Who likes form letters from MPs?

I don't know about you, but I think the form letter replies from ALP Senators and MPs to constituents who object to online censorship are a bit rude.

It's almost understandable for them to use form letters. Personally I think that one of the minimum job requirements expected of our elected representatives should be to express their own views about controversial issues in their own words, but I understand that sometimes the volume of correspondence is too large to give each constituent a personal reply on every issue.

But if an elected representative chooses to use form letters, they should at least make sure they're accurate. And the ALP has not satisfied that very basic burden.

The form letter they're using to answer voters who disapprove of their internet censorship policy is rife with errors and misleading statements. Even when it does say something which is true it frequently commits a lie by omission by failing to point out other pieces of inconvenient information which undercut the case it is trying to advocate.

These letters are being sent out to virtually everyone who disagrees with the ALP on the right of adults to choose what they wish to read and view on the internet. There's no attempt by the elected representative to produce a meeting of the minds, a mutual exchange of views. No, the form letters are a simple brush off: "You've invested a lot of time and effort into contacting me, but I can't be bothered being serious about engaging with you."

I think it's about time the form letters stopped. Or, at the very least, if form letters are to be used they should at least be accurate.

If the ALP isn't prepared to write and publish an accurate form letter, perhaps the task falls to my shoulders. So, for your enjoyment (and, at your option, for your Member of Parliament's mailbox) I present mine here, so that you may choose to send a reply to your MP's form letter with one of your own.

This form letter is a bit different

I think it's reasonable to accompany this one with a "users guide".

It comes on strong. The intention of this letter is to castigate an MP for daring to embarrass themselves and insult their voters by not only failing to bother to educate themselves about an issue their voters care about, but also by misleading them with a position paper full of mistruths endorsed by their own signature.

The grey text boxes labeled with "Insert ... here" are supposed to be a sardonic illustration highlighting how little respect your own MP had by sending you their letter without thinking about it in the first place.

I strongly suspect that most ALP MPs have never taken the time to study this issue, and haven't bothered forming their own opinion, they've just regurgitated the Party Line. That's unacceptable.

I also expect that many of them will feel enraged at their own party for placing them in such a compromised position. That's one of the intended effects. MPs should feel outraged by this, and they should be agitating behind closed doors inside their own party to abandon the Government's policy. If the research in this letter provides them with the ammunition, and the embarrassment provides them with the impetus, then the exercise will have been a success.

Our elected representatives are not employed by us to represent the ALP, they are employed by us to represent us. We trust that they will use their own judgement to do so, but users of the ALP's form letter have not been using their own judgement at all, and I think that counts as a failure of governance and renders them unfit for their positions of public trust.

You might agree with me. If you do, you're welcome to respond to them with a copy of this letter, which disapproves of that behaviour in no uncertain terms and in a very in-your-face, obvious manner.

You might agree with me but want to take another approach. If that's the case, feel free to cut-and-paste from this document as much as you wish, and make use of the materials cited in the footnotes to improve your own knowledge of the subject. This document is a research resource as well as a political statement.

Or you might disagree with me. That's fine too, you don't have to make use of this document.

If you choose to use it, you're placing yourself into a position very similar to the position the MPs have chosen for themselves: You're endorsing it with your signature, making my words into your own. It will be you saying this to your MP, not I. To fail to understand that would be to commit the same error that your MP has made by sending you their form letter in the first place. If you're not comfortable with that, feel free to substitute your own wording.

Please read it first and make sure you're comfortable with it. If you're not, you're under no compulsion to use my words. You can cut and paste freely, you can use it as a research aid, or you can say something completely different.

I've taken great pains to ensure that the content of this form letter is accurate. I've researched each point, and submitted it to independent review by fact checkers afterwards. You may draw different conclusions from me about the editorializing, but the facts stand alone and unchallenged. So you can debate with me about whether or not the "live trials" are a waste of time, but it's beyond question that they don't require testing of IPv6 or speeds faster than 12 Mbps.

And finally: If you're distributing a link to someone else, please link to this page rather than the .PDF file of the letter itself. I'd prefer that anyone who intends to use this has had a chance to read these explanatory notes first.

This letter is committed to the public domain. You are free to use it for whatever purpose you see fit, without attribution or acknowledgement, with my blessing. I hope it works for you.

Errata

I've put a lot of care and effort into making sure that the statements in the letter are true and correct, and that factual assertions are accompanied by at least one link to an authoritative source. If you find any errors, please tell me as soon as you can and I'll make sure they're corrected. For the sake of transparency, I will log corrections at this web page.

DateChange
2009-01-24Corrected typo in footnote 1 URL

Mark Newton
newton@atdot.dotat.org
19 January 2009