4. Action on petitions

Current practice

Currently, a petition requires one signature (that of the principal petitioner) to be valid.1 If a petition with one or more valid signatures meets the rules for form and content, it is then presented to the House.2 Following presentation, the Committee may refer a copy of the petition to the relevant Minister with a request for response.3 The only other action that may be taken in relation to a petition is to refer it to another Committee.4 To date, no petitions have ever been referred to other Committees for consideration.5
As at 22 January 2019, 694 petitions have been presented to the House and 686 have been referred to a Minister (or Ministers) for response. The relevant Minister is ‘expected’ to respond to a referred petition within 90 days of presentation by lodging a written response with the Committee.6 As at 22 January 2019, 102 responses were outstanding, equating to approximately 14 per cent.

Figure 4.1:  Procedural workflow of a petition

This image demonstrates the process for all petitions that are approved by the Petitions Committee.
The practice of the House in responding to petitions differs from the practice of other petitions committees and parliaments around the world. For example, some jurisdictions allow for debates on petitions, or regularly refer petitions to the relevant subject-matter committee for review. Unlike this Committee, some committees regularly undertake investigations or inquiries into the substantive issues raised in a petition. Submissions favouring these alternative models are discussed below.

Alternative models for consideration

Submissions from individuals, organisations and other parliaments noted some procedural differences between the House petitioning system and other petitions systems in Australia and overseas. Features of alternative approaches outlined during the inquiry include:
the ability to debate a petition;
holding an inquiry into the subject matter of a petition; and
the process of referring a petition to a Minister for response.

Debate on petitions

The UK Committee commenced on 20 July 2015 to coincide with the introduction of an e-petitions system. This committee has a range of different powers from the House Committee. This includes the ability to list an e-petition for debate in Westminster Hall if it reaches over 100,000 signatures.7
The UK Committee advised that it takes a number of factors into account, in determining whether to list a matter for debate. These include:
if the e-petition has already been debated in the House;
if this issue is likely to come before the House through other means;
if the issue has not received significant attention in the House;
if there is an appetite among other Members for debate on the issue.8
The UK Committee occasionally puts forward petitions for debate despite the petition receiving less than 100,000 signatures.9 The Chair of the UK Committee, Ms Helen Jones, explained that ‘we thought that there were some issues which would be important but perhaps only important to a small group of people.’10
Examples of petitions that did not meet the 100,000 signature threshold, but were still debated, include a petition requesting mandatory training in autism for health staff and two petitions calling for public holidays on major religious occasions.11
Professor Cristina Leston-Bandeira told the Committee that despite a high volume of petitions being submitted and accepted by the UK Committee, only a small percentage have met the threshold required for a government response (10,000 signatures), or the number of signatures required to be considered for debate (100,000 signatures).12 The Clerk of the UK House of Commons submitted that since the 2017 General Election 32,069 petitions have been created. Of these, 13,974 reached the required six signatures. In this time, epetitions have led to 204 government responses and 34 debates.13
Professor George Williams AO, Mr Sam Lee and Mr Daniel Reynolds considered that the petitions procedures introduced in the UK have had a striking impact on public and parliamentary engagement with petitioning and is a model worth emulating.14 It was considered that recent petitions have
… led to substantive and vibrant debate on policy issues … one only needs to watch one of these debates for a few minutes to be convinced of their potential to improve substantive engagement with the issues that matter to people in Australia.15
Drawing from interviews with petitioners in the UK, Professor LestonBandeira submitted that ‘… obtaining a debate is seen as the highlight of the petitioning process.’16 However, it was noted that some petitioners expressed disappointment with the debates, with some people believing their petition had not been accurately portrayed during the debate. In Professor Leston-Bandeira’s view, the rule allowing any MP to participate in the debates could lead to debates becoming partisan or focused on the arguments against the petition.17
Professor Leston-Bandeira considered that when a petition is debated, attention must be given to acknowledging the petitioner (and signatories). It was submitted that within the UK model, there were a number of ways to acknowledge the petitioner and signatories, including:
having an MP from the Petitions Committee initiate and close every debate on e-petitions; and
automatically inviting petitioners to attend their petition’s debate.
The Clerk of the Australian House of Representatives, Mr David Elder, observed that the purpose of the UK debates was to consider the issues that had been raised in the petition, rather than to amend the law or enable a vote on the topic.18 The Clerk was of the view that considering the possibility of debate on petitions in the House could be a ‘natural evolution of the process by which the House deals with the petitioning process.’19 It was queried whether it was practicable (in the context of the House) to impose a threshold number of signatures before debate was facilitated, or whether other criteria could be developed to trigger the option for debate. If debate on petitions was to be considered, the Clerk outlined the following options:
Consideration of debate could follow a recommendation from the Petitions Committee to the Selection Committee (based on the criteria developed by the Petitions Committee);
The Selection Committee could allocate time during a forthcoming period of Committee and Delegation and Private Members’ Business on a Monday to debate the issues raised in a particular petition.
Arrangements for debate on petitions should involve an indication from the Selection Committee that it had consulted Members, or the Whips, and that a minimum number of Members (for example, six) would be interested in participating if such a debate were scheduled by the Selection Committee.
Initially debates could be scheduled in the Federation Chamber until the new procedures were evaluated.20

