Lesson 5 – Influencing Parliamentarians


In our previous lessons we learned about how Government is Cabinet and about how Parliament tries to hold the Government to account. We also followed the career path of a person to become a Cabinet member. We learned about some of the constraints that Parliamentarians live with. We also learned that the main achievement of our political system is stability. We are now going to look at the art of influencing politicians.

Influencing your Local MP

The starting point is to identify a local MP that you think will be sympathetic to your cause.Your objective is to become part of your MP’s sphere of influence. You want to be a part of their world, and ideally you want to be someone they will listen to about at least one issue. This is a long term goal and will only happen over time. As with most people you will achieve more by cultivating relationship than by winning arguments. Cultivating relationships takes time and is best done by a community group or organisation. A single person out there in the electorate really doesn’t count for much.

Your first challenge is to get your MP’s attention.

A really good way to get attention is to say ‘thank you’. In public life you get a lot of blame, many demands and a certain amount of abuse, but it is very rare that anyone says ‘thank you’. Research your target MP and find something good that they have done. If you can’t, send them some seasons greetings next Christmas and thank them in general terms for their service to the electorate. After writing to them and thanking them for something invite them and their staff to your next event. This is solely a meet and greet. You are not inviting them to make a speech (unless you want that). The MP may be too busy to attend but will likely send a staffer. That is good because staffers are part of the MP’s sphere of influence.

It is even better if they send an advisor. Advisors and staffers filter whom the MP meets with, what they listen to, and help them choose where to direct their efforts.

At some point you will want to meet to discuss a particular concern. Ideally this is with your target MP but will more likely be an electoral officer or advisor.

It is best if that is a local concern and you can work together with them in some way. Now instead of banging on their door you are cooperating.

Once a repartee has been established you can then approach them with bigger issues. There are lots of issues out there. You may have under 15 minutes to meet. You need to state clearly:

  • What the issue is
  • What your concern is
  • What you want them to do

You must be very clear about what the issue is and what you want to see done about it.

Suppose for example you are concerned about foreign ownership. Are you concerned about critical infrastructure like ports, about productive farm land, about real estate, or about any form of foreign ownership?

What really is your concern? Is it lack of sovereignty? Is it that money is flowing out of the country not staying in the economy? Is it safety standards or something else?

Do you have evidence that your concern is valid? Can you refer to other sources such as academic studies or journalist reports?

What do you want to see happen? Do you want a ban on foreign ownership, greater scrutiny by the Foreign Investments Review Board, or do you want to nationalise our ports?

What do you want your MP to do about it? Be assured that that whoever you are talking to is thinking …”and what do they want me to do”.

At this point put yourself in their shoes. They are thinking about ten things:

  1. What is my party’s policy on this?
  2. What commitments have I or my party made about this issue?
  3. What public comments have been made by senior other members of the party?
  4. What is the attitude of my party faction on this issue?
  5. How does this affect my electorate?
  6. Where does this fit with my media/electoral strategy?
  7. Have I been lobbied by other people on this issue and what have they said?
  8. Are there any party donations from persons relevant to this issue, for example from the company that owns the port, or from the union that works the port?
  9. Is this a toxic issue I should avoid?
  10. What’s in this for me – is this a vote winner?

Ideally, you will already know the answer to at least some of these ten questions and address them in your pitch. You should at least know if there is a party position and what it is.

At the end of the pitch state clearly what you want the MP to do. Understand that they cannot, and will not, publicly go against party policy. However you can ask them to:

  • raise the issue within the party
  • work internally to change the party’s policy
  • understand that the party’s position will lose votes

Also, realise that they will not advocate a position that harms their credibility. No politician is going to publicly advocate nationalising banks, banning immigration, closing abortion clinics, or disbanding the military in favour of more foreign aid. However they may be open to, for example, restricting bank fees, having tighter criteria for immigration, providing more balanced counselling services for women and partners, bench marking our foreign aid against international standards, and buying more cost effective military equipment. Basically you need to sell them a proposal they can support.

In your approach show that you are aware of contrary views, and counter them.

