So apparently I need to write about asylum seekers after all

I realise that the appropriate response to the news that the Australian Government plans to turn asylum seekers living in the community out onto the streets with no income is not exasperation, but rather horror, fury, or grief, but I have to say, exasperation was what I went with on reading the news yesterday.

I mean, is it too much to ask for the government to only be appalling on one front at a time?

Seriously, guys.  *Either* you get to destroy the Great Barrier Reef, *or* you can find new ways to pick on poor people, *or* you can waste $122 million on a divisive, non-binding postal survey about marriage equality which will do absolutely no good to anyone, *or* you can continue to pursue counterproductive policies that worsen the situation for indigenous Australians, *or* you can do horrible things to asylum seekers while calling the people who help them unAustralian.  But you have to choose.  You don’t get to do all of them.  It’s not fair, and it’s just being greedy.  What are the other politicians going to do when they want to be terrible, if you’ve already done everything?

You need to learn to share.  Pick one horrible cause, and leave the others for someone else to play with.

Actually, no, don’t pick one horrible cause.  Pick none of them.  All of those things are disgusting, and I can’t honestly believe that everyone in the Coalition is as awful as those policies make them sound. There must be someone in there with a heart, surely…

Anyway, for me, the five stages of dealing with politics are exasperation, anger, depression, writing letters to politicians, and blog posts.  I’ve done the first four, so here we are with number five.

Here are a couple of quotes from the letter that was apparently sent to asylum seekers:

“You will be expected to support yourself in the community until departing Australia… If you cannot find work to support yourself in Australia you will need to return to a regional processing country or any country where you have a right of residence.

“From Monday 28 August you will need to find money each week for your own accommodation costs. From this date, you will also be responsible for all your other living costs like food, clothing and transport. You are expected to sign the Code of Behaviour when you are released into the Australian community. The Code of Behaviour outlines how you are to behave in the community.”

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Marriage Equality letters

I’ve actually been ill today, so I didn’t manage to write as many letters as I meant to.  I’m hoping to do a bit of blitz of Senators tomorrow, but I have covered some of the main suspects at least.  I understand that the Plebiscite is being debated in Parliament this week, possibly even this evening, so I went with emails rather than postal letters this time.

As usual, having written the letters, I find them entirely inadequate, but I’m posting them here for two reasons.  Well, one reason, with two parts.  The reason is, of course, that I’m hoping some of you will also feel inclined to write to your politicians, and sometimes it’s hard to know where to start.  Feel free to use these as a starting point – it’s easier to fix a bad letter than to write one from scratch, in my experience.

It’s also sometimes hard to decide that a letter is good enough to send, and that’s the other reason I’m posting these.  I want to write the perfect letter, which will cause politicians to realise, at last, that they have made a terrible mistake and should be doing things differently (ie, my way…).  In the real world, that’s not going to happen.  Or at least, not through me – I am definitely not that eloquent.  But at least part of this is a numbers game.  A letter that does not perfectly express what you want to say is still a letter in someone’s inbox, reminding them that another one of their constituents opposes the plebiscite.  And you never know – your letter of support to a politician who is doing the write thing may be the encouragement they need, or may provide them with an argument or phrase that they hadn’t thought of and can use to sway others.  But even if it doesn’t, every little bit helps.

You can find contact lists for all Senators and MPs at this link.  These include phone numbers, postal and email addresses, so pick the medium of your choice and go for it.

If letters are too hard write now, the ALP has a campagin ‘It’s Time for Marriage Equality‘, which is half petition, half tweet, and certainly worth a look.  The Greens have a similar campaign.  And Australian Marriage Equality have all sorts of actions you can take, depending on your time, energy and financial resources.

And if you just need a break from all of this, here’s a link I found earlier when I was looking (unsuccessfully) for some information about my local Member.  It’s the 404 page for The Australian‘s National Affairs section, and it is absolutely hilarious.  Enjoy!

Letters below the cut…

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Kitchen Table Activism: How to Host a Letter-Writing Party

I’m in the fortunate position of knowing a lot of people who are deeply upset about what has been happening on Nauru, and would like to do something about it.  And many of these people are already doing great things – going to protests, working with refugee support services of various kinds, ringing MPs, and so forth.  (Incidentally, if you are not tied to a 9-5 job, there are some amazing non-violent actions taking place across Australia this week – the list can be found here.)