Committee comment

The Committee supports the introduction of debate in the House as the next logical step for petitioning and notes that this suggestion requires no changes to the standing orders. A Member can lodge a notice of motion to debate a petition during private Members’ business time, although the Selection Committee must select the motion for the debate to occur.
Consideration should also be given for a dedicated period of time for the purpose of debating petitions. Changes to the standing orders would be required for this option and the Committee would encourage the input of the Procedure Committee, Leader of the House and whips.
The Committee believes that a petition with a large amount of support deserves more than just to be presented and referred for written response. Those petitions with at least 20,000 signatures should be considered for a debate in the Federation Chamber. The Committee could use criteria similar to the UK in its consideration of whether to list a petition for debate. This would mirror the process in the UK House of Commons, where petitions with more than 100,000 signatures are considered for debate in Westminster Hall.21 If implemented, the threshold number of signatures should be reviewed by the Committee in the 46th Parliament.
Details of the petition(s) to be debated should be listed on the Notice Paper well in advance of the debate, so that Members and the general public have an opportunity to attend the debate and to inform themselves of issues relevant to the petition.
It is uncommon for Ministers to speak during debates on private Members’ motions, however the Committee would encourage Ministers to attend, if not participate in any debates. It could be argued that such contributions could be as welcomed, if not more, than a written response. If this proves to be the case, the Committee would support a change to standing orders to recognise a Minister’s verbal responses for the purposes of standing order 209.

Recommendation 6

The Committee recommends that Members be encouraged to give notice for debates on petitions during private Members’ business time.

Recommendation 7

The Committee recommends that:
petitions with at least 20,000 signatures be considered for debate during a dedicated period for petitions debates in the Federation Chamber;
The Procedure Committee consider the necessary changes to the standing orders to enable such debates; and
Should this measure be implemented, the Petitions Committee review the 20,000 signature threshold during the 46th Parliament.

Recommendation 8

The Committee recommends that standing order 209 be amended to recognise any verbal responses to a petition given during a debate on that petition.

