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We the People

Hardly a week has gone by over the last year or so where there hasn’t been a petition put to me imploring my signature.

Most of these have been quite ridiculous, for example, petitioning the Governor General to sack the Abbott Government over one of many listed reasons. I don’t think that sacking the Abbott Government is ridiculous, so to speak, I just think it’s ridiculous petitioning the Governor General to do it on behalf of a group of unhappy constituents. The GG just isn’t going to do it, and certainly cannot do it for the reasons outlined in the petitions being generated by the score.

Personally, I consider the causes behind these petitions extremely valid. I don’t like what the Abbott Government is doing (though I won’t list my reasons here). I want to see the government removed, of course, but I won’t waste my time by signing any petition trying to promote that outcome.

Historically, petitions to the government or GG have succeeded only in fizzling out, basically because there’s only a remote chance that anybody apart from the signatories actually ever saw them.

Let’s be real: The government isn’t going to close Manus Island because of a petition. The government isn’t going to increase funding to the homeless because of a petition. The government isn’t going to protect the Great Barrier Reef because of a petition. The government isn’t going to release captured aliens from Pine Gap because of a petition.

They won’t even see the petitions. They’re going nowhere.

But there is a better way. Forget petitions as we know them, and replace them with the American system known as ‘We the People‘.

‘We the People’ is a section of the whitehouse.gov website for petitioning the current administration.

Here are some quotes from the site which explain how it works:

“We the People is a new, easy way for Americans to make their voice heard in our government. It is a platform on the White House website where individuals can create and sign petitions that call for action by the federal government on a range of issues facing our nation. If a petition gathers enough signatures, it will be reviewed by White House staff and receive an official response. We the People helps the White House understand the views of the American people and have a focused and civil conversation with them”.

“Anyone 13 or older can create or sign an online petition seeking a federal government action on a range of issues. Then it’s up to the petition creator and signers to build support for the petition by gathering more signatures”.

“There are two critical thresholds for We the People. First, a minimum number of signatures is necessary for the petition to be publicly listed on We the People and searchable. Second, a minimum number of signatures is necessary in a given amount of time in order for the petition to be reviewed by the White House, distributed to the appropriate policy officials within the Administration and receive an official response. This response will be posted and linked to the petition on WhiteHouse.gov, as well as emailed to all of the petition signers. Petitions that do not cross this threshold in the given timeframe will be removed from the site”.

“To cross the first threshold and be searchable within WhiteHouse.gov, a petition must reach 150 signatures within 30 days”.

“To cross the second threshold and require a response, a petition must reach 100,000 signatures within 30 days”.

I think that’s a great system and would love to see it used in Australia.

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20 comments

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  1. Owen Snelten

    Great Idea now how do we sell it to the Parliament….’s

  2. Jacob Hodgman (@bunyipjake)

    Good one Roswell – a practical system instead of just emotional noise the ‘privileged’ will ignore.
    I wonder which pollie is brave enough to champion it? They all should be, but we all know how easily personality and party take precedence over the people these days. The challenge is out there.

  3. Jacob Hodgman (@bunyipjake)

    Ive just sent the article link and a call for action to MP Sam Duluk (Davenport). Hopefully he’ll take a progressive attitude and help get the ball rolling. We’ll see!

  4. Colin

    Any idea on whether any of the whitehouse petitions have resulted in anything changing?

  5. Jacob Hodgman (@bunyipjake)

    Good question @Colin. There must be records available. I’ll start a petition to find out…lol

  6. Roswell

    Colin, if you follow the links you’ll see that there has been some success.

    Obama himself has also responded to some of the petitions.

  7. Margaret McMillan

    I agree, great idea. At least there’s a small chance that someone in power would see it. However, I can’t imagine any circumstances under which the current government would go for something like this. I suppose the first step is to spread the idea far and wide so that eventually the idea gets some traction.

  8. gangey1959

    Great idea. Where do I sign? Or at least sign up ?

  9. Kaye Lee

    The Swiss government also have a system where there can be citizen-initiated referenda as a result of petitions with sufficient signatures.

    I prefer this though. Rather than all those media advisers lurking anonymously at our sites we can take our grievances to them. Perhaps if it attained a certain percentage of the population it could then be taken further to a referendum but, until we get electronic voting, they are expensive.

    Hey there’s another way we can save a fortune if someone can make it safe enough.

  10. Carol Taylor

    Roswell, when you think of how this government bleats about “waste” (or used to bleat when it was in opposition) think of all the money they would save on trolling the blogs, Facebook and Twitter for opinion and trends..we would come straight to their door.

  11. Graham Houghton

    Great idea, Roswell; American, but they do have some good ideas (why do we always choose their crappy ones?). It’s still a petition, though, ain’t it? I mean, you said so yourself in the piece. Just asking.

  12. Pudd'nhead

    What a good idea but can anyone detect any great changes in the destructive (debilitating/ruinous) contest that is American politics because a few folk have found a way to ostensibly get their objections/opinions/gripes directly to the source that can weigh their offering?

  13. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    Why restrict petitions on numbers? Where I come from there are limited numbers of people in a demographic that vaguely resembles mine. Voices to parliament need to represent a combination of people who are prepared to stand and speak and collaborate on an issue or a set of them. The greater number the better but a combination is an important start which can be built onl

  14. Greg Edwards

    Great idea, but it requires that the government involved is interested in listening to the electorate. The LNP has shown that it isn’t.

  15. Roswell

    Fat chance of that, Greg.

    But they do spend $4.3 million on watching social media. This idea would be a cheaper alternative.

    On something different – ‘We the people’ are (by memory) the opening words to the U.S. Constitution. Clever use of the words calling this system after those very words.

  16. Harquebus

    “The dihydrogen monoxide hoax involves calling water by the unfamiliar chemical name “dihydrogen monoxide” (DHMO), and listing some of water’s effects in an alarming manner, such as the fact that it accelerates corrosion and can cause severe burns. The hoax often calls for dihydrogen monoxide to be regulated, labeled as hazardous, or banned. It illustrates how the lack of scientific literacy and an exaggerated analysis can lead to misplaced fears.[1]
    The hoax gained renewed popularity in the late 1990s when a 14-year-old student collected anti-DHMO petitions for a science project about gullibility. The story has since been used in science education to encourage critical thinking.”
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dihydrogen_monoxide_hoax

  17. Joanne Jasny

    The LNP government won’t even listen to their backbenchers, what makes anyone think they have any respect for the common people?

  18. Colin

    Of course you could join the IPA or start a coal mining company – then the government will do whatever you ask.

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