auDA's future hangs in the balance?
By: Robert Kaay

auDA's future hangs in the balance?

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Another auDA SGM called by members for mid-2018, but new auDA Chair's latest press-release mentions Victoria Police are now involved into looking into former auDA Directors' actions.

 
After a successful member-revolt in July 2017, seeing the then-Chair Stuart Benjamin resigning a day before the member-called SGM (Special General Meeting, organised by the Grumpy.com.au campaign), a different set of auDA (Australian Domain Administration) members have banded together under a new campaign called Grumpier.com.au and look to be successfully calling another SGM, set to happen around the same time this year.
 
The three auDA members who have called this new SGM are Josh Rowe (former auDA Director for 14 years), former auDA General Manager Paul Szyndler, and internet SEO expert Jim Stewart.
 
On the Grumpier.com.au campaign website, Josh Rowe (former auDA director of 14 years) writes:
 
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My name is Josh Rowe, and on behalf of my two fellow auDA Members (Paul Szyndler and Jim Stewart), we created this website because we really care about what is happening at auDA.

This site has been created for auDA Members to legally express their dissatisfaction with the current auDA Board and Management by using the Corporations Act 2001 to call for a General Meeting under S249D.

Resolution 1 - Vote of no confidence in Cameron Boardman (CEO)
Resolution 2 - Removal of Chris Leptos as a Director 
Resolution 3 - Removal of Sandra Hook as a Director
Resolution 4 - Removal of Suzanne Ewart as a Director
 
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They also mention that:
 
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If you are a current auDA Member, we ask you to please complete and electronically sign the online petition to hold a general meeting. You are not actually "voting" on any resolution.
 
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You can read all the reasons they believe an SGM should be held over at their campaign website.
 
As if that wasn't interesting enough to anyone who's been following the Australian domain name space over the past few years, today, the Grumpier Campaign released this link to a letter from auDA's lawyers.
 
And then late last night, auDA's Chair released an official message from auDA. This message is not yet posted on their website, so I print it in full now.
 
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Dear auDA Members and Stakeholders, 
 
I'm writing to provide you with my 150 day report.
 
Since being appointed the Independent Chair of auDA five months ago, your Board and management have had a hectic work schedule, and I would like to personally thank each of them for their commitment to delivering a stable and reliable operating environment for the .au domain.
 
The auDA board recognises that .au domains are being challenged on one flank by global domains such as .com, and on the other flank by commercial platforms such as mobile apps, Amazon, Facebook, Twitter and whatever comes next. To maintain and promote the operational stability and utility of the .au namespace in this environment we will need to provide a state‑of-the-art service offering, and a twenty‑first-century governance structure.
 
Here are some of the decisions that have been implemented in the past 150 days to deliver on those ambitious objectives:
    1. a new registry operator (Afilias Australia) has commenced transition preparations to take over the registry operations, along with significant infrastructure upgrades to improve reliability and speed;
    2. a commitment to a $12 million multi-year investment in cooperative marketing to promote the benefits of the .au namespace;
    3. a reduction of at least 10% in the wholesale fee for domain registrations and renewals;
    4. introduction of variable licence periods of 1 year to 5 years, to give Australian businesses and consumers flexibility with managing their domain names;
    5. coordination with Federal agencies to secure the .au namespace from external threats;
    6. introduction of a streamlined membership application process to make it easier for members to join auDA, combined with some improvements in member communications;
    7. formal monthly briefings with registrars on registry transition and industry issues;
    8. continuing consultations by the Policy Review Panel (chaired by Mr John Swinson) including a national public awareness campaign of possible models for 'direct registration' domain names with public forums in Perth, Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane;
    9. a formal and widely advertised recruitment process for two new Demand Class directors; 
    10. improved board governance with current and proposed directors being evaluated against a skills matrix, and subject to probity checks, with several directors also undertaking Australian Institute of Company Directors training; 
    11. updated Terms of Reference and membership for the Board committees; and
    12. new company policies to provide best practice financial control and accountability.
All of these matters are important and positive developments for auDA, but I know there is much more to be done.
 
At the same time, I am disappointed to advise you that in my first week as Independent Chair I was briefed on a number of practices of several former auDA directors. Your Board concluded that those practices warranted referral to the Victoria Police. As you would appreciate, it is not appropriate at this stage to provide further details regarding this matter.
 
You should also know that Demand Class members have written to auDA to call for another Special General Meeting (SGM) - the second SGM to be called in 9 months. I will be writing to you further in relation to this development once the logistics for the meeting have been confirmed.
 
We shortly expect to receive the Government review into the .au domain space, which is being conducted by the Department of Communications and the Arts.
 
Finally, you should feel free to write to me at engagement@auda.org.au to let me know what we should be doing better. Please keep it concise and constructive, and be prepared to meet to discuss it more fully.
 
I look forward to providing further updates in the weeks and months ahead.
 
Chris Leptos AM
Independent Chair
.au Domain Administration Limited
 
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As you can see this is a very important time for the Australian domain name space. I would call it, the most important time since the birth of Australian domain names, over 25 years ago.

New policy rules are being created, overhauled and implemented. Direct .AU Registrations are being considered. The legitimacy of auDA being allowed to continue by the Australian Government after a second SGM is being called is being argued amongst many circles.

But now, as Chris Leptos states that he was briefed on a "number of practices" of several former auDA Directors, and those practices have now been reported to the Victoria Police... perhaps we need to reconsider every angle of what the current auDA board have been working towards over the past year?

A number of questions come to mind, as in; does any of this have anything to do with the new SGM meeting that's just been called? And, if the current auDA board knew about past "practices" that required being reported to the Victoria Police, how long have they known about this? And, which past "auDA directors" is the auDA talking about in this situation?

Interesting times indeed.

 

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Published: Thu, 12th Apr 2018 00:47
Author: Robert Kaay
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Last Update: 23-04-2018 15:44