Inquiries into petitions

The Committee received evidence that other petitions committees take a more substantive role in inquiring into the matters raised in a petition, or referring petitions to other committees for further investigation following presentation. Examples were drawn from the UK and Scottish Parliaments in particular, where the relevant petitions committees regularly responded to petitions by either writing to relevant stakeholders for their views; undertaking an inquiry into the subject matter of a petition; or referring a petition to another relevant committee for investigation.
As outlined in chapter 2, the House Committee may ‘inquire into and report to the House on any matter relating to petitions and the petitions system’. 22 Further, upon presenting a petition to the House, a Member may move a motion on notice that a petition be referred to a particular committee.23
As canvased in chapter 2, Professor Williams, Mr Lee and Mr Reynolds were of the view that the House Committee had taken a narrow interpretation of its broad power to inquire into petitions or any matter relating to petitions. They contrasted the role of the House Committee with the role of the UK Committee and Scotland’s Public Petitions Committee (PPC). It was noted that both the UK Committee and the PPC have broad and substantive powers to take actions on petitions, including initiating inquiries.24 Professor Williams, Mr Lee and Mr Reynolds considered that these substantive powers were more responsive to petitioner concerns and improved public engagement with the Parliament.25 These views were supported by the Law Society of New South Wales, which suggested expanding the remit of the House Committee so that it reflects that of its Scottish and/or UK counterparts.26 Similarly, Queensland Advocacy Incorporated suggested introducing a requirement for petitions to be referred to relevant committees for inquiry.27
The Scottish Parliament outlined its powers of inquiry during the Committee’s review of the e-petitioning system. They advised that the Public Petitions Committee had broad powers to decide what action should be taken on admissible petitions. Such actions could include:
writing to relevant stakeholders for their views;
undertaking a formal inquiry;
holding a plenary debate;
referring the petition to Scottish Ministers, another committee of the Parliament or any other person or body.28
In its submission to the current inquiry, the Scottish Parliament stated that each petition is treated as a mini-inquiry and that the Committee follows where the evidence leads. The PPC currently has 50 petitions under active consideration. In addition, the PPC conducts approximately three formal inquiries in a year.29
The Legislative Council of Western Australia, through its equivalent committee, the Standing Committee on Environment and Public Affairs, took a similar approach to Scotland. That is, ‘the nature and extent of inquiries by the Committee relating to each petition will vary depending on the nature of the issues raised.’ It was submitted that in most cases, the Committee would request a submission from the principal petitioner and tabling Member, which would enable the Committee to better understand the issues involved and any actions already undertaken to try and resolve the matter. A response would then usually be requested from the relevant Minister, and any other relevant organisations (such as local governments).30
The Clerk of the WA Legislative Council, Nigel Pratt, advised that in many instances, the Minister’s response to a petition would lead to the Committee seeking further information to clarify the issues to its satisfaction. Alternatively, the Committee might resolve to conduct a more extensive inquiry into the matter and report its findings and recommendations to the House.31
The UK Committee periodically undertakes inquiries into petitions when the matter is not being considered elsewhere in Parliament. The UK Committee considered that in contrast to inquiries held by other select committees, it placed a greater emphasis on public participation and on new and innovative ways of taking evidence. Such innovations included holding roundtable discussions, web threads, informal hearings and consultation events.32
The Committee heard that a number of petitions committees in other jurisdictions had the power to refer petitions to other committees for inquiry. For example, the PPC referred petitions to specific subject matter committees where another committee was already inquiring into the matter raised in the petition.33 Between May 2017 and May 2018, the PPC had referred five petitions to other committees.34
The ACT Legislative Assembly automatically refers petitions with at least 500 signatures to a relevant Assembly committee for consideration. The Clerk of the Legislative Assembly, Tom Duncan, advised that no committee had so far conducted an inquiry on the basis of a petition referred to it. However, the Clerk submitted:
In the last five years, 92 petitions have been presented to the Assembly and 25 have been referred to committees (including a paper and e-petition with the same subject matter).
Standing Order 246A provides, amongst other things, that a committee may resolve to make a statement to the Assembly about a particular inquiry being undertaken by the Committee. In the last five years, 17 such statements have been made in relation to petitions.35
While the New Zealand Parliament does not have a petitions committee, each subject select committee has the ability to consider petitions. The Clerk, Mr David Wilson, submitted that provided the issue was within a committee’s subject area, a subject select committee could use a petition as a prompt to receive a briefing or establish an inquiry into that issue.36
When considering a petition, there is an established approach that is usually followed in New Zealand:
The lead petitioner is invited to provide a written submission;
Any relevant government departments are invited to provide submissions;
The committee decides on the basis of these written submissions whether to hear oral evidence from the parties;
Having considered [t]he evidence, the committee deliberates on a draft report; and
The Committee then reports to the House on the petition.37
Mr Wilson noted that allocating petitions to subject select committees increased the likelihood of the committee having an existing knowledge of the matters raised in a petition, or an awareness of the broader context that the matter sat within. This had the ability to ‘improve the outcomes for the affected population in a way that a committee considering only petitions may not be able to do’.38
However, a potential disadvantage to this practice was that the relevant committee’s workload might lead to petitions being treated as lowpriority, resulting in significant delays in petition consideration.39

