Monday, July 21, 2008

The trials and tribulations of going through an MP

I have posted this rather long and frustrating set of correspondence with my state MP because it shows just how difficult it can be at times to get the simplest of things done.  In this case, I saw a problem with the Five Dock Police Station - the yard was an absolute shambles - a tipping ground of beer bottles and other rubbish that had been tossed into the grounds by the less than savoury part of our population.  The simplest solution would have been for me to directly approach the Officer in Charge of the station, and ask them to get it cleaned up (or so I thought).  

However, I wanted to put our local MP to the test - was she up to the challenge of getting a few square metres of grass and hedge tidied up?

Read on for the results......

I started with a fax to her office on 2 May 2007.  

Having heard nothing back, on 17 May 2007, I wrote the following letter and posted it:

Dear Ms D’Amore

Follow up to fax sent on 2 May 2007

I refer to the attached fax, which was sent to your office on 2 May 2007.

It has now been two weeks, and I have not received a response, let alone a letter acknowledging receipt.

I am not that worried about whether you can bothered writing back or not.  My preferred response would be to see the litter picked up around the Police Station.  I walk past it each day, so it will soon be obvious whether you have done anything about it or not.


I initially walked around to her office and tried to stick it through the mail slot in the door (in order to save 50 cents), but found that her office does not have a mail slot.  I ended up having to post a letter to get it to travel a distance of around 200 metres (the distance from our house to her office).

On 13 June, nearly six weeks after sending my initial fax, and two weeks after dropping off my letter, I went high tech and tried her email address.  I was a bit angry by this stage.


Dear Ms D’Amore 

I sent a fax to your office on 2 May regarding rubbish outside the Five Dock Police Station.

I followed this up by posting a letter to your office on 17 May.

It is now 13 June – nearly a month and a half since my first attempt at contacting you, and I have had no response. 

First a fax, then a letter – now an email.  Do you ever both responding to your constituents?  If you can’t be bothered, I’ll just send them to the local newspapers and see if they are interested in doing a story on your lack of interest in your “community”.


I got an email back from her Electorate Officer same day:


The matter that you reported to Angela D'Amore's office was actioned on that day by reporting the issue of litter to Council and seeking the information from the Police. 

A reply with the above information was sent to you 28/05/07. 

I will re-post it on 14/06. 

Kind regards

Drummoyne EO


I waited a week, and nothing came in the mail, so I tried again on 21 June.  I was getting even more steamed up by this point, particularly as we were getting regular newsletters from Ms D'Amore around this time telling us what a great job she was doing of listening to the community and working for the community etc etc:


I have still not received anything from you in the mail, as stated below.

Given that your office is about 200 metres from my house, I suggest you walk up the hill, turn right, walk past the Police Station (and have a look at what I am complaining about), turn right into West St, left into xxx St and our place is about xxx metres down the road.

That will probably be a lot faster than trying to post it.

You could also stick your head in at the Police Station and have a word with the Station Commander and ask him to tidy things up.  That might get better results than sending letters hither and thither.  I’d do that myself, but I have not found them to be particularly receptive to members of the public.  They might take a bit more notice of you.


We had some progress the following day.  Part of the mystery was solved - her office had been sending her replies to our old address:


Just to let you know that the copy you posted last week has finally arrived.

I don’t know why, but it was addressed to my old address of AAA St.  I checked both the fax and the letter that I sent and both had my current address of BBB St on them.  

I should point out that we'd setup mail forwarding with Australia Post, and all our other mail was getting through.  It seems that the Australia Post though had a bad habit of losing all letters from Angela....

Here is a copy of that letter.  Note that it says that "it has been reported to the City of Canada Bay as the responsible authority to have the litter removed..."

I was a bit confused at that point. I thought the Police would have been the responsible authority, since it was their station that we were talking about.  How Council got involved, I don't know.  What really blew me away is that the Police Station is just up the hill from Ms D'Amore's electorate office - I have seen her chatting to patrons of the cafe that is practically next door.  It's not like she couldn't have walked past (or had one of her staff walk past) to check for herself what I was writing about. 


