I wrote the following email to the auDA board today. auDA Members want auDA to work. And for it to work it must be a truly multi-stakeholder bottom up consensus driven organisation.
This is a big change from the way auDA has operated over the last two years, and why auDA Members have called for a Special General Meeting.
This afternoon auDA told Members it would be seeking applications to join a Consultation Model Working Group.
The messaging is right, I just now hope that the right process and procedures will follow.
Failure to be multi-stakeholder will result in auDA’s demise.
From: Josh Rowe
to: Chris Leptos, Tim Connell, James Deck, Suzanne Ewart, Sandra Hook, Joe Manariti, Grant Wiltshire, Erhan Karabardak, Cameron Boardman
Date: 3 May 2018 at 12:42
Subject: Multi-stakeholder bottom up consensusGood Afternoon all,As I wrote yesterday, I understand there is a handpicked group of people being established to recommend changes to auDA’s constitution.I encourage the auDA board not to take this top down approach for policy development and constitutional reform.Multi-stakeholder bottom up consensus works. Bottom up consensus does not prevent the board from inviting specific experts to be part of the consultation process.Therefore, I encourage the auDA board to adopt a bottom up approach by publicly issuing a Terms of Reference to the Australian Internet community – including businesses, technical experts, civil society, and governments to be able to put their hand up to be involved in a “auDA constitution reform panel”.The way in which auDA used to engage in a multi-stakeholder bottom up consensus approach was through its advisory panel procedures – which are provided below.Kind regardsJosh
Advisory Panel Procedures (APP)
The Board establishes Advisory Panels to develop auDA’s policy and procedures, and to provide expert opinion and guidance to the Board. Panels are expected to provide expert, practical and considered advice after taking suitable steps to establish policies and procedures by consensus and after public consultation.Panels will be provided with sufficient resources to enable them to complete their deliberations and make their reports in a suitable manner. Panels are encouraged to draw upon resources of auDA, in particular its online presence to publicise activities and investigations.
Panels are initiated by an auDA Board resolution. The Board may at its own discretion initiate a Panel. The board must pass such a resolution if requested in writing by at least 20 auDA members, or 20% of any one auDA membership class, where the request includes the activity the panel will undertake and the expected outcomes.
In creation of the Panels, the Board will set out the terms of reference of the Panel. The terms of reference will specify the following information:
- the activity that the Panel is to undertake, including significant milestones and the outcomes the Panel is expected to deliver
- An expected time line including commencement, reporting, public consultation, and completion dates
- the Chair of the Panel (if known)
- the individuals and representative organisations that will be initially invited to participate in the Panel
- a preliminary budget for the Panel to cover the support necessary to meet the objectives
auDA will encourage broad representation on Panels from all key stakeholders including auDA members from each membership class, as well as representation from non-members, by:
- actively contacting appropriate organisations and asking them to nominate their own representative for Panel membership. Organisations may change their representative on a panel by written notice to the Panel Chair.
- advising of the Panel and its Terms of Reference, and issuing invitations for interested persons to nominate for Panel membership. Invitations shall be made to auDA members and the broader Australian community through email lists such as the auDA members list and the DNS list, publication on the auDA web site, and other methods as the board sees fit.
- actively reviewing the Panel membership to ensure the membership is reasonably balanced between different stakeholders.
Panels will have access to the membership database in order to appoint, co-opt and seek views from members of auDA in order to ensure wide participation from the membership.Where the Panel determines that the current Panel Chair is not appropriate and determines a more suitable candidate, the current Panel Chair may report to the Board and request that the Board consider changing the Chair of the Panel to the nominated person.
Panel participants are expected to make a continuing contribution to the Panel’s work. Participants who are absent from two consecutive Panel meetings without apology or reasonable excuse shall be required to show cause to the Panel Chair why their participation in the Panel should continue.
A Panel is responsible for its operational procedures, including:
- determining the process to be followed by the Panel to meet the required outcomes under the Terms of Reference. This includes holding meetings at such times and places as the Panel members think fit, setting or confirming interim project milestones, timetables and deliverables, and if required, establishment of sub-committees to carry out parts of the Terms of Reference.
