City of Cockburn to investigate possibility of residents submitting petitions to its website

Cockburn councillor Lee-Anne Smith.
Cockburn councillor Lee-Anne Smith.

CITY of Cockburn will explore the idea of allowing residents to start and submit petitions on its website.

Councillor Lee-Anne Smith will put forward a ‘request for a report without debate’ at the City’s monthly meeting this Thursday, offering City officers time to explore the pros and cons of the idea before bringing it back for councillors to consider.

Cr Smith was encouraged to put forward the idea after two community-driven petitions were knocked back by the City in May.

Both had collected significant support online but were rejected because they were not formatted in accordance with the City’s standing orders.

Cr Smith said Cockburn could follow the lead of the Brisbane City council by allowing residents to run and submit “ePetitions” online through its website, an alternative option to the current delivery of hard copy documents.

“The digital age is not going to slow down,” she said.

“Today businesses and industry are interacting digitally with their customers and collecting vast amounts of consumer information in the process.

“This request is driven by demand.”

Currently, only petitions that have the name, address and signature of respondents are accepted by the City .

Governance and community services director Don Green said petitions presented in this format were more “authentic because of the time and effort committed by the petition organiser to gain support for the outcome being sought”.

But he said the City was open to considering a change to the laws introduced in 2000.

“There would need to be safeguards in place to ensure the integrity of the process was not compromised and the participants’ details could be validated,” he said.

In a letter to Cr Smith from Brisbane City council, Lord Mayor Graham Quirk said there did tend to be people who sign petitions from outside the relevant boundaries but it was possible to ensure signatories were local.

Cr Smith agreed the proper safeguards would need to be in place.

Local Government Minister David Templeman said feedback from ratepayers was important.

“Councils should explore improved communication methods, including the potential of online petitions,” he said.

“However such methods must be robust, transparent and ensure signatures are verifiable.”

WA Local Government Association president Lynne Craigie said members had not identified online petitions as an emerging way for councils to engage with their local communities.

“Petitions are just one of many ways in which residents and ratepayers may bring forward issues to Council for their consideration,” she said.

“We support Councils in using different forms and media to interact with their local communities according to their individual circumstances and community preference.”