A phone call can be an effective way to communicate your concerns to your local or national representatives.
Phoning your political representative can be most effective when an issue is coming up for debate at your local council or in parliament and time is short. However, there can be limited opportunities to influence outcomes in these circumstances unless voting numbers are close.
Who to call
If it's a national issue it's always best to call your own Member of Parliament (MP) before you call others. Also consider who is responsible for the issue in the major and minor political parties. Often a minister's office will log calls about an issue so they can get a sense of community concern. By phoning them, you are registering your concern.
Tips on phoning
- Introduce yourself, state how you feel about the legislation or issue and ask your councilor or MP to represent your view.
- If the representative is undecided about the issue, ask to be updated on his or her stance after a period of time (by letter or return phone call) or ask for a meeting so you can argue your position.
- Always leave your name and address, especially if you are a local constituent. If you phone to express an opinion but refuse to leave an address, you are wasting your breath.
- Be aware of how politics works. In New Zealand, many politicians are required to vote along party lines on most issues (unless there is a conscience vote). So you need to register your concern early in the debate, before the party has reached its official position. Otherwise, your local MP may have little time to express their constituents' concerns.
- Always be polite. Communicating in an abusive or threatening way draws more attention to your behaviour than to the issue.
How to discuss the issue
- Keep to one issue per phone call
- Do your homework - you don't want to be caught out with the wrong information
- Define the problem and offer solutions
- Call for action
- Ask questions that require specific answers
- If the person cannot answer the questions you ask, ask to speak to someone who can, or ask them to get back to you with the answer
- Follow up the phone call with a letter detailing the outcomes of your phone discussion