Norfolk Island, pop. 2,000, is 1600 kms east of Sydney and closer to NZ – a Commonwealth territory controlling its affairs with minimal interference from Canberra. However that does not include conducting its own foreign policy.
Reports that NI officials approached the US Consulate in Sydney in May with an offer to take Chinese Uighurs due for release from Guantanamo Bay, raise interesting possibilities for this former penal colony. The prison once housed recalcitrant convicts under brutal conditions and closed in 1855.
Seventeen Uighurs were eventually accepted by the Pacific island of Palau in exchange for a reported US government payment of US$200 million. On a per capita basis that would be about A$124,000 per Norfolk Islander, or enough to re-build the prison and re-introduce the cat-of-nine-tails. By the way, Palau income for re-settlement is around A$15.3m per Uighur.
At that price Australia could take detainees at the Christmas Island facility and it would start to break even. However, as these Chinese muslims were finally designated ‘enemy combatants’ by the US government, meaning ‘not terrorists’, presumably they would not be detained again.
The Uighurs could’ve taken up new lives on NI as free citizens, maybe establishing its first mosque and working in tourism, its only industry. Tourists are mainly senior Aussies & NZers – Uighur guides and BBQ hosts would’ve been a real USP – unique selling proposition – for the destination.
Mixed in with NI residents, half of whom are English-Tahitian descendants of Pitcairn Island mutineers from the Bounty, this could’ve been an interesting variation on multi-culturalism in this Aussie outpost. All 35 sq kms of it!