By Andrew M. Potts

Friends and foes of GLBT rights alike have welcomed proposed changes to how the House of Representatives accepts petitions on behalf of the general public.
Currently only the Senate treats paper and online petitions as having the same worth, with online petitions not being tabled in the House.
But a parliamentary committee has now suggested House of Representatives procedures be brought up to date with modern technologies.
However, while the Senate accepts online petitions collected by third parties, the committee has recommended the House of Representatives accept only petitions created by members of the community on its own website.
It has also suggested Parliament might have its own online discussion forums.
Alex Greenwich of Australian Marriage Equality supports the change.
“We’re absolutely looking forward to this,” Greenwich said. “A lot of people who support same-sex marriage do so through online petitions.
“In the lead-up to the Senate inquiry our website received over 9000 submissions of support for same-sex marriage.
“As unreliable as they are, online polls always show in favour of same-sex marriage so the people who support same-sex marriage do tend to show that support online.
“That it can be made easier for people to show their support and have their support heard by the federal Parliament is a great thing.”
Peter Stokes of anti-gay group the Saltshakers said he was not concerned that older opponents of GLBT rights might find online petitions difficult to use.
“I would expect hard copy petitions to continue to be accepted for those without computers,” Stokes said.
“I am surprised that one House does and the other doesn’t. It would seem sensible for both Houses to do this.”

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