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STANDING COMMITTEE ON PETITIONS - 01/09/2008 - Electronic petitioning
House of Representatives committee
Monday, 1 September 2008
Electronic petitioning

CHAIR (Mrs Irwin) —I declare open the inaugural public hearing of the new House of Representatives Standing Committee on Petitions and welcome everyone in attendance. As you will all no doubt be aware, at the beginning of this parliament significant changes were made to the way in which petitions are dealt with by the House of Representatives following on from the recommendations made by the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Procedure in the previous parliament. This new committee has been established to ensure that all petitions presented to the House are responded to. Positive feedback received by the committee to date suggests that these changes have been welcomed by all Australians. There are now greater involvement and linkages between the people and the House of Representatives. All petitions which comply with the rules of the House are being referred to ministers, and the rate of responses under the new system has far outweighed the record of the past 10 years. As can be seen from the program, the rate of ministerial responses received to date suggests that many ministers have been very diligent in meeting the 90-day framework time for responses as laid out in the standing orders, and I commend the way in which ministers have engaged in this new process. The responses have been informative and have provided valuable feedback to petitioners, even if the response may not always be what the petitioner might want.

Under the standing orders, the committee is able to examine matters relating to petitions as a way of complementing the ministerial response process. The committee has decided to conduct public hearings on issues raised in petitions. We intend to invite relevant departments to provide advice on issues raised by the petitioners so that petitioners of most, if not all, petitions are able to have the benefit of expert advice from the relevant department or departments. The committee also intends to conduct similar meetings in states and territories with principal petitioners as a way of ensuring that petitioners can truly make their voice heard. This morning we welcome representatives of the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government; the Department of Health and Ageing, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, as well as Mr Chris Inglis, the first principal petitioner to speak with the committee since the new petitioning arrangements were introduced. The transcript of what is said today will be posted on the committee’s website. If you would like further details about the meeting or the transcript, please ask any of the committee staff here at the hearing. The hearing is open to the public. Before I invite our first witnesses, are there any other members who would like to make a comment? No? That is fine.

[10.05 am]