A petition is an informal method by which individuals and groups attempt to influence a change in the law. It is a formal written request to a parliament, demanding action on a particular law. This demand is followed by a collection of signatures. At least one signature is required, but there are usually significantly more than one. A member of parliament (MP) will generally present a petition to a lower house on an issue that falls within that parliament’s powers. The petition and the number of signatures is recorded in Hansard.
Petitions rarely directly lead to a change in the law. However, those with many signatures do force politicians to look at an issue seriously, as it represents the fact that a large number of people feel strongly on a particular issue.
Even petitions with a significant number of signatures may not influence change in the law. A change.org petition calling on the Liberal Party to change their broadband policy was signed by 272,035 people, yet was dismissed by Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull.1
Nick Paine, “The Liberal Party of Australia: Reconsider your plan for a ‘FTTN’ NBN in favour of a superior ‘FTTH’ NBN”, http://www.change.org/en-AU/petitions/the-liberal-party-of-australia-reconsider-your-plan-for-a-fttn-nbn-in-favour-of-a-superior-ftth-nbn ; Lucy Battersby, “Malcolm Turnbull gives thumbs down to fibre NBN petition”, September 13 2013, http://www.smh.com.au/it-pro/government-it/malcolm-turnbull-gives-thumbs-down-to-fibre-nbn-petition-20130913-hv1po.html ↩
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