Steph Cooke

In an historic first, rural and regional residents are now able to petition the NSW Parliament online, following the introduction of ePetitions.

NSW Nationals Member for Cootamundra Steph Cooke said the digital move would make it easier for people to create, share and submit a petition, and could not come at a better time given the COVID-19 pandemic had forced communities to avoid in-person meetings, and instead find safe, non-physical ways to be heard by their elected representatives.

Ms Cooke said while the people of her Cootamundra electorate would still be able to submit paper petitions to the NSW Legislative Assembly, the introduction of ePetitions provided a second, simple, online option to get their message to the NSW Parliament.

“Petitions are so important and help everyone to have their say on the issues that matter to our communities. This is a way everyone can have an easy, online way of connecting with their Parliament,” Ms Cooke said.

“The petitions are created online, signed online and can be shared online, including on social media.

“The ePetitions platform has been custom-built with safety and security in mind, which means neither the public nor members can see who’s signed the online petition, and email addresses required to sign the petition are only used to inform signatories of its progress, and then deleted after six months.”

Once a petition closes, a copy is provided to the relevant Minister. If the petition has more than 500 signatures the Minister must provide a written response. If an ePetition has more than 20,000 signatures, it will attract time in the Chamber, and arrangements will be made for Members to debate it in the House.

For paper petitions, the threshold to spark a debate is 10,000 signatures.

“Petitions are an important tool in raising local issues, stimulating discussion and can often lead to action,” Ms Cooke said.

The NSW Parliament’s ePetitions platform is unique in Australia – it’s fully online and almost entirely automated. It connects petitioners, through a presenting Member, to the Parliament itself.

NSW is also the only jurisdiction in the country where citizens have the chance to have their petition debated by parliamentarians.

For more information about ePetitions, go to www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/epetitions.