Tag Archives: .au

‘Too Snobby’ auDA Stuck in a Pre-1990s Time Warp

Following the auDA Special General Meeting last week, more of which is to come (or read some updates on the Domainer blog), I started to think how auDA is stuck in some pre-1990s time warp. And today retiring veteran Australian political journalist Laurie Oakes is reported by The Guardian as saying “journalists should not be ‘too snobby’ about digital startups”.

Oakes is looking at this issue from a different perspective to me, as he says journalists shouldn’t “be ‘too snobby’ about digital startups like BuzzFeed because cat videos are funding real journalism.”

From a different angle, auDA has that snobbiness. Because auDA refuses to speak to anyone they consider a “blogger”. Which one could easily interpret as auDA being “too snobby”.

auDA’s Director Communications, Marketing & Engagement has said in an email in response to questions some months ago “we don’t usually reply to requests for blog stories – as is outlined on our website contact page.” And on their website they say “generally opinion writers, commentators, bloggers and others should seek auDA information on our website and normal correspondence channels.” Is there another top level domain registry, or policy and regulatory body, that has this elitist or snobby attitude? Not in my decade plus of writing about domain names. And this was definitely not the auDA pre current CEO Cameron Boardman.

But then, being stuck in a pre-1990s time warp isn’t too surprising. Back in the 1960s it would have been acceptable for the CEO to have had some form of professional relationship with a director and to not bother to declare it. Which is precisely what happened with CEO Cameron Boardman and recently appointed director Dr. Michaella Richards. Both had failed to declare, desire numerous opportunities to do so, a conflict of interest in Richards’ appointment in that both had worked in the Victorian state government. In the 1960s nobody would have batted an eyelid. In the 2010s it’s totally unacceptable.

So without further do… here are the first of the lyrics to the Time Warp from the Rocky Horror Picture Show. So apt in so many ways, it’s a time warp, it’s a horror… and read the lyrics and think of auDA as you sing along…

(Riff Raff) It's astounding
Time is fleeting
Madness takes its toll…

(Magenta) Ahh…

(Riff Raff) But listen closely…

(Magenta) Not for very much longer…

(Riff Raff) I've got to keep control.
I remember doing the Time Warp.
Drinking those moments when
The blackness would hit me.

(Riff Raff & Magenta) And the void would be calling.

(Guests) Let's do the Time Warp again.
Let's do the Time Warp again.

(Narrator) It's just a jump to the left.

(Guests) And then a step to the right.

(Guests) You bring your knees in tight.
But it's the pelvic thrust.
They really drive you insane.
Let's do the Time Warp again.
Let's do the Time Warp again.

(Magenta) It's so dreamy
Oh, fantasy free me
So you can't see me
No not at all.

In another dimension
With voyeuristic intention.
Well secluded I see all…

And the lyrics go on. To read the full lyrics, click here.


auDA Chair Faces the Music and Resigns Before Vote to Oust Him

The auDA Chair has faced the music realising his demise was imminent on Monday when a Special General Meeting was to be held to vote on his removal. However he also indicated auDA, the .au policy and regulatory body, will continue on the path of the current management that will continue to alienate many members and key stakeholders such as registrars who have enough of accountability and transparency disappearing, no community engagement, poor communications, mass staff defections and the cosy closed shop between the CEO, Chair and key board members.

In an after-hours statement from auDA Chair Stuart Benjamin said he has “taken a very difficult decision to stand aside from my role as Independent Chair of auDA three months before the expiry of my term as an Independent Director.

“I have reached the view that there is no possible positive outcome for the organisation from the vote planned for Monday.

“I believe a new Chair would be better placed to continue the change program I have been leading.”

However Benjamin doesn’t resile from the current changes auDA is attempting to implement, meaning members will still be disenchanted with changes introduced at auDA in recent months and going forward. These include:

  • Denying stakeholders including members the ability to view historical Board Minutes, Agendas and Reports, deleting them from the auDA website however following a Freedom of Information request from former board member Josh Rowe, auDA was forced to release the deleted documents. Going forward though auDA is insistent on ensuring it continues to hide these and other documents.
  • Imposing a Code of Conduct on members, without explanation or showing reasons for its requirements and which is believed to be in contravention of (13.3) and (29) of the auDA Constitution.
  • Continuing on its path of changing how the registry is operated, which many believe contravenes the auDA constitution.

Benjamin goes on to say how auDA is open to criticism, but then complains that this “healthy engagement [has devolved] into personal attacks on board members, the capacity of the organisation to attract and retain good people is affected. Benjamin also claims he “will continue to take a stand against cyber bullying and will not be deterred in standing up to anyone who thinks it is acceptable to personally attack staff and directors.”

But it’s not just Benjamin that is the problem at auDA. Conflicts of interest at auDA continue. This week Domain Pulse revealed how the CEO Cameron Boardman and recent appointment to the Board Dr. Michaella Richards, who has no experience in domain names or seemingly in related areas, had worked closely together, yet both hid this on numerous occasions when they had opportunities to disclose. And going by his statement, the policies auDA has proposed and implemented, and which have alienated members and other key stakeholders, are still going ahead.

