I’m taking a break from being a walking, talking, one-woman letter-writing campaign to post a few sample letters for people who are completely stuck. A big part of this exercise is once again to show you that you don’t have to write something brilliant, so long as you write something and send it. Because I really don’t know how good these letters are (it’s hard to produce a quality product in bulk!).
Good or bad, they are getting replies.
Canned replies from Labor, mostly, which is a bit disappointing, but not surprising. I suspect that the ALP is hearing from quite a lot of people right now, and the precise content is probably less important than being able to scan the letter and putting it in the ‘for’ or ‘against’ pile. (Please bear in mind, I have absolutely no knowledge of the inner workings of political parties – I’m just basing this on the fact that I am getting very standardised ‘your call is important to us and will be answered by the next available operator’ sorts of letters.) Though it wouldn’t surprise me to that they have some sort of spreadsheet where they tick off what particular issues were raised in the letter so that they can get some idea of which particular bits of the budget are causing the most conniptions. It’s what I’d do if I were them, frankly.
(Actually, if I were them and I were very clever, I might even keep a file of people who were interested in particular issues and contact them when I was campaigning or doing something about a particular issue and wanted either donations or a show of public support. Tailored marketing, in fact. On second thoughts, I think I’m glad they don’t seem to be that clever yet.)
The Greens are sending me very sweet emails thanking me for my support, and earnestly assuring me that they will keep fighting the good fight. I liked the one who suggested that I could follow the Greens on Facebook, and in the same breath added ‘but you are probably doing that already’. No flies on her… In general, though, I’m getting the impression that these particular emails are being read by actual people and replied to briefly but personally. Incidentally, I also get the sense that very few people ever contact politicians thanking them for what they are currently doing or saying and encouraging them to keep doing it. There is a tone of astonished delight in these responses that is quite unmistakeable. It’s quite fun. (And then you get added to their mailing lists FOREVER.)
Palmer United seemed incredibly excited to hear from me. Something tells me that they don’t get many letters. They also clearly decided that I am a good letter-writing sort of soul, and thus encouraged me to share my views with my local MP and my newspaper. And to join the Palmer United Party. I reckon the letter was about half form letter and half not.
Oh, and I’ve got a reply from Joe Hockey’s office from my last round of letters about Medicare. He is aware of the concerns of the community and appreciates that I have taken the time to write to him. It’s so nice to know that he cares…
On to the letters!
To the Greens Senators, I’m just sending a pretty standard letter. I figure they are going to oppose the budget no matter what – and I want to encourage this – but I don’t think they need a long letter telling them to stand firm or why I care. We are pretty much on the same wavelength here, and I’m just saying thanks for being on my side:
Dear Ms Rice,
I am writing to thank you for your steadfast opposition to this Budget, and to encourage you and your colleagues to continue to fight these frightening policies. I share the Greens’ belief that the proposed changes to the pensions and Medicare are going to be very harmful to the most vulnerable members of our society, and that the budget as a whole is only going to hurt Australians.
Please continue to fight this budget – I think a lot of Australians are counting on you.
To the ALP Shadow Ministers, everyone is getting a similar opening and closing paragraph, but I’m also writing a) about concerns that are relevant to their shadow ministry or b) about anything that they’ve written about online relating to the budget. So, for example, here’s the letter I sent to Jan McLucas, the Shadow Minister whose portfolio includes homelessness and mental health:
Dear Ms McLucas,
I am writing to thank you for opposing the Budget, and to encourage you and your colleagues to continue to fight these disastrous policies. I believe that the proposed changes to the Disability Pension and to Newstart are unfair and dangerous, and that the budget as a whole is only going to hurt Australians
I am deeply afraid of the effect of giving young people who are unemployed no income whatsoever for six months. Not everyone has family who can or will support them, and I can’t see any way that this change will not lead to a rise in homelessness.
I am also concerned about the effect of changes in the Disability Pension on people with mental health conditions. The process of applying for disability support is already highly stressful, as people with a disability are forced to prove that they are unable to work – with their livelihoods on the line. For people with depression or anxiety, this process can exacerbate their illness, as it increases anxiety about whether they will be able to pay for food or therapy. Requiring people to be reviewed yet again will only add to their stress.
If we want to get people into the workforce, we need to stop punishing jobseekers and the disabled and instead work from the opposite end of the problem – creating jobs, providing incentives to employers to employ qualified people with disabilities, and providing training to those who lack work experience or whose employable skills are no longer useful in the workplace.
I urge you to continue to fight against this budget.
Yours sincerely, etc…
Yes, I’m recycling sections. That’s because I’m a good little Greenie! Well, no, it’s more because there are limits to both my diligence and my creativity.
My letters to Independents and members of smaller parties are similarly targeted – using a similar first and last paragraph, but then writing about pensions, Medicare and higher education to Clive Palmer, who seems to care about these things at present, about families and Medicare to John Madigan, because those are things that worry him, and so forth. I’m not sure I can write convincingly about the car industry to Nick Xenophon, but I can certainly write about the unfair way in which the burdens of this budget will be distributed.
And so forth.
I haven’t finished all my ALP and Independent letters yet, truth be told, but that’s the general formula I’m using, for what it’s worth. I’m also contemplating writing to Liberal MPs in marginal seats, because they’ve got to be feeling pretty insecure right now. Since I am a denizen of a safe Labor seat, this will probably not be very effective, but if you live in a marginal Liberal seat, it might be worth writing to your local member and telling him or her what you think of this budget. While crossing the floor does seem to be a thing of the past, applying pressure to the Liberal leadership from within is a possibility, and I suspect marginal Liberal MPs might well be feeling quite motivated to do this.
I will say, I’m rather enjoying writing these letters. Usually, my letters to politicians are fuelled by anger and fear and despair. And certainly, there is anger and fear now – but this time, I’m writing to people who might actually help. Or at least try to help. Which is rather nice.
May your letter-writing experience be a fulfilling one!