Guidelines for writing to politicians
Why Write Letters
We generally direct criticism of Australia’s refugee policy and the actions taken by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection to Scott Morrison and Peter Dutton. However, every Federal politician is also responsible, unless they have actively and openly opposed the Federal Government’s position and actions.
Many Federal politicians do not know the facts about our refugee policy, and most have not confronted the moral issues it raises. Our politicians are given information by their minders and the party political spin doctors. A good example of this was the 2001 Children Overboard Affair.
So, the responsibility is on us to educate our politicians and force them to acknowledge the facts and confront the issues raised. We can all do this by writing to them, asking very simple, focused questions and then pressing for an answer. Pressing them for an answer is critical. They will not want to answer and they will refer your letter to someone else, or respond with a form letter containing bureaucratic fog in the hope that you will go away.
Tips for writing to Politicians
Contact our politicians and encourage them to act. Any contact is seen as an indicator of public opinion!
If you phone, you will talk to the office person whose job it is to record your views. Write out what you will say before you phone. One or two sentences are plenty. When it is election year it is worth adding that you will re-consider your vote on the basis of the party’s refugee policy.
Letters, either typed or hand written, are much more effective than emails and tend to elicit a response.
If you email, give your email a title – Begin by affirming, finish by asking. Try to be polite.
Use your own words, not someone else’s. An original letter sent by one person is generally more effective than a form or template letter sent by dozens of people. If you feel your writing skills are not the best, remember that a letter written in your own words will carry much more weight than a letter that just repeats what some else said.
Always remain polite and courteous, but don’t be afraid to take a firm position. While your representative’s job is to represent you, you must 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. Your representative could be in elected office for decades, and could be promoted to higher, more influential, office within their party. Avoid creating enemies.
Keep your letter brief. Please ask only two questions (see below for suggested content). As a normal rule letters should be no longer than one page and should be about one issue only. You need to be concise as Politicians receive many letters on many topics every day. Long or rambling letters are likely to be put aside and read on a quieter day and that day may never come. Also brief, concise letters makes evasion all the more evident and repeated refusal to answer a simple question carries its own story.
Handwritten letters often get more attention than word-processed letters and emails are often ignored.
You are likely to get a wordy or evasive answer. Read it carefully. If it does not actually answer your questions, write again pointing out politely that they have not answered the questions.
Repeat the question until you receive an answer.
If you get an answer, write thanking them for the response.
Some issues you could address
• Resettlement of those on Manus and Nauru who will not be accepted by
the United States, specifically those from Iran and Somalia:
US rejects all Iranian and Somali asylum seekers
• New Zealand’s offer to accept of 150 refugees annually from off shore detention
• Returning those who came seeking asylum to countries of danger such as
• Cutting off income support and housing from those from Manus and Nauru
who are in Australia for medical treatment:
Vinnies blast cut in benefits
• Tightening of rules around visitors and what can be taken in such as food to
onshore detention centres
• Cuts in medical and counselling services to detainees in PNG and on Nauru:
cuts to medical services.
How to address your letter
The Australian Parliament website has guidelines on the correct forms of address for Members and Senators.