Direct the MP or their staffer to sources where they can get more in-depth information. For example, if you are talking about pro-life concerns leave them with some reading material that refers to studies showing post abortion trauma, and which support the position that many women would prefer to keep their baby if more support and more balanced counselling were available.

Finally, be prepared to take ‘no’ for an answer and be prepared to be wrong sometimes. Influence is a long term project. You need to study your issue, understand contrary views, and think strategically about how to further your agenda.

Other Strategies of Influence

There are two other ways to gain influence. One is to donate significant money to the party or to someone’s electoral campaign, or to offer other support. Even if you are not wealthy you can approach a sitting member or hopeful candidate and offer to support their campaign on the understanding that they will support a particular position. Big dollars buys big influence but be aware that a community group with 20 volunteers who can chip in $50 each and some weekends can be a huge boost to a struggling candidate in a marginal seat.

Another option is to join the party. The major parties are pretty similar and there is no reason (apart from time) not to join at least one political party. Being a party member entitles you to attend meetings, join factions and gain a better insight into the internal workings that will be so important to candidates. You can advocate your agenda as a person working within a party. For example, if you feel passionately that Australia should have an emissions trading scheme join the Liberal party and advocate that the party adopt their former policy under John Howard to introduce an ETS. This would be rational since both Labor and the Greens already support that position.

Whatever you decide to do, be aware that joining a party is not a big commitment but working within a party is.

By now you might have figured out that all this influencing is a part time job or at least a hobby. On the other hand political lobbying can be a very interesting and constructive hobby and it can be a great activity.

Another way to influence politicians is to access the committee system. If you are concerned about an issue do some research and find out whether:

  • a Parliamentary Committee has previously considered the issue; or
  • the issue is under active consideration by a Parliamentary Committee right now.

If a Parliamentary Committee is considering the issue you have an opportunity to make a submission. If the issue is not being considered, you can lobby members of a current standing committee to make an inquiry into the matter.

This strategy was pursued by independent defence think tank, Air Power Australia (APA). I have worked with (in the sense of supporting) APA for over 10 years. APA are a group of independent defence engineers and scientists who were, and are, deeply concerned that the government was buying all the wrong planes for all the wrong reasons to replace the RAAF combat capability. At issue is our capacity to defend Australia, around $50 billion of public expenditure, and a system of decision making that is profoundly broken.

APA successfully persuaded a standing committee to open an inquiry into the issue. The committee is called the Joint Standing Committee of Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade. Having a committee inquiry had a number of benefits. It enabled APA to make public their research findings in a different forum. It protected them and other individuals from being sued by vested interests, and it enabled them and others to provide expert testimony. It helped build media interest in the issue. Potentially it could have embarrassed the government and the minister had the committee actually done their job and made recommendations, but they failed to do so.

If you are going to engage with the committee system you need research and writing skills and it helps to have some credentials. You will also need to be prepared for your submissions to be made public.

If all of this is sounding a lot like hard work, be encouraged that you can scale all this back to a manageable effort. The simplest way to lobby politicians is to email their Parliamentary offices. You can google their email address or look up the State or Federal Parliamentary web site for details. You can also ring their electoral office and make a statement, or write to their PO box.

In your correspondence you need to follow the same formula. Say:

  • who you are and your credentials
  • what you are writing about
  • what you want them to do
  • where they can find out more about the issue
  • how you can be contacted

Your correspondence will carry more weight if it shows that you have done some thinking and research into the issue. For example I once worked for the Premier’s Department on policy issues around human embryonic stem cell cloning. I recall receiving a number of standard letters stating that we should not be killing babies because life is sacred. It’s a reasonable sentiment but there was so little content in the letters that I could not say much about them to my superiors. If the letters had at least attempted to grapple with the science I could have said more about them and they would have carried more weight.

In my view celebration and comedy are greatly under utilised as political tools. The homosexual lobby has mastered the art of using public celebration to further its cause, but others seem reluctant to do so.

I hope this overview has been useful to you. Influence is a creative process. If you are prepared to step up and have a go and keep having a go you may be surprised at what can be achieved.

