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auDA’s ‘Broken Management’ Seeks to Undermine .AU’s Multistakeholder Model

In an excoriating open letter to auDA management, Scott Long, Chair of auDA’s Constitution Reform Committee, has resigned from a committee that, according to Domain Pulse sources, an auDA Board member inferred members were ‘selected to cause instability and infighting, and possibly to fail, to demonstrate through deflection to DoCA [Department of Communications and the Arts] that members are to blame for auDA’s problems.’ And not only have auDA, the policy and regulatory body for Australia’s ccTLD, worked to undermine the Committee’s work, they are seeking to “remove or significantly limit” the role of members in the organisation.

The alleged comment on the CRC failure is in line with Long’s views on its establishment – that “management were undermining the very purpose they appointed the Constitution Reform Committee to fulfil.” The Committee originally had 8 members including Long and all but one have resigned, been sacked, never turned up or rarely turned up. The remaining member, Domain Pulse understands, is still involved in what may be a committee of one. Members of the committee, apart from Long, appear reluctant to discuss their experiences having signed non-disclosure agreements, itself an obvious means of stifling community discussion.

[Note: Domain Pulse has been advised there is more than one original member of auDA’s CRC still involved in the committee. The number is likely to be 2 or possibly 3 of the original 8. However as auDA refuses to answer questions, nor communicates on the status of the CRC via its website or member communications, there is no way to confirm this.]

There is also other evidence the Committee was established to fail. In 2017 auDA established another review body – the Policy Review Panel headed by John Swinson, a senior partner at KWM (King and Wood Mallesons). For this panel Swinson was not unreasonably remunerated and provided with a secretariat, whereas Long was expected to serve voluntarily and provided with negligible secretarial support. Long believes this was “because volunteers do not have legal rights.” It appears that it is usual for auDA to remunerate the Chair of their panels and committees.

Long outlines 6 key points as to how he believes “management refused to inform or collaborate with the Constitution Reform Committee in the following ways:

  • Undermined its purpose from the start.
  • Promised to provide ‘full support’ and did nothing.
  • Wanted us to sign NDA’s for basic governance documents.
  • Created excuses for not responding to legitimate requests.
  • Suppressed information vital to the objectives of the committee.
  • Increased my workload 10-fold at my own expense.”

“What really stinks,” Long continues, “was management working behind closed doors to draft their own reforms and later stated ‘they had no time to engage members’. These circumstances were not created by an oversight or by poorly timed decisions, but resulted from what I believe was a deliberate intent to stifle a member driven assignment, and make it look like members are useless and redundant.”

As a result, Long gave auDA their wish – and quit.

Long spent many hours on CRC work and says “Karabardak and CEO Cameron Boardman were initially active proponents in setting up a Constitution Reform process. We discussed various issues in person, via email, and over the phone, and I genuinely felt that we could work together in creating positive change for the company.”

However “when the Board decided to create the Constitution Reform Committee, Erhan and Cameron went totally silent. It seemed to me that they were not interested in constructively contributing to a collaborative process with the Committee. Instead, somebody was busy behind closed doors secretly drafting constitutional recommendations for the Government Review. In doing so, management were undermining the very purpose they appointed the Constitution Reform Committee to fulfil.”

And then there is the current Australian government review into auDA. It’s obvious auDA didn’t consult widely. They didn’t consult with the domain name industry at all. Not even the CRC auDA established to review their constitution. They even admit this in their submission. And it’s not surprising as auDA’s proposals to the government on their future include no domain name industry involvement on the organisation’s board and Members having negligible say in the future running of the organisation.

Long writes that in auDA’s submission, “management recommended 4 different membership and board models which seek to either remove or significantly limit the mechanism of accountability; by limiting industry representation, reducing board numbers, and or, to remove the legal rights of members by composing the Board of independent representation. In this regard, management can rule their own roost free from the accusive tone of pesky members aware of their finagling. Worse, auDA’s Government Review submission stated, they had very little time to consult and engage members. No wonder, given their recommendations oppose the very purpose members initially established the company to achieve.”

In concluding his letter, Long writes that in his “view, management deliberately oppressed my role as the Chair of Constitution Reform Committee in order to build a confirmation bias of support for the idea that auDA membership is irrelevant to the success of the company.”

“In doing so, management can seek to build a solid argument against the role of members, by suggesting, its members are not an effective mechanism of value in the development of policy outcomes beneficial to the company and the industry at large.

“Ironically, the very membership model which acts as a mechanism of accountability against bad management behaviour is being used against members through the invitation of Government intervention, resulting from, managements bad behaviour.

“In this regard, I resigned and cancelled my membership because I no longer trust auDA will survive using these sort of tactics to administer the namespace.”

Scott Long’s letter can be downloaded in full here – long_auda_resignation_letter.

No comment has been sought from auDA. auDA has previously advised they “don’t usually reply to requests for blog stories – as is outlined on our website contact page.” They have refused to respond to earlier emails.

* Disclaimer: the writer was an auDA Board member (2005 to 2007), served on 3 auDA Names Policy Panels (2007, 2010 and 2015), was a supplier to auDA for 14 years and is now a supplier to AusRegistry/Neustar proving online media monitoring services and contributing to the Behind the Dot magazine.