Monday, 19 March 2018
My comments below are in italic font.
In considering my comments regarding this constitution review, I have tried to keep in mind the objectives of our Association which are expressed as follows.
The objects and purpose of the Association shall be:
a. To establish a non-political and non-sectarian Ratepayers Association to provide a forum for its members;
b. To promote and develop civic pride in the Territory;
c. To use the Association's best endeavours to safeguard the interests of the Ratepayers within the Territory;
d. To promote acceptable development within and adjacent to the Territory or which may otherwise affect members of the Association;
e. To provide a convenient means of providing and sharing information with and between the members.
For that purpose:
(1) The association shall maintain a website that is capable of being accessed by all members.
It can be seen from the above that one of the key objectives of our association is that of advocating the views of the members and safeguarding their interests. So my first comment relates to membership.
My proposed alteration would be:
a. Residents who are currently enrolled with the Australian Electoral Commission using an address within the Territory and who are eligible to vote in a Federal or Tasmanian Election.
b. Persons who pay rates in respect of property situated in the Territory and spouses/partners of such persons.
c. Persons not included in either (a) or (b) above but who have interests in the Territory and have the approval of the Association etc etc.
This amendment (a. and b.) would ensure members would either own property within the territory or would be genuine residents.
Brett has offered this comment regarding membership:-
Another issue the working party observed is that if there are multiple owners registered on title, eg 4 brothers and each has a spouse/partner then potentially there are 8 memberships involving 8 votes available to that property compared to the single registered property owner next door who has one membership and one vote.
Then there is the issue of the landlord and tenant. One can join under 5a and the other under 5b.
Members might wish to consider whether it is one membership, one vote per property.
I have given this idea some consideration and offer the following.
My initial thought was that there was a degree of unfairness in the rules if several registered voters could originate from one property whilst only a single voter would be entitled from another.
However, on reflection, I believe the associations purpose is to represent the views of the people who have made the territory their home, equally with the absent members who own the properties. (Of course we also have several owner occupiers). So, on balance, I’m not in favour of a move to one membership, one vote per property.
Yon has offered some interesting ideas relating to Votes and taking of polls, the powers of the Committee and the attendance of persons who are not financial members to a general meeting.
When considering the following it is important to remember that a significant proportion of eligible members are not local or permanent residents.
4 - Sections 20 and 21; Votes and taking of polls.
It is not made explicit but Section 20 (4) seems to imply that a vote is carried at a minimum margin of 50% + 1. This is clearly based on a majoritarian democratic model and may be a misfit to the scale of our association. Small scale community democracy should lean much more heavily toward collaborative consensus building through deliberation where the concerns of the minority views are engaged with through dialogue and incorporated as much as possible into a motion BEFORE it is eventually voted on.
I strongly believe that motions carried at a 50% +1 margin is too small when making potentially big decisions that affect the whole community. If the margin is that small it is a clear indication that pre-voting deliberation has failed somewhere and half (or close to) of the community has a problem - that is a BIG problem. The margin has to be higher like say 66%. A margin that high or higher -75% clearly indicates that deliberations have worked and people’s concerns have been incorporated into the motion or at least their concerns have been engaged with and they understand the rationale for the motion even if they don't agree with it all. This process will result in much higher community sense of legitimacy regarding decisions made.
I am completely on board with Yon’s argument; in fact I am inclined to take it a further step. For example - If we are voting on a motion that the DSRA is supportive of some proposition or other, and 65% vote for it and 45% against, the motion would be carried. If a letter were to be drafted to some organisation advising the DSRA support for the proposition my belief is that letter of support should also clearly advise that although a majority were in favour of the proposal 45% were against. To simply say the majority supported the proposition would misrepresent the membership.
5 - Powers of the Committee Section 23 (c) says: (the committee) has power to do anything that appears to the committee to be essential for the proper management of the business and affairs of the Association.
Whoa that sounds scary. Is this linked back into being bound by the rules of the constitution somewhere?
Although I can understand there will be administrative decisions required to be made by the executive from time to time for the proper management of the Association I also understand Yon’s point. I would be interested to see some boundaries developed. For example, if the committee decided that on behalf of the membership it was imperative to issue a press release on some matter relating to the Territory, it should be bound to clarify that the statement was the opinion of the committee – not that of the membership. With our new communication tools now becoming available I think the number of times the committee will be compelled to act on significant matters without reference to its membership should be few.
6 - Section 32 (5) is proposed to say: If a member of the Association has not paid his or her annual subscription for a financial year of the Association on or before the commencement of the annual general meeting of the Association that is held during that financial year, whichever is the later day, he or she is not entitled to attend, or vote at, that annual general meeting.
