The government is always looking to letters and talkback to monitor the mood of the public.
Write a letter to the editor
Letters to the Editor pages of local and city newspapers are a great way of getting the environment issue out there. Most readers go to the Letters pages to see what ‘real people’ are saying rather than tame journos. If letters are short and snappy, they’re more likely to get read than long-winded ones.
The major papers like issues that are on the boil, letters that are short and sweet, humorous or thoughts that are cleverly put. Include your address and daytime phone number so they can make sure you’re a real person.
Also please write letters to your local regional newspapers.
But remember to send emailled letters off separately; they don’t like to think your letter has also gone to five other places as well. Click here to read a sample of the favourite myths that the logging industry spreads and our replies (TWS and EEG). You may wish to use our responses when writing letters.
The Herald Sun – firstname.lastname@example.org
The Age – email@example.com
MX magazine – firstname.lastname@example.org
The Australian – email@example.com
The Canberra Times – firstname.lastname@example.org
The Sydney Morning Herald – email@example.com
The West Australian – firstname.lastname@example.org
Hobart Mercury – email@example.com
Weekly Times Now http://www.weeklytimesnow.com.au/news/opinion/letter-to-the-editor East Gippsland Newspapers – firstname.lastname@example.org
Tips for letter writing
- Stick to one or at most two points per letter.
- Be concise. Edit it down once you’ve written it. Try to write as if you’re speaking to a 10 year old – that way everyone can understand without too much brain work.
- Who is the readership – Herald-Sun and local papers – need fairly dumbed-down letters, The Age and The Australian – assume a level slightly higher but still simplify. Even for academic readers you should keep it simple and to the point.
- You can add some humour, colour or colloquialisms into the letter. This adds ‘spice’ and interest.
- You can also put in less than 50 word opinions in the short section. Though if your letter is the shortest in the letters page you can guarantee it will be the most read. Often a point can be better made in two sentences – and remembered by the reader – than in four paragraphs.
- Tie your letters into a current news event. If there’s a story of an owl, write about the forest owls plight. Or if there’s a water issue currently on the boil, tie it in to the loss of water from logging.
- Use plain simple words that everyone can understand. Use shorter sentences.
- No exclamation marks or swearing.
- Emailed letters are better. Always add your full name, address(not a PO box) and phone number – not for publishing but, the editors want to be able to contact you if they need to and without this info, your letter will be turfed before it is even read. If you send it to a number of papers, never send it to all at once. Send the letter as a separate email to all papers.
- Get your letter off before midday if possible. Letters Editors like to get the page finalised early for the next day.
- Remember that opinions expressed in papers like the Herald-Sun and Weekly Times are those that the government takes the most notice of. The H/Sun also has far more readers than the Age. So go for the ‘light brown’ readers as well.
Ring up talkback radio shows
Tell it like it is – express some emotion or personal thoughts rather than just facts and figures.
3AW Talkback 9690 0693
Outside Melbourne 13 13 32
ABC 774 Melbourne
Talkback 1300 222 774
SMS 0437 774 774
Talkback 1300 295 222
SMS 0467 842 722
Tips for calling talkback
- Prepare your key messages before you go ‘on air’ Up to five one-line sentences are plenty
- Try to answer questions in the context of your key points
- Your time on radio is limited Stay focused and try not to let the talkback radio host sidetrack you
- Try to think of talkback radio as a conversation and not an interview; but do be prepared for questions
- Don’t be dishonest Making up facts will not help your cause If you do not have an answer to a question, then say so
- Do not say anything ‘off the record’ Stick to the facts
- Turn the radio off when you call and listen through the phone There will be less interference and distractions
- Remember that the listeners are your audience and not the talkback radio host
- Never be rude and keep the conversation friendly Don’t make negative comments about the talkback radio host
- Speak slowly and clearly
Contact a Member of Parliament
You don’t have to be a full time forest activist or field ecologist to make a difference! There are loads of easy ways you can take action to help protect East Gippsland’s forests.
If you want to see East Gippsland’s forests and threatened species protected from logging you can contact the decision makers who have the power to act. See their contact details below.
