While emails are good for getting MPs and Senators to acknowledge that they should be paying attention to an issue, you can help support the campaign by trying to engage with your politicians using other methods as well. This page provides guidance that will help you to do that effectively.
Find your politicians
Members of the House of Representatives (MPs)
Search for your local member at the Parliament House Member search page
Or use the They Vote For You website
For a list of Senators from your State or Territory, see the Parliament House Senator search page.
A phone call to your politician’s office (either their electorate office or their Parliament House office) will help ensure that the issue gets their attention.
Letters (and even faxes) are also quite effective in ensuring politicians will engage with an issue. Most letters will get a written response, though that can take weeks if not months in some cases.
Email and Letter
Sending both an email and a hard copy letter by post – indicate in your email that the hard copy is coming – is particularly effective in ensuring that you’ll get a response, and may result in a faster response than a letter alone.
Face to face meeting
If you can arrange one, an in-person meeting with your representative and/or a relevant member of their staff is likely to be the most effective method of contact. A meeting usually needs to be arranged at least a week (and often more) in advance. Unless you’re in Canberra, your best option is to try to arrange a meeting at their electorate office, outside Parliamentary sitting periods.
See when Parliament is sitting at the Parliament House Events Calendar.
Tips for contacting Members of Parliament
- Include your name and address, or at least your suburb – politicians are likely to pay most attention to people who live in their electorate.
- Keep it brief: no longer than about one page (or equivalent for email) and keep to one issue only. Be as concise as possible.
- Do a little research about your politician. Almost all have Wikipedia pages, and there’ll usually be some details about their background on their parliament house web page, which should help you understand what their main motivations are likely to be. For example, if they used to be a teacher, then it will make sense to focus on the benefits to the education sector.
- Use your own words, not someone else’s: original letters are more effective than a form letters/emails sent by dozens of people. Even if your writing skills are not the best, a letter written in your own words will carry much more weight than regurgitating what some else said.
- State the topic clearly: include a subject line. If it is about a specific piece of legislation (an Act) or a proposed law (a Bill), state the full name of the Act or Bill in the subject line, or at least in the first paragraph.
- Start with a clear statement of purpose: For example:
“I am writing to urge your support for / opposition to…”
“I am writing to ask you to support / oppose …”
- Focus on three important points: choose the three points that are most likely to be persuasive in gaining support for your position and flesh them out. This is more effective than attempting to address numerous points in a letter.
- Ask for concrete action: for example, ask them to raise the matter in their party room.
- Ask for a response to your letter: while the response will usually be a form letter, written and authorised by their political party, you will know you have had an impact on their office. Party politics in Australia are such that few elected politicians are likely to tell you whether or not they personally share your views/position. However, a well-written letter can be instrumental in prompting them to take action behind the public scenes to inform and potentially change their political party’s position.
- Personalise your letter: when possible, include a personal story and/or information on how the issue affects you, your family, your business, or people around you. This can help your representative understand your position and can be very persuasive as he/she forms a position on an issue. The more personal your letter, the more impact it is likely to have.
- Personalise your relationship: if you have ever voted for the representative, or contributed time or money to their election campaign, or have met them, etc, say so. The closer your representative feels to you, the more effective your letter is likely to be.
- Be polite: be courteous, but don’t be afraid to take a firm position. While your representative’s job is to represent you, remember that politicians and their staff are people too. Threats, hostile remarks and rude/offensive language are among the fastest ways to alienate people who could otherwise decide to support your position in light of rational and reasoned argument. Avoid creating enemies.
- Thanks is as important as criticism: Politicians and political parties need to be able to tell the ‘other side’ that they have been inundated with calls and letters supporting their position. Write thank you letters to politicians/parties that you know support your position. This will encourage them to stand firm on their position rather than backing down, which has often happened during the passage of proposed laws through Australian parliaments.
- Keep the irritation factor low: avoid accusing/criticising the wrong politicians/party. Politicians, like anyone else, may become irritated when accused of holding views they do not. If you are not sure of the views of the person or political party you are contacting, either research the matter, ask them, or just inform them of your views and why they should support same.
Contacting the Media (Letters to Editors)
Politicians and/or their staff generally monitor the letters pages of newspapers. As well, published letters can raise awareness of an issue among readers who would not otherwise be aware of it. Even if not published, your letter could be instrumental in drawing to the newspaper’s attention that the issue is of public concern and should be reported on by their staff.
Keep letters short (most papers have a limit of 200 or 300 words) and include your name, address and phone number (newspapers generally will not print letters unless they are able to contact and confirm the sender).
Some addresses for emailing/submitting letters to editors are below (addresses can usually be found on the letters page of the newspaper):
But don’t forget about regional and suburban newspapers – your local MP will almost certainly also monitor these.