Committee comment

As outlined in chapter 2, the Committee has a broad power to inquire into any matter relating to petitions or the petitions system. As discussed in chapter 2, this power has been used by past committees to hold roundtables and hearings with petitioners and other relevant stakeholders, including government officials, regarding the subject matter of a petition. However, the Committee has been careful not to engage with the substantive request raised in a petition during these hearings. It has acted to facilitate discussion between the relevant parties about the petition topic, rather than attempt to solve the issues raised, undertake any investigations or make recommendations in response to the petition request.
This approach differs substantially from the approach of other petitions committees in parliaments around the world. The UK Committee and the PPC in particular have used their powers to engage in detailed inquiries about the substantive matters raised in a petition, similar to the approach of other standing and select committees.
The Committee notes that the standing orders currently allow for the Committee to initiate any inquiry into matters relating to an individual petition. Therefore, no procedural changes would be required if the Committee decided to take a more investigative role by inquiring into the subject matters raised in individual petitions.
It is also open to a Member of the House to move a motion, on notice, that a petition be referred to a particular committee, following its presentation. Although standing order 208 (c) has not been used, notice for such a motion could be given by the Chair following the presentation of a petitions to the House. As the standing orders currently stand, there is no provision for private Members’ motions to be voted on. Leave of the House would need to be granted, or standing orders suspended, for this motion to be moved and voted on during Government business time.
Alternatively, Ministers may wish to use the request for a response to a petition as the basis of a referral of the matter to a House of Representatives standing committee for inquiry and report.40
It is a matter for the Committee of the 46th Parliament to determine how these current procedures might be used more effectively, to further raise the profile of petitions in the House, and meet the expectations of Parliamentarians, petitioners and the public. The Committee sees value in reinvigorating the use of its power to inquire into petitions during the 46th Parliament, now that the e-petitioning system has been firmly established in House procedures and practice. As observed by the Clerk of the House, the use of videoconferencing facilities might better enable future committees to facilitate more regular hearings based from Parliament House.
Further, the Committee encourages consideration of more referrals of petitions to relevant subject matter committees, where such referral would allow for an investigation of a matter that might not otherwise be investigated by the Parliament, or where the petition in question relates to an ongoing inquiry by the relevant committee.

Ministerial referrals

Currently, the Committee may decide to refer a petition to the Minister responsible for the administration of the matter raised in a petition.41 Once referred, there is an expectation that the Minister will provide a written response to the Committee within 90 days.42 Once received, a response is tabled, recorded in Hansard and published on the Committee’s web site.43
The referral mechanism sets the House petitioning process (and other like parliamentary processes) apart from petitioning platforms such as Change.org, where a formal response is not required. Professor Ariadne Vromen, Professor Darren Halpin and Mr Michael Vaughan submitted that requiring a formal response was an ‘important mechanism to ensure that citizen participation is not met with unresponsiveness, which can lead to disengagement or alienation.’44
There is no requirement that a petition must reach a certain level of support (i.e. a minimum number of signatures) before the Committee will consider referring a petition to the relevant Minister for response.
Professor Williams, Mr Lee and Mr Reynolds submitted that the current House procedure for referring a petition to a Minister could be strengthened by introducing a minimum signature threshold that would guarantee a Ministerial response. They expressed concern that current practice could leave petitions with high signature counts unanswered, as there was no requirement that a Minister had to respond to a petition, following referral.45
Some jurisdictions in other state and territory parliaments required that a minimum number of signatures be obtained before they are referred to the relevant Minister. For example, in the UK any petition receiving 10,000 signatures is guaranteed a Ministerial response.46
In contrast, some jurisdictions do not have signature thresholds but make government responses to petitions mandatory. For example, the Canadian House of Commons requires that every petition must be responded to within 45 days.47 In 2004, procedures were updated to require that any failure by the government to respond to a petition within 45 days of its presentation would result in the petition being referred to the appropriate standing committee. This has led to a decrease in the number of unanswered petitions.48
Professor Leston-Bandeira submitted that the UK Committee ‘often writes to government departments to follow up specific matters, such as poor government response to a specific e-petition.’49
The New Zealand House of Representatives does not have a signature threshold for taking certain actions on petitions. Mr David Wilson, Clerk of the House, stated
… it ensures that all matters of concern are considered by the House, and that people are not disadvantaged simply because their issue is one of little wider interest or because they lack the resources or the ability to arrange a large campaign to collect signatures.50
Mr Wilson considered, however, that were a petition meets a certain number of signatures it might be desirable to trigger an additional process such as a debate in the House, as has been the approach taken in the UK.51