- proposing to the Board any alterations in the Terms of Reference, or specification of work for new standards, policies or projects. The Board will determine whether these new projects will be initiated within the Panel or elsewhere. The Panel shall report to the Board if it requires assistance with any requirements, guidance or resources that the Panel must obtain to carry out the Terms of Reference.
- review of input documents and research of relevant base documents such as international and other standards to establish their suitability and relevance to achieving outcomes of the Terms of Reference. In the absence of any base documents, the Panel may set up a drafting group to prepare an initial document for consideration by the Panel.
- relative to the Panel’s Terms of Reference, monitoring the effectiveness of auDA procedures and standards relevant to the Panel’s Terms of Reference, developments in the community / industry, and responding to public questions referred to the Panel through auDA.
- the Panel chair may convene a Panel meeting at any time by serving reasonable notice upon the members of the Panel. The first meeting of a Panel should:
- appoint any officers (including a chair, if necessary) and delegate appropriate responsibilities to them.
- confirm that membership of the Panel covers the relevant sections of the community to which the terms of reference apply, and recommend any changes or additions for consideration by the Board
- agree milestones, timetable and deliverables based on those in the terms of reference, communicating any proposed changes to the Board and any other relevant Panel.
- the Panel via the chair shall report regularly to the Board on the progress of the Panel’s work, including minutes of meetings, and interim and final reports specified in the Terms of Reference. Panels are expected to make progress in a timely and efficient manner. The Board may by resolution require a Panel to provide a status report within 14 days. If a Panel fails to provide a status report to the Board, or does not demonstrate that it is progressing in a timely and efficient manner, the Board may by resolution, take appropriate action.
- The Terms of Reference for the Panel shall include a budget for resources that will enable the Panel to complete its deliberations and make its reports in a suitable manner. In particular, each Panel shall have:
- Secretarial support
- Budget for meetings and consultations
- Resources for email lists and web archives of work in progress and submissions
- Other resources such as threaded email lists and chat if appropriate
Working within its Terms of Reference and in consultation with the auDA Board, a Panel has the responsibility to produce reports by consensus and with public consultation and input. A Panel shall develop policies/reports:
- by consensus. Panel members should always work towards a consensus, rather than maintain absolute positions. The inherent value of the consensus process is that it distils agreement from many different points of view, and allows a broad-based agreement to emerge.Each panel may choose a definition of consensus which suits that panel. Until such a definition is adopted by the panel (which should be noted in its report), consensus is simplistically defined to be achieved when 2/3 of the Panel agrees.Where consensus cannot be achieved, the Chair of a Panel may call a simple vote to determine the members’ views on any controversial matter, but dissenting views should then be reported in the Panel’s findings.
- with public consultation. Panels shall consult widely with the Australian Internet community, including other advisory panels, consumer and industry associations and government authorities. Panel policies and documents shall follow the auDA Public Consultation Procedure. Panels will be encouraged to draw upon the resources of auDA to publicise activities and investigations.
- in accordance with the auDA constitution and the Panel’s Terms of Reference.
Policies / documents produced by the Panel shall have:
- ‘Working Paper’ status until the start of the public consultation period.
- ‘Draft’ status during the first public consultation period.
- ‘Proposed’ status during the second public consultation period.
- ‘Report’ status when submitted for approval to the Board.
Draft reports produced by Panels will be subject to the following public consultation process:
- the draft report is prepared, together with an agreed accompanying statement signed by the Chair of auDA that states:
- an outline of the issue in plain English;
- an invitation for public comment;
- the timeframe for public comment;
- the address for public comment;
- the requirements of those who wish to comment;
- the procedures to take place after the comment period has closed;
- the draft report and accompanying statement are posted to the auDA website
- the statement is released to the auDA membership mailing list and the DNS list (and possibly to other relevant mailing lists and stakeholders);
- a minimum of 21 days (from the date the statement is sent to the auDA membership list) will be allowed for public comment and consultation;
- a revised draft of the report, taking into consideration the comments received, will be placed on the auDA website;
- email is sent to the auDA membership mailing list and the DNS list (and any other relevant lists) noting that the revised draft is available;
- a minimum of a further 14 days will be allowed for any additional comments and consultation;
- public comments will ordinarily be published to the auDA website;
- having considered all public input, the Panel will submit a report to the auDA Board for consideration.
