A dedicated band of 17 volunteers made a big impression in Parliament House last week. An inspiring 2-day conference set us up with skills, hopefulness and a strong sense of team. And now our confidence and hopefulness has flowed into the offices of 24 MPs and Senators. We are making a significant difference! And we have set up a series of processes that could lead to some sort of bipartisan caucus around climate solutions in the Parliament. Our de-briefs at the end of each day were full of delight and achievement!
Twenty-five of us gathered at a conference centre in a beautiful valley near the cascading Cotter Dam, 20 minutes out of Canberra. Our National and Regional Coordinators gave us a picture of our achievements since our first Conference 14 months ago and our membership secretary described our steady but not-quite-fast-enough growth over the same period. Tom McIlroy from Fairfax Media gave us a snapshot of the Parliament and the political context we would be operating in after the Conference. Christina McPhail of Beyond Zero Emissions (and CCL and 350) showed us how viable 100% renewables already is and Ian Dunlop of Safe Climate Australia gave us a picture of what fossil fuel companies are thinking. He also brought us up to date with what the science is telling us about the climate. The rest of the weekend was a powerful and sometimes hilarious training workshop to prepare us for the lobbying.
On Monday we set up base in the Parliament House Café with some trepidation as well as a sense of taking on something very important. Our training paid big dividends and we had excellent meetings right from the start. Teams of volunteers were clustered in pre-briefings and debriefings around the room and every now and then a team would head off purposefully to meet an MP or adviser. The sense of achievement and success was palpable as each group came back and related what had happened and how they had been received.
We saw 7 MPs from all sides and advisers to another 3 very senior MPs who were deeply engaged in the difficult politics of the day.
At 5 pm on Monday we all moved out into the café courtyard and debriefed on the day – each person gave their impression of the day and what it had meant to them. I noted that we were like a well-oiled machine and that I felt I was conducting an orchestra that knew the score. Every meeting had been productive and we noticed our presence and our approach had been welcomed by many of the people we were seeing. We noticed a big difference in response compared to last year. It seems we have become more compelling communicators, or people have a greater need to hear our hopeful message – probably both.
On Tuesday we had even more people to see and again groups formed, lobbied, debriefed and split up as new groups formed. We saw 6 MPs, again from all parties. And we saw 7 advisers – 5 of whom worked with government ministers. Again we were well received, given good feedback and some very useful suggestions and referrals.
Our big debrief at the end of the day had a mood of triumph and great achievement. It was clear that we had experienced breakthroughs in our personal and political power. We also had the sense that we had now lifted significantly on last year and would need to lift again to keep up the momentum we had just created; our next lobby days in March will need twice as many volunteers. So we will be back March with 40 or more engaging and influential volunteers! And we would like you to be one of them!