Committee comment

As mentioned at the start of this chapter, at 22 January 2019, 686 petitions had been referred to a Minister (or Ministers) for response during the 45th Parliament. Of these, 102 responses to petitions remained outstanding on the same date. In the time that has followed, further responses have been received. The Committee is enthused by the response rate during this Parliament and intends to take steps to ensure that this high response rate continues.
In considering the House procedures for referral and response, the Committee notes that there are factors that may contribute to a petition response being delayed. Occasionally, a petition does not fit neatly into a single Minister’s area of responsibility and so some discussions ensue between government departments to find the most appropriate Minister to respond. Some petitions have required re-referrals to alternate portfolios before a response can be actioned. Ministry changes can also lead to a delay in responses to petitions. Finally, the pattern of parliamentary sittings can delay the process of a petition as it proceeds from presentation, to referral, to the Committee receiving a response, to the response being presented to the House.
In the past, the Committee has taken an informal approach to following up on outstanding responses to petitions. This approach has generally involved directing the secretariat to contact the office of Ministers to query the status of outstanding responses. More recently, the Committee implemented a more formal process of writing to individual Ministers through the Chair. The Committee has observed that this approach has had a positive impact on the number of responses received.
The Committee intends to further embed the follow-up of responses to petitions into the ordinary business of the Committee at its private meetings. It is envisaged that this would include managing a running tally of outstanding responses (i.e. over 90 days); writing to Ministers to follow-up responses after the 90 days has been exceeded; and keeping petitioners up-to-date with the status of their petition.
The current rules do not require a minimum number of signatures be obtained before the Committee may refer a petition to a relevant Minister for response. This ensures that all petitions approved by the Committee have the opportunity to be referred for a response, regardless of how much support the issue can muster. The Committee agrees with the view of the New Zealand Clerk of the House of Representatives, that some issues are not widely known, or may be significant to a relatively small group of individuals. These factors should not prevent such a matter being raised directly with the House (and to a Minister) in the form of a petition.
The Committee is of the view that the current wording of standing order 209, that the Committee ‘may’ refer a petition for response, provides the Committee with the necessary discretion to decline to refer a petition for response, when appropriate. As mentioned in chapter 3, this discretion is usually exercised to avoid multiple referrals of duplicate petitions.
It is envisaged that the Committee of the 46th Parliament could again review the effectiveness of responses to petitions towards the end of the Parliament to determine whether any further steps should be taken in relation to responses to petitions.

