Friday 2nd of December 2022

Fifth Estate

Some might argue that the net, and in particular yourdemocracy.net.au, is no more than an offshoot of the Fourth Estate (the press) but I think not. It is a different animal altogether and while the idea is not original it can claim to be of the Fifth Estate.

So let’s think about that. How is public opinion made? Once it was by the newspapers alone but no more. With over 70% of our capital city press in the Murdoch camp we’re in trouble. Letters to the Editor are beset by various restrictions, talk-back is dependent upon the compere and community radio utterly useless.

That leaves letter writing. It is up to every individual to write letters to their MPs and Senators and this is where net sites like this can help because it allows ideas to be canvassed. Now for some letter writing is hard and there’s a germ of an idea in the back on my mind which would post suitable texts on this site that could be used. Please comment.

Writing to Officials

Bob: That leaves letter writing. It is up to every individual to write letters to their MPs and Senators and this is where net sites like this can help because it allows ideas to be canvassed. Now for some letter writing is hard and there’s a germ of an idea in the back on my mind which would post suitable texts on this site that could be used.

There is a more basic level: how to frame your thoughts and subsequent responses.
So Jane and Joe Average (me) may come here to crystallise thoughts out of their angry emotional tangle. Thoughts take a bit of work to order on paper. They find a set of templates of ready-made off-the-shelf ikea letters. They retreat in angry confusion at having to take every thought expressed on board in order to communicate with their rep.

How about a forum topic along the lines of workshopping individual letters to your rep?

For a rough example, I am corresponding with my fed rep (if you could call it corresponding - he doesn't appear to understand much ever) right now about habeus corpus and have so far got a dumb/brush-off response. I need to get him to indicate that he even understands my questions. So I got onto my lawyer sister for some ways to express myself more clearly. She helps sometimes. Other friends help with other things.

A forum here with everyone helping could be useful for the Janes and Joes who are stirred up enough to want to conduct their own correspondence in their own terms. And it wouldn't need any tech to get up and running right now.

Call it, Writing to Officials - get help with getting your thoughts down.
Or How to write letters to influence people
Or How do I say this?

A very little wit is valued in a woman: as we are pleased with a few words spoken plain by a parrot. ~ Swift, in Thoughts on Various Subjects.

RE: Postal issues

The problem with writing letters is that you don’t know if the person you sent them to got them directly. I have had issues with a Department and I will share with you what happened to my letters and what I discovered.

Because my allegations and complaints were numerous and serious I sent my letters of complaints Registered Post, Person to Person with signature verification so that I could have proof of delivery. More often than not, the verification didn't come back signed or it just had a stamp on it not a signature. I didn't really at that stage pay too much attention to the verifications, as I just trusted that my letters would be Person to Person.

Following a few responses to my letters that just didn't make sense I started wondering whether the actual information that I had sent had been seen by the relevant Minister/Bureaucrat. So I decided to track a few letters to validate my concerns. I went to Australia Post and stood over the counter and asked about Person-to-Person, Registered Post delivery and I was assured that nobody was allowed to sign for it except the person on the envelope. So I paid my fee and sent my letter.

This time when I received verification of delivery I noticed it had a different name to the one that I had on the envelope so I sent a complaint to Australia Post. It took Australia post close to one year to deal with my complaint. They kept telling me it was all right as they had contacted the bureaucrat to whom the letter was addressed and he assured them that he had received it. But that wasn't my main concern or issue. My issue was that I wanted and needed the letter to go directly to the Bureaucrat and for him to have to sign for it so that I could be assured that he got to see what I had to say and see the documents that I had provided.

I was told during my many telephone calls that once your letter leaves Australia Post and goes to delivery centres, if the delivery centre has an agreement with a department they can give them directions to collect all their mail, including Registered Post person to person and that mail goes to Document Management Centres.

I questioned the authority to do this as I paid Person to Person with signed verification and they took my money on that basis. In response to this they sent me a copy of a letter from the Minister for Education, John Aquilina dated back in October 1998 giving them an order to collect his State Education mail. I was told that this letter was accidentally interpreted by the delivery people (even seven years later) as meaning all mail to any Bureaucrat etc., not just Mr. Aquilina’s should be collected and that they were sorry and they offered to compensate me by refunding my postage fee.

My letters were being collected as per this order and sent to Ministerial Correspondence Units to be dealt with, then sent to the persons my complaint involved first and they were asked to respond and then the Minister was provided only with what those responsible wrote in the way of a draft response.

That’s why their responses didn’t make sense and didn't address the issues.

So letters and complaints more often than not don’t get to the Minister before they have been “dealt with

The Activist Button

Yep.

Righto, here's the dream:

Wherever a person is on the site, they can click a button which gives them access to a database of politicians, media editors and others (this database itself can be updated by members in a moderated, but open-source, manner) along with their contact details. To date we have been calling this 'the activist button' for lack of another name.

The email addresses link not directly but to a form headed with the date and "Dear (person)," cursor flashing. By writing a letter / filling in the form the user not only sends an email to the person chosen but also saves the letter, leaving a link to it from the same page it was written from.

Other people can click the link, accessing the letter. They may write an alternate letter or alter the existing one, saving each version for other users to peruse, edit and use if they wish.

That's the dream on this front. The technical people (David and Nigel) assure me that it can be done and are quite excited about the challenge, but at this stage we've got to call it a medium-term project.

Computer and web proficient folk who want to lend a hand contact James Woodcock.