFC broke Norfolk

Norfolk Island was largely self-financing – it funded the hospital, school, infrastructure and power plant, says Jon Stanhope, who was Norfolk Island’s deputy administrator in the 1990s.

“The Norfolk Island Legislature has developed its own pension scheme, its own social safety net and its own medical benefit scheme, but of course nowhere near as generous as the schemes on the mainland.” , did he declare.

“But unlike that, of course, they don’t pay income tax and contribute to the continent’s tax base.

“I lived there for two years in the early 90s and it was a very, very happy, vibrant and proud community that, if asked, would almost unanimously respond that they had the best lifestyle. in the world.”

But Norfolk Island’s revenues were hit hard by two events in the early 2000s, first the introduction of the GST and then in 2008 the global financial crisis.

Maywald says Norfolk effectively lost its duty-free status when the GST went into effect.

“The things that were taxed at a very high rate on the mainland, the so-called luxury sales taxes on things like perfumes and alcohol and some household appliances and jewelry, they were extremely cheap on the island. from Norfolk because they didn’t have that sales tax, ”he says.

“Tourists would come there for a week and pay for their tickets with all the savings they made on their purchases.

Norfolk Islanders have not been compensated and tax changes have hurt their tourism.

“From that point on, most tourists were retirees or people on fixed incomes,” says Maywald.

Then in 2008, tourism plunged again as GFC made it difficult for the elderly to travel, while the high Australian dollar made vacationing abroad more attractive.

The roadmap to be part of Australia

These increasingly difficult economic circumstances ultimately ended self-government on Norfolk Island.

In 2010, in a decision that apparently surprised many Norfolk Islanders, Chief Minister David Buffett told the Legislature that the island would relinquish its autonomy in exchange for a Commonwealth bailout.

That year, Neil Pope, a former Victorian Labor MP and conflict resolution expert, went there as an administrator to negotiate what was known as the Norfolk Island Roadmap, in order that the island can be part of both the Australian tax system and the social safety net.

“We would back up their budget, but only on the basis that they were able to respond to various aspects included in the roadmap,” Pope said.

“They needed to increase their income, so it was things like trying to introduce property tax, which they never had. They might be props, but basically their only real source of income was a 12 percent GST that applied to everything.

He says the vast majority of the islanders were in favor of joining Australia’s tax system, but the loss of self-government was a sticking point.

“The way it’s portrayed is as if self-government has always existed on Norfolk Island. Well, self-government has only existed on Norfolk Island for 36 years, ”he says.

In 2014, the Standing Joint Committee on the National Capital and Outside Territories conducted a survey of the economic development of Norfolk Island, with particular emphasis on tourism. Jon Stanhope says their mandate was to inquire about the economic future and capacity of Norfolk Island and the main recommendation was to end self-government.

“They didn’t invite submissions on governance. They did not collect evidence on governance. Basically, they deceived the whole community, ”he says.

Integrating Norfolk into our democracy

One of the members of the Joint Standing Committee who recommended getting rid of self-government is Gai Brodtmann, the Labor MP for the Canberra seat, the ACT electorate where the people of Norfolk Island will now be registered to vote.

She says the current governance arrangements are holding back the island’s economic growth.

“Every time I have been up there I have seen a further deterioration in the economic situation: more shops closed, more industries failing and more people leaving the island, and that is very concerning.” , she says.

“All of these reviews highlighted the fact that the existing governance arrangements were not serving the island to the best of their ability. The current arrangements were simply not viable.

From July 1, what is called a regional council will take charge of what is traditionally the competences of local councils: roads, taxes and garbage. At the federal level, it will become compulsory to vote in the Canberra electorate in the ACT.

Where state laws would apply, it will be the laws of New South Wales, although residents of Norfolk Island cannot vote in New South Wales state elections. South.

“Just imagine any other community in Australia on the continent where you’re going to be holus-bolus in an electorate and you aren’t even asked for your opinion on this proposal,” Stanhope says.

“Especially when you live a few thousand miles in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and they’ve decided to tie you into a landlocked electorate that is part of the nation’s capital.

“There is no responsibility, there is no political responsibility for the day to day decisions that affect your life.”

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