The Panel may choose to submit a number of draft papers at the same time when undertaking public consultation.
The Board will ordinarily accept a Report of an Advisory Panel in accordance with the integrity and transparency of the Panel’s development of policy and procedures. Approved Reports will be published to the auDA website, and members will be notified. The Board should accept / reject a report within 45 days of receiving the report.
If the Board does not approve a report from an Advisory Panel it shall:
- advise the Chair of the Panel as to the Board’s views of the report;
- invite the Panel to address the Board’s concerns by supplementary report within 14 days (or such other time as the Board determines);
- if the Board is still unwilling to approve the report, the matter will be reconsidered at the next Board meeting after due consideration is given to the Panel’s supplementary report; and
- the Board will make public its conclusions and publish both the Panel’s report and supplementary report, together with the Board’s reasons for declining to approve any aspect of the Panel’s decisions.
Last updated 7 April, 2000.
In a disgraceful waste of tens of thousands of dollars of .au domain name registrant’s money, auDA took me, one of the “Grumpier.com.au three” and a former auDA Non Executive Director, to the Federal Court yesterday, and in effect lost.
Here is my letter to the court.
The Hon Justice Middleton
Federal Court of Australia
305 William Street Melbourne Victoria 3000
RE: auDA – special general meeting – extension of time application
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to provide a submission to auDA’s application. Whilst I am surprised to be named the sole respondent to auDA’s application, I appreciate this opportunity. I am one of three auDA Members who started the process of gathering auDA Members’ support to requisition a meeting of auDA’s Members, and I am one of 27 auDA members (comprising more than 8% of auDA’s total Membership) who ultimately petitioned auDA to call an Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM) of the members.
In writing this letter I do not seek to represent all the petitioners; but I believe that they share some if not most of the views I express here.
I do not agree with auDA’s request to extend the time for the EGM, for the reasons I outline below.
As an individual in the Australian Internet community I do not have access to funds for legal representation for this hearing. I believe this to be the case for other petitioners, who have simply exercised the rights granted to them under the Corporations Act, as a last resort.
Unfortunately, and with respect, I am unable to attend the hearing in person. My understanding is that I am not required to attend.
I have been involved in the Australian Internet community since the inception of auDA. I was an elected Non Executive Director of auDA from 2001 to 2015, and I have been a Member since 2000.
I am interested that auDA continues to be an effective organisation which holds the endorsement of the Australian Government to manage .au in the interests of the Australian community. I am involved in the calling of the EGM because I believe auDA occupies a vitally important role. I do not have any other motive, and I have no ambition to return to the auDA board or management.
The Australian Government is a major proponent for the multi-stakeholer model of Internet governance. Until 2016 auDA had been highly regarded internationally as an exemplar of multi-stakeholder Internet governance at its best.
As the US Assistant secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information, Lawrence E. Strickling said, “The multi-stakeholder model of Internet governance is the best mechanism for maintaining an open, resilient, and secure Internet because, among other things, it is informed by a broad foundation of interested parties – including businesses, technical experts, civil society, and governments – arriving at consensus through a bottom- up process regarding policies affecting the underlying functioning of the Internet domain system.”
As the Australian Government’s April 2018 Review of the .au Domain Administration (referred to in auDA’s submission) found, since 2016 there has been a deterioration of auDA’s transparency and accountability to its stakeholders leading to a weakening of auDA’s multi-stakeholder engagement.
The Australian Government’s Review (p18) noted that “the issue of Board stacking is of particular concern. This would suggest a manipulation of process to place directors on the Board to act in the interest of a particular membership faction, rather than in the interests of the organisation as a whole or the Australian Internet community.”
Need for EGM
I recognise that auDA is at an important juncture. It needs to put in place a new governance and management structure within a short period of time in order to satisfy the Australian Government. In my view, which I believe is shared by some Members, the current leadership and management does not enjoy the confidence of the auDA Membership to be able to successfully lead these critical reforms. In my view, the relationship and trust between the current auDA leadership and management, and auDA’s Members, is broken, borne by developments over the past two years.
I believe that it is critically important that auDA Members are given an opportunity to be heard, and to decide, whether it is content for the current leadership and management to lead auDA through these important reforms, or to put in place an alternate team that they believe would be better equipped to do so.
