What are submissions for? Who asks for them and why?
As part of our advocacy work at MS Australia, we make many submissions each year, mainly to various Australian Government inquiries. We also make submissions to consultations conducted by government agencies, such as the National Disability Insurance Agency, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) and the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC), sometimes to inquiries and consultations held by state governments and to Royal Commissions.
Most commonly, a parliamentary committee asks for written submissions addressing an inquiry’s terms of reference and then proceeds to public hearings. Requests for submissions may be advertised and are also published on the committee’s website, as are closing dates for submissions and updates on the inquiry’s progress. From time-to-time, MS Australia receives a specific invitation from a committee to make a submission on an issue that the committee feels particularly relevant to the MS community or where the committee is interested to hear the views of the MS community.
In the case of submissions to the TGA and PBAC, an area of advocacy that we are particularly passionate about is the provision of affordable and accessible medicines that can improve the lives of people with MS. We take every opportunity to make submissions to these bodies to support the introduction of new disease-modifying and symptomatic treatments. This is to ensure people with MS, their carers and their specialist MS healthcare teams have as much choice as possible in determining a suitable treatment, that is accessible and affordable, to suit the person with MS’s individual needs.
Why make submissions?
MS Australia is the largest national not-for-profit organisation dedicated to funding MS discoveries and coordinating MS research in Australia. MS Australia’s role is to also work on behalf of our state and territory MS member organisations to provide a voice for people living with MS across the country. Therefore, the focus of the issues raised, and comments provided in our submissions, are on key areas that will impact people affected by MS and other neurological conditions. Decisions made by the Australian Government and by its various departments affect the entire MS community, particularly in the health, disability and aged care sectors, which can have an immediate impact on people living with MS, as can decisions in areas such as employment, housing, energy and transport.
Our submissions are one vital way to make sure the voice of the MS community is heard!
How do we go about drafting a submission?
Once a decision has been made within the organisation, or an invitation is received to make a submission to an inquiry or consultation, our own consultation process begins. MS Australia has well-established positions on a range of topics that impact the MS community.
Depending on the topic, we usually begin by consulting with colleagues within MS Australia, with our colleagues in the state and territory MS member organisations, then more broadly with the MS community and via our other networks. We talk to individuals who we know are passionate about certain issues, we put calls out via our social media channels, and we talk to colleagues at other peak bodies – often we aim to align our messages with other advocacy bodies across the sectors. We also scan the media, obtain case studies, comments and examples and sometimes hold focus groups. We review our “key messages” and look at previous submissions to see how the landscape has or hasn’t changed over time. All of this work is then brought together into a single submission document.
What makes a good submission? How do we know if our submission made a difference?
We feel we have made a “good” submission if at the conclusion of the committee or agency inquiry, recommendations are made that align to the key messages and recommendations that we made in our submission, and that these recommendations are acted on and changes are made. A good example is the recent decision by the government to overturn the decision to introduce independent assessments to the National Disability Insurance Scheme. MS Australia added its voice along with many other peak disability bodies who also opposed this change. The government listened and the decision to overturn independent assessments was made. Our submission to the Joint Standing Committee on the NDIS inquiry into independent assessments under the NDIS can be found here.
The government’s inquiry or consultation journey from a call for submissions, to undertaking public hearings, to making recommendations and then to taking action, is often a long one and can take months or years to eventuate. Other measures of success in relation to submissions include:
- See references to MS Australia’s submission in the work of other peak bodies
- Being called to give evidence at a public hearing of the inquiry
- See references to our submission in the final report of the consultation or inquiry
Working with alliances
MS Australia makes several submissions on many topics each year. You will also notice that sometimes MS Australia makes joint submissions with partners and other key stakeholders such as the Neurological Alliance Australia and the Assistive Technology for All Alliance. We do this when we agree with our partners and alliances that there are issues of mutual concern and where the voice of the MS community, joined with the voices of other communities can be louder and more powerful. To learn more about our alliances, please click here.
Submissions in summary
MS Australia makes submissions to national inquiries on issues that affect our state and territory MS member organisations and people living with, and affected by, MS. Submissions are just one of our key advocacy tools that allow us to seek opportunities to contribute to policy development and to secure funding for vital MS research. We will continue to advocate on behalf of our four state and territory MS member organisations, to represent the over 25,600 people in Australia diagnosed with the disease, their carers and the broader MS community.