In our conversation so far about influence we have really talked about friendly influence. There are less friendly ways to influence politicians as well. One is to conduct electoral surveys, publicise them, and deliver them to MP’s. Running credible surveys costs money and requires that a survey firm be engaged. Also, a genuine survey may not give you the results you want. However, if you feel that your MP is well out of step with local sentiment you might consider running a survey, publicising the survey, and seeking a meeting the MP to discuss.

Unfriendly Tactics

The alternative to friendly influence is to protest against politicians whose positions you oppose. In this way you can leverage their opposition to gain publicity for your cause. I am not advocating that you do this. I am simply observing that community groups have used the following tactics:

  • Protesting outside MP electoral offices
  • Holding vigils outside MP electorial offices
  • Praying inside MP electoral office
  • Running advertisements against their position
  • Letter boxing with leaflets against their position
  • Running alternative political candidates against them in order to provide a platform to advocate your cause
  • Protesting at party fund raising events and other public venues

This is seldom a strategy to make friends but can be effective when coordinated and directed against a marginal seat. These campaigns can be crowd funded. GetUp! runs these type of campaigns as part of its operational model.

This kind of campaign is more about a media strategy and will not build links with your local MPs but may be worth pursuing if you feel you have nothing to lose by being angry, and if you cannot otherwise get traction on an issue.

Last but not least, consider forming a political part of your own and running candidates, or backing someone to run as an independent. You will not get elected but that does not matter. What you want to do is create a platform to advocate your cause. I did this in 1996 when I, Chris Kelly, and a number of others formed a new political party and ran as candidates.

At that time Labor and Liberal had united to reduce the number of MPs in Parliament. Ostensibly this was a cost saving measure but in reality it was an attempt to squeeze out the third party (the Greens). At that time the State was struggling and the government was refusing pay parity to public servants who were paid less than in other States. However, the Liberal and Labor politicians decided that they should have pay parity for themselves and voted themselves a 40 per cent pay rise.

In response, Chris Kelly, myself and a number of others, formed the Extremely Greedy 40 Per Cent Extra Party. We registered the party, got 300 members and ran candidates in each electorate. Although we had a serious reform agenda and good legal advice, our approach was comedic. We lampooned the politicians and gained considerable media coverage. In one electorate we out polled the National Party.

Informing Yourself about an Issue

So how do you find out about an issue? Well you may already know enough to voice your concerns, particularly if it is a local rather than a national issue. However you may also need to do some research.

Here are some really useful sources for you to consider:

  • ABC Fact Check. These are normally balanced, a-political and well researched reviews. Find them on the ABC website.
  • Advocacy organisations websites. Be sure to look at information from organisations that advocate for and against your position. Follow the links. Be aware of the biases and read across the whole spectrum of opinion.
  • Parliamentary committee inquiries are a gold mine of information but you can get lost in there. You may also find submissions from like-minded people and organisations. Get in touch with them and in this way become part of a bigger network.
  • Then there are think tanks. Think tanks publish papers and opinion pieces. These are sometimes picked up by journalists and re-produced. Be aware that some think tanks have close political associations and are funded by people with a particular world view so do not take what you read as gospel. Many push a climate change denial and privitisation agenda which reflects closely the interests of their donors and ignores expert evidence to the contrary. The best known think-tanks are:
  • For persons of faith I know of two Christian public policy think tanks:
  • There is also Family Voice (http://www.fava.org.au/ )
  • There is an Islamic think tank but it does not consider broader policy issues (http://fair.org.au/think-tank/tank/ )
  • However if you google any topic you will find think tanks and advocacy organisations that cluster around that topic from all perspectives. The most powerful and popular (by membership) lobbying organisation in Australia that is independent of corporate funding or political parties is Getup! They are an excellent source of real news about what political agendas are running. They represent the social left. https://www.getup.org.au/campaigns They receive significant funding from their membership base but also from Mr Soros.

