TPS M@IL: a new communication tool

How many times have you wished you could email a politician or a journalist, or forward to them a piece posted on The Political Sword, but found it too difficult because you didn’t have the correct email address, or perhaps didn’t know who it might be best to contact? Over the end-of-year break, our Webmaster, Web Monkey, and I have been creating TPS M@IL. He has developed the design and the backend code to support the system, and has added several innovative features to what was originally intended to be a simple facility to enable you to send emails to politicians and journalists from your own email system.

TPS M@IL works differently from the usual mail applications as it uses your OWN email system to do the heavy lifting. Why you may ask? Well, firstly mailing politicians and their staff is a serious matter and we don't wish to provide a mechanism to spam them. So any email you wish to send will be guaranteed to be your OWN and not from our email system, or from our server's IP address. While TPS M@IL is a safe and convenient way of contacting politicians and journalists, it provides no link to The Political Sword so that spammers can't cause us to be blacklisted.

Let's elaborate.

TPS M@IL was initially designed to make it easy for you to quickly find the email addresses you want by selecting them from a database of Federal politicians or political journalists. But Web Monkey has added a feature you will find handy – a series of custom lists already compiled for you. For example, if the subject of your communication is Federal finance, instead of you having to recall the names of politicians whose portfolio responsibilities lie within finance, they have already been identified in the first of the eighteen portfolio lists that are available for your selection. To prepare your email, you would simply select ‘Finance spokespersons’, and the email addresses of the relevant politicians from all sides of Federal politics would be automatically loaded into the ‘To’ line in YOUR OWN email system. All you then have to do is type in your message, ‘sign’ it, and send it. More of this later.

The Political Sword – now established as a hub for the Fifth Estate – is already influencing opinion in the arena of Federal politics. To extend that influence, Web Monkey has added a further feature to TPS M@IL to enable you to bring pieces on The Political Sword, and the comments it evoked, directly to the attention of politicians and journalists. Let us explain these features in more detail.

TPS M@IL explained

First, to enable TPS M@IL, click the title of the piece.

When you use TPS M@IL, you will find two facilities:
- one that enables you to disseminate pieces that are posted on The Political Sword,
- and another that enables you to create your own email to politicians or journalists.

From now on, at the top and foot of each new piece on TPS, you will find a shaded panel with four TPS M@IL options: Disseminate this post; Create your own email; FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions); and Identify local member.

Go first to the last option: Identify local member which enables you to select your current representative in the Federal House of Representatives. You should use this option on your initial use of TPS M@IL. You will not need to return to this option.

When you click: ‘Identify local member’, a window displaying a database will appear, from which you can select your local member. The index at the foot of the table guides you to the page (1-17) where your member is situated. Find your member, then click ‘Select’ and the name of your local member will appear near the top of the window. If you make a mistake, simply select the correct name. Subsequently, any email you send will include your local member's email address copied into your Cc: line. If you don’t wish this to be so, do not select your local member. 

The first option in the shaded panel: Disseminate this post enables you to send the title and URL of the current post to pre-selected politicians and political journalists. The author of the piece on TPS will select the recipients depending on the subject of the post. In all instances, the Prime Minister, the Opposition Leader, and the Greens Leader will be included, and for example if the subject was finance, the recipients would also include Wayne Swan, Penny Wong, David Bradbury, Bernie Ripoll and Bill Shorten for the Government; Joe Hockey, Andrew Robb, Mathias Cormann, Tony Smith and Arthur Sinodinos for the Coalition; Adam Bandt for the Greens; and some Independents.

The author will also create some text for your email message.

When you click: ‘Disseminate this post YOUR email system will open with all the pre-selected email addresses in your email’s ‘To’ line, the subject matter in the ‘Subject’ line, and some explanatory text in the body of the email. All you have to do is ‘sign’ the email, and ‘send’ it.

We trust this will make the dissemination of posts on TPS to selected politicians and journalists very quick and easy. We invite you to use it.

The second option in the shaded panel: ‘Create your own email’ enables you to send an email to selected politicians or journalists.

When you click: ‘Create your own email’, drop down text appears. The first line gives you the opportunity to learn a little more about TPS M@IL when you click: ‘click here to read about TPS M@IL…’

Under that, you will find a series of headings:
Ad Astra’s custom lists,
Email a politician,
Email a journalist, and
Create your own mixed list.

Ad Astra’s custom lists
This feature is designed to make it easy for you to select a group of politicians to whom you may wish you send an email.

The list begins:
Top ALP heavyweights
Top Coalition heavyweights
Power brokers in the parliament
The country’s top political journalists
People of influence in the media

After that, there are eighteen portfolio lists where those involved in these portfolios have already been selected. They are drawn from the three major parties and the Independents. An example of one portfolio area: ‘Finance spokespersons’ has been given above.

For each of the options listed there is a ‘load/modify’ link that enables you to load into your email system the email addresses that have been pre-selected. The names of those that have been pre-selected are displayed near the top of the window in alphabetical order. You can modify that list by adding to it or deleting from it, using the Add and Delete options on the right side of the window. If you add, the name added will be displayed near the top of the window in red and the name will appear in the list in alphabetical order; if you delete, 'Name removed from the list' will appear in red, and you will see that the name has been removed from the list.

