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Saturday, September 19, 2020

Lobbying MPs

What to expect 

For anyone who has not been directly involved in lobbying before, it is important to keep the following realities in mind:

Parliamentarians and other representatives are being continually lobbied by a variety of special interest groups, all of whom passionately believe they have a legitimate and important case for government support and/or additional funding.

With one or two exceptions, very few parliamentarians will have any detailed knowledge of the domestic animal and animal welfare legislation and regulation – and planning laws as well. Don’t assume they will have the same level of knowledge as you may have.

It is critical that your message and what you would like the parliamentarians to do on your behalf are consistent, relatively simple and highly focused.

If meeting with your local member, it is likely they will ask about what is happening in your community and what matters are relevant for local Dogs Vic members. Be prepared to provide a brief response but use it as an opportunity to arrange a follow up meeting at a later time or invite them to an event.

It is important to stick with your original message and not be distracted by side issues.

Preparation

Before embarking on a lobbying exercise, you should:

  • Decide who to lobby.
  • Do some research on the person(s) you are lobbying.
  • Confirm the appointment.
  • Prepare a brief, one page summary of your case that can be left with the MP or their secretary.

If lobbying in a team, ensure that each team member knows their role, e.g. how your case is to be presented; who is to speak on particular issues; who is to be main spokesperson; and who is to take notes. It is important that everyone in group is clear on issues and their role at the meeting.

Here is a list of voting records from the Domestic Animals Amendment (Puppy Farm and Pet Shops) Bill 2016.

Tips & advice

Express your case as clearly and succinctly as possible.

Remember that politicians are always being contacted by lobbyists and community members with problems or concerns, who want the politician to ‘fix it’. If you can provide the solution to the problem you are presenting, you are more likely to receive a positive response.

Try to present an `objective’ persona, and avoid personalising issues if you can. Stick to the speaking point and do not digress.

However, a couple of local anecdotes or examples are valuable in capturing the listener’s attention and reinforcing the point. Keep examples concise and relevant.

Avoid attacking other interest groups as being less worthy of support than your cause. This is particularly important in relation to animal welfare.

Politicians are expert at playing one group of lobbyist off against another. Do not make their job easier.

Be focused. Time for the visit will be set – and unlikely to be extended by a busy MP.

Don’t be sidetracked. Some politicians are very good at exercising their own hobby horses in meetings with constituents, and deflecting difficult questions by changing the subject.

Refer to the information you have prepared and presented. Provide a summary and ask the MP if they have any questions or areas where they need more information.

Be clear about what you want from the MP and from the meeting. Be specific. If you are requesting the MP to give some tangible support for example: attend a meeting, vote in a particular way; influence their caucus; or issue a supportive press release. Try to obtain a definite commitment and if necessary arrange a follow up with their office staff to finalise details.

Ensure you leave behind:

  • your one page summary of the issues
  • any additional, relevant information
  • your contact details.

Always offer to make yourself, or another representative, available in future. Willingness to provide information on matters that the parliamentarian is interested in helps build regular contact and prepares the ground for further meetings.

Leave on a positive note and do not forget to thank them for their time.