For an overview of think tanks see here: http://www.australianreview.net/digest/2008/02/cahill.html

Once you begin researching a topic you may find yourself struggling to assess competing contradictory claims. It is difficult to get across complex topics and you are probably not a subject matter expert. However, even if you are not an expert there is a short hand way to assess the reliability of the source you are reading, particularly if it is on the web. A credible reference:

  • Is up-front about its values and agenda
  • Does not have a financial or political stake in the issue
  • Is not funded by bodies with a financial or political stake in the issue
  • Gives some historical background to the issue to put it in context
  • Refers to expert sources and studies to support its claims, that is, references primary sources
  • Cites evidence including what has happened when similar policies were adopted elsewhere or in the past
  • Acknowledges pros and cons (not just pros and not just cons)

In your materials I have included links and content on the Trans Pacific Partnership. The Department of Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade website tells one story – essentially an advertorial for the agreement. A community organisation, the Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network Ltd tells a different story and explains why. With the above template in mind you can compare the two information sources and decide which is the most reliable.

Information obtained from Commonwealth Government Department websites should not be considered authoritative unless supported by other evidence. For example:

  • For the last decade the Department of Defence has published statements about the predicted performance of the Joint Strike Fighter. All of these claims have been thoroughly and publicly debunked by subject matter experts for ten years. These statements are copied and pasted from the Lockheed Martin publicity office press releases but are presented as being from the Department. Lockheed Martin is the primary contractor for the Joint Strike Fighter. Former Defence Minister Dr Brendan Nelson has stated publicly his ambition to work for Lockheed Martin.
  • In the 1990’s the Commonwealth Government sought public submissions on policy related to Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO crops). None of their information acknowledged any risks associated with GMO’s and all of it was essentially an advertorial for the (then) emerging technology. It was evident that the persons conducting the consultation had no understanding of the issue.
  • The Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities has for some years been developing ocean marine reserves in Commonwealth waters. The impression given on their website is of a network of reserves in which damaging fishing practices (such as bottom trawling) are prohibited in order to protect species and breeding grounds. In reality many of these activities are allowed in critical habitats, but vast amounts of deep ocean abyssal plain is “protected” although little activity occurs there. Under pressure from industry the Government allowed destructive fishing on the South Eastern seaboard but it gained positive publicity by declaring the world’s biggest reserves in deep water. ‘Protecting’ vast areas of abyssal plain was of no concern to fishers but has little proven conservation value.
  • When the Commonwealth undertook the first regional forests agreement (RFA) process in Tasmania they accepted the advice of a partisan player (Forestry Tasmania) uncritically, then applied a non-scientific weighting to community values with the result that conservation goals mandated by the Federal Government were not achieved. This was presented as being a scientific outcome that complied with Government policy.

Credibility has a lot to do with culture. In much of the Commonwealth public service the culture that is process driven, and  actively discourages critical thinking and the upward movement of controversial or unwanted news. Examples of the consequences of this culture include the Pink Batts scheme and the ecological death of the Murray Darling river system.

Consider the public information about the Trans Pacific Partnership published by the Department of Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade here: http://dfat.gov.au/trade/agreements/tpp/outcomes-documents/Pages/background-papers-tpp-myths-vs-realities.aspx

Compare this to the information on the same matters published by the Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network Ltd here: http://aftinet.org.au/cms/ and specifically on investor disputes here: http://aftinet.org.au/cms/sites/default/files/Fact%20sheet%20ISDS%20final%20Nov%202015_0.pdf

End of Lesson 5


The following people represent you. Who are they, how many are there, what party does each belong to, or alternatively are there any independents?

  1. Your local councillors
  2. State MPs for the lower house for your electorate (numbers may vary)
  3. Depending on your State there may be a number of MPs for the upper house
  4. 12 Senators for your State, or two for your Territory
  5. One MP for the Commonwealth House of Representatives for your electorate


Links to Parliamentary Committees

Standing Committees – House of Representatives


Standing Committees – Senate


Joint Committees


Defence Submissions and Correspondence

Links to submissions and correspondence




Further Reading

Example of Successful Campaigning:

Disillusioned with politics? Then take heart in July 1


The Drum

By Annabel Crabb

Updated 28 Jun 2016, 8:39am

Photo: The NDIS will quietly slip into operation on July 1. (Mick Tsikas: AAP)

The very existence of the National Disability Insurance Scheme – to begin national operation this Friday – is a powerful rebuttal to that contemporary whine about big policy reforms being too hard for our short political attention spans, writes Annabel Crabb.

