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Monday, 25 May 2009
Page: 4154

Mrs IRWIN (8:33 PM) —This is the first opportunity since 16 March for petitions to be presented in my capacity as Chair of the Standing Committee on Petitions. On that date, I advised the House of a public hearing which was to be held the following week at the Central Coast, at the Entrance Campus of the Tuggerah Lakes Secondary College. I would like to use the time remaining to me this evening to speak about the success of that public hearing and the ongoing work of the committee.

As part of its rolling program of hearings into petitions presented, the committee had planned to speak with principal petitioners from New South Wales. It was the second time that the committee took evidence outside Canberra. The committee decided to hold the meeting on the Central Coast, in the hope that as many petitioners from northern parts of New South Wales would be able to attend.

With some assistance, I should say ‘great assistance’, not only from the office of the member for Dobell—and I am happy to see him in the chamber this evening—but also from him personally—he has a passion for his electorate—arrangements were made with the principal of the Tuggerah Lakes Secondary College, Mr Andrew Newman. The college has three campuses in different locations across the Central Coast, and Mr Newman is responsible for all three. The committee was indeed fortunate for his assistance in providing the venue for a great day of hearings.

Throughout the course of the day, the committee was able to speak not only with principal petitioners but with staff and students of the secondary college and several other schools in the area. These schools were: all three campuses of Tuggerah Lakes Secondary College, Holgate Public School, Berkeley Vale Public School, Jilliby Public School, Killarney Vale Public School, St Cecilia’s Catholic Primary School, Wamberal Public School and Chittaway Bay Public School. The committee learned as much from these wonderful, wonderful students as the students may have learned from the committee members present that day.

I would like to express my thanks to Deputy Speaker Russell Broadbent for his deft microphone work in his ‘Master of Ceremonies’ role as Speaker in the parliamentary question and answer session we held. I would also like to thank my committee colleagues who were present for their good humour and willingness to participate in the light-hearted as well as the serious discussions about our work with petitions and as parliamentarians more generally.

Feedback from the school kids and others present at The Entrance on 23 March was extremely positive. A common reaction, which I am sure most parliamentarians are familiar with because of the work done on committees, was: ‘We can’t believe you all get on so well!’

As I have said on other occasions in this place, the committee takes its role as promoters of the importance of petitions and parliamentary democracy very seriously. We welcome the chance to speak directly with petitioners about their concerns. We also hope to be able to visit more schools in future public hearings, as we listen to petitioners around Australia.

If I could be allowed a little indulgence, Mr Deputy Speaker Thomson: I know that it is not in my line as chair of the petitions committee, but I would like this evening to welcome to the federal parliament of Australia some members of my extended family: two wonderful men, Carl and Kim Irwin; Kim’s partner, Helen; and Carl’s partner, Kate. Many years have gone by since we have spent time together and it is wonderful that our paths have been able to cross again this evening in the people’s parliament. Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker.