Historically, the only way to petition the Parliament was to put ink to parchment or pen to paper. When e-petitioning was introduced to the House of Representatives at the commencement of the 45th Parliament, the aim was to engage a greater number of Australians in the petitions process. E-petitioning was seen as necessary to keep in step with the needs of an increasing number of Australians who are used to communicating and engaging with public services online.
With over 300 e-petitions certified at the conclusion of this inquiry, the House e-petitions system has proven a worthwhile and successful venture. This inquiry examined in detail how the e-petitions system might be improved and enhanced. In doing so, the Committee considered the experiences of other domestic and international jurisdictions that have introduced e-petitioning.
Most importantly, the Committee heard directly from users of the House e-petitions system, and spoke with stakeholders interested in the e-petitioning process. Users generally praised the introduction of the e-petitions system, but considered there were some aspects of the system that could be improved. Much of the feedback focussed on how the system could be made simpler and more accessible for all users.
The Committee carefully considered all of the gathered evidence before formulating its recommendations to enhance the system. The Committee has proposed initial changes that would significantly improve the user experience of the e-petitions system and provide greater accessibility for all Australians, within current resources. For practical reasons and resourcing considerations, not all suggestions could be incorporated into the findings of this report.
Some issues raised during the inquiry were relevant to the practice and procedures for both e-petitions and paper petitions. As these issues were outside the scope of this inquiry, the Committee considered that a further inquiry into the Committee’s role and the procedural framework of petitioning should be conducted to explore these issues.