Email a politician
The first heading here is: Email individual politicians. If you need help, click ‘Click here for help’.

Under that is ‘Click here to create a politician list’. When you do, a window appears that displays a database of Federal politicians from which you can select as many as you wish. As you do so, each newly selected name will appear in red near the top of the window indicating it has been added, and under that you will see the name has been added to the list you are compiling, which is in alphabetical order.

When your list is complete, click ‘click here to send your email’, and the email addresses will be added to the address line of YOUR EMAIL system. All you have to do then is to type in your message, ‘sign’ it and ‘send’ it. The recipients will see that the email has come from YOU through your email system, NOT from The Political Sword.

The next heading is: Email a Party. Under that you can select ‘All Parties’ or an individual Party, and you can then filter your selection by selecting ‘All States’ or an individual State.

Do realize though that a character limit is imposed. This is a browser based limitation and not that of TPS M@IL. Thus you may not be able to email all parties in all states at the one time.  A notice in red will appear if you have exceeded the character limit, with instructions about how to proceed.

When you have made your selection, you click the ‘Submit’ button, whereupon ‘Click here to open your email appears in red. Click this, and the email addresses of your selection will be loaded into YOUR email system, ready for you to add your message, your signature and ‘send’.

Email a journalist
Under that heading is: ‘Click here to create a journalist list’. When you do, a window appears that displays a database of political journalists from which you can select as many as you wish. The list is limited at present, because it is quite difficult to ascertain journalists’ email addresses. Please let us have any that are not on the list and we will add them in.

In the same way that applies to selecting individual politicians, as you select journalists, the newly added one will be displayed near the top of the window, and the name will be added to the list you are creating. Once you have finalised your list, click ‘click here to send your email’ and the email addresses will be added to the address line of YOUR email system. All you have to do then is to type in your message, ‘sign’ it and ‘send’ it. As with emails to politicians, the journalist recipients will see that the email has come from YOU through your email system, NOT from The Political Sword.

Create your own mixed list
This option enables you to create your own mixed list of politicians and journalists, and any other category we might add later. This option works the same as if you were selecting just politicians or just journalists.

When you click: ‘Click here to create your own mixed list’, a window appears that displays a database of both politicians and political journalists from which you can select. You can identify which is which: all politicians have 'gov' in their email address. Once selected, click ‘click here to send your email’, and proceed as described above with the individual politicians’ and journalists’ lists.

The third option in the shaded panel: Frequently Asked Questions takes you to a page where FAQ’s are addressed and answered.

We trust that you will find the system that we have designed easy to understand and easy to use, and that, with just a few simple mouse clicks, it enables you to make your voice more easily heard by those in power, and those who contribute in the media.  We feel you will find Ad Astra's lists particularly useful.  If you have a list of your own that you feel would be a useful addition, please send it to us.

We will welcome any feedback you can give us on the use of the system. Please let us know of any problems you encounter, any confusion you might experience, and of course any ways in which we might improve TPS M@IL.

We hope you enjoy the experience of using TPS M@IL. The previous piece The Gillard-Abbott gap widens is offered to enable you to try out TPS M@IL and in particular the Disseminate this post option. You may also use it to send an email to one or more politicians or journalists. Click the above link to go to the piece to see how TPS M@IL works.


Web Monkey and Ad Astra

The Gillard-Abbott gap widens

For Labor supporters, 2013 holds great promise. An election is scheduled for later in the year, when Julia Gillard will ask the people of Australia to elect her Government for another term. The alternative is an Abbott-led Coalition Government.

The year has started well for the PM.

She has announced terms of reference for the Royal Commission on Child Sexual Abuse, appointed the Commissioners, and set the timetable for reporting. It has been widely acclaimed.

She has also reaffirmed her passion for implementing the Gonski Report, and initiating the NDIS in 2013. Her ‘message to Australia’ printed in the Herald Sun, shows her commitment to an Australia that is both strong and fair, but also smart, one built on a great education for all. Her message, one written from the heart, is inspiring.

I wonder how Tony Abbott’s message to Australia would read. If the recent promise on the Liberal website: Our plan to abolish the Carbon Tax is any guide, it would include a recital of how he would destroy Labor’s carbon pricing scheme before it could morph into an emissions trading scheme in 2015, how he will abolish the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, and how he would implement his Direct Action Plan, one he still has to explain to the people. He might mention how he will ‘demolish’ the NBN, although his ability to do that, or for that matter abolish the ‘carbon tax’, is questionable. No doubt an Abbott message to Australia would reflect his usual negative approach that seeks to destroy what Labor has worked so hard to achieve.

After a brief holiday with her recently widowed mother, PM Gillard return to Kirribilli to host a reception for victims of child abuse, one that showed her empathy with them and her determination to see them receive a hearing and justice. The media gave the event good coverage.  She has since visited fire-ravaged areas in Tasmania and New South Wales.

