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Proformat News
No: 48a
February 2010
More on NAA closures
Following previous advice in Proformat News 48a on approaching local politicians in regard to the close of the National Archive of Australia [NAA] offices, some readers have responded that they do not have the skills to address the issues in a meeting or in correspondence. Also a number of other matters have been raised since the past issue.

Politics is the art of preventing people from taking part in affairs that properly concern them. [Paul Valery]

Dealing with the local politician
When communicating with a politician, consider the following points:
1. Never write lengthy letters. The longer the letter, the less likely the reader will take in all the points or find a weakness in the argument.
2. Long letters and meetings with lots of points allows scope for the recipient/listener to pick on the weakest point and ignore the rest. Select a few major points only and leave those less important to you to others.
3. In correspondence or meetings, always be focused and specific. Stick to the issue at hand. Address the issue in terms of how it affects you personally.
4. Always attack the issue and not the person.
5. Present a viable solution to the problem. Politicians are always seeking ideas and especially ideas that result in win-win solutions.
6. Use modern technology to make your point and spread the message. Many politicians have interactive social networking web sites, some even twitter—send them a message to let them know you disapprove.
Members of the Parliament of South Australia contact details can be found on the Parliament of South Australia web site
Contact South Australian Senators.
Contact South Australian MHRs.
Visit the home pages ascertained from the above sites where you will also find less formal ways of contacting these people via Twitter, Facebook and responding to blogs.
For those who twitter:
Prime Minister:
Every tweet you send on the matter consider adding # plus the PM's name to the message so that the PM sees it as well! However, be a realist—the fact that the PM twitters does not mean he manages it or even sees the messages! But if his minders receive enough tweets they may at least let him know!

Engage with the media
Despite what a politician says, they do not like negatives and they do listen to the polling. They see the media as an indicator of public opinion. To date the media has been less than vocal on the matter. You can enhance this exposure by recruiting well-known members of the community to your cause. You have probably seen these campaigns before and in the case of this issue a public list of supportive prominent archivists, historians, educators, researchers, librarians and so forth would certainly help the campaign.

Network to protest
Network with other people with a like interest and consider some form of public protest. In the case of the NAA issue, the writer knows of a planned protest, but the organisers do not want it made public. They fear that if the management of the NAA knows the protest plans, the protest will be countered in some way. This attitude is unfortunate for two main reasons. Firstly by being fearful of the opposition, it is suggesting that the issue being presented is weak and will not stand up to scrutiny. If the issue is worth the fight, it should be taken up to all comers. You cannot get a much bigger opponent than the Federal Government! Secondly by keeping the protest under wraps, it cannot garner the same support that it would if it was made public. If the protest is made public, one could expect a larger turnout and a greater impact for the issue at hand. Incidentally, if the issue and the protest are made public and the turnout is small, it tells the protest organisers something important too!

Ignore the government bureaucrats
You will probably waste your time, breath and ink communicating your concerns to the NAA management. They have made the decision and as such own it. They now know you are unhappy. You need to manoeuvre around them and present your case to others in a position to cause them to rethink their decision. Work out who are the key decision makers and who are the key influencers in the process? It’s the influencers you have to work on!

The Commonwealth Ombudsman
A worthy suggestion was made recently to approach the Commonwealth Ombudsman's office. This office considers and investigates complaints from people who believe they have been treated unfairly or unreasonably by an Australian Government department or agency. Unfortunately the Ombudsman is somewhat limited in what can be achieved.
The Ombudsman cannot:
  • investigate the actions of government ministers.
  • override the decisions of the agencies.
  • The Ombudsman cannot issue directions to the staff of agencies. The Ombudsman attempts to resolve disputes through consultation and negotiation, and if necessary, by making formal recommendations to the most senior levels of government
The author has been in touch with the Ombudsman's office who has logged the matter and advised that the above information is indeed correct and the relocation of the archives is not a matter for the Ombudsman to investigate.

Plan the campaign
All successful campaigns are planned. At this time we see no planning for this particular issue, just a few people coming up with activities and suggestions. An organizing committee needs to be formed and proper planning of a campaign needs to be developed. It needs to be done now or the NAA offices will definitely close!

In this issue:
Update - Adelaide office closure
Feature article


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