Being sick of this election campaign is now the leading sentiment on which Australians of voting age most fervently agree.

For everyone but Bill Shorten (one of those maniacs naturally born to enjoy campaigning) July 2 will mark the end of a chilly and largely underwhelming contest.

But if you need some cheering up, or some reassurance that it’s not all a waste of time, or indeed even the tiniest scrap of evidence that the entire democratic world isn’t sliding helplessly into a morass of property-developer-electing, compulsively-Brexiting kneejerk nationalism, try thinking about July 1 instead.

July 1 – this Friday – is the day on which the National Disability Insurance Scheme slips quietly into national operation. It’s embedded now; a genuine new feature of the nation’s public policy landscape. It has bipartisan support. Its existence is a powerful rebuttal to that contemporary whine about big policy reforms being too hard for our short political attention spans.

And it’s a landmark worthy of reflection, partly because the scheme itself so very nearly never happened at all, and partly because its back story is a good lesson on what happens when politicians are led by their better angels.

It’s 40 years since the first attempt at a disability insurance scheme in this country failed. Legislation to create one was lost in 1975 when its author – Gough Whitlam – was swept from power due to what we shall diplomatically call unrelated complications.

The Fraser government abandoned the scheme, and it was not revived until the early days of the Rudd government, when the incoming prime minister invited Australia’s best and brightest along to feed him ideas for one glorious weekend of blue-sky thinking at the 2020 Summit in Parliament House in April 2008.

Now, disability didn’t even warrant its own cluster group at the 2020 Summit. Despite the fact that 45 per cent of Australians with disability lived near or beneath the poverty line, disability was one of those policy areas that politics found too vast and intractable to do anything about.

Bruce Bonyhady, an economist, businessman, disability insurance scheme enthusiast and father of two sons with cerebral palsy, was not invited to the summit. But he sent a submission, and relentlessly lobbied anyone he could find who was going. By the end of the weekend, a disability insurance scheme was included as one of the summit’s “Big Ideas”.

But big ideas need sponsors.

It so happened that Rudd’s arrival as prime minister had coincided with the arrival in Parliament of Bill Shorten, enthusiastically touted for some time as a future Labor leader. Mr Rudd, a man of renowned caution around potential rivals, bestowed upon Mr Shorten the lowliest of frontbench positions: Parliamentary secretary for disability services.

Shorten – while clearly registering the intended sting of this slap – vowed publicly and privately to make a difference in the portfolio. He was stunned by the extent of disadvantage he found among people with disabilities, and the lack of organisation between their many advocacy groups and peak bodies. He brought his old union organising skills to bear on the problem.

Within the Rudd government, Shorten found an ally in the powerful Families and Community Services Minister Jenny Macklin. She was not a supporter of Shorten’s, but became convinced that he was genuine about the idea of a disability insurance scheme.

Her old boss and mentor Brian Howe – a member of the Hawke cabinet – was also in close touch with Bonyhady and had encouraged him to pursue the idea.

The combination of Shorten (an extrovert and advocate outside the cabinet) and Macklin (an influential and respected policy brain within) opened doors for the idea of a disability insurance scheme. Macklin worked on Wayne Swan, to whom she is close, and Swan sent the question of disability funding to the Productivity Commission in 2009 – a crucial step.

And when Rudd was removed as prime minister by his colleagues the following year, and Shorten was rewarded by the incoming PM Julia Gillard with the job of assistant treasurer, he kept up the pressure on disabilities, as did Macklin.

An initially sceptical Gillard was won over gradually and – when the Productivity Commission returned with an endorsement of the scheme – she decided to invest it with the weight of government support. The scheme received its first funding in the 2012 budget.

It’s astounding to think – in retrospect – how quickly Australians living with disability went from the political too-hard-basket to the centre of a huge scheme with bipartisan support.

In the hung parliament years between 2010 and 2013, Tony Abbott’s opposition relentlessly patrolled the Gillard government for any policy initiative it could attack as a “great big new tax”. But it gave bipartisan support for the NDIS, even when Gillard announced that it would be funded by an increase to the Medicare levy.

