The House of Representatives Standing Committee on Petitions (the Committee) has been in operation since the 42nd Parliament.
The Committee’s primary role is to receive and process paper and electronic petitions (e‑petitions). Further, the Committee can inquire into and report to the House of Representatives (the House) on any matter relating to petitions and the petitions system.
Background to the inquiry
In May 2018, the Committee completed its Inquiry into the e‑petitioning system. The inquiry considered the extent to which the e‑petitions system had met the expectations of Parliamentarians and members of the public and what future enhancements might be made to the system going forward.
As part of the e-petitions inquiry, the Committee heard evidence from other parliaments that use e-petitioning systems. In addition to sharing their experiences of e-petitioning, some of these parliaments canvased wider changes they had made to their petitions procedures and the role of their committees. It was submitted that these changes had enhanced public and parliamentary engagement with petitioning. While outside of the scope of the e-petitions inquiry, the Committee considered that this evidence was nevertheless valuable in offering a comparison to current House petitioning procedures.
Following the conclusion of the e-petitions inquiry, the Committee determined to undertake a review of its role and operations, as well as the practice and procedures for petitioning the House of Representatives more broadly. In undertaking this inquiry, the Committee would have regard to the petitions processes and procedures of other jurisdictions.
On 15 August 2018, the Committee resolved to inquire into and report on the future of petitioning in the House.
The terms of reference to the inquiry are found on page ix of this report.
The Committee received 14 submissions which are listed at Appendix A. The Committee also received one exhibit, which is listed at Appendix B.
The Committee met with the Chair of the Petitions Committee in the UK House of Commons in a public hearing held via videoconference on 27 November 2018. Details of that public hearing are listed at Appendix C.
Because of the continued relevance of evidence provided to the e-petitions inquiry, the submissions made at that time have been considered in this report, and are listed as exhibits at Appendix B.
Further appendices outlining events of the 45th Parliament include Member presentations (Appendix D), campaign petitions (Appendix E), petitions statistics (Appendix F) and current relevant standing orders (Appendix G).
Scope of report
This report considers the perspectives provided by the various submitters to this inquiry regarding the ongoing role of the Committee and the future of petitioning in the House.
The report also identifies issues that have arisen during the 45th Parliament regarding the role and operation of the Committee and the standing orders relating to petitioning in the House.
Chapter two of this report considers the role of the Petitions Committee. This includes receiving, processing and presenting petitions, and conducting inquiries on matters relating to petitions and the petition system.
Chapter three identifies issues relating to the form and content of petitions that have arisen during the 45th Parliament. Issues are discussed with consideration given to form and content requirements for petitions in other parliaments.
Chapter four considers what actions may be taken on petitions once they have been presented. Comparisons are made to actions taken on petitions in other parliaments around Australia and overseas. This chapter also considers how the Committee engages and educates the public about petitioning, with reference to the experiences of other parliaments.
From these chapters, options for possible changes to the standing orders and procedures for petitioning the House are identified. It is envisaged that these options will inform the development of standing orders for the upcoming 46th Parliament.