Australia is moving toward an epetition model that will potentially streamline formal petitions at all government levels. While Queensland already has an e-petitioning protocol in place, the Federal Government is now seriously considering this option also.Such reforms are timely in a social system where politicians are tweeting, blogging and poking, yet most still remain out of reach when it comes to receiving petitions over the internet. Politicians may soon be more accountable if the Government accepts a recommendation from a parliamentary committee that the House of Representatives should treat electronic petitions the same way it treats those delivered on paper.The committee has also left the door open to Parliament running an online discussion forum, a medium embraced by the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, saying the issue should be investigated after the next election. But the outspoken Liberal backbencher Wilson Tuckey said he was opposed to the move towards "e-democracy" because it would ''devalue the currency'' of petitions and letters from voters by making them too easily signed and lodged. He quips, ''When you get complaints from a constituent, if they're in their own handwriting and clearly have been written at a kitchen table and an envelope purchased and a stamp applied, they're fair dinkum.''The move towards electronic petitions will bring the lower house in line with the Senate. But while the Senate accepts online petitions generated anywhere on the internet, the committee recommended the House of Representatives use its own website to give people an opportunity to create and sign petitions.The petitions committee chairwoman and Labor backbencher, Julia Irwin, said electronic petitions would give people greater access to their representatives. She contends, ''Electronic communications has opened up a brave new world that enables a connection of every citizen to the process of government."Under the model proposed by the committee, instead of including a signature, all people who want to be included on the petition will need to respond to an email verifying their identity.Petitions, which date back to the 13th century in Britain, have been on the wane in the Australian Parliament in recent years, where they are often tabled and then promptly ignored. To the end of October more than a quarter of a million people had signed one of 120 House of Representatives petitions.If it adopts the recommendations, the Australian Parliament would follow in the footsteps of the Scottish and Queensland parliaments, which have already introduced the system. In Scotland, petition signers can add comments on the issue, while the Queensland model requires a member of Parliament to sponsor an online petition.The Federal Parliament should adopt the software used by the Queensland Parliament, it said. The Queensland Parliament was recently criticised for being unwilling to make its recording of parliamentary proceedings available for software that makes it easier for voters to analyse the performance of MPs.The key report issued by the House of Representative Standing Committee on Petitions, is entitled, Electronic petitioning to the House of Represenatives (Oct 2009).I will blog further on the recommendations of the report soon.