And despite Labor warnings that the NDIS would be weakened, undermined or abandoned by the incoming Coalition Government after 2013 … here it is.

The life story of the NDIS is a parable about how vulnerable policy reform can be to the ebb and flow of politics. Imagine where we might be now if the scheme had been legislated in 1972, when Whitlam was still capable of getting things done, rather than 1975, by which time he wasn’t?

What if Bruce Bonyhady hadn’t nagged all those people to talk about his idea at the 2020 Summit? What if Bill Shorten, given the short straw, had gone off and sulked for three years? What if Wayne Swan – a treasurer under pressure to post a surplus – had simply dismissed the NDIS as too expensive? What if Tony Abbott had used the expenditure as a weapon against Labor? Or dismantled the scheme after the 2013 election?

The scheme isn’t finished yet; it’s had teething problems and there will no doubt be more. But as an example of our political system seeing a terrible inequity, and somehow finding a way to address it even though it was difficult and expensive and not a populist cause … it’s something to smile about on the way to the polling booth.

Annabel Crabb writes for The Drum and is the presenter of Kitchen Cabinet. She tweets at @annabelcrabb.

Example of Campaign Material from Getup!

“What if I didn’t have to wait until 2016? What if I could make Tony Abbott a half-term PM?”

No joke Erik, this is our chance.

Nominations just closed for the by-election that could seal Tony Abbott’s fate and shift the political direction of the nation. Now we’ve just 23 days for an all-out, banners blazing election campaign.

Here’s what you need to know. Canning in WA was a safe Liberal seat, by a nearly 12% margin. But thanks to the unpopularity of the Abbott Government’s radical right wing agenda, the race is virtually tied: 50.1% Labor, 49.9% Coalition.1

Senior Liberal figures say the loss from a swing of this size will likely cost Tony Abbott his job. And Liberal MPs in marginal seats are “mildly terrified” about their future, meaning a loss in Canning could force a political retreat on this government’s unpopular attacks on health, education and clean energy.2

A few hundred votes could tip the balance, and that’s when our movement is at its most powerful. But we need to act fast.

We’re armed with polling from Canning voters telling us the very issues that will shift these key votes. Local GetUp members will hit the streets, joining grassroots efforts on the ground. And to back them up, we’ll blanket the electorate with hard-hitting outdoor, print and digital advertising. But ad space is in high demand and we have to make decisions now about what we can afford to do.

Click here to chip in to our game-changing Canning campaign now.

Imagine it. An end to the relentless attacks on our public school and hospitals, pensioners and young people, a clean energy future, and fair go for all Australians. That’s exactly what we could see if the Abbott leadership meets its downfall on 19 September in Canning.

Even Mr Abbott has said that Canning will be the ‘real’ test for how people feel about his government.3 The West Australian was more emphatic: “If the ReachTEL poll is reflected on polling day, it would certainly spell the end of Tony Abbott’s prime ministership.”4 The battle lines have been drawn, but how much we can tip the scales in the next 23 days depends on how much we can raise.

Are you up for it? https://www.getup.org.au/canning

It’s been two years since Mr Abbott became top dog, and in this time we’ve lost so much. Massive cuts to our ABC and the SBS, thousands of experts forced out of the CSIRO, attacks on clean energy, pensions and social welfare – not to mention efforts to dismantle our world-class Australian healthcare and education systems. No generation has been spared, no working family left unscathed.

And despite widespread public consensus they’ve overstepped their mark, Mr Abbott’s Government continues to pig-headedly ram through his radically conservative agenda.

But the people of Canning could change all that when they cast their ballots on 19 September, in a by-election that’s become a full-blown referendum on Tony Abbott’s agenda.5 Throwing an election campaign together in three weeks is ambitious, but rapid grassroots campaigning and cutting-edge political advertising is what GetUp does best.

There are billboards available now in major Canning commuter corridors, but we’ve only 24 hours to book them in if we’re to get them up in time.

Click here to help transform the Canning by-election into a day of reckoning for Tony Abbott and his ideological right-wing agenda.