Extending the time for holding of the EGM would be to deny Members of a timely and effective voice that will impact on auDA’s ability to meet all the requirements of the Australian Government’s terms of endorsement, within the tight timeframe stipulated by the Australian Government.
In the current climate where I (which I believe is shared by other Members) am of the view that current leadership and management’s accountability to its Members is lacking, the calling of a Members meeting seems to be the only option available to Members where they can have a voice.
In auDA’s submission it has alluded to a number of reasons why an EGM should not be held within the time set out in the Corporations Act. In my humble opinion, those reasons ought to be put to the Members at the EGM to enable the Members to have an informed view and to decide whether or not to support the proposed resolutions.
auDA has claimed the costs of calling an EGM will be in the vicinity of $70,000. In my experience while I was a Non Executive Director of auDA we used the facilities of our law firm to hold Member meetings at negligible cost. I acknowledge that there may be some travel costs for the attendance of directors based outside of Victoria, but that ought not be a valid reason for delaying the EGM.
I am disappointed that auDA would prefer to use Member funds to incur costs associated with this application rather than hear the voices of Members at an EGM.
auDA Member 2000 – current
auDA Non Executive Director 2001 – 2015
Last week Jim Stewart, Paul Szyndler, and myself secured more than double the required votes for a Special General Meeting (SGM) of .au Domain Administration Ltd (auDA). auDA is the self-regulatory body for the .au domain name space.
At the proposed SGM, auDA Members will vote on the following resolutions:
- Vote of no confidence in Cameron Boardman (CEO)
- Removal of Chris Leptos as a Director
- Removal of Sandra Hook as a Director
- Removal of Suzanne Ewart as a Director
The key issues as to why auDA Members have supported the calling of an SGM are:
- Direct Registration of .au domain names. Some people are for direct .au domain name registration, and some are against. A business case has been promised by auDA, but not delivered. Then there are the multitudes of registrants that wouldn’t even know it is on the horizon, because auDA hasn’t directly told them of the possibility; and how and why it would work if it was implemented.
- Communication and Transparency. Since the July 2017 SGM, no lessons have been learnt – auDA continues to exhibit poor communication. There is a lack of transparency about what is actually happening. There is a “whispering campaign” in place to discredit some past staff and management.
- Good Governance. Why has the auDA board allowed Demand Class members to be under-represented since November 2017? That’s contrary to the auDA Constitution.
Initially auDA CEO, Cameron Boardman, contacted an auDA Member who had signed the petition. The late night call left the Member feeling threatened and concerned after being questioned as to why they had signed the petition for the SGM.
Then auDA Chair, Chris Leptos AM, wrote to Members to report on his “achievements”. The set of dot points did nothing to allay the concerns raised by Members for the SGM. Leptos went on to point the big innuendo stick at all 48 past .au Domain Administration Ltd. directors in a heinous act.
Someone leaked the auDA confidential, PPB advisory report to the media. The unfair targeting of Paul Szyndler is abhorrent. This behaviour is something that you’d expect from a political party, not those associated with regulating the .au domain name space.
auDA: play the ball not the man
White ants can wreak significant damage on your home without you even realising that they are at work. They quietly go about their work, undermining your foundations, attacking your walls, leaving a trail of destruction in their path, until only the shell of the original structure remains.
White anting out of control
Human white anting is a form of sabotage which is so subtle, it can be difficult to identify or expose. It is a covert form of bullying that aims to undermine or discredit the achievements and influence of another.
White anting might include spreading rumours and false information.
I have personally been the subject of a smear campaign from senior figures in the Australian domain name industry.
Confidential auDA board information has been leaked to third parties
Most importantly I have done nothing wrong, and at no stage has auDA or any other party made an official enquiry or complaint to me.
auDA Chair Chris Leptos AM, auDA Deputy Chair Erhan Karabardak, and auDA CEO Cameron Boardman:
auDA Non Executive Director 2001-2015
Why do I care about this issue?
I was a non executive director of auDA from 2001-2015.
The .au domain name space is well established, and understood by organisations and Internet users.
There is significant value in the existing .au brand hierarchy. NetRegistry describes “com.au” as:
The most recognisable Australian domain name
I’m quite open minded about being able to be convinced there is a need for direct .au domain registrations, but the issue is, no quantitative business case has been put forward.
Is this a cash grab?
I am concerned that the primary focus of introducing direct .au domain registrations is to:
- increase revenue for auDA (they receive a domain name fee for every .au domain name sold),
- increase revenue for domain name retailers, and
- increase revenue for domain legal service providers.
However, the expense appears to be borne by organisations.
There’s been no clear business case made for the expansion of the .au domain name space, and it’s not like ‘.com.au’ names are running out.
Where is the quantitative business case?
Listen to Ned O’Meara’s question, and Cameron Boardman’s response at the 2016 auDA AGM which is available here (2nd clip).
The Deloitte Access Economics Report (which is not a business case) commissioned by auDA recommended that:
A more quantitative analysis of the costs and benefits should also be
undertaken. Any modelling of costs and benefits should give proper
consider to their distribution. If the benefit of the proposal is concentrated
to a handful of individuals or businesses, or the cost is disproportionally
borne a small subset of the industry, the proposal may be inappropriate
even if the total benefits exceed the total cost because of equity
Cameron Boardman, CEO of auDA:
When will auDA members, Internet users, and organisations be able to read this critical missing quantitative business case?
More reading on direct .AU registrations
auDA Board Members – Chair: Chris Leptos AM, Deputy Chair: Erhan Karabardak
14 March 2018. Demand Class Director Vacant.
In other words, domain sellers “Supply” out vote domain buyers “Demand” on the board.
auDA 2017 Policy Review Panel
27 September 2017 – current. NO Peak business body representative!!!
Stop .AU it’s a cash grab that will hurt business
Change.org petition. 12 March 2018
Reddit/r/australia discuss The Business ABC story
12 March 2018
New internet domain names for Australia have been slammed as a tax on business
The Business, ABC News. Story by Dan Ziffer. 12 March 2018
Direct AU Registrations
Brand Builders. Jim Stewart & Josh Rowe. 6 March 2018
Brands voice objections to top level .au domain introduction
Mumbrella. Story by Paul Wallbank. 5 March 2018
$300m .AU domain name tax on businesses
Threaded discussion on LinkedIn. 1 March 2018
Ed Husic demands government sorts out concerns over “.au” domain introduction “quick smart”
Smart Company. Story by Emma Koehn. 1 March 2018
Australian Government House of Representatives Hansard
Speaker Ed Husic MP. 26 February 2018
“A load of bollocks”: SMEs demand answers from auDA over introduction of new “.au” domain names
Smart Company. Story by Emma Koehn. 21 February 2018
Is .com.au Dead?
PowerRetail. Story Natasha Sholl. 21 February 2018
Small businesses face expensive fights for “.au” web addresses as experts sound warning over new domain changes
Smart Company. Story by Emma Koehn. 20 February 2018
Millions of Australian domain name owners ‘ripped off’
Sydney Morning Herald. Story by Cara Waters. 8 August 2017
2015 Names Policy Panel
February 2015 – December 2015
REA Group Response to 2015 auDA Names Policy Panel
30 September 2015
CarSales Ltd Response to 2015 auDA Names Policy Panel
John Swinson Response to 2015 Names Policy Panel
30 May 2015
Australia registers more .au than .com domains
auDA 2007 Names Policy Panel Submission by Josh Rowe. 15 June 2007
14 Nov update:
14 Nov update: auDA AGM proxies are due in 10 days and the AGM is in 14 days. Therefore, I have formally requested that this item be removed from the 2016 auDA AGM agenda.
The notice of auDA’s 2016 AGM was emailed to auDA members on Wednesday 2 November 2016; 26 days in advance of the AGM.
Most of the items on the agenda for the AGM are fairly standard.
However, agenda item 6 is a surprise which will leave auDA members with more questions than answers.
6. Special resolution- Clause 18.2(d) Constitution of the Board to increase the number of Independent Directors.
… the notice goes on to explain:
Agenda Item 6- Special resolution to adjust Clause 18.2(d) of the Constitution
As recommended by the Cameron Ralph report on the governance of auDA which was adopted by the Board of auDA on 10 October 2016, it is proposed to amend clause 18.2(d) of the Constitution to increase the number of Independent Directors permissible on the Board from three to four. This will allow for an expanded mix of skills and diversity on the Board, and improve adherence to good governance principles. The amended clause is below and a marked-up version of the proposed amendment to the Constitution is available here.
