The Right to Petition Parliament
While the right to petition the Crown and Parliament dates back to Edward I, it was not until the last year of Richard II that Petitions were addressed to the House of Commons itself. The inherent right of citizens to petition the Parliament was confirmed by resolution of the House of Commons in 1669. This same right has been adopted by the Western Australian Parliament as part of our Westminster system of Parliament.
What is a Petition?
Petitions allow citizens to request the Parliament to redress any personal, local or state-wide grievance they may have. Petitioners might ask for changes to a law or to have an administrative decision reconsidered. Petitions can also request the redress of a personal grievance, for example, the correction of an administrative error. They cannot, however, request the grant of public money direct to the petitioner or another individual.
Standing Orders of the Legislative Council set out how a Petition will be drawn up. A Petition must be addressed to the President and Members of the Legislative Council of the Parliament of Western Australia assembled.
Drafting a Petition
It is very important that the petition is carefully drafted as the Council imposes strict rules on form and content. In particular, it should be noted that the petition must:
- be addressed to the President and Members of the Council;
- be drafted by, or at the direction of, the person promoting it;
- be expressed in reasonable terms;
- be legible and written in English or accompanied by a certified English translation;
- contain the principal petitioner's signature, and the total number of signatures collected, on the sheet on which the petition is inscribed;
- be signed by at least one person on the sheet on which the petition is inscribed; and
- contain a prayer at the end.
The petition must not:
- have any other document attached to it;
- quote or refer to a discussion on any question considered by either House in the same session;
- ask for money from the Council;
- allege or suggest that a person or office holder is guilty of corruption or unlawful or improper conduct;
- be used as a means of publishing information under the protection of parliamentary privilege if publication is prohibited by law; or
- attempt to bypass the courts or tribunals (a matter that can be taken to court cannot be the subject of a petition until the court or tribunal process has been exhausted).
Presenting a Petition
A petition is presented to the Legislative Council by a Member. In other words, the principal petitioner must ask a member of the House to present the petition on his or her behalf. A member is not required to present a petition to the House and, if the rules relating to petitions are not followed, may not be able to present the petition to the House. Tabling means the member formally presents the petition to the House by reading it or a summary of it. A member may also present a petition to the Clerk of the Council for tabling. The action which follows is the same regardless of whether the petition is tabled by the member himself or herself, or presented to the Clerk.
The member wishing to table the petition must sign or endorse his or her name on the first page and must present it to one of the Officers of the Council not less than 1 hour prior to the commencement of the sitting for that day.
Presentation of a Petition
What Happens to a Petition Following Tabling?
After the petition is tabled or presented it is referred to the Environment and Public Affairs Committee for consideration and report.
In considering the petition, the Committee usually seeks the advice of the member who presented the petition, the person who promoted it and the Minister(s) in whose area of responsibility the subject matter of the petition falls. The principal petitioner will be advised of the outcome of the Committee's consideration of a petition and the Committee may report on the petition to the Council.
For constituents assistance a blank draft petition is attached below:
For more information about writing and presenting a petition to the Legislative Assembly please go to Assembly Petitions
For more information about writing and presenting a petition to the Legislative Council please go to Council Petitions