Raising Issues with Members of Parliament
Are Members of Parliament relevant?
Australian citizens elect Members of Parliament (MPs) for state parliament and for federal parliament. When making or changing laws, MPs should be aware of, and responsive to, the views of their constituents (voters). If you are concerned about a law, policy, or other issue, you may chose to raise the issue with your MP in writing, or by visiting their office. If MPs are made aware of a problem, or receive enough correspondence on a matter from people in their electorate, then they may be convinced to act. For example, they could raise an issue with their political party colleagues and then propose an amendment in Parliament. Or you could influence their decision about whether or not to support a proposal before Parliament.
Will they be interested?
Most MPs are willing to meet and hear what you have to say. Whether they will support your views or request is a different matter. This website by Emily Murray contains research and tips on campaigning, focussing on how to raise issues with politicians, and why politicians will support or ignore a policy campaign.
Is your issue a federal issue or a NSW issue?
Before identifying and contacting the relevant MP, first figure out if your issue is relevant to the federal government or the state government. Are the relevant laws federal laws or NSW laws? Are the relevant government departments federal departments (e.g. Centrelink) or NSW departments (e.g. NSW Police)?
Identifying the relevant MPS and their contact details
For Federal issues
To find out who is your local Federal MP go to the Australian Electoral Commission website.Type in your postcode, suburb or electorate to find out who your local member is.
Once you know who your local member is go to the Parliament of Australia, House of Representatives Website and look up your MP’s contact details.
Alternatively instead of contacting your local Federal MP you can contact the MP who is in charge of the particular issue that you are concerned about (the relevant Minister). For example if you are concerned about transport you could contact the Minster for Infrastructure and Transport.
To find out which MP is in charge of which Portfolio check the Ministry List,
You may also like to contact the opposition MP who is the spokesperson on that issue – see the Shadow Ministry List,
For NSW issues
To figure out who your State MP is, go to Check my electoral enrolment and find out what State District you are in.
Once you know what State district you are in go to the Parliament of New South Wales Website and find out who is the MP for that State District and their contact details.
Alternatively you can contact the MP in charge of the Portfolio (topic) that you are interested in (the relevant Minister): check the Minister List.
You may also like to contact the opposition MP who is the spokesperson on that issue – see the Shadow Minister List.
When is parliament sitting?
To find out when the Commonwealth Parliament is sitting go to the Parliament of Australia, Sitting Calender.
To find out when the NSW State Parliament is sitting go to Sitting Day Calendar 2013.
When are the elections held?
The Prime Minister has announced that the next Federal election date polling date is 14 September 2013. Key dates are summarised on the Australian Electoral Commission website
Budget estimates (NSW)
“Budget estimates” are held at NSW Parliament each year. This is when the heads of Government departments are requiredto answer questions on government spendingand performance or effectiveness. Particularly useful are the questions asked by opposition MPs, or MPs from minor parties.
To find out the NSW budget estimate go to the Budget estimates
Senate estimates (Federal)
As part of the annual budget cycle, estimates of the government expenses are referred to Senate committees. This gives MPs the opportunity to ask questions about spending, and other issues affecting government departments.
For information about senate estimates, including when they are scheduled, check Parliament of Australia, Senate estimates.
Government Committee Inquiries
Parliament sometimes sets up committees, which hold inquiries and hearings relating to specific matters.
Role of Committees:
· To undertake inquiries on behalf of Parliament and detailed investigations of matters of public interest
· To take Parliament to the people by allowing public consultation and debate.
· To keep government accountable for its decisions and actions
Contributing to Inquiries held by Parliamentary Committees
Information about current and upcoming hearing and inquiries for Federal Parliament can be found on the House of Representatives Committees Webpage and on the Senate Committees webpage. For NSW hearings and inquiries, see the Parliament of New South Wales, Committees Website.
For easy reference, Community Legal Centres NSW produces a monthly table of parliamentary and government inquiries that are accepting submission. The current table is available here.
Committees provide the chance for individuals and groups to put their views directly to Parliamentarians. Members of the public may be invited to:
Ø Make submissions,
Ø Give oral evidence,
Ø Attend public hearings, and
Ø Obtain copies of reports.
Making a submission
A common way that a parliamentary committee will investigate an issue is to call for submissions from the public and relevant organisations. Submissions give you the chance to show the committee how you, your organisation or your community feels about the issue. Submissions can also help a committee choose who should be called to give evidence at a hearing.
For more information see Making a submission: Your chance to have a say.
Giving Oral Evidence
Another way that parliamentary committees investigate an issue is to invite people to give evidence at a public hearing. This gives members of Parliament a chance to speak directly to people about the issue and to ask them questions about what the raised in their submissions.
You can ask to appear as a witness but the committee does not have to agree to let you appear.
For more information see Committee hearings: Giving evidence in person.
Obtaining copies of reports
Reports can be obtained from the following websites: