If you’ve read my blog more than a couple of times, you’ve probably realised that my politics veer to the left. However, I’m not now and never have been a member of a political party. I vote at each election on the issues and the candidates. In the 2007 election, I would have voted for your dog if his name had been on the ballot paper and I thought it would get rid of John Howard (a dreadful PM and a slightly worse representative of his electorate). So I was glad we had a good candidate in Maxine McKew. But even when I support a particular party, I won’t vote for an MP who is an idiot (and, believe me, some of them are) or they treat their electorate with contempt. (And I’ll now take the opportunity to say this once again – it is MY blog after all – vote for Epping State MP, Greg Smith, at your peril. He DOES treat his constituents with contempt).
In the 2010 election, Maxine lost this seat to John Alexander, also a Liberal like John Howard but I think (and hope) that is where the similarity ends.
I’m not a crackpot who bombards my MP with letters every week or sidesteps him on his doorstep. But I do think people SHOULD write to their MPs to a) hold them to account and b) let them have the benefit of your opinion! I gather that most MPs receive very few letters from their constituents.
So I wrote to John Alexander and received a proper reply, promptly. 10 out of 10 for that, John. As a result we corresponded on a couple of issues and he told me about an amendment he was presenting to the Social Security Act which would change the Pension Work Bonus to exempt the first $250 per fortnight of employment income from the income test, thereby increasing the incentive for age pension recipients to work.
I of course decided to treat him once again to the benefit of my opinion, not phrased in terms perhaps suitable for the floor of the House but that’s where my email ended up, last Tuesday.
I quote from John Alexander’s address to the House of Representatives:
“It is no surprise to hear of the cynicism that many of my older constituents express about Government strategies to keep older people in work, as their experiences show that companies are generally disinclined to provide them with opportunities for this employment in the first place. One such constituent, in reply to an email I sent on this Bill last week, claimed that whilst she supported the idea of this legislation, she found it to be, in her words “mainly academic“. The quote continues: “You can’t increase the incentive for older people to work if there is no work available for them – apart from, as you mention, working as Father Christmas once a year”.
She went on to say: “I think that the government should consider incentives to EMPLOYERS not just employees. Maybe if there were some financial benefit to employing older people, companies may consider it. There are loads of other benefits – we have experience, we tend to be more reliable, we don’t get pregnant, we tend not to miss work on Mondays because of hangovers etc etc. The problem is getting the employers to recognise these!”. Whilst I won’t go so far as to sully the image of non-pension age employees as generally unreliable or around the corner from pregnancy or a hangover (hopefully not both at the same time), I believe this constituent has a very valid point. ”
My opinion is of course no more valid that anyone else’s but if we don’t tell our elected representatives what we think, don’t expect them to know. Lobby groups spend millions getting their points across, ghastly radio show hosts try (and sometimes succeed) to control policy but it what’s WE want that really matters. Look up your MP’s email address. put it into your address book and the next time you feel strongly about something or don’t like what s/he has done or said, write. It will make YOU feel better and may make a difference.