But one thing that I’ve been hearing a lot recently is that if you want to show politicians that you are serious, actual paper letters are the way to go.  Now, I write a fair number of letters, and I feel as though most of the relevant ministers have a pretty good idea how I feel about asylum seekers by now. (Or perhaps not – but I do start to wonder at what point one makes it onto the crank list.  Shorten, for one, must be pretty tired of me by now, and I’m sure I’m just one more reason Kelvin Thomson feels happy to have retired.).  It’s hard to think of new ways to say the same thing, and it can be rather demoralising to make the attempt.

So on Sunday, I invited a handful of friends around for a Tea and Letters Party.  The plan was simple: I provided the location, writing (and printing) supplies, stamps, envelopes, and rather copious amounts of baked goods (because once I start baking I find it hard to stop), and then we sat around the kitchen table for a few hours, writing letters over afternoon tea.

There were a few things about this party that I thought worked very well.  Over the course of the afternoon, people read out bits of letters, asked for advice, and discussed how particular politicians might be approached.  I found this useful on two levels – first, it was good for pooling information, and second, it was extremely helpful to see how other people phrased things, or how they approached particular letters. I tend to err on the side of writing far too much, and so seeing the ways that other people condensed their letters into only a few sentences was really useful.  On the other hand, I tend to try to ask for quite specific actions (repeal that secrecy act!), which others hadn’t necessarily thought of.  While we all wrote quite different letters in quite different styles, we definitely benefited from borrowing ideas, approaches and even phrases from each other.

Another thing which worked quite well, though it wasn’t something I’d planned for, was that of the nine people present, two actually didn’t write any letters.  My husband was largely on printer duty, as well as being in charge of tea and doors and things like that (I’m great at baking, but I never remember that people might want to drink something other than water).  Another friend of ours came intending to write letters, but realised after half an hour or so that he was too enraged by the whole situation to write anything that wasn’t so bitingly sarcastic as to be counterproductive.  He moved onto research duty, and became our looker-upper, responsible for answering questions such as ‘what was that act of Parliament called that said doctors weren’t allowed to talk about what was happening on Nauru?’ or ‘who are the Victorian Senators again?’.  He also did a lot of addressing of envelopes, and the final run to the postbox at the end of the day.  This was actually pretty useful, sufficiently so that I might plan to have an official looker-upper next time I host something like this.  But I do want to mention these roles as worth bearing in mind if you have people who would like to contribute but for one reason or another do not want to write letters themselves.

I think the tea and cake and social aspect helped, too.  It’s a little bit of incentive, and honestly, I think it’s helpful, if one is writing letters about terrible things, to have the company of like-minded people, as a reminder that really, one is not alone in being upset about this.

There were other things that I think could have worked better.  The first – which in retrospect is quite amusing but was a little distressing at the time – is that by turning letter-writing into a social occasion I managed to create a situation in which I was almost incapable of writing anything at all, due to the noise and conversation and interruptions!  After a while, I decided to view my role as facilitating letter-writing for others, rather than writing lots of letters myself, and that helped.  In future, I think I will draft at least a couple of letters ahead of time.  Once I actually had a few reasonable paragraphs that I could modify or recycle for other letters, I was able to write quite a bit, but I achieved almost nothing in the first two hours.

The second was that I really should, I think, have started by printing out some possible talking points, or even examples of good letters that I’d seen.  Several people asked if I had anything like that, and I didn’t – and I think it would have given us a starting point, and helped us get going in those first few hours.  So that’s something I’ve learned for next time.  I also should have printed out a list of politicians’ postal addresses before starting – I had them on my iPad, but it wasn’t as useful.  Fortunately, that was a fairly easy problem to fix.

The third was that occasionally everything got really noisy, and it made it hard to concentrate.  I think next time, I’ll try to set up a bit of a break-out room for people who want to chat more (about letters, or about other things, because this is a social event as well as a political one, it’s not a homework session), and be more active about chivvying people into it if need be!

But for a first attempt, organised on 24 hours notice, it was a pretty good effort.  We had a total of nine people, including me and our two non-writers, though a couple of them could only stay long enough to write one or two letters, and by the end of the afternoon we had written and posted twenty-seven letters to the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition, Peter Dutton and his opposite number, Shayne Neumann, our various local MPs and a wide selection of Victorian Senators.  This may not sound particularly efficient, but for at least one person in the room, it was the first time he had written a letter to an MP, and he would not have done so now without this impetus.  So that’s three or four letters that certainly would not have happened without our afternoon tea – and I think 27 letters from 7 different people is a lot more valuable than fifty letters from one person in terms of showing politicians that the community feels strongly about an issue.

