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Monday, 29 November 2004
Page: 70

Senator STEPHENS (5:01 PM) —by leave—I table a petition that does not conform with Senate standing orders.

The PRESIDENT —Could I say that steps were taken some time ago to prevent these sorts of things happening, and I just hope this does not become a regular occurrence. There is a proper procedure for presenting petitions and, if we are going to accept petitions on an ad hoc basis, it is going to make the running of the Senate that little bit harder.

Senator Ian Macdonald —Could I just inquire as to what the petition is about. We hesitate to allow petitions without knowing what they are.

The PRESIDENT —I understand, Minister, that this petition had been okayed by government senators.

Senator Brown —Mr President, I rise on a point of order. As you know, a few years ago the government and the opposition changed the rules for petitions so that they are not read out anymore. We do get circulation. This does leave the question of petitions which are not presented in the right manner. If there is some alternative way in which they ought to be presented, I as a senator would like to know about it. The alternative of saying to sometimes a large number of Australians that there is no access to the Senate for their petition because it is not on the right or prescribed form is not acceptable to me. I think it is a matter that the Senate should deliberate upon if there is going to be a change.

The PRESIDENT —Senator, the alternative was incorporated in the standing orders some years ago, and that alternative was that petitions that were not in conformity with standing orders were presented to the President. From time to time I do get petitions that have not been presented in the correct manner. I actually sign them, and they are presented. That is the alternative, and that is in the standing orders. That is why I said today that it is important that those petitions that do not conform with standing orders are presented through the Clerk to me so that they can be presented correctly.