We got a response to my email 3 days later:


Thank you for your e-mail . 

The record provided to us by the Electoral Commission still shows you at AAA St.

Have you advised the Commission of the change?


Drummoyne EO


My response:


Yes I have changed my enrolment, and I received a letter from the AEC advising us that it changed on 23 May.

Please also note that I contacted Canada Bay Council last week about another matter and when I mentioned this one, they said that they have not received a letter from your office about the Police Station. 

I didn't hear anything for a while, so on 19 July, I rang the Police Commissioner's office and had a chat with one of the people that deals with his correspondence.  I did this because the response that I got on 13 June said, "seeking the information from the Police".  I took that to mean that Ms D'Amore's office had contacted both the Council and the Police, and assumed that any correspondence that went to the Police would have to go through the Commissioner's office.  So I was a bit surprised when I discovered that the Commissioner's office had heard nothing about it.


I have just phoned the Police Commissioner’s office regarding this issue.  Since it is now 2 ½ months since my initial fax, I thought I would chase them up and find out what is going on. 

A search of their correspondence tracking system showed no sign of any correspondence regarding the Five Dock Police Station, either in my name or Angela D’Amore’s.  The person I spoke to suggested that you fax all correspondence related to this issue directly to 8263 6443 and mark it to the attention of the Correspondence Section.  They will ensure that it is properly registered and taken care of.

You really start to despair a bit when you have to tell an MP how to contact a government department.

Just to be sure, I also rang Council and had a chat to one of their customer service representatives.  I asked them to do a search on their correspondence tracking system to see if they could find any trace of any mention of the Police Station under my name or Ms D'Amore's.  I was on the phone for quite some time, and nothing could be found.



Furthermore, I have also followed up with Canada Bay Council and they are unable to find any correspondence from your office regarding this issue.

I suggest you resend a copy of your original letter to Council as well.


The following letter was sent to me the next day.  Now given everything that I have listed above, I did wonder whether anything had been sent to Council in the first place.

It turned out that something had been sent to Council, because I got the following letter from Council on 28 August.  This was all very nice, but did nothing to fix the problem that I originally wrote about.  Council was very efficient at doing its bit (which was essentially nothing), but they fixed the wrong problem.

A few months went by, and nothing was done about the mess in the grounds of the Police Station.  I decided that Angela D'Amore was never going to understand what the problem was, and therefore fix it, so I walked into the Police Station one day and had a chat with the Constable at the front desk.  She told me to call the Local Area Manager at Burwood, which I did, and the problem was solved within a few days.  (You might ask why the Constable didn't do that herself, but that is a problem for another day).

Now I could have done that at the beginning, but like I said, I wanted to see whether my local MP could do a better job than me.

I'll let you decide the outcome of that.

More time went by, and the grounds of the station degenerated once more.  Someone smashed a beer bottle outside the front door, and the broken glass sat there for a week.  The Police walked in and out of their front door, and thought nothing of the message that a broken beer bottle and piles of rubbish on the lawn were sending to the public passing by.  Then I watched a re-run of "Fort Apache: The Bronx", a great Paul Newman film, and decided to have another go.  I was even more steamed up this time.  I kind of went off the deep end.  This letter is pretty funny though - I apologise for the length, but it's worth reading.

I wrote this on 2 Feb 2008 - 10 months after my first approach about the Police Station.

A response came back a few days later:

A followup came back two weeks after that:

A final response came through on 7 April 2008 - 3 weeks shy of the one year anniversary of my desire to have a bit of garbage collected from the lawn of my local Police Station.

If you figure out what planet Angela D'Amore MP is on, please let me know.

PS - we now have a new Police Local Area Commander at Burwood.  I hope that's nothing to do with me.

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