And I can’t stress enough how simple this was to organise.  Really, if you have friends, and live reasonably close to a post office, and can drop past the supermarket to buy some tea bags and some Tim Tams, you are more than halfway there.  I’ll definitely be doing this again.

Check-list for a Letter Writing Party

  • A reasonably sized table, or other writing surfaces
  • Pens
  • A4 paper (preferably the kind that can go through a printer)
  • Envelopes
  • Stamps
  • A printer (optional, but helpful – many people prefer to write on their laptops)
  • Wifi access so that people can look up things (you may want to appoint an official Looker Upper)
  • Tea and Coffee (don’t forget milk and sugar – I always do!)
  • Cake or biscuits or both (you can bake, or ask someone else to bake, or you can buy Tim Tams and a punnet of strawberries at the supermarket and everyone will still be happy)
  • A printed list of postal addresses for your target politicians (you can find a list of the Senators here, and can download a list of MPs here)
  • A few talking points, or sample letters, for inspiration

I like smallish groups and inviting people to my house, but this is probably something that you could run with a larger community group, if your community felt strongly about something.  Though the noise levels might become prohibitive, so that’s something to think about.  Also – and this is probably obvious, but still – pick a topic for the day.  I think one of the most valuable parts of this Tea and Letters party was hearing what other people had written, and that only really works if you are largely writing about the same thing.

I’d also recommend trying to keep it reasonably fun – yes, you want to get stuff done, and it’s important, but you also don’t want to make everyone feel as though this is a chore.  In fact, half the point of this is to make letter-writing less of a chore.  I suspect I err on the side of being a petty dictator, so this reminder is for me as much as for anyone else who wants to hold a Tea and Letters party.

Finally – and I know I said this already, but it bears repeating – if you are hosting a party like this, please, please, go easy on yourself and don’t feel bad if you, personally don’t write as many letters as you meant to write.  You are hosting, and answering questions, and helping people find things, and sorting out tea, and cutting cake, and making sure people can find the bathroom, and helping with whatever else they need, in order to create a space in which other people can write the letters that need to be written.  You are empowering other people to write letters!  It’s OK if you don’t get around to writing many (or even any) yourself.  Besides, I bet if you are hosting this, you’ve written plenty of letters in the past.  It’s someone else’s turn!

Lunchtime is letter time…

Some excellent speakers at yesterday’s rally, and I will try to write about it at some point.

But in the meantime, it’s lunchtime, which means it’s time to ring and write to the politician of your choice!  I rang my local member, and spoke to a lovely woman who told me that he is already against returning children to Nauru (onya, Kelvin!), but because I find phone calls terribly intimidating, I’m writing to the PM, Shorten and the various Immigration types…

As usual, these letters are very imperfect, but if they help you find a place to start, then they have done their job.  I do want to write at some point about the adult asylum seekers – we do focus on children, because they are an easier sell – but frankly, I don’t think anyone belongs in a detention centre on Nauru for years on end, regardless of age or gender.  If someone is a refugee, they deserve to be resettled somewhere safe.  If someone is not a refugee, then maybe they need to go home.  And if someone is a criminal, well, that’s why we have a legal system.  But holding someone indefinitely and without trial is never OK.

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Bothering politicians about Abyan and Nauru

What are lunch breaks for if not to ring the Prime Minister’s office and mumble in a somewhat tongue-tied fashion about the need to bring Abyan back to Australia for treatment?

Well, one thing they are for is letter-writing!  As is my usual habit, a copy of the email I just sent to the PM is below the cut.  It is not perfect, and yours doesn’t have to be perfect, either.

The important thing, if this is something you care about, is to write *something*.  Keep it polite, and probably try to be briefer than me because I always write way too much, which may not be the best way to get read.  But the more people who write, or who ring, or who tweet, however incoherently, the louder the message. And feel free to borrow any phrasing that appeals to you from what I’ve written.  That’s the other purpose of putting this letter here.

I’ll write to Peter Dutton, Bill Shorten and Richard Marles (Shadow Minister for Immigration) after work, and if their letters are significantly different, I’ll post them below.

