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Know where the issue is and where it is going

Are you raising an issue cold, or contributing to an established process?

  • Cold – organise your information and arguments to get the issue on the agenda; aim to touch a raw political nerve.
  • Established – has the issue reached Parliament or is it with officials? What is driving the review? What are officials really prepared to move on? Organise your information and arguments accordingly.

Know the audience

Write to the likely audience’s level of understanding – both the immediate audience (eg, backbench politicians on a select committee) and the ultimate audience (eg, a minister and their advisors). You need to know whose minds you are trying to move.

Identify yourself

Start the submission with information on you or the submitting organisation – who you represent and why your viewpoint is particularly valid.

Quality or quantity?

Is the priority to produce lots of similar submissions or a few special ones? Or a mixture of both? Where does your submission fit in this picture? If quantity is the priority, identify who else might be sending similar submissions.

Focus on your special message

What are you uniquely or specially experienced to write about? Can it be backed up by facts and figures? Does it link to a specific amendment or change? If so, try to detail it.

Work to your strengths

If you have stories, tell them. If you speak better than you write, keep it simple and perform in front of the committee. If submitting to a parliamentary select committee, state in the submission or cover letter that you wish to speak to your submission – otherwise you may lose the chance.

Make it look as good as it sounds

Aim for four pages maximum, with other material as appendices. Summarise and use bullet points. Use visuals and white space effectively. Make it professional.

Keep it short and sweet

Write using clear language – tell the truth. Be constructive. Present amendments in as detailed a way as you can. Present your argument in a logical order that flows well.

Offer constructive criticism

Do not get personal about the people looking at the submission.

Keep something back

For select committees and most others, you can present a supplementary submission with in-depth information on an issue important to you and/ or new information on an issue already raised. If you plan an oral submission, keep something back to raise in your oral submission.