Other State politicians – send letters to Parliament House Spring St Melbourne, 3000 or use the contact details listed here (PDF) or write to the Federal politicians at Parliament House Canberra ACT, 2600.
Find the name of the Member of House of Representatives who represents your electorate visit http://www.aph.gov.au/Senators_and_Members/Members
To find the names of Senators who represent your State/Territory, see http://www.aph.gov.au/Senators_and_Members/Senators
The Parliament web site also contains lists of Ministers and Shadow Ministers as well as members of Parliamentary Committees
Tips for telephone calls to MP’s
- Before phoning about a proposed law, be sure you know the full name of the Bill.
- Be prepared to express your comments briefly and concisely.
- When you call, give your name and also identify yourself as a constituent when phoning a member of parliament who represents you.
- Ask to speak to your representative or their relevant adviser about the [name of Bill, or topic].
- You will probably be put through to a staff member.
- Ask that your representative take concrete action, such as supporting or opposing a Bill, or seeking to have their party change its position, etc.
- If they tell you to talk to Minister’s office, say that you want your representative to be aware of your concerns and to take the matter up with the Minister and/or their political party.
- Be polite.
- It is worth following up after your telephone call with a letter or email.
For those who’ve never spoken to/emailed their MP …
The below ‘five tips on how to lobby an MP and not be ignored’ comes from an MP who was bombarded about an issue. It makes a lot of sense.“This morning I awoke to find 43 unread emails about the issue of access to homebirth for Australian women on my blackberry. By the time I was on the train into the office this had grown to nearly 100 and continues to grow.” The campaign, although worthy, was a text book example of what not to do to get the attention of an MP and expect them to take some positive action on your behalf.“Having spoken to a number of my colleagues this morning who have also received these exact same emails, here are 5 tips on how to lobby MPs and not be ignored”
Tip #1: If you are going to send emails, include where you live.
MPs are elected geographically. They have a democratic responsibility to respond to those that live in the area they represent. If you send a form letter that does not include the postcode or even the state that you live in, MPs can and will ignore it.
Tip #2: If you want your email read and responded to – original is better.
When my blackberry filled up this morning with exactly the same email I did two things. I set up a rule so the emails are diverted into a folder that I won’t look at again. I then drafted a standard response for automatic reply. For many MPs they will simply delete. Send an original email, in most cases you will get a considered response in reply.
Tip #3: Be clear about what action you want the MP to take in response to your contact.
A general call to do the right thing lets the MP off the hook and means your time and theirs has been wasted. Always ask the MP to take action on your behalf. Be specific.You can ask MPs to: raise the issue in parliament, write to the person responsible for making the decision that will help fix the problem, respond to you with their views on the issue and/or what action they have taken in response to your contact. You can also ask to have a meeting with you to further discuss the issue.
Tip #4: Make sure that what you are asking is something the MP can actually do.
Before you press send (or if you are developing a website for a campaign), find out who is responsible for making the decision that will fix/address your issue. Knowing the answers to these questions will increase your chances of the email getting to the best person who can take action on your behalf: In what jurisdiction does your issue fall? What action is required to address my issue? Does your issue require legislation? Can the Minister make a decision to change a policy and have it implemented? As an example, asking a state MP to fix something that is the responsibility of the federal government will result in your email being ignored or flicked back to you.
Tip #5: Do your research and target.
If I receive an email that I can see has gone to every MP in Australia. I ignore it. On any given issue your first contact should be: your local MP, the relevant Minister, the relevant Shadow Minister plus others whose opinion you are trying to sway. If you or the organisation running the campaign website, have done the research you will also know which MPs are already supportive of your cause and those that it is not even worth bothering to talk to about your issue. Target those with power and those you need to persuade. For those who are supportive enlist them to help you make the argument to their undecided colleagues. Don’t be afraid to ask your supportive MPs who they think you should be targeting on your issue
Sometimes email campaigns are a way that MPs get a sense of the public mood of any issue. Volume can be important and does have its place but if you actually want engagement on an issue, bombarding MPs with form emails and/or letters is considered very low value constituent contact and the time you spent sending it is wasted as it will often be deleted.