Edited to add: My friend P wrote a really excellent letter to both Malcolm Turnbull and Peter Dutton, very different to mine, and considerably better worded, in my opinion!.  She has given me permission to post it below as another handy example.  I am also adding a link to a very thoughtful article by Julian Burnside on how to write to MPs.  He mentions several things that would never have occurred to me, and is collecting replies – and non-replies – from MPs.  Definitely a strategy to consider.

Handy contact details:

Malcolm Turnbull – (02) 6277 7700; malcolm.turnbull.mp@aph.gov.au ; @TurnbullMalcolm
Peter Dutton – (02) 6277 7860 or (07) 3205 9977; minister@border.gov.au ; @PeterDutton_MP
Bill Shorten – (02) 6277 4022 or (03) 9326 1300; Bill.Shorten.MP@aph.gov.au; @billshortenmp
Richard Marles – (03) 5221 3033; richard.marles.mp@aph.gov.au @RichardMarlesMP

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Asylum Legacy Caseload Bill, and some letter-writing campaigns

As you might imagine, there are a few campaigns going against the Bills I wrote about on Sunday.  A Just Australia is organising a letter-writing campaign, with tips on what to say and information on how to find your local MPs and Senators.  The Refugee Advocacy Network is organising a similar campagin, and has information and interviews on YouTube explaining why these Bills are dangerous.  Or if you are a social media person, check out the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre‘s campaign, which combines Facebook and Twitter selfies with the more traditional letter-writing and phone calls.  You might also want to sign GetUp’s petition to close the Manus Island and Nauru detention centres – I know it’s been around for a few weeks, but it’s still worth doing.

The good news is that the Labor Party have said that they will oppose the bill (I have read that they do still support some measures, though I have not yet managed to find out which – I suspect it’s the off-shore detention part).  Independent Senator Madigan, formerly of the DLP, has also expressed opposition to this Bill, and when I called his office a few weeks ago on a related topic, I was told that he feels very strongly about Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers.  So if you are not in the mood for admonitory letters or emails, you could write a brief note of thanks and encouragement to your Labor and DLP Senators – or, of course, your Green Senators, whose opposition to this Bill is taken so much for granted that the ASRC doesn’t even bother to mention them!

Also, Pope Francis has also written to Tony Abbott asking him to remember the human cost of his laws, and calling for generosity to refugees – as well as more equitable social policies generally.   I’m beginning to think this Pope is almost as much of a socialist as I am – it will be interesting to see what our oh-so-Catholic Prime Minister makes of this letter.

But enough of these fun and games!  It’s letter-writing time!  As usual, I’m posting below the cut copies of the letters I have just sent to all my cross-bench Senators, my local MP, the PM and the Leader of the Opposition, the Minister for Immigration, and his Shadow Minister.

You can find contact details for your own local Senators and MPs here.  Happy writing!

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Sample letters – and some replies

I’m taking a break from being a walking, talking, one-woman letter-writing campaign to post a few sample letters for people who are completely stuck.  A big part of this exercise is once again to show you that you don’t have to write something brilliant, so long as you write something and send it.  Because I really don’t know how good these letters are (it’s hard to produce a quality product in bulk!).

Good or bad, they are getting replies.

Canned replies from Labor, mostly, which is a bit disappointing, but not surprising.  I suspect that the ALP is hearing from quite a lot of people right now, and the precise content is probably less important than being able to scan the letter and putting it in the ‘for’ or ‘against’ pile.  (Please bear in mind, I have absolutely no knowledge of the inner workings of political parties – I’m just basing this on the fact that I am getting very standardised ‘your call is important to us and will be answered by the next available operator’  sorts of letters.)  Though it wouldn’t surprise me to that they have some sort of spreadsheet where they tick off what particular issues were raised in the letter so that they can get some idea of which particular bits of the budget are causing the most conniptions.  It’s what I’d do if I were them, frankly.

(Actually, if I were them and I were very clever, I might even keep a file of people who were interested in particular issues and contact them when I was campaigning or doing something about a particular issue and wanted either donations or a show of public support.  Tailored marketing, in fact.  On second thoughts, I think I’m glad they don’t seem to be that clever yet.)