Public engagement

In the Inquiry into the e-petitioning system, the Committee learned how other countries have transformed their petitioning processes to increase public engagement with petitioning and the work of the parliament more broadly.
This inquiry provides further opportunity for the Committee to reflect on how the public currently engages with petitioning in the House. By considering the experiences of other jurisdictions, the Committee can identify areas where the House might better engage with the public and promote better awareness and understanding of the petitioning process.
This is particularly relevant in the context of the growing interest in online petitions, submitted through both parliamentary and non-parliamentary platforms. As more people engage with online petitioning it is important that petitioners are informed of the differences between petitioning to the House and petitioning to other platforms such as Change.org.
The Committee heard that online petitioning is changing the demographics of petitioners. Professor Vromen, Professor Halpin and Mr Vaughan submitted that traditionally underrepresented groups, such as women or people from low socio-economic backgrounds, may be more likely to use online petitions.52
Currently, engagement with the public about petitioning focuses on assisting people to create and sign petitions and educating them about what to expect once their petition is submitted to the House. Information is provided through the petitions webpages and the Committee secretariat provides advice directly to petitioners and Members’ offices as requested. Once a petition has been submitted, the Committee keeps in regular contact with the principal petitioner, providing updates via email as the petition reaches important steps. Queensland Advocacy Incorporated submitted that more information should be provided to individuals who sign a petition.53
The general public are informed about the presentation of petitions and Ministerial responses when the Chair reports to the House on sitting Mondays. Once presented, the details of each petition are published in Hansard. During the presentation the Chair also presents a written report outlining all of the petitions being presented and responses to petitions that have been received. This report is published on the Committee’s webpage. The Chair also makes a short statement, which provides information about the broader petitioning process to the public and Members of the House. As previously discussed, past committees have held roundtables about individual petitions matters, allowing some petitioners to voice their concerns and receive feedback from relevant government representatives. These roundtables have been reported to the House during the Chair’s statement.
To raise awareness of the petitions system and provide training to members of the public and civil society groups, the UK Committee has commissioned and supported various outreach work. For example, the UK Committee recently ran a workshop with a disability rights group on how to petition Parliament.54 The UK Committee has also published versions of Special Reports that include information on how to provide feedback to the Committee for people with difficulty reading.55
Petitions can be used as a tool by teachers to educate school aged children. During the 45th Parliament, the Committee has received a number of petitions created and/or signed by children under the age of 18. The Committee learned that some students lodged petitions as part of classroom activities about federal parliament.56 In the past, the Committee has spoken to some of these students via video conference and during roundtables to find out more about their experiences with petitioning.57
The Clerk of the New Zealand House of Representatives observed that since the introduction of e-petitions there have been waves of petitions from several students from the same school. The Clerk noted that some of these petitions were created as part of the students studies in which they had to undertake an action of social engagement.58
As the role of the Committee evolves, opportunities such as inquiring into or debating petitions could increase engagement for both the public and Parliamentarians.
Evidence from other jurisdictions indicated that petitioning processes that extend beyond receiving and processing petitions allowed for greater public engagement. Reflecting on its own system, the Scottish Parliament submitted that the most successful aspect of their system is the opportunity for petitioners to provide evidence to the PPC. The PPC endeavours to invite at least 50 per cent of petitioners to give oral evidence and always provides petitioners with the right to reply to any submission that the Committee received relating to the petition.59
Similarly, the Chair of the UK Committee stated that their success comes from the involvement with the public and its willingness to experiment with a wide range of activities to engage petitioners. Activities include surveys, online forums, Facebook discussion threads, Twitter dedicated hashtags, roundtable discussions, and informal evidence sessions with members of the public.60 During its inquiry into online abuse and the experiences of disabled people, the UK Committee consulted with people with disabilities and other members of the public on a set of draft recommendations, prior to deciding on recommendations for a final report. This was the first time a House of Commons Select Committee consulted on its draft recommendations prior to producing a final report.61
Interviews with petitioners in the UK and analysis of live reactions on Twitter showed that petitioners appreciate the regular contact kept by the Committee. Professor Leston-Bandeira submitted that regardless of whether the issue was actually resolved, petitioners were satisfied with the petitioning system when they felt the issues raised by their petition have been addressed in Parliament.62
Professor Leston-Bandeira also noted that the UK Committee provides signatories with updates every time a petition they signed achieves a specific step. The Professor noted that in interviews, petitioners were complimentary of the Committees regular communication with them.63
The UK Chair reflected that experimenting with different forms of public engagement and introducing debates on petitions is
… starting to change the way that the public deal with parliament. It has hugely improved the interaction between the public and parliament.64
The Chair of the UK Committee submitted that their work has led to an increase in public engagement with the broader work of the parliament. For example, where possible they inform petitioners of select committee inquiries that are relevant to petitions they have signed. This has resulted in some inquiries receiving greater numbers of personal stories from people with direct experience relating to the topic of the inquiry.65 More broadly, the Chair stated that since the establishment of the Committee in July 2015 there has been an increase of almost 300 per cent in people reading Hansard online and a 900 per cent increase in the viewing of Westminster Hall debates.66