18.2 Constitution of the Board
The Board shall comprise:
a. four (4) persons elected by the Supply Class Members;
b. four (4) persons elected by the Demand Class Members;
c. the CEO of auDA as a non-voting member of the board; and
d. not more than three four (3) (4) Independent Directors appointed by the elected Directors, for terms not exceeding two (2) years each.
auDA has not published the:
- auDA board 10 October 2016 agenda
- auDA board 10 October 2016 minutes
- Cameron Ralph report on the governance of auDA
Which skills and experience are required to supplement the current elected and independent auDA board members?
Does auDA have any specific prospective independent directors in mind?
Is the current auDA Chairman (Mr Stuart Benjamin) one of the prospective independent director candidates?
Mr Benjamin’s term is concluding as an elected demand class director at this AGM. Mr Benjamin has not re-nominated for election.
If this resolution is a back door way to parachute Mr Benjamin back onto the auDA board, then that is an abuse of process.
The auDA constitution is explicit on the definition of an Independent Director:
“Independent Director” means a director appointed by the elected Directors, who is a person who:
a. holds no posts in, or is otherwise associated with, auDA, the Registry Operator or any Registrar; and
b. does not have any relationship with auDA or any other person that could, in the opinion of the elected Directors, materially interfere with:
i. the exercise of objective, unfettered and independent judgement by the person; or
ii. the person’s ability to act in the best interests of auDA;
(Inserted by Special Resolution, 14 August 2006)
Therefore, given auDA’s inadequate provision of information to support this significant change I will vote against this constitutional change.
Since the .au Domain Administration Ltd (auDA) Annual General Meeting last year, auDA has shed 67 years of .au experience from the board and executive.
Here is who has parted ways with auDA in the last 12 months:
- Chris Disspain – former CEO – 16 years experience
- Jo Lim – former Chief Policy & Operations Officer – 16 years experience
- Josh Rowe – former demand director – 14 years experience
- Julie Hammer – former independent director – 9 years experience
- Graham McDonald – former independent director – 8 years experience
- Paul Levins – former demand director – 4 years experience
That is a total of 67 years corporate memory which has been lost. Thirty-two of those years were from the former CEO and second in charge.
I care deeply about the .au domain name space and this situation worries me.
Here are the issues which are concerning:
1. CEO appointment process was not transparent
It appears that there may be at least one prior relationship between a board member who was involved in appointing the new auDA CEO.
I have not met the new CEO so I am not in a position to judge his suitability for the role.
2. auDA membership base at risk of capture
auDA members have the power to vote people onto the board.
It would be an interesting exercise to take the current auDA membership list and align their support to current and potential board members.
3. Direct .au registrations are not universally supported
There’s a clear economic motivation for domain sellers for opening .au domain name registrations at the second level, e.g. “yourname.au”.
However, there is not universal support for the proposal.
In fact some suggest consultation with the existing 1,700,000 individual domain name owners was grossly inadequate.
Tough road ahead
I want the .au domain name space to continue to:
“do what it says on the tin”
When you go to a .au website, you can expect that the domain name relates to the product, service, or information on offer. If it doesn’t, you have reliable, responsive complaints mechanisms available to you and rules by which they can be enforced. .au is Australia’s home on the Internet and is widely recognised as such. As an Australian business, community, organisation or individual, you can rest assured that there is a place at .au for you.
To continue to meet this high standard requires a good mix of:
- experienced people,
- thorough processes and
- robust technology.
The rationale for writing this post is because of the significant loss in experienced people at the helm of auDA.
I would not be surprised if more staff depart.
What you can do about it
I will not be seeking nomination for the auDA board.
However, if you’ve read this far then you should.
Nominations must be received by 5pm AEDST, Friday 28 October 2016.
You do not have to be an auDA member to be nominated, but you do need two auDA members to nominate you.
If you want advice about nominating for the auDA board you’re welcome to email me.
28 October Update
A week after Jo Lim left auDA the IANA Admin Contact has not been updated.