The Greens are sending me very sweet emails thanking me for my support, and earnestly assuring me that they will keep fighting the good fight.  I liked the one who suggested that I could follow the Greens on Facebook, and in the same breath added ‘but you are probably doing that already’.  No flies on her…  In general, though, I’m getting the impression that these particular emails are being read by actual people and replied to briefly but personally.  Incidentally, I also get the sense that very few people ever contact politicians thanking them for what they are currently doing or saying and encouraging them to keep doing it.  There is a tone of astonished delight in these responses that is quite unmistakeable.  It’s quite fun. (And then you get added to their mailing lists FOREVER.)

Palmer United seemed incredibly excited to hear from me.  Something tells me that they don’t get many letters.  They also clearly decided that I am a good letter-writing sort of soul, and thus encouraged me to share my views with my local MP and my newspaper.  And to join the Palmer United Party.  I reckon the letter was about half form letter and half not.

Oh, and I’ve got a reply from Joe Hockey’s office from my last round of letters about Medicare.  He is aware of the concerns of the community and appreciates that I have taken the time to write to him.  It’s so nice to know that he cares…

On to the letters!

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Letters, and who to send them to

I’m having a big letter-writing weekend this weekend, though I’ll probably also go to the protest later this afternoon.

I’ve been chatting to a few people about who to write to, and what to say when you do.  Let me start by saying that I am absolutely not an expert on this.  But having said that, here’s who I think is worth a shot (note that these links all lead either to contact forms or to email addresses):

  • your local lower house representative.  It’s his or her job to read your letters!
  • The leader and deputy leaders of the Opposition (Bill Shorten and Tanya Plibersek), and shadow ministry members who have portfolios that are relevant to your concerns.  So I’m writing to Chris Bowen (treasurer), Mark Butler (environment), Catherine King (health), Senator Jan McLucas (housing, homelessness, mental illness), Jenny Macklin (families, disability), Senator Penny Wong (senate leader, who wrote a pretty good article about the budget a few days ago)
  • Your state senators, of every flavour except Liberal.  I’d include the Nationals in this one, because country people are getting the short end of the stick in this budget, too.
  • The Green senators.
  • Edited to add: The Palmer United Party.  Clive Palmer has said he will oppose this budget because of the changes to Medicare and the pension, and we want him to stand firm on this!  Palmer doesn’t seem to have a standard APH email address or contact form, but you can reach Palmer United through this link.
  • For bonus points, and I’d save this one for last, minor party and independent senators from other states.

Yeah, that’s a huge amount of people.  You really don’t have to write to all of them.  Start with your local lower house rep, Bill Shorten and your local Greens Senators – I think everyone has at least one by now – or the Greens Leader, Senator Christine Milne.

What should you write in these letters?  Well, honestly, that’s up to you.  Personally, I’m writing a brief letter of thanks and encouragement to the Greens – on the whole, they are covering the things I care about and can probably be relied on to oppose the budget no matter what I do, but encouragement is never a bad thing.  My local MP, Kelvin Thomson, has a blog, and he wrote a few things about the budget in it, so my letter to him picks up on the themes he wrote about.  Bill Shorten’s Budget Reply is available online, and I’ll take the same approach there.  For everyone else, I’m googling their name and ‘2014 budget’, to see what they’ve said about it.  Or looking them up on Facebook and Twitter, where they put their bite-sized responses to the budget.  (Hi, I’m Catherine and I’ll be your political stalker for today!)

The general structure I’m using is starting by thanking them for their opposition to the budget, a paragraph or two expressing my thoughts feelings about the issues on which we agree, and a final sentence urging them to keep opposing the budget.

I’ll post a few examples later, if anyone is interested.

Is this effective?  I have no idea.  But if, like me, you want the various opposition parties to block this budget to the best of their ability, I think it’s a good idea to let them know that the voters are behind them if they do.  Abbott is doing his best to scare the minor party senators, at least, into compliance.  I have no idea if a letter can change this or not, but I don’t think it can possibly be a bad thing to let people we agree with know that we are on their side.

Happy letter-writing!  And remember – your letter doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be sent.

For a full list of Members of Parliament and the Senate, visit the APH website here – you can find your local MP (start by finding your electorate), or sort senators by state or party, or find a list of incoming senators, or the shadow ministry, or more.  Contact details can be found through individual upper and lower house members’ pages, or you can find a general directory here, once you know who you are looking for.

Letter to Joe Hockey, Tony Abbott and Peter Dutton

Below is a copy of the email I’ve sent to the above three MPs.  A slightly modified version will be sent to my Liberal and National State Senators, after which I will probably draft an email for my various non-coalition senators urging them to stand firm against Medicare co-pays.  Because once you start writing letters, it’s hard to stop! 

