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Tuesday, 18 April 1972
Page: 1704

Mr DRURY (Ryan) - Speaking again as a member of the Standing Orders Committee, I had quite a bit to do with the presentation of this submission which relates to petitions. In common, I think, with all honourable members of this chamber, I have felt growing concern over the amount of time in the daily programme taken up in following the existing procedure for the presentation of petitions. The first consideration of the Standing Orders Committee was, quite correctly, the fundamental right of the citizen to petition Parliament. This is clearly set out in May's Parliamentary Practice and, of course, it was the first consideration that Committee members had in their minds at the time. We considered a number of alternative methods and settled upon the proposals that are now before the House. We felt that it was very important not only that the rights of the citizen should be protected but also that the rights of a honourable member to be identified with a petition should be protected. In addition we decided that the subject matter should be indicated and that a record should be made in Hansard as well as in the Votes and Proceedings of the House.

The increasing amount of time that has been taken up by the present procedure is indicated in appendix B of the report. It shows that the total time taken up by petitions in 1970 was 8 hours 31 minutes and that in 1971 it was 8 hours 58 minutes. From the rate of presentation this year I would hazard a guess that the amount of time taken up by petitions will greatly exceed that of previous years, if the rate of presentation continues. Appendix B shows that in 1969 - and I quote this figure to show the extreme growth in the number of petitions presented - 90 petitions were presented. In 1970 494 were presented and in 1971 the number was 723. The number presented in 1972 will undoubtedly outstrip the 1971 record. I cannot go along with the suggestion in the amendment moved by the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes). There may be some occasions when a Minister might not be able to report back within 21 sitting days if the petition raises a very involved matter requiring a good deal of consideration and research. For that reason I find myself not in a position to support the amendment However, I do feel that the Committee has made a valuable step forward by submitting to the House that it should agree that a petition presented in future should be referred to the appropriate Minister for his consideration.

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