Make His Day – Write A Letter

24 March 2011

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.



  1. Well done Sally!

  2. Wow Sally – that’s amazing. You have inspired me. I have thought about writing to David Bradbury, my local Federal rep, on occasion but have never done it. However, I did lodge a voice against changes to the pathology tests paid for by Medicare through my pathology service and got a response from David – albeit a photocopy of a reply he got from Nicola Roxon. At least it shows that he is aware of his constituents voicing concern.
    Thanks for inspiring us to participate in the democratic process not just allow it to happen around us.

  3. He’s a clever man, that John Alexander. He knows how to use his constituents’ voices to make an impact, which is supposed to be the point.

    Well done, Sally.

  4. Congratulations, Sally! And full marks to JA for taking notice of your always logical and well presented arguments/points. I also received an email from his office on that particular matter. I know a number of people who are on a part pension and get some casual work as invigilators – (such a lovely word but difficult to get to use in a game of Scrabble) – they have to be VERY careful how much work they accept without having to go through the hassle of losing part or all of their pension, then applying to get it restored again.

    On that note, we have seniors health care cards, and they are a blessing. But time was when you had to have the card cancelled if you left the country and then apply to have it reinstated when you arrived home again. It was a major hassle. Fortunately, someone in the government, or perhaps an efficiency review of departmental procedures decided that holders could keep their cards if they were absent for less than a specified period. Commonsense prevailed – and so it has again. Hard to believe!

  5. Neatly said, Sally!

  6. Good on you, Sally!

  7. Indeed a big “Good on you Sally”.
    I hope others take your advice and email me on issues that are important to them.
    The biggest policy debate today is the NBN – the largest single infrastructure spend in our nation’s history.
    The Gillard Government introduced 28 pages of legislative amendments last Friday and demand it be voted on to become law today. The lack of consultation with industry and expert scrutiny is astonishing.
    As always, stay in touch with your thoughts.
    John Alexander

  8. Well John, I suppose it is good that they have attention to detail – it might mean a lot of reading, but having fast internet is pretty important, so getting it right is also important.

    As the technology stands now, the NBN is the most efficient way to get the fastest and most stable internet to users in Australia, so why not get it?

    As for it being “the largest infrastructure spend in our nation’s history”, that makes sense. We haven’t done anything on this scale before, not all in one hit. History is full of firsts, so that isn’t of itself anything to shy away from.

    Do we need it? Yes.

    Will wireless internet do the job? No. It’s like asking if a single tap can fill a dam.

    As for reading 28 pages in a weekend, I’ve recently gone back to uni, and tomorrow I have to read about 70 pages all about brain anatomy, chemistry, and the biological bases of behaviour. Wanna swap? 😉

  9. Thanks Lara.

    Just to clarify, my “astonising” comment related to the lack of consultation and scrutiny, not the 28 pages, nor the great benefits of broadband internet.

    Standard practice for the introduction of any new federal law, even if it is one sentence and relates to $1 of new spend, is that industry and legal experts will be consulted to ensure the legislation is worded correctly to achieve the intended outcome.

    This is a $47 billion project and 28 pages of new legislation were written last Friday. I believe that all of us, as taxpayers, deserve to have industry experts scrutinise this before it becomes the law of the land.

    Unfortunately the Federal Government disagreed and this was pushed through Parliament last night.

    I certainly do not envy your brain anatomy and biological bases of behaviour studies – you could probably find some good case studies in Canberra!

    On a side note, sending good wishes to Sally and your travels overseas. Best of health to your ailing mother. Bennelong will miss your daily updates.


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