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Monday, 26 November 2012
Page: 13078


Mr MURPHY (Reid) (10:03): As this is the last Petitions Committee statement I will make in 2012, today I will discuss the petitioning statistics of this calendar year. The statistics tell a story of consolidation of the House's petitioning processes. They reflect the effective dissemination of information to the public about the petitioning requirements and of the ease of presentation of compliant petitions. Importantly, these statistics tell a story of ongoing success in the way the House facilitates responses to petitions.

 

In 2012 there has been a slight increase in the percentage of petitions received that met the requirements of the House's standing orders; 69 per cent of petitions received in the calendar year were tabled, compared with 66 per cent in 2011. This appears to reflect the greater propensity of the public to seek out information about the petitioning process and thus prepare petitions that meet the House's requirements. This accords with the increasing number of prospective petitioners who are contacting the committee's secretariat to gather information about the process before they start signature collection.

The volume of petitions received and consequently tabled in the 2012 calendar year fell from 195 petitions in 2011 to 116 in 2012. Aligned with this drop in the number of petitions tabled was a decrease in the average signature count per petition. If we take out the one extremely large petition tabled in the 2011 calendar year—of over a quarter of a million signatures—the average signature count per petition still fell by around 39 per cent. This drop in signature count appears to reflect two main drivers. Firstly, fewer petitions were received in 2012 that were distributed through large organised groups that have the capacity to circulate petitions widely and gather a great number of signatures. Instead, the committee received more petitions exclusively organised and distributed by individuals, who generally have a reduced capacity to physically gather a large volume of signatures. Also, because the matter is personally important to these individual petitioners, they balance the desire for a large show of support against the need to prepare a petition in a timely fashion. Secondly, there was a reduction in petitions being tabled that had the same terms as previously tabled petitions. In contrast, multiple petitioning was a feature of the 2011 year, often generated by issues that received considerable media attention. As such, the committee received more petitions in 2012 that were unique and varied in subject matter.

The highlight of these statistics, however, is the high ministerial response rate to petitions tabled. This is indeed a success story that has been raised on previous occasions since the inception of the committee in 2008, but this year's results were exceptional. Ninety-two per cent of petitions tabled this year received a ministerial response. This contrasts with the 2011 rate of 70 per cent, which was already a very good result considering that many petitions tabled in the spring sittings receive tabled responses in the following year, as would be expected for quite practical reasons.

Members continue to be directly engaged in the House's petitioning process. In addition to the petitions I have tabled in my capacity as chair of the committee, 22 per cent of the compliant petitions received in 2012 were presented by members. I also note that this sitting week has just started and that members may also present compliant petitions during opportunities for short speeches in the remainder of this final sitting week.

I conclude today by reinforcing the neutrality of the committee in terms of petitions' subject matter. The committee's role is to assess petitions against standing order requirements, in conjunction with the established practices of the House, and to provide a conduit for the tabling of compliant petitions. Committee members must leave behind their personal views and allegiances regarding the subject matter and requests of petitions. The committee determines whether a petition is compliant based only on the House's petitioning requirements. Naturally, this also extends to my role as the chair of the committee in tabling petitions in this time slot. In presenting these compliant petitions I am not endorsing their content or requests. I may personally agree with some of the petitions and vehemently disagree with others, but my personal views and those of the committee do not inform the outcome of a petition's status. Similarly, a member's involvement in presenting a petition need not be one of sponsorship but may merely be a facilitation role to enable a constituent's concerns to be put before the House.

Finally, I take this opportunity to extend to you, Madam Speaker, a very happy Christmas and a peaceful New Year. And to the Clerk and all the hardworking staff of the House of Representatives, the secretariat of my committee and indeed all members in this House: I wish you a happy and holy Christmas. Thank you.