In my opinion removing the word 'attend' above would be good. People should always be able to attend the meeting of their community - freedom of assembly and they might want to try before they buy (join). I am sure we imagine ourselves to be inclusive rather than exclusive.
I am somewhat supportive of this argument. I don’t mind the attendance of non-members as long as they can’t vote or participate. (Other than invited guest speakers etc)
As mentioned above, the membership of our association includes a significant proportion of non-residents who will in many cases be unable to physically attend association meetings.
The new Web site together with other electronic media will assist in enabling these members to be involved in communicating their opinions on a range of matters.
The Queensland Associations Incorporation Regulations include the following clause regarding attendance of a meeting by use of technology which may well be worth considering. Their rule states that members who participate via technology are taken to be present at the meeting. Our rule for special resolutions states that members must be present in person. I would be interested in a ruling on whether this in fact means physically present in the meeting room. Perhaps they can be present, in person via a video link?
Procedure at general meeting
(1) A member may take part and vote in a general meeting in person, by proxy, by attorney or by using any technology that reasonably allows the member to hear and take part in discussions as they happen.
(2) A member who participates in a meeting as mentioned in subrule (1) is taken to be present at the meeting.
In our constitution there are only a few matters that must be decided by personal vote at a general meeting.
A special resolution is required in order to change the name of the Association (s10),
to change the Rules of the Association(s18),
to amalgamate with another association(s25),
to wind up the Association(s32)
and to alter annual subscription (MR32).
NB (1) For the purposes of this Act, a resolution is a special resolution if it is passed by a majority of not less than three-quarters of such members of an incorporated association entitled under the rules of the association to vote as may be present in person at a general meeting of which notice specifying the intention to propose the resolution as a special resolution was given in accordance with those rules.
Brett has asked the members to consider the following:-
The draft of the proposed new rules is out there for membership consideration.
Is this forum and perhaps an online survey sufficient for members to be able to express their comments/views on the proposed new rules?
Should there be an opportunity for interested members to be able to attend a meeting to consider in detail the proposed rules?
Comments/feedback would be appreciated.
As per my previous comments I believe that much of the consultation can be undertaken via this forum - perhaps augmented by the survey monkey app
One of the issues we face in trying to bring about a change in the rules is clause 11 in the existing constitution. The clause requires that a notice of motion to change the constitution is given at one GM and voted on at a subsequent GM. The view we have formed is that the motion put at the first meeting needs to be specific as to the changes being proposed. This would require a settled form of the new rules to be part of the motion put at the first meeting and voted on at the second meeting. Any attempt to move a motion at the second meeting to amend the original motion by way of amending the proposed rule changes would appear to negate the whole process if that proposed motion was passed at the second meeting. We could end up being stuck in a revolving door!
We need to be in a position that the proposed motion put at the first meeting is one that is going to be passed by a majority of at least three quarters of those attending and voting at the second meeting.
A somewhat awkward situation but one that needs to be embraced.
My initial thought it that we should be able to accomplish most of the revision thru this forum together with the surveymonkey survey tool. The aim would be to get close to consensus via the forum. If some members prefer to discuss the draft on a face to face meeting perhaps this could also be facilitated. Once the membership has had an opportunity to consider the draft and the amendments proposed by the membership have been considered by the committee and either included/rejected etc an updated draft would be circulated. If the membership appears at this time to have no further input I would suggest a survey of the membership asking for an indication of their voting intentions – perhaps a few weeks prior to the Special Resolution being put.
Brett has added further comments to Yon’s comments regarding Proxy voting.
Yon I should have commented further in relation to your views on proxy voting. You have referred to rule 6 which is headed 'Liability of Members" and which generally relates to the liability of a member in the event of a winding up of the association and that a member cannot transfer a right, obligation or privilege. This might be restricted to those circumstances set out in rule 6. If it is the case that the provisions extend beyond those circumstances and do in fact extend to the appointment of a proxy then it would appear that the giving of a specific proxy as opposed to a general proxy is not in contravention of the rule. A specific proxy which directs the proxy specifically how to vote on matters would not be a transfer of any right or privilege, it is a direction as to how to vote.
This issue needs to be further considered to determine the scope of rule 6.
6. Liability of members (1) Any right, privilege or obligation of a person as a member of the Association – (a) is not capable of being transferred to another person; and (b) terminates when the person ceases to be a member of the Association.
If possible we should clarify that 6-1-a does not extend to the use of Proxy voting.