There are defining moments in a nation’s history where a people must decide what type of country they want to be. Our movement must speak out now, on behalf of families, the sick, the vulnerable, the marginalised, students, teachers, nurses, clean energy workers, the ageing – all those who don’t have a team of lobbyists treading the halls of Parliament House – because if we don’t, who will?

Enough is enough,
Nat, Mark, Paul, Kelsey, Kajute and Sam L, for the GetUp team

PS – This vital work is about more than just Canning. With your help, the fight will continue in the months ahead with cut-through ads, polling, and election-changing grassroots networking – the very tactics that has established our movement as a formidable force for change. We’ll carry the fight right through to next year’s federal election with our biggest campaign effort ever. We’ll hold this government’s feet to the fire on universal healthcare, university fees, cuts to our public schools and hospitals and its ideological war on clean energy. We’ve been able to change the course of elections before, but to do so, we need to invest now. Click here to chip in.

[1] ‘Canning poll on a knife edge’, The West Australian, 26 August 2015
[2] ‘Storm clouds gathering over Tony Abbott’s leadership’, Sydney Morning Herald, 22 August 2015
[3] ‘Newspoll: Bill Shorten’s stocks bounce to three month high’, The Australian, 25 August 2015
[4] ‘Canning poll on a knife edge’, The West Australian, 26 August 2015
[5] ‘Canning byelection a referendum on PM’, The West Australian, 21 August 2015

Example of Forming a Political Party to Highlight an Issue

Links and Images for Extremely Greedy 40 Per Cent Extra Party:


Candidates for the Extremely Greedy Part 1995. Author is center at back.

Humorous Political Poster

Correspondence with the Hon Eric Hutchison MP

Mr Hutchison is a Liberal member in a marginal Tasmanian seat. Getup! identified Mr Hutchison as vulnerable and identified me as a Getup! supporter in his electorate. Getup! then emailed me asking that I write to Mr Hutchinson opposing the government’s decision to give renewable energy certificates for burning old growth forests for electricity. I support some but not all of the GetUp! agenda. I subscribe to GetUp! in part as a news service.

Burning biomass for electricity – sugar cane, wood, hemp etc – can help reduce CO2 emissions and provide local income to small generators. However Forestry Tasmania wants to burn wood chips for electricity. Many of these woodchips come from old growth forests that most people want protected and would have been protected if the Liberals had honoured the Forest Agreement. These “forest residues” are about 85 per cent of the actual forest. Providing renewable energy certificates for these “residues” creates a market for them and drives ongoing environmental damage.

I have written about this issue here:



I After being contacted by GetUp! I emailed Mr Hutchison. I did not invest a lot of time and was surprised when I got a considered response. This led to a cordial exchange. Mr Hutchison certainly does not have to agree with me but I hope he now has a better understanding of the issue.

You can read my correspondence with Mr Hutchison here:


“Dear Mr Hutchinson

I write to express my dismay at your government’s energy policy – if I could call it that. There seems to be a perception in the party that renewable energy aka energy diversity, is some sort of greenie wowserism. It is not.

Energy diversity is energy security, and energy security is national and economic security. That is why China, India, and numerous other countries are investing heavily in renewable energy while continuing to build their industry from conventional sources. Meanwhile the recent decision on the RET will cost Australia over 2500 jobs and $6 billion investment in order to prop up inefficient quasi monopoly generators (references below). No credible expert source anywhere thinks the so called “direct action plan” is anything more than a pork barrel for big coal.

In the context of energy security I note that this country’s capacity to refine oil has largely been closed down in preference for importing refined oil through Singapore. In the event of a large regional conflict or naval blockade this leaves us with three days of fuel. I leave you to ponder the obvious implications of this. My point – we need to be as self-sufficient as possible in energy, and renewable energy is part of that mix.

Even more distressing is the last minute decision to include burning native forests as “renewable energy”. I have spent a lot of time in these forests and I can assure you that there is nothing renewable about incinerating a 200 year old sassafras or myrtle tree and replacing it with a fast growing monoculture. These are not “offcuts” or “forest residues” they are 80-90 per cent of the actual forest. We would be subsidising the burning of rainforest in order to produce electricity that could have been produced by solar panels if your government had bothered supported a booming industry.

