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Monday, 30 November 2015
Page: 13992

Dr JENSEN (Tangney) (10:03): Today's chair's presentation of petitions and responses is the last to occur in 2015. The next chair's presentation is scheduled for the first sitting Monday next year, on 8 February 2016.

I will be brief as I reflect on the past year's committee activities.

In last week's statement I provided the House with a statistical overview of petitions and ministerial responses presented during the 2015 calendar year. This week's single petition presentation and the additional member presentations since the committee's meeting last week have remarkably resulted in identical absolute numbers of petitions presented in 2014 and 2015. The ratio of chair to member presentations is also very close to that of last year. The near ideal ministerial response rate has also been reinforced today with a further eight responses presented.

During 2015, the committee received, the secretariat processed and the committee considered 135 petitions. A small percentage of initial petitions received (this year, 22 per cent) are unable to be presented as a petition because they do not meet one or more standing order requirements. In cases where non-complying petitioners have supplied contact details, their out-of-order petition is returned, along with advice on the petitioning process. Interestingly, this regularly results in the petitioner contacting the secretariat and the submission of a new and in-order version of their original petition.

The committee referred the majority of petitions presented in 2015 to the executive for a ministerial response. It received and noted 79 ministerial responses, which were presented by the chair and published to the committee's website.

Community engagement on petitions and the petitions process was conducted interstate and in Canberra through public hearings. The committee conducts hearings to enable further discussion with petitioners on petition matters. These hearings provide an opportunity to further—and publicly—examine the matter raised in a petition; but they are not avenues for recommendation or resolution by the committee.

In April, the committee travelled to Sydney, conducting a hearing on a petition and educational discussions at Hornsby Girls' High School; followed by hearings with petitioners on seven different petitions. In September, the committee met with petitioners in Melbourne on six different petitions from that region.

Other notable petitions-related matters included the presentation of a number of petitions exceeding 20,000 signatures, and a presentation—in August—of a petition attached to a bark panel decorated with Indigenous artwork. The 'bark' petition was actually on paper and met all the House's petitioning requirements—but it was notable for its unique artistic framing, similar in style to the Yirrkala bark petitions of 1963. The Yirrkala bark petitions, even though they are now over 50 years old, still attract a lot of interest from the public. For example, the 'thumbprints' of support for the petitions (which were not presented with the petitions in 1963) have been exhibited at the Istanbul Biennial this September.

I will finish up on an administrative note—any petitions received from now on will be considered by the committee in February next year.

Overall it has been a productive year which shows that the House's framework for petitioning, and its support functions, are robust and effective.

On a final, personal, note, I would just like to express my thanks to the secretariat for the absolutely sterling work they do in examining the petitions and doing all the background work that, quite frankly, goes without thanks for too long.