It’s far from perfect, and that’s exactly why I’m posting it here – for the benefit of anyone who would like to write something to their MP or Hockey or their Senators about this, but doesn’t know where to start.  Feel free to borrow or steal any points that appeal to you. 

And remember – letters and emails don’t have to be perfect, they just have to be sent!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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Politics: A visit to my local Member

So the High Court of Australia has told the government that they can’t send asylum seekers to Malaysia, because Malaysia’s human rights record isn’t good and it would contravene Australia’s obligations under the UN Convention on Refugees.

And apparently some voices in the government, rather than saying, oops, OK then, we’d better not do that, have instead decided that the problem is our approach to human rights (which is certainly problematic, though not in the way they seem to think) and our obligations under the said UN convention.  Tony Abbott is kindly suggesting that we return to the Liberal Party’s Pacific Solution, and Labor is not ruling this out.

Of course, this would require that we cease to be signatories to the UN Convention, but that’s alright, because it’s outdated anyway (drat, I had a truly blood-pressure-raising article for this, but now I can’t find it).  And stopping people smugglers is far more important than protecting people’s human rights.

This makes me livid.

Getup is encouraging people to ring their politicians, which is a step I’ve never taken before – and with the acoustics in my workplace, I’m reluctant to do so.  But my local member has his office on my street, so I dropped in this morning before work to say hello and let him know some of my thoughts on the matter.  The poor man probably knows my thoughts on this and several other matters quite well by now, since I am an inveterate emailer and writer of letters.  Still, I’m told that phone calls and visits are more powerful than letters and emails, and I find this whole situation distressing beyond belief (I also find Labor’s current tendency to let the Liberal party set its agenda baffling and deeply unwise, quite aside from the ethics of this situation).

Visits are much more scary than letters.  I’m quite good at communicating via the written word, after all.  I can make sure I’ve made all my points, and I can put them neatly in order with the right words around them and send them off in a tidy, coherent letter.  Walking into someone’s office and saying “Hello, my name is Catherine and I live in this electorate and I’d like to speak to the MP about asylum seekers” is a different thing entirely.

The MP was, of course, unavailable.  I think he might be in Canberra, actually.  But that was OK – I figured I’d be talking to one of his staff members.  It’s still very, very disconcerting to stand there explaining my political opinions to a complete stranger, as he earnestly takes notes and assures me that the MP will certainly call me back.  I explained briefly that my father’s family were immigrants and economic refugees, that my maternal grandmother’s family had been refugees to Britain from Nazi Austria, and that I felt very strongly that we should be treating our immigrants and asylum seekers better.  I said that the Liberal Party’s treatment of asylum seekers under Howard was one of the reasons that Labor had won the 2007 election (it even broke my grandmother’s 30+ year streak of voting Liberal), and that the Labor Party needs to demonstrate that they are different from the Liberal Party.  I said that Australia is a country of immigrants, that most Australians do in fact feel we should process asylum seekers in Australia and allow genuine refugees to stay.  I did not say that even if most Australians didn’t feel that way it was the right thing to do and the government should show some moral leadership, but I thought it very loudly.

I said all this very politely and hesitantly because while I do believe every word about it, it’s very difficult to be vehement and sure of oneself while standing behind a tall counter in a very quiet, neat, official-looking office and speaking to an intimidatingly well-groomed stranger in an expensive suit, and I felt like a right twit, to be honest.  Though I was informed that the MP does appreciate hearing from people in person and on the phone.

Altogether, it was excruciating.  Letters are much easier… but that’s probably why they carry less weight.  Actually, public speaking is easier, too, at least for me.  You don’t *have* to look anyone in the eye for that.  I’m sort of hoping the MP does not get around to returning my call.  One act outside my comfort zone is enough for today.  But if he does, I’ll say it all again, and hopefully I’ll say it better.

I have no idea whether I will ever do this again.  I have no idea whether it will be less scary next time.  I still prefer letters.  But I really can’t bear for us to go back to the Howard era – and under Labor no less.

If you’re Australian and feel strongly about this, please consider ringing or visiting your local MP.  I promise you, you can’t possibly feel like more of an idiot than I did today.  I’d say you’d have a 99% chance of being more coherent than me, too.  And if you do turn into a shy, stammering idiot like me, at least you get to be a shy, stammering idiot who is trying to fix things…