Committee comment

With the significant increase of petitions received by the Committee during the 45th parliament, it is clear that the public remain interested in petitioning as a means to raise issues directly with the House. However, the Committee’s review of the epetitioning system highlighted that petitioners desire simple instructions and explanation for using the epetitions system and wider petitions processes.67 This combined with the significant rate of out of order petitions received by the Committee suggests that more can be done to educate both the public and Members about petitioning the House.
The Committees notes that recommendations from the e-petitions inquiry, including the redevelopment of webpages and the creation of video tutorials, are expected to improve the general public and Members’ understanding of petitioning. As these are implemented, the Committee will monitor how these initiatives impact on engagement and understanding of petitioning.
The Committee notes that currently, principal petitioners are provided with up to date information as a petition progresses. The Committee sees value in considering ways that signatories can also be informed of a petition’s progress. This may include an option to ‘track’ a petition online.
Noting the success of innovations introduced in the UK in recent years, the Committee encourages future committees to consider more innovative methods of facilitating public discussions about petitions, such as through social media channels and by engaging more informally with the public.
The number of school-aged students that are engaging in the petitioning process is very encouraging. The Committee has found roundtables and videoconferences conducted with school groups in the past to be particularly valuable. The Committee acknowledges that this engagement is often encouraged by teachers who have incorporated petitioning into classroom activities on federal parliament and social engagement. The Committee sees merit in exploring how it could do more to support classroom learning about petitioning.
One option to support further classroom learning about petitioning would be to develop educative materials and activities on petitioning for school groups in conjunction with the Parliamentary Education Office. This could be piloted in a select number of schools. If the pilot program is successful, the Committee could consider developing similar packages for other community groups.
If the role of the Committee evolves in the future, opportunities for further engagement may arise. For example, inquiring into or debating petitions could increase engagement for both the public and parliamentarians.

Recommendation 9

The Committee recommends exploring the opportunity for the Department of the House of Representatives, in collaboration with the Parliamentary Education Office, to develop educational resources about petitioning in the House, to be targeted at school-aged children.

