Make the most of your representatives

Politicians should represent their constituents - whether they’re in power or not, in a major party or a minor one, in the upper house or lower. CHOICE shows you how to make your voice heard.
 
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01 .Getting in touch

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If you have an issue relevant to your local, state or federal representative – whether it’s a pothole that’s been left unfilled in your local area, a long waiting list to see a doctor at a hospital or a dispute over planning approvals for your home – you’re not on your own when it comes to resolving it. Getting in touch with the appropriate government representative can lead to positive results.

This article will give you information about:


Who's in charge of the major issues?

The federal government is charged with looking after:
Medicare, immigration, customs, employment, workplace relations, Australia Post, family support and pensions, Centrelink, funding to the states and territories, income tax, GST, company taxes, control of TV and radio, imports and exports, air safety, passports, defence and broadband.
To find out who your local federal member is and how to contact them, head to the Parliament of Australia website.

The state and territory governments deal with:
Schools (for now, at least), railways, car registration, the fire brigade wildlife protection, hospitals, most roads, police, ambulance and prisons.
You can get in touch with the ACT, NSW, NT, Qld, SA, Tas, Vic and WA governments directly.

Your local government takes responsibility for:
Street signs, sports grounds, rubbish collections, building permits, collecting rates, traffic control, animal control, drains and footpaths and swimming pools, libraries, local roads, parks, gardens and other issues.


How
to get in touch with your representatives

You can get in touch with your local member by mail, email, or phone, or in person at a meet and greet in the area (schedules of meet and greets should be on your member's website) or at a one-on-one meeting.

Getting in touch directly can be tricky. Parliamentary sitting weeks or just before an election are busy times, and you may not always be able to speak with your MP, councillor or senator straight away; you'll often be put in touch with an intermediate staff member or adviser. Professor of politics at the Institute for Social Research, Brian Costar, believes constituents are likely to get the best results if they see their representatives face-to-face, but says it’s important to go to the right member for your issue.

“People often don’t distinguish very clearly between the various jurisdictions,” Costar says. “They’ll go to their state member over a federal issue or vice versa. A lot of time is spent redirecting people to the right places.”

What issues can you bring up?

Constituents can get in touch with their local member regarding specific problems or general issues, including:

  • Problems with government agencies
  • Issues with garbage collection
  • Zoning inquiries
  • Requests for changes in party policy positions
  • To express a concern about legislation

“You might want to contact your MP about a matter of broader concern, such as passing on your views about foreign policy or the budget, or arguing a case for a different policy approach from the government,” says emeritus professor John Warhurst of the School of Politics and International Relations at ANU. “You’re asking for the MP to pass on your views to the minister or party room. A lot might then depend on the influence of your local MP, who could be a member of the opposition or the government – and that makes a difference.

“For most common issues, such as matters of justice and access to government programs, it might depend more on how experienced and hard-working your MP is, rather than what party they’re in. But if you’re looking to change the law, certainly it’s better to have an MP who’s also a government minister.”
 
 

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