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Monday, 13 February 2012
Page: 785

Mr MURPHY (Reid) (10:06): Mr Speaker, I have just tabled, on behalf of the Petitions Committee, a large number of petitions and ministerial responses in the first chair’s announcement of 2012. Therefore, my comments will be brief. As a refresher for the start of the year, I will make some important points about petitioning and the opportunities for the public to learn about the process.

The House Petitions Committee holds a procedural role in ensuring that petitions which meet standing orders requirements are received, can be presented to the House and receive a ministerial response. Petitions are assessed for compliance with the rules of the House only—the personal views of committee members one way or another about the subject matter are not a factor in the assessment. Petitions which do not meet House standing orders cannot be tabled as petitions. So the committee encourages petitioners to ensure they understand the House’s requirements before they go to the effort of gathering signatures. This way they can have the full benefit of the petitions process of the House.

As well as the procedural role, the committee plays a role in educating the Australian public about the petitioning process—providing online and printed resources, and telephone, mail and email support through the committee’s secretariat, who do such a good job. So, on behalf of the committee, I encourage prospective petitioners to contact the secretariat about the formal aspects of petitioning before they begin work on what might be a non-compliant petition.

I should point out the Petitions Committee’s role is limited. This was highlighted for the committee at its roundtable hearings in Victoria last December. I will talk more about these hearings in the coming tabling statements, but at this stage I will thank those petitioners who came to meet us in a very constructive couple of meetings. In coming weeks I will expand on what the committee gleaned about the value of the petitioning process and what petitioners expect from it.

The Petitions Committee does not investigate details of petitions or make recommendations to the government about petition requests—nor does it advocate for petition outcomes. Rather, its role is to facilitate and communicate, acting as a bridge between the House and the government and petitioners, and educating Australians about this aspect of the House of Representatives.