  • 1
    Standing order 205 (a).
  • 2
    Standing order 206.
  • 3
    Standing orders 204 and 205.
  • 4
    Standing order 208.
  • 5
    House of Representatives Practice, 7th edition, p. 638.
  • 6
    Standing order 209.
  • 7
    UK House of Commons, Submission 7, p. [4].
  • 8
    UK House of Commons, Exhibit 14, p. 3.
  • 9
    UK House of Commons, Submission 7, p. [7].
  • 10
    Ms Helen Jones, Chair, House of Commons Petitions Committee, Committee Hansard, Canberra 27 November, 2018, p. 1.
  • 11
    UK house of Commons, Submission 7, p. [7].
  • 12
    Professor Cristina Leston-Bandeira, Submission 14, p. 2.
  • 13
    All figures as of 6 November 2018 as per: UK House of Commons, Submission 7, p. [5].
  • 14
    Professor George Williams AO, Mr Sam Lee and Mr Daniel Reynolds, Submission 5, pp. 3-4.
  • 15
    Professor Williams AO, Mr Lee and Mr Reynolds, Submission 5, pp. 4-5.
  • 16
    Professor Leston-Bandeira, Submission 14, p. 5.
  • 17
    Professor Leston-Bandeira, Submission 14, p. 5.
  • 18
    House of Representatives, Submission 9, p. 3.
  • 19
    House of Representatives, Submission 9, p. 3.
  • 20
    House of Representatives, Submission 9, p. 4.
  • 21
    UK house of Commons, Submission 7, p. [6].
  • 22
    Standing order 220.
  • 23
    Standing order 208 (c).
  • 24
    Professor Williams AO, Mr Lee and Mr Reynolds, Submission 5, pp. 6-7.
  • 25
    Professor Williams AO, Mr Lee and Mr Reynolds, Submission 5, pp. 6-7.
  • 26
    The Law Society of New South Wales, Submission 12, p. 2.
  • 27
    Queensland Advocacy Incorporated, Submission 2, p. 6.
  • 28
    Scottish Parliament, Exhibit 10, p. 3.
  • 29
    Scottish Parliament, Public Petitions Committee, Submission 13, p. 1.
  • 30
    Legislative Council of Western Australia, Submission 1, p. 2.
  • 31
    Legislative Council of Western Australia, Submission 1, p. 2.
  • 32
    UK House of Commons, Submission 7, p. [11].
  • 33
    Scottish Parliament, Public Petitions Committee, Submission 13, p. 2.
  • 34
    Scottish Parliament, Public Petitions Committee, Submission 13, p. 1.
  • 35
    ACT Legislative Assembly, Submission 11, p. 2.
  • 36
    New Zealand (NZ) House of Representatives, Submission 8, p. [2].
  • 37
    NZ House of Representatives, Submission 8, p. [3].
  • 38
    NZ House of Representatives, Submission 8, p. [2].
  • 39
    NZ House of Representatives, Submission 8, p. [2].
  • 40
    Standing order 215 (b).
  • 41
    Standing order 209 (a).
  • 42
    Standing order 209 (b).
  • 43
    Standing order 209 (c).
  • 44
    Professor Ariadne Vromen, Professor Darren Halpin and Mr Michael Vaughan, Submission 10, p. [4].
  • 45
    Professor Williams AO, Mr Lee, and Mr Reynolds, Submission 5, p. 5.; See also: Standing order 209.
  • 46
    UK House of Commons, Submission 7, p. [4].
  • 47
    House of Commons Canada, Submission 4, p. 4.
  • 48
    House of Commons Canada, Submission 4, p. 1.
  • 49
    Professor Leston-Bandeira, Submission 14, p. 3.
  • 50
    NZ House of Representatives, Submission 8, pp. [8-9].
  • 51
    NZ House of Representatives, Submission 8, p. [9].
  • 52
    Professor Vromen, Professor Halpin and Mr Vaughan, Submission 10, p. [3].
  • 53
    Queensland Advocacy Incorporated, Submission 2, p. 7.
  • 54
    UK House of Commons, Submission 7, p. [11].
  • 55
    For example: UK House of Commons Petitions Committee, 1st Special Report – Online abuse and the experience of disabled people: draft recommendations for consultation (easy read version), 17 July 2018.
  • 56
    Mrs Deborah Irons, Year 5/6 teacher, St Anthony’s Catholic Primary School Marsfield, Committee Hansard, Canberra, 6 December 2017 – see Inquiry into the e-petitioning system.
  • 57
    For example: St Anthony’s Catholic Primary School Marsfield, Committee Hansard, Canberra, 6 December 2017 – see Inquiry into the e-petitioning system; Wednesday, 29 April 2015: roundtable exercise, Hornsby Girls High, Hornsby, NSW – see House of Representatives Standing Committee on Petitions, The work of the Petitions Committee: 2013-2016, May 2016, Appendix B, p. 34.
  • 58
    NZ House of Representatives, Submission 8, p. [5].
  • 59
    Scottish Parliament, Public Petitions Committee, Submission 13, p. [3].
  • 60
    For example: UK House of Commons, Submission 7, p. [5]; and Professor Leston-Bandeira, Submission 14, p. 5.
  • 61
    UK House of Commons, Submission 7, p. [12].
  • 62
    Professor Leston-Bandeira, Submission 14, p. 1.
  • 63
    Professor Leston-Bandeira, Submission 14, p. 3.
  • 64
    Ms Jones, House of Commons Petitions Committee, Committee Hansard, Canberra, 27 November 2018, p. 4.
  • 65
    UK House of Commons, Submission 7, p. [6].
  • 66
    Ms Jones, House of Commons Petitions Committee, Committee Hansard, Canberra, 27 November 2018, p. 4.
  • 67
    House of Representatives Standing Committee on Petitions, Making voices heard: Inquiry into the e-petitioning system of the House of Representatives Petitions Committee, May 2018, p. 24.

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