Have you ever contacted a politician about an issue that matters to you?
If you haven't, being heard by your elected representatives in Parliament is not as difficult or intimidating as it might seem — and it does make a difference.
Let's do this!
- Getting started: who are you contacting?
- What do you want to say? Talking points.
- Letter advice
- Phone call advice
Do you know who your Federal Member of Parliament (MP) is?
And don't forget Senators, they represent everyone in your state, and Senate votes can decide an issue.
You can find out who represents you in the House of Representatives on the Members information page of the Parliament website.
To find your senators, same drill: enter your postcode here.
If you want to know more about how they've voted on specific issues in the past, They Vote For You is an excellent resource.
Talking points are not a script.
You flesh these ideas out in your own words; it’s just something to remind you of the topics you want to bring up in the conversation or letter.
Having them in front of you when you call or while you're writing may help you feel more confident.
It doesn't have to be long.
If there are specific facts or relevant statistics that you want to highlight note them down too.
Be polite, authentic, and direct. Be yourself!
There's 4 things you want to cover.
- Your reason for making contact
- Why this issue matters
- What needs to happen
- What specific action you are asking this person to take
We've outlined some ideas below in our #notmydebt talking points.
(If you have personally had assistance from your MP with you debt review, then your conversation will be a bit different. Build on the relationship you already have.)
"Refinements" to the system have not stopped it doing real damage.
Inappropriate to compare actual fortnightly earning to average from whole year.
Unacceptably high error rate.
Bullying vulnerable people.
Speak personally. Do you have a debt? Does fairness matter to you?
Do you feel like your elected representatives are actually representing you?
What impact is this having on your community? Does it reflect your values as an Australian?
End the automated compliance data matching system, and suspend all planned expansions of data matching for compliance review.
Increase the number of full-time permanent staff employed in Centrelink offices and on DHS phone lines.
Make the Department of Human Services' decision making processes more transparent.
Contact the Minister for Human Services, the Hon Michael Keenan MP, with opposition to the automated system.
Support the recommendations of the Senate Inquiry.
Oppose punitive "reforms" to our social security safety net.
Support current and proposed legislation protecting whistleblowers.
- Hand writing will make a stronger impression of personal commitment than typed and printed.
(But if your handwriting is a but rusty in this keyboard age or if typed is more accessible for you, typed is brilliant.)
Snail-mail is better than email. Email is better than not writing.
Do what you can.
It doesn’t have to be long, just polite, genuine, and on-topic.
Think up a question or two to ask, so that they have to get back to you with an answer. If it’s an unexpected question that they don’t have a prepared answer for, or a question that requires them to do some research, even better.
Address your letter correctly. The Parliamentary website has a handy guide for How to address Senators and Members.
- If you’ve never made a call like this before and are a bit nervous, that’s totally understandable.
And it’s okay if it comes up in the conversation briefly; it lets them know that the issue really is important to you, enough that you’re willing to push yourself out of your comfort zone and do something that’s not easy for you.
Introduce yourself as a resident in the electorate, and give your full name.
Keep your talking points in front of you when you make the call so you feel confident and anchored.
Let them know to expect a letter from you on the topic as well.
You know what you want to say, and it’s their job to represent you.
Hello my name is _____________, and I live in the electorate of ___________.
(ask to either speak to your MP or leave a message for them)
I’m calling you for [these reasons].
I am asking you as my elected representative to do [these specific things].
Thank you for your time.