Our Parliamentary system is the most effective and powerful force for justice in this country. If we want to see change, the Parliamentary system is the most effective way to bring it about!
But how does it work?
As an ordinary Aussie, I didn’t know how the system worked until I entered Parliamentary service as an Assistant Electorate Officer (secretary) for a sitting MP.
Working within the system made me realise two things:
1. How simple and easy it is for any ordinary Australian to get their complaint heard at the highest levels in government.
2. The majority of Australians don’t know how to use their local members, once they vote them into office.
Local Members are there to serve the people!
I discovered local members are approachable and willing to listen. More than that, they are a direct doorway to our elected Ministers. They have the power to open the door for you.
This is how it works:
- When a local member receives a written complaint, he passes the complaint up the line to the appropriate Minister’s office.
- The Minister’s liaison officer checks the facts and refers the complaint to the Minister for action.
- Once the Minister has acted, he or she informs the local member in writing of the action taken.
- The local member passes the Minister’s response/resolution back to the complainant.
This is standard procedure.
In short, the quickest and most effective way to get your complaint in front of a Minister is to send your complaint via your local member.
That is unless you write directly to the Minister yourself.
However, if you choose this road, you need to follow a few protocols. Ask yourself:
- Is my concern a State problem or a Federal problem? For example, schools are State, Centrelink is Federal, Adani is a concern within both State and Federal – State for local environmental issues – Federal for objections to funding and coal mining. State Ministers cannot address Federal concerns and vice versa.
- Does the Minister have the power to act on my concern? For example, there would be no point sending a complaint about aged care to the Minister for Education, for Minister’s cannot act outside their own portfolio’s.
Once you’ve chosen to write to your local MP or Minister, how should the letter be written?
Firstly, comment on something the member has done that you admire. This shows immediately that you are not an aggressor or antagonist.
Secondly, don’t accuse your provocateur! Rather than accusation or blame, use testimony. In other words, try not to say, “they did the wrong thing,” instead say, “I had the wrong thing done to me.”
Thirdly, provide evidence! If a particular law has been broken, find the law and quote it in your letter. Not as a command, but as a suggestion that this law may be being violated.
Finally, do not demand action! Rather, put your request for action into a question. Instead of saying, “you need to take immediate action,” you could ask, “is this something you would be able to assist us with?”
Just letting a Minister know a problem exists is not enough. The Minister needs to understand what you want him to do. Give him something to do. Ask him to act on your behalf.
Then… be patient. It can take up to three months to hear back from a Minister.
Can a Minister ignore your complaint? Well, no! He is held accountable by the Senate.
If you haven’t heard back from your local member or Minister within six months, you can take the complaint further; to a Senator.
If your complaint has not been taken seriously by a Minister, and the Minister cannot give the Senator a satisfactory reason for not acting on your request, a Senator has the power to call said Minister to account by tabling a ‘Question on Notice’ in the Parliament. This basically means that the Senate asks the Minister to explain their action or lack of action to the Senate, and the Minister has 30 days to respond.
Our system of government is an exceedingly powerful system.
It is designed to be used by ordinary people!
It is built for streamlined action which can take the requests and complaints of every single Australian right through to the highest level, if necessary.
But… it’s useless if it’s not used!
Ministers are elected to serve the public; that is, you and me, the average Aussie. However, they can’t serve us if we don’t tell them what we want!
The minorities are being heard because they use the system. They let our MPs know what they want, and so our MPs serve them because that’s their job.
We have to change what our MPs act on!
We need our MPs working for us! Therefore, we need to make our voices heard!
We’ve all seen what happens in our country when the silent majority speaks!
So if you want this government to bring change, you need keep on using your voice.
Write to your local member! Get your friends to write. Often!
Ordinary people CAN make a difference!