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Ashmore and Cartier Islands

Last modified: 2015-06-22 by ian macdonald
Keywords: ashmore and cartier islands | australia: external territory |
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[flag of Australia] image by António Martins, 28 Nov 2005

See also

The Ashmore and Cartier Islands

Status: Commonwealth Territory
Size: 0.8 square miles
Population: Uninhabited. The CIA factbook (1999) indicates that the only population are seaonal caretakers.
Became an Australian territory in 1934, these islands were a part of the Northern Territory from 1937-1978, when they became a Commonwealth territory upon the self-government of the Northern Territory

Ashmore and Cartier Islands came under British control during the 19th century. Under the Ashmore and Cartier Islands Acceptance Act (1933), they became a territory of The Commonwealth of Australia. This act was amended in 1938 to place them under the Northern Territory.

In 1978, when the Northern Territory was granted self-government, the act was again amended to exclude their jurisdiction from the Northern Territory, except that the courts of the Northern Territory would exercise jurisdiction. In 1985, the act was again amended to delegate certain administrative powers and functions to the Northern Territory, for which it appears to receive compensation from Canberra. However, Ashmore and Cartier Islands remain a separate entity from the Northern Territory.

In 1983, the Ashmore Reef National Nature Reserve was created under the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act (1975). The Austalian Nature Conservation Agency manages the nature reserve, with a presence between March and November. Cartier may be soon included as a nature preserve under this act.

The official designation from the Australian government is "Territory of Ashmore and Cartier Islands Adjacent Area" in the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act (1967). While petroleum activities are under the control of the Commonwealth of Australia, they are managed under agreement by the Nothern Territory.

This type of bartered arrangmeent is not necessarily unique. According to information from the Northern Territory on the potential ramifications of statehood, Western Australia law is applicable to other territories not a part of that state (Cocos (Keeling Islands) Act (1955); Christmas Island Act (1959)). (The NT's working paper on statehood notes "The Government has persued a policy of extending Commonwealth and applied WA law to the IOT's (Indian Ocean Territories) [...] the Islands have significant legal connections with Western Australia whilst retaining the status of Commonwealth territories.")

In fact, in its working papers on the statehood proposal, the Northern Territory specifically notes that it has, in the past, disagreed with the de-annexation of the Ashmore and Cartier Islands from the Northern Territory in 1978 and has proposed re-annexation, even though there may be more administrative costs from the local government.

Final Report of the Northern Territory Statehood Working Group, Northern Territory Statehood Working Group, January 20, 2000
The World Factbook, 1999, Central Intelligence Agency.
Phil Nelson, 24 January 2000