Tony Abbott said he was carrying out firefighting duties, well publicised in the media.

I suppose the letup in media items adverse to the PM and her Government is attributable to the end-of-year break and holiday time for journalists who specialise in such writing. But it was surprising to read Sid Maher’s article in The Australian on 7 January nominating Julia Gillard for the newspaper's 'Australian of the Year'. It began: ”If any politician has shown resilience, endurance and determination in the face of adversity it is Julia Gillard. Ms Gillard starts the year as the nation's preferred prime minister ahead of Tony Abbott despite a year of political turmoil in which she soundly defeated a leadership challenge from Kevin Rudd and faced down a concerted opposition attack on the carbon tax.” It ended with a reiteration: ”Her resilience, endurance and determination in the face of adversity make her a worthy nominee for this newspaper's Australian of the Year.” Of course, she may not be nominated. We remember how Kevin Rudd was successfully selected a few years back, accompanied by a flattering photo of him against the background of his library shelves, only to be pilloried by that newspaper thereafter.

Will Tony Abbott be on the list of nominees to be judged ”by a panel of senior editors and the winner announced on January 19 in The Weekend Australian.”? What will he and his supporters feel if he is not on the list?

While individual polls of voting intention have no value in predicting election outcomes this far from an election, the accompanying questions do give some insight into the opinions of those polled on a variety of topics, on the relative popularity of the leaders, and the how voters regard their political attributes. This Monday’s Essential Report, shows that in the four months since September 2012, Julia Gillard has improved her ratings on virtually all the positive attributes, some by a substantial margin, and she has rated lower on nearly all the negative.

As Essential says: ”Gillard’s key attributes were hard-working (72%), intelligent (72%), out of touch with ordinary people (53%), a capable leader (50%) and good in a crisis (50%). Almost all positive leader attributes for Gillard moved up from the last time the question was polled in September 2012. The biggest shifts on the positive attributes were on a capable leader (+7%) and good in a crisis (+7%).”

Tony Abbott too has improved his ratings a little on the positive attributes, but has slipped on the negative attributes. As Essential puts it: “Abbott’s key attributes were hard-working (70%), intelligent (64%), arrogant (61%), narrow-minded (56%), aggressive (55%) and out of touch with ordinary people (54%).

But it is the comparison of the leaders that is most revealing.

Julia Gillard rates higher than Tony Abbott in almost all positive attributes, some by a considerable margin, and lower than him in negative attributes, again by a considerable margin. The Essential Report reads: ”Compared to Tony Abbott, Julia Gillard is seen as more likely to be considered good in a crisis (+11%), intelligent (+8%) and a capable leader (+7%). Abbott is regarded by significantly more respondents to be arrogant (+14%), narrow minded (+11%), intolerant (+12%) and erratic (+11%).”

That just about sums it up, and explains to some extent the difference in the leaders’ popularity.

This week’s Newspoll, reported here and here, shows little movement in popularity. Julia Gillard has a satisfaction rating of 38 (up two) and a dissatisfaction rating of 49 (down three) giving a net rating of minus 11, while Tony Abbott's ratings were 29 (up one) and 58 (down one) giving a net rating of minus 29. That speaks for itself.

In the preferred PM stakes, Julia Gillard gained two percentage points against Tony Abbott as preferred prime minister and now leads by 12 points: 45 to 33 per cent.

The gap between PM Gillard and Opposition Leader Abbott is wide, and widening. The gap reflects what the electorate sees as the growing difference between the nation’s alternative leaders.

Labor supporters will be encouraged by the six point rise in Labor’s primary vote to 38% in Newspoll, way above its dismal depths last year, and the fall by two points in the Coalition’s primary vote to 44%, giving a TPP of 51/49. While we should avoid any feelings that this result is predictive, it is certainly more reassuring than a movement the other way. What is of some predictive value is the trend of recent polls, which both pollsters and analysts agree is moving in Labor’s favour. Possum Comitatus’ Pollytrend shows this clearly even before being updated by the latest Newspoll, and Andrew Catsaras’ Poll of Polls will show it when Insiders resumes. These trends point in a positive predictive way for Labor.

So while the gap is steadily widening between how the electorate regards PM Gillard and Opposition Leader Abbott, in Julia Gillard’s favour, the gap between the TPP of the two major parties shows a steady narrowing trend.

All this is good news for Julia Gillard and her Government as they approach the predicted tumult that will surely characterise the election year as Tony Abbott bares his teeth and shows again all his destructiveness, as he pulls out all the negative stops, as he engages in hand-to-hand, bare-knuckle combat, as he tries to land the killer blow that will flatten his opponent on the canvas bruised, bloodied and defeated and entitle him to raise his hand triumphantly and claim the prize he has always believed should have been his from the beginning.

The gap between Tony Abbott’s pipe dream, and the reality he now faces in a resurgent Julia Gillard, is wide and widening. It may never close.

What do you think?

This piece is posted to give TPS users a chance to try out the features of TPS Mail, which will be launched later in the weekend.