A petition is a direct request to the Parliament that it take some particular course of action. For example, a petition might request that the House change legislation relating to a particular health issue, or support changes to a system of roads. The subject of a petition must be a matter on which the House has the power to act – that is, it must be a State matter, and one involving legislation or government administration.

The right to petition parliament dates back to 13th century England.

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How can I have my petition presented to parliament?

Petitions can only be presented by members of the Legislative Council. On each sitting day, members are able to stand up in the House and present a petition on behalf of an individual or group of constituents. A majority of the members present must then vote in support of the petition being received by the House. In practice this is agreed to as a matter of routine as members generally take the view that petitions should be presented and received to ensure the views of their constituents are represented – even when those views don’t accord with their own.

What is an irregular petition?

If a petition does not conform to one of the rules listed above – for example, it is not addressed to the President and members of the Legislative Council – then it can only be presented as an ‘irregular petition’. This means that the member must seek the agreement of all members to be given ‘leave’ to present the petition, rather than just the agreement of a majority of the members present.

What happens after a petition is presented to the House?

A copy of the petition is forwarded to the relevant minister to which the petition relates and under a rule that was adopted in 2014, if a petition has over 500 signatures, the petition is forwarded to the Leader of the Government. The Leader arranges for a response to be provided by the minister who is in charge of the issue that is the subject of the petition within 35 days. Once a response is received, it is then reported to the House. All petitions and responses received, including petitions that do not require a response are published on the parliament’s website. An irregular petition does not require a government response.

Is the Legislative Council planning to accept epetitions? 

With developments in technology and an increasingly large number of petitions being distributed online, the Legislative Council is working on a new epetitions process to allow citizens to further engage with parliament. Our colleagues in the Assembly are also planning to introduce epetitions later this year, so watch this space!

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