Why don't politicians respond to emails and engage with the public?

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Pauline Hanson hasn't responded to constituents emails about her autism comments (Image via pedestrian.tv)

Why are so many politicians tardy and negligent in responding to their constituents' concerns, asks a very frustrated Vanessa Comiskey.

How many times have you gone out of your way to email a politician about an important issue, and all they do in return is either generate an automatic computer response, or ignore you altogether? 

How does it make you feel, when you do get a response, that it rarely answers your questions, and seems designed to dissuade you from questioning them further? 
How infuriating is it that our own politicians seem to care more about their own agendas, and their own parties, and completely disregard those who voted for them? 

Personally, I have had enough of the lack of care that politicians have for those whom they are supposed to be representing. I am sick to death of being palmed off, ignored and pushed aside as though our voices, our lived experiences, and and our futures in this country do not matter. 

As a mother whose autistic child was failed by the education system, I have been chasing a response from Senator Pauline Hanson in relation to an email I sent to her about her disgusting and ignorant attitudes around autistic children in the mainstream classroom, and – surprise, surprise – I am still awaiting a reply.

I find it ironic that Senator Hanson's current tagline is "Fed up!", as this echoes my sentiments towards her exactly.

Pauline Hanson on autism and disabilities in schools vicious and ignorant. - Newcastle Herald https://t.co/4ak7IrbEN5


Over many years and throughout successive governments, I have raised key issues with my political representatives, only to have my concerns treated as though they are irrelevant.

Not one single politician I have emailed, at any point in time, about any issue, has offered a worthy response, or even an adequate answer.

To add to my already building frustrations on this issue, a recent Twitter conversation with a Federal politician, after I had to tweet her numerous times beforehand, highlighted the fact that they are all completely oblivious to the kinds of battles that the general public face in relation to even being able to contact them and get some responses or assistance from them — and it infuriated me.

This particular politician responded to me saying that social media is not the right place to have Q&A sessions with them; this the very same politician that saw Twitter as an adequate medium by which to request an apology from Senator Hanson for her comments about autistic children.

Is there one rule for those in Parliament, and another for the rest of us?

So, tell me, how are we supposed to make contact with our elected political representatives?

Do we phone, to receive no response?

Do we email, to receive a generic response?

Do we attempt to make an appointment, only to be told that said politician is too busy to meet with their constituents?

Tell me, why should we all have to go to such lengths  just to be able to get any kind of a response from them and how are we able to even get them to try and start to listen to us as the general public on the issues that matters most?

I don’t understand how we can all stand back and think that this country a true democracy when our own politicians are too busy trying to win popularity contests within their own parties — which is prioritised over actually including the people affected by these conversations and debates in the discourse. 

They are not listening to a word we are saying, and my own experience is just one of many that proves this.

You know, it just goes to show you how backward our country is in terms of politicians attitudes when I seem to be able to easily get the attention of international politicians via social media and have some very meaningful conversations with them without feeling like we have to hassle them in order to to get their attention. 

I am having regular chats with a particular politician overseas (Jody Carr (@jodycarr_mla) of Canada) who not only believes in full inclusion of people with disabilities, but has also helped implement it into his country's schools. This man has even been kind enough to send me a copy of his paper in regards to the legal framework about how to make an education system inclusive.

He has also offered Skype sessions to teach people how to start improving our education system in this country, so that it completely eliminates segregation and seclusion here for kids with disabilities, who have every single right to be included, accepted and treated as equal in our schools.

How is it possible that a Canadian politician is doing more to represent the rights of differently-abled children in Australia, than our own Australian members of Parliament?

I know that I am not alone in my frustrations; I think it's time to say "enough is enough". There is no reason for any politician to continue to turn their backs on the general public and not interact with us, and address our concerns adequately.

Politicians in this country need to stop using social media as their personal megaphone and start using it in the way that it was designed to be used, as a two way communication platform.

I know that politicians cannot answer every single comment, but at least make an attempt to answer people’s genuine questions. If you're too busy, have a staff member respond on your behalf (since they certainly aren't busy responding to the emails of your constituents). I find it appallingly hypocritical that politicians state in parliament they're representing the people of this country, while consistently failing to acknowledge, or adequately respond to, us when we personally contact them.

We, as a people, need to start demanding more and expecting them to answer us rather than allowing them to run their own agendas without any real repercussions. Pauline Hanson was able to stand up in Parliament and attack the most vulnerable people who have no voice, without any factual basis to back up her claims, and has yet to be made to retract her statements or apologise for her behaviour.

Let’s be clear: there are no studies or research that backs up the claim that segregation is the best for kids with and without disabilities. In fact, all the studies, research, other countries examples and Article 24 of the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities recognises inclusion not seclusion or segregation as being best for kids with disabilities in schools.

We know a number of politicians admonished her in Parliament and numerous people, including myself, were so deeply hurt and troubled by her comments that we emailed her. Now what? Ms. Hanson isn’t obliged to answer any emails or apologise or retract her statements in any way, shape, or form. As usual, our voices are, yet again, getting pushed aside and ignored by those in power.

Why should we continue to tolerate this kind of behaviour when we, as individuals, are the beneficiaries of life-altering decisions that they keep making on our behalf, without even understanding the true repercussions of their actions? We, the people, have every right to ask that they start engaging with us more, so that we can have our issues addressed and our voices heard on things that matter to us.

The current status quo in Parliament, is that our politicians speak for the people without listening to them first.

Australia, it's time to reject this, and make our voices heard.

You can follow Vanessa Comiskey on Twitter @wackywild1.

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