Contacting Parliamentarians

Parliament House Canberra

Photo: Andrea Schaffer

A highly effective way of making sure that our message is being heard by decision-makers is to call or to arrange to meet with your Federal Member of Parliament or the Senators representing your state or Territory.

We’ve been actively lobbying key members of parliament for some months now, but our capacity is limited. The more people that get in front of parliamentarians to express their concerns about this legislation, the more likely we are to defeat it.

Ideally, you should focus on members of the Labor Party. The Greens and a number of cross-bench Senators (notably Nick Xenophon from SA and David Leyonhjelm from NSW) are already opposed. If we can get Labor to oppose it, we have a real chance of blocking it in the Senate.

Not sure who your Federal MP is?

Look up your local member on the APH website.

Don’t forget your Senators!

Each state has 12 Senators (the Territories get two each). Look up your Senators on the APH website.

Phone calls

  • Phone calls to  MP or Senator’s electorate offices can be very effective, particularly given the short timeframe and only take a minute.
  • Explain that you’re a constituent that is concerned about the data retention bill and are asking them to vote against it. When electorate offices start getting more than a few of these calls, the MP or Senator will know about it.

In writing

  • If you’ve got the time, a 1-2 page letter will also be effective.
  • We recommend you send your letter by both email and by post (the hard copy will make it much more likely that your email won’t be ignored). If you’re contacting a Minister, also send a copy to their Shadow. You can simply use “Parliament House, Canberra ACT 2600″ as the address (with the person’s name, of course).
  • See below for guidance on what you might want to include.

Meeting Parliamentarians

Our elected officials are always keen to meet with local voters to discuss the various concerns they have. Make sure you ring ahead to make an appointment as they are usually quite busy with full meeting schedules. Showing up at their office without an appointment will likely lead to disappointment.

Once you have secured an appointment with your MP or Senator you’ll want to follow these tips to help make your meeting as successful as possible.

    1. Know your agenda and roles going in. Know what you want to say and what action you want your Federal Member of Parliament to take. If you’re going with someone else you’ll need to work out how the conversation will go, who does what and who says what.

Use this Briefing Paper to help frame the conversation and to give your MP something to review during the meeting and as a reference afterwards.

  1. Who you are matters. Tell your story. Why do you care and why are you moved to act?
  2. Deliver a clear, compelling message. Your message isn’t just a list of bulleted policy points, but should address why they should care and act. Provide local context. Make a strong connection between the issue and your local community that the Federal Member of Parliament represents. Use local examples to illustrate your issue’s importance.
  3. Demonstrate your power. Who do you represent? You’re representing other Australians concerned about a mandatory data retention regime. By helping us organise these meeting you’re also representing the EFA. Are you a constituent? Yes – it’s far more important that you meet with your local Federal Member of Parliament to ensure that they are more likely to listen to your concerns and agree to meet with you.
  4. Politely control the conversation. Remember what you came for. Politicians/staff often control conversations with small talk, talking about things other than the issue at hand, or asking questions they know you can’t answer. Stay focused on your agenda and diplomatically move the conversation where you want it to go.
  5. Make a hard ask. “Can we count on you to vote against Government’s mandatory data retention regime and/or that seek to force Internet Service Providers to censor the service they provide” Pause and wait for an answer. Make sure you note what they say in responding.
  6. Be strategic in your response to their position: Thank them and help turn them into champions. If you can, give undecided Members of Parliament the information they need to become supporters or commit to get them something if you don’t know it. Neutralize the opposition if possible, but don’t waste time trying to argue with them.
  7. Saying “I don’t know” is not a crime. It’s always OK to say that you don’t know but will follow up with an answer they’re looking for. You don’t have to be a policy expert to be effective. Make sure you note down what question(s) they have and then send them to us and we’ll help you answer them.
  8. Remember: Rome wasn’t built in a day. You’re not going to get everything you want out of this meeting. It’s the beginning of a critical relationship that will ultimately move them over time.
  9. Do: stay positive, talk in the public interest, view this as an educational process, and take the long view (no permanent enemies, no permanent friends).
  10. Don’t: whine, threaten, bluff, misrepresent the facts, malign the opposition, personalize differences of opinion, or burn bridges.

When you’ve finished your meeting make sure you take some time to let us know what they said and what commitments they gave you. If you have a particularly encouraging response, we may be able to follow up with them later in Canberra.

You can let us know what they said at our contact form.

By doing this we can keep our Members of Parliament accountable together.


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