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Guidance for meeting with your local MP

Visiting your local Member of Parliament (MP) can be an effective way of influencing policy. Only a small percentage of people actually take the time to visit their MP. Consequently, MPs take note and assume that others in their electorate feel similarly about the issue. Our guide to meeting with your local MP may be useful to members.

Homework on your local member

It is important to research and know something about your local member. There may be links between the member’s burning issues and yours. If you are visiting a Federal member, a good place to start research is the Senators and Members section of the Parliament House website. There are equivalent sites for the States and Territories. In addition, most local MPs and Senators have their own websites. 

Preparing your issue

Issues that social workers are concerned about tend to be complex and multifaceted. It is important that you understand this complexity. Once you have understood the complexity, you must work out how to communicate the issue to someone who may know almost nothing about the topic. The first step in simplifying your communication is to write down in 12 words or less, the policy change that you desire.
Examples:

  • To increase the rate of Youth Allowance to equal the pension rate.
  • To grant work rights to asylum seekers in community detention.

Now develop up to three short arguments which explain why the local member should support such a policy change. Avoid any social work jargon and ensure you get to the point as quickly as possible.

Ideally, write your argument down on one A4 sheet to take with you as a handout to the interview.

When preparing your issue, it is good to visit the social policy and advocacy section of the AASW website; both the position papers and statements section and the submissions and advocacy section. You may find that the AASW has already done much of the research from a social work perspective. Don’t hesitate to contact the social policy section on social.policy@aasw.asn.au if you would like any advice

The meeting itself

MPs are generally hardworking and busy. Normally your interview will be for no more than 30 minutes. The format is usually welcome and introductions, making your case, discussion and wrapping up. However you will need to be flexible as the member may wish to raise other issues, or may be delayed. Do not underestimate the influence of the member’s staff or advisors.

A good meeting is a fine balance between facts (enough to explain but not too many), passion for real issues (but not so much passion that the MP feels threatened), and hard headed discussions about solutions (if you don’t have a solution in mind, don’t meet with an MP.)

MPs often ask questions of social workers that are outside their particular field of work. You cannot be the expert on all social work topics. Be as responsive as you can without guessing. You can always get back to the MP with an answer after the meeting.

Local MPs are always interested in what is happening in their local community, so if you have a local story about your agency, be sure to mention it.

Use of media

Consider letting the local media know of your intended visit to your MP. Take a camera to the meeting and with the MP’s permission, have a photo taken of the delegation with the MP. MPs themselves are often looking for good photos to include in their own newsletters.

The AASW media team (editor@aasw.asn.au) can help you with promoting the image and we may be able to use it on social media or through our e bulletins.

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AASW - Australian Association of Social Workers