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Monday, 13 February 2017
Page: 662


Mr VASTA (Bonner) (10:04): The act of citizens petitioning parliament about their grievances is centuries old. The practice came to Australia as part of our Westminster inheritance and remains as an important democratic function connecting people to the parliament. While modern petitioning might look very different to its early ancestors it remains relevant to citizens, the parliament and its members.

In many modern parliaments the right to petition is much more than a historical remanent and many parliaments have introduced systems that facilitate and improve citizens abilities to exercise this right, such as electronic petitioning.

For citizens, petitioning the House of Representatives remains relevant as it can provide an opportunity for community engagement on important issues when gathering signatures, an avenue for the public to raise their grievances directly with the House, a mechanism for having the petitions terms considered by referral to a relevant minister and, in many cases, a response from a minister addressing the matters raised in the petition.

Other citizens not involved as a principal petitioner or signatory can also become better informed about matters of significance to them by accessing petition terms, any hearings on the topic and ministers' responses on the parliament's website.

Members have an important role to play in assisting prospective petitioners to access the petitions system and through this engagement are informed about the issues that are important to their constituents or to Australians more broadly. For ministers who receive petition terms for consideration this can be a useful mechanism for getting an appreciation of certain issues that are of significance to Australians and clarifying government policy and action on these matters for the information of petitioner and the wider community.

As always, I encourage Australians to learn about the petitions process and to engage with the parliament in this way when there is a significant issue that they feel needs to be brought to the attention of this House. Similarly, I encourage members and ministers to continue to support the petitions process and help ensure that the Australian community receives the full benefits of petitioning their parliament.