Injured Workers Support Network Training.
Talking to politicians can feel like a harrowing experience but with preparation and a bit of fore knowledge about how they operate it can be easy and effective.
Politicians have a few tasks they need to get done during their term, represent their constituents, make and explain policy but their main purpose in life is to get re-elected. That means all politicians are approachable. They will make some time to listen to you and give you their attention. That doesn't mean they will agree with you or do what you want them to do, but you will have an opportunity to get your message across.
2. All politicians are time poor.
Without exception all politicians will be pressed to give you a significant amount of time to get your message across to them. Given they need to attend to their parliamentary duties as well as others in their electorate, if you realise that their time with you is limited it will allow you to prepare for an effective meeting.
3. All politicians know the tricks.
There are a number of tales about how to get a politician to do what you want them to do. Though there are a few that might work, these rely on you having power over them, which is very unlikely and can backfire very quickly. The best advice is don't try to play tricks on a politician, they know them, they have had experience in combatting them and using them will deplete whatever message you are trying to convey. -So don't try. Honesty beats trickery every day of the week.
If you want to talk to a politician you need to know what you want them to do for you and you need to tell them.
This may seem a basic rule but it is harder to put into practice. If you haven't already, take time out now to go through the IWSN Telling Your Story training. This will help you get the message you want to tell the politician in an order that they will more easily grasp and understand.
Understanding your problem and situation is the first task of a politician during any meeting they may have with you. They will be thinking this while you are talking to them, and also thinking about whether they can do what you want them to do. Their capacity and willingness to help will change depending on their political situation.
The Premier or Prime Minister
You can expect a Premier or a Prime Minister to refer you to the relevant Minister rather than take your matter on themselves. If they do, more than likely you will be dealing with an advisor rather than the Premier or Prime Minister. They do have a chief of staff who may have some time to meet with you. If the issue is big enough, i.e there is enough attention, this can change though.
A Cabinet Minister
Cabinet ministers can be exactly the right type of people to enact change, they are more likely to know the issues that you are presenting and have near immediate access to the leavers that can change things but, they are also likely to assign and advisor than meet with you themselves. They are in general very reliant on their department. If you write them a letter, they will have their department answer it on their behalf, even if it is their signature. Some ministers will be attentive to the letters and issues that come into their office but there is no guarantee that this will happen.
A Government MP
Government MP's can be very useful for raising your issue. In general they will give you the time to talk and will be likely to want to take up your issue if it is to help a constituent (you need to be a constituent though). They will also send your concern to the relevant minister and wait for the reply. a Government MP can put some pressure on departments (through the relevant minister) to have personal matters reviewed but are also likely to accept the response from the minister or their department as unchangeable.
Leader of the Opposition
Like the Premier or Prime Minister the leader of the opposition is likely to have limited time to assist you and will refer you to the Opposition spokesperson(or shadow minister) rather than deal with your matter personally. They are also interested in whether the government is failing to do something so they can highlight it in parliament or elsewhere (though this is also likely to be done by the spokesperson (or shadow minister). They do have a staff but are also more likely to read and respond personally than the government leader.
Shadow Minister (or spokesperson)
Shadow Ministers are the most likely to give you a chance to have your story told. Their capacity to change is limited though (they aren't the government). Unlike a general MP, they are likely to have an opportunity to talk to the relevant Minister and might be prepared to use this contact to have your issue raised with them. they can and do use the information to adapt opposition policy though, which (if they get a chance to be the government) can lead to permanent changes.
Opposition MP's are the best chance of getting in front of a politician to air your concerns. They will send your concerns onto the relevant Minister (and shadow minister) and take up the issue on your behalf. Remember though, they will likely do this only for their constituents (because of time constraints).
Members of the Upper House
Senators and Legislative councillors play an important role in our democracy. These MP's are more likely to take a concern and can have a lot of power within the parliamentary process as they control parliamentary committees. These committees run investigations which highlights issues in government policy or practices. Apart from this they will do the same as the local MP's. If you are concerned with the inaction of your local MP (as in when they just hold the government line), all political parties will have a Senator assigned to those seat which don't have a sitting lower house MP in them, you can find these on the Party websites or by contacting the Party head office. Unlike lower house MP's though, they are pressed for time.
The cross bench MPs are all from smaller parties. Their power is contingent on the lack of control the government (or opposition) have in the upper house (unusual for them to have control of the lower house but not unheard of). They usually have a larger staff than other general MP's but they are also less likely to have the knowledge of (or access to that knowledge) your issue that other MP's may have. It can be hard to pick whether they will assist or not with your particular issue, but in general they will personally read the mail that comes in and may be likely to provide assistance and follow up for you if they do take up your issue.
Premier/Prime Minister/Leader of the Opposition
A staff member or referral to the relevant Minister/Shadow Minister
A staff member, or someone from the relevant department
A staff member (federal) or the shadow minister themselves (state) or sometimes an electoral officer.
The actual local MP and/or one of their electoral officers
Upper House MP
The actual MP and/or one of their staff members
The reality is that most politicians don’t personally read their emails, or the letters they receive.
The process is rather simple:
Get down on the piece of paper what you want from the politician and why you want it giving examples from your life that demonstrates why this is an issue that needs to be addressed. Keep it simple and as short as it needs to be (in general two pages maximum).
Give the office a bit of time to have read your letter/email then get on the blower to them and ask for a meeting.
At the meeting tell them simply what the issue is and what you want them to do again. The politician or staff member will want to ask you some questions. Remember to be honest and don't make threats but don't be strayed by their words that may try to change your opinion (it's not your opinion that needs to be changed).
Thank them for meeting with you and reiterate what you need to happen to change your situation.
If you have got what you want then thank them for their help in achieving it, if you haven't let them know how the response doesn't meet your needs.
We started this by saying not to play any games because politicians know what these games are. But, the one thing politicians fear is negative publicity and they embrace positive publicity. So, don't be silent about what the politician has or hasn't done. you can always send the correspondence to our website and we will be more than willing to publish or you can go to facebook or twitter or anyone of another sources such as the local media or state wide media. you might not get a run on these but as long as you try to get the message out, the next time they deal with you, they will change (they may refuse to see you- publish that) or they may give you more assistance than they did before. Never make a threat, always follow through.