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5 things you should never do when contacting your local member of parliament

· Julie Buxton,Parliament,Engagement,Analysis

Whether you are seeking to resolve a personal issue, garnishing support for a local campaign or are voicing your opinion on a policy position, there are some things to consider before contacting your local member of parliament. Many an ill thought out or inappropriately articulated letter, email or phone call has led to a delay in issue resolution, or risks being ignored entirely, so if you’re going to take the time to contact your local MP, here are some things you should never do.

1. Leave off important personal details

Whether you contact the office via phone, email or letter, make sure you provide all your personal contact details such as your full name, email, phone number and residential address. This is so office staff can establish whether you reside, or have interests in the electorate and ensures they are able to get back in touch with you, or pass your details on to a Minister or Senators office if the issue needs to be accelerated. If you don’t provide these details in the initial contact, it will delay ultimate outcomes.

 

2. Waffle on with no clear objective or desired outcome


You need to be clear about what the issue is, and what you want your MP to do for you. Try to include this as a single sentence at the start before you go into further explanation. If you are passionate about an issue and you just want your MP to know how you feel, then outline your concern and state that you wanted your views to be known. If you need your MP to try to help you resolve a personal issue, then include any relevant documents, a timeline of events, and what outcome you need for the problem to be resolved. If you’re lobbying your MP on a policy position, you need to outline how this will affect you, any relevance to the electorate or community and what your preferred outcome is. If your objective isn’t stated, then your objective isn’t known.

3. CC your local member into an email addressed to someone else

Many people or groups email a Minister or the Premier, and cc their local member into the email. If you do this, you can guarantee you won’t receive a response from your local member, because he or she was cc’d in, rather than receiving an email addressed directly to them. Even if you live in the electorate, if you don’t write directly to the member, the member won’t respond. If you want your local member to know you have written to someone else, and that you would like their support, you can attach a copy of your communications in an email addressed directly to your member (and as above, that clearly states what you want them to do).
 

4. Send generic “campaign” emails

Many campaigns make the common mistake of drafting up an email or letter and asking those passionate about the issue to put their name and signature to it and send it on to their local member of parliament. The problem with this is that an electorate office might then receive dozens, if not hundreds of emails that are all essentially the same and have had very little effort put into them, which can attract the same in response. If you’re truly passionate about the issue, and want to lobby your local member for change, take the time to write your own email that articulates your own thoughts and feelings, don’t just cut and copy someone else’s wording. It doesn’t have to be long, but it does need to be your view.
 

5. Abuse, threaten or intimidate

Understandably, when people contact their local member they are usually either at their wits end with an issue they have not been able to resolve, or they are passionate about an issue or policy position. The member is there to advocate on your behalf where possible, help facilitate resolution for issues or to hear your views and opinions. If your contact with them includes inappropriate language or behaviour it is highly likely you won’t get a response, and the points you raise are unlikely to be considered.

Remember, MPs represent electorates that include upwards of 40,000 residents as well as hundreds of businesses, sporting clubs, community groups and volunteer groups, so both the MP and their staff are generally very busy. Well thought out, personal, polite and clear correspondence to your MP will not only expedite the process but will go a long way towards having your issue resolved, understood or considered.

FPL Advisory is a team of specialists resolving risks and creating opportunities with respect to government. We work with public sector and corporate clients to execute strategies for owning and managing change

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