Page 4242 - Week 13 - Thursday, 19 November 2015

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DR BOURKE: I am being interrupted by laughter. This proposal, contrary to the assertions by Mr Rattenbury, means the petition goes to the committee where it can do what it sees fit with the petition. If it is a matter that is already being considered by the committee then the committee will deal with it appropriately. Perhaps Mr Rattenbury has not been on enough committees lately to know that this is the sort of work that committees do. He does not seem to have enough faith in the committee system to realise that committees can probably work out if they had actually considered something before. I am not going to go on and dissect Mr Rattenbury’s arguments any further, except to say that this motion, this change to the standing orders, does augment the connection for Canberra citizens to the Assembly by bringing those petitions that have been highlighted into the committee process.

It is part of the response, I think, that we made to the inquiry into the Latimer House rules, which was dealt with recently. That inquiry considered the way in which the Assembly reaches out to the community. And this process is going to augment that, for petitions which have attracted substantial interest. A petition which has got 500 signatures on it does. It has excited or engaged our community and our voters.

As I said, when the committee examines the petition, it can decide what it wants to do. It is up to it to decide if an inquiry is needed, whether it wants to conduct a hearing, whether it needs more information or whether it wants to interrogate the minister, hold a briefing, do whatever it is it wants to do in the usual fashion that committees do these things. I remind Mr Rattenbury that this is a procedure in the Australian Senate, the Western Australian Legislative Council, the New Zealand parliament, the Scottish parliament and the UK House of Commons.

I commend this motion to the Assembly. I see petitions as a valuable exercise in our democracy. The process thereafter with a petition can also—Mr Rattenbury may be surprised—clarify the petitioner’s understanding of an issue and focus on why there might be community support for what they believe, because that threshold of 500 signatures will be very useful in that process.

I welcome this opportunity for Canberrans to have their grievances aired in the Assembly through positions that we have just strengthened. The issues will now receive additional consideration by not just the executive in the manner that we usually have but also by members of the committee. I commend the motion to the Assembly.

Motion agreed to.

Sitting suspended from 12.28 to 2.30 pm.

Ministerial arrangements

MR BARR (Molonglo—Chief Minister, Treasurer, Minister for Economic Development, Minister for Urban Renewal and Minister for Tourism and Events): I advise members that Minister Burch will not be present during question time. I will endeavour to assist members with questions in relation to Minister Burch’s portfolios.

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