I request therefore that you exercise your right as a party member to challenge and ultimately change the policy direction of your party on energy diversity and security in this country.



New renewable energy target will mean $6 billion cut to investment: analysts. Sydney Morning Herald. May 18, 2015.

Renewable energy sector has lost almost 2,500 jobs in last two years, says ABS report. ABC. April 13, 2015.

Australia’s large-scale renewable investment dives in 2014. Sydney Morning Herald. January 12, 2015.
RET deal to pass parliament in spite of wood waste inclusion. Climate Spectator. May 18, 2015.”

Editors Note : Mr Hutchison was kind enough to enter into some correspondence on this matter. This correspondence is reproduced below.

“Dear Erik,

Thanks for contacting me.

I also support the RET as does the government, remembering it was John Howard who first introduced the RET.

The agreement struck recently with the Labor Party will see the 2020 target increase from 20% to roughly 23.5%. This is a good thing.

It also protects jobs at high energy users such as Norske Skog at Boyer and Bell Bay Aluminium, who quite perversely use renewable hydro energy and were paying millions of dollars to subsidise wind farms in NSW or Queensland.

It’s a strange old world we live in.

Best Regards

Eric Hutchinson

53B Main Road (PO Box 50), Perth

Web: www.eric.hutchinson.com.au Email: Eric.hutchinson.mp@aph.gov.au”

“Thanks Eric for getting back to me.

Energy markets are indeed complex things! How lucky we are to have hydro. My concern is that we need to support renewables past a critical mass where they become a serious and helpful part of the energy mix. My other concern was that burning old growth forests is poor policy on many levels and should not be passed off as renewable. I understand that you need to uphold party policy but there is room for nuance.

Best regards

Dear Erik,

Indeed hydro is the ultimate renewable. But we should not ignore the fantastic story that is using wood and regrowing trees and Tasmania is undoubtedly good at growing trees.

Wood is indeed the fibre of the future, it is stored sunlight, it is a renewable resource.

Can I urge you to search a report prepared by Professor Andreas Rothe, a scientist from Germany who identified the tremendous opportunities for biomass in Tasmania from properly managed native forests. Tasmania has wonderful forests many of which are in formal reserves, but we also have productive commercial forests that we should be managing using the best science.

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) supports the use of biomass unequivocally.

The science is in and the rest of the world understands this, yet the ideological position of Tasmanian Greens is at odds with global science.

Hi Eric

Thanks for your reply. I know this is a late response but my wife and I recently had a baby and I have been pressed with other things.

I suggest that if the proposal were to use those fast growing Nitens planted in the hope of a pulp mill as feed stock for electricity generation no one would have any concern. If the exhaustively negotiated forest agreement was in place the argument for burning wood for electricity would certainly be stronger and the Green’s position weaker. However Forestry Tasmania have made it abundantly clear that they see wood burning as a direct substitution for woodchips. You will recall that the woodchipping industry was also only going to burn ‘residues’ left over from the ‘saw milling industry’. Now 80-90 per cent of all the timber is chipped and wood chip quotas have driven industrial logging into world heritage value forests for decades. The result has been massive environmental damage and social conflict. In this context I note that the updated Forest Practices Code is still not law years after it was drafted and the documentation around the 100 breached of the Forest Practices Code alleged by Forest Practices Officer Bill Manning are still sitting in someone’s drawer.

This means that the wood burning issue becomes a re-run of the woodchipping old growth forests issue. Using the RET in this way becomes another indirect subsidy to the woodchipping industry. That is why the Greens oppose it. It is consistent with their position on forests and wilderness since 1973. I don’t think the global science supports burning the Styx, Picton, Weld, Upper Huon, Wielangta etc forests.

The problem of scope creep when talking about residues is not unique to Australia either. See further here: http://www.pfpi.net/  

So the solution is to be clear about what is burned. If we are talking about plantation timbers and off-cuts from saw logs fine. But let’s not use this technology to re-ignite the forest wars. This would be a sensible non divisive position and one which could bring some much needed dollars to farmers and to the rural community. These are the nuances the party needs to consider.

Best regards”


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