I rise to introduce the Parliamentary Committees (Petitions) Amendment Bill into this Chamber. As the Presiding Member of the Legislative Review Committee I welcome the Bill moved by the Member for Florey in the Other Place and the subsequent Government support. This Bill aims to further engage the South Australian public with the democratic process, by granting petitions more influence within the parliamentary system. Essentially, any petition signed by more than 10,000 people would come under mandatory review by the Legislative Review Committee, followed by a Ministerial response to parliament, on said review.
Currently, Ministers and their offices are not required to provide any response to tabled petitions provided to them. This can cause an erosion of trust between the public and the government, as genuine concerns are ignored in the decision-making process. A mandated review and response will ensure there is an open dialogue and allow communities to have their voices heard.
Specifically, the process would require the Legislative Review Committee to inquire, consider and report back on eligible petitions, which would then be referred on to the Minister with primary responsibility. From this, the parliament would receive an address and a tabled response by both the primary Minister and prescribed Minister in each House. A stark difference to the usual Ministerial response to committee reports, stemming from a new category of reports created by the Bill.
This is a form of review and response that such public sentiment deserves. Petitions with signatures from over 10,000 South Australians should not be simply cast aside and ignored by the Government of the day. To be accountable to the people of this state, governments must respond to the concerns of the people. The signature threshold put in place by this Bill, is of enough significance that a mandatory response, is not only viewed as reasonable, but logical by any democratic and transparent government.
In order to prevent interference from party’s interstate, overseas and even within South Australia, safeguards remain in place. Petitioners must reside within South Australia and declare their address when signing the petition. The Petitions are still required to have been physically signed by petitioners, at this time.
Governments will be mandated to report back on issues and concerns, which the public deem serious enough to put their signatures to in significant numbers. The Bill goes a long way to increasing trust between the public and Members, while creating a more transparent parliamentary process. I commend the Bill to the Chamber.