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Public Sector Informant : PSI
38 THE PUBLIC SECTOR INFORMANT [MAY 2010] The colonialist colony: our empire of territories continued from page 33 Christmas Island Christmas Island is another Indian Ocean island, 2650km north-west of Perth. Britain formally annexed it in 1888 and it was administered as part of the colony of Singapore. Commercial interest in phosphate dominates the island's early history. Singapore collected mining royalties. Australia and New Zealand bought the phosphate mining rights in 1948. In 1950, the British government raised use of the island as a detention centre to house 7000 political detainees from Malaysia. The proposal was abandoned in the face of concern that 1700 staff involved in mining operations would leave. Australia first raised the possibility of transferring sovereignty in 1955, but Singapore reacted negatively. After citizenship arrangements along the Cocos model were negotiated, Britain announced that transfer to Australia would take place consequential upon internal self-government in Singapore. An ex-gratia compen- sation payment was made to Singapore. The legal arrangements for the transfer followed the Cocos model, detachment of Christmas Island from Singa- pore, Australian request and consent legislation, British legislation authorising transfer and Australian acceptance and administration legislation and a final British Order in Council. The Australian legislation provided for the continuation of selected Singapore laws and for the Supreme Court of Singapore to continue to exercise jurisdiction. An agreement with New Zealand over the phosphate lease was signed on September 30, 1958, and letters were exchanged between Britain and Australia reflecting understandings on defence, air rights and the status of the residents of Christmas Island. Sovereignty was formally transferred on October 1, 1958. In September 2001, Christmas Island, too, was excised from Australia's migration zone. Coral Sea Islands The Coral Sea Islands Territory is the last territory the Commonwealth acquired. The circumstances and the mode of acquisition differ from the earlier territories. These small islands, reefs and sand cays lie to the north-east of the Great Barrier Reef. Apart from a manned weather station on Willis Island, they are uninhabited. Interest in the islands was raised sporadically both before and after World War II. The status of the islands was uncertain: some were thought to be British and some were initially thought to be part of NSW. Questions of international law were raised, including the legal position of reefs under emerging international law principles on the continen- tal shelf. Ultimately, the Commonwealth proceeded on the basis that it had performed sufficient acts of a sovereign nature to justify legislating directly for them as Commonwealth territory. NSW objected but did not pursue the issue. Britain did not object, recognising that effective control was exercised by the Australian Government. In this case, there was no ''transfer'' of authority. The Coral Sea Islands Act 1969 came into force on September 30, 1969. Australia had acquired its 10th external territory, this time directly in its own right.Alan Kerr's monumental work unearths a fascinating story of little known aspects of Australian history. It is not intended as light bedside reading, though the many snippets of parliamentary debate will amuse many. Rather it is a most valuable reference work, a significant contribution to our constitutional history and an indispensable resource to those researching the constitutional background to the external territories. For those wishing to delve further, the book also reproduces, often in facsimile form, many significant primary sources and primary documents including letters patent, proclamations, orders in council, executive council minutes, extracts from cabinet papers, high level intergovernmental correspondence, maps and legislation together with extensive quota- tions from parliamentary debates. Ernst Willheim is a visiting fellow at the ANU College of Law and a former senior executive in the Attorney- General's Department and the Australian Government Solicitor's office. Alan Kerr's three-volume work, A Federation in These Seas; An account of the acquisition by Australia of its external territories, with selected documents, is published by the Attorney-General's Department. In a Tangle? Call Prail Lawyers We Make Law Simple. Contact us now to arrange a FREE one hour consultation. We can come to you*! phone 6247 2222 or email email@example.com Comcare; ACT Workers Compensations; ACT Personal Injury; ACT Motor Vehicle Accidents; Litigation and Dispute Resolution; Wills, Probate and Estate Planning; ACT criminal matters and ACT Conveyances. 10-05558/2 *conditions apply
PSI - September