[LINK] Electronic petitions to Parliament

stephen at melbpc.org.au stephen at melbpc.org.au
Wed Mar 2 17:17:46 AEDT 2011

Philip and Bernard write,

>> John Murphy, Member for Reid, mentioned in this speech to Federal
>> Parliament yesterday that electronic petitions were imminent:
>> http://www.openaustralia.org/debates/?id=2011-02-28.16.1&s=speaker%3A
>> 10473#g16.2 - not before time! 
> .. Anyway, those working in the field may already know about the
> EU - EuroPetition project. More details are at
> <http://itc.napier.ac.uk/ITC/ProjectInfo.asp?ID=34>.

Queensland has had e-Petitions since 2002, and now Tasmania. It appears
to have been increasingly successful, and certainly quite economical in
terms of set-up ($80,000) & staffing (one 0.4 staff member). Queensland
also offers their system to Canberra for use in this letter below ..


Mrs Julia Irwin MP
Chair, Standing Committee on Petitions
PO Box 6021
Parliament House

Dear Mrs Irwin (snip)

The Queensland Parliament was the first in Australia to introduce 
electronic petitioning as an alternative to the traditional method of 
petitioning in 2002.

The model adopted in Queensland is one where e-petitions seek to 
complement, rather than to replace, paper petitions. E-petitions for 
electronic signing are actually hosted on the Parliament's website, 
rather than through a third party.

>From this site citizens can locate e-petitions, find out information 
about the status of, or join a current e-petition. In addition, with the 
assistance of a sponsoring Member, persons may start an e-petition as the 
principal petitioner.

The Clerk of the Parliament checks the application of the principal 
petitioner for compliance with Standing Orders before publishing the 
petition on the website. The processes of opening, joining, closing and 
disposing of details and deletion of a petition are detailed in two 
papers attached. 

The Legislative Assembly amended its Standing Rules and Orders on 27 
November 2003 to make e-petitions a permanent feature of the Queensland 
Parliament (see Chapter 21)


The role of Members in e-petitioning

In the Queensland model a Member of Parliament must first sponsor an e-
petition before it can be posted on the website to collect signatures 
whereas a traditional paper petition must be presented by a Member of 
Parliament for tabling once the signatures have been collected.

The relevant Member that sponsors a petition also receives a copy of any 
Ministerial response.

Privacy and security concerns

The e-petitions website includes a detailed privacy statement

Petitioners' details are deleted from electronic storage in accordance 
with the data retention policy at a maximum of 6 months after the tabling 

The names and addresses of signatories are not available on the website. 
However printed copies of the tabled e-petition are available upon 
request to the public as is the case with paper petitions.

Following consideration of several authentication options it was resolved 
that there was no practical means to authenticate petitioners' personal 
details in an online environment that was universally available or 

Whilst e-petition signatories are required to supply an e-mail address 
there is no way to authenticate that address so the authentication is 
merely symbolic.

The financial and resource implications of an e-petitions system

The introduction of e-petitions involved the establishment of a dedicated 
database and website. The petitions website and associated e-petitions 
system was developed in house by the Parliamentary Service.

The initial design and implementation cost was in the vicinity of 
$80,000. This included hardware purchase (server), software (Microsoft 
SQL server licences) and the notional time of an in-house software 
developer (software design). 

The Tasmanian Parliament has adopted the Queensland E-petition model and
uses the system and software under nominal license fee. Should the House 
of Representatives wish to use the Queensland system and software 
developed it can be arranged under a licensing agreement for a nominal 
license fee.

The processes are not completely automated and require some data input 
and processing from Parliamentary Service staff including the follow up 
process of posting Ministerial responses on the site. Total maintenance 
of the site is estimated at about .4 of a full time equivalent officer.

The experience of other relevant jurisdictions, both in Australia and 

The Queensland user's perspective was sought via an optional visitor's on-
line survey conducted between April 2003 and May 2005. A total of 736 
person responded to the survey which represents 3.5% of the 21,300 
signatures on e-petitions received during the same period. Generally 
speaking respondents found the e-petitioning process and website easy to 
use and supported the view that e-petitioning is a useful opportunity for 
democratic participation.

The key findings of the survey are detailed at pages 9 to 13 of the 
attached paper "E-Petitions the Queensland Experience".

The Queensland experience is that the number of petitions is generally 
increasing along with the growth of a number of e-petitions (see Figure 1 
of the attached Procedural research paper 1/08).

Since e-petitioning was introduced in late 2002 the number of tabled 
Ministerial responses has increased significantly (see Figure 3 of 
attached Procedural research paper 1/08). However, there is currently no 
compulsion for a Ministerial response to a petition within a specified 
timeframe. An argument could be made that a time limit for responses to 
petitions might increase Ministerial accountability. The Standing Orders 
Committee is currently considering amendments to Standing Orders and 
should report in the near future and may include amendments to
ministerial response requirements.

Should your committee require any further information please don't 
hesitate to contact the Clerk of the Parliament, Mr Neil Laurie on 07 
3406 7185 or neil.laurie at parliament.qld.gov.au.

Yours sincerely

Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of Queensland

Also: http://petitionsqld.com.au/help/


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