Monday’s Special General Meeting in Melbourne is still scheduled to go ahead, although what is on the agenda is uncertain.

auDA Ignores Their Stakeholders With Echoes of Nominet Debacle a Decade Ago

It’s looming as a battle that has echoes of a few others. There’s the current battle between the powers that be at Cricket Australia and the cricketers. And there was the battle between members and management at Nominet a decade ago. And now there’s another battle that’s been going for a few months now. auDA is defying its members, ignoring their constitution and trashing transparency and accountability. Nominet lost the battle, Cricket Australia is so far losing the battle and auDA is digging in hoping it doesn’t follow.

auDA logoComing up for auDA is a member vote to sack the Chair Stuart Benjamin. The result will be known Monday after a Special General Meeting called by members. But no matter what happens, there are plenty of members that will remember how the auDA management and some board members have ridden roughshod over them.

auDA has continued to defy its members. It ignores their wishes for accountability and transparency, deleting historical documents such as meeting minutes from their website, which were only reinstated after a successful Freedom of Information request by former board member. One would have to question what auDA is trying to hide? Is it that auDA historically has been accountable and transparent to its members and stakeholders and the new CEO, Chair and a few board members have something to hide, either now or in the future?

Questions are asked of auDA, especially by fellow auDA member Ned O’Meara who also writes the domainer.com.au blog. But all he gets is auDA trying to obfuscate, and even lie, about what’s going on. Things are so dire at auDA that in the last xx months, 12 of the 14 staff members have either left or been sacked with suspicions staff leaving have been paid to keep quiet.

These sort of things have happened before at a country code top level domain (ccTLD) registry. A decade ago it was Nominet, the .uk ccTLD registry.

For Nominet, the UK government became so aggrieved by the risk to the stability of the .uk registry, as Kieren McCarthy wrote back in 2010, it inserted a number of clauses in the Digital Economy Bill giving the government “a number of reserve powers to take over the dot-uk registry if it thinks the situation warrants it.” As with Nominet back in 2007, members were aggrieved, particularly as their concerns weren’t being listened to. At the time McCarthy wrote of how the registry put a number of changes forward to a vote of members, members of its advisory board revolted and Nominet relented putting “forward only the two changes that have proven most popular with its members” at “its second extraordinary general meeting in a year.” During the Nominet debacle, “several members of Nominet's Policy Advisory Board started raising concerns over some of the changes. One, Hazel Pegg, even set up a website to outline her concerns in which she urges Nominet members to vote 'no'.”

The Pegg website was not unlike the grumpy.com.au site for auDA member dissatisfaction outlining 4 resolutions members wanted put to a vote. However auDA took “legal advice” that said the first 3 were not valid, only the fourth, to oust Chair Stuart Benjamin was allowed to proceed. The 3 resolutions blocked related to putting historical minutes, agendas and annual reports back online, a review and vote on by members of a Code of Conduct that was imposed without consultation and whether auDA was able to operate a wholesale registry.

So the auDA debacle of 2017 has echoes of the Nominet debacle of 2007, and even Cricket Australia. Ignore your stakeholders at your peril.

auDA CEO and Director Caught Not Declaring Conflict of Interest

The auDA CEO Cameron Boardman has once again been caught out. Not content with hiding key documents from members by deleting historical information from the website, Boardman along with new director Dr. Michaella Richards have also now been caught out not declaring a conflict of interest in that both worked in the Victorian state government, possibly along with Chair Stuart Benjamin, first noted in an article comment on Domainer.com.au.

In October 2016 Dr. Michaella Richards was appointed as a Demand Class member upon the resignation of duly elected board member Miguel Wood. At the time auDA said they would be engaging a recruitment firm to replace Wood. A replacement director needs not be elected. Announcing her appointment in a member newsletter, Boardman also makes no mention of having worked with Richards.

Both Boardman and Richards worked together in the same department at the same time, at least in April 2015. For how long it’s not known. A final delegate list for the AusMedTech2015 [pdf] conference lists both of them working for the Innovation, Technology & Industry Programs department with Boardman as Executive Director and Richards as Director. So obviously the 2 worked together, and would have worked together quite closely given their positions.

Even if a recruitment company was engaged and independently chose Richards, who seemingly has no experience in domain names or any field that could be related, one would expect Richards to declare in her conflicts of interests that she and Boardman had worked together. But no. On attending her first board meeting, and I quote from the meeting minutes verbatim, “Michaella Richards advised so she no disclosures relevant to her role as an auDA Director.” [pdf] I assume that means she has no conflict of interest in her appointment.

Additionally, Richards appears to have never been a member of auDA being not listed as a current member and nor was she a member prior to her appointment. It’s not a prerequisite for directors to be members, but one would assume if one had an interest in auDA and domain names and being a demand class member, one would join. The definition of a demand class member is that the category is “for domain name holders (registrants), internet users and the general public.”

While it’s possible auDA could offer an explanation for either the oversight or the circumstances of Boardman and Richards, and possibly even Benjamin, working together, no comment has been sought from auDA. auDA’s Director Communications, Marketing & Engagement has previously advised by email they “don’t usually reply to requests for blog stories – as is outlined on our website contact page.”

ICANN Commits to Transparency, auDA Despises It

In the ongoing debacle at auDA, it’s hard not to notice what happens in other organisations, even in the domain name industry.

This week ICANN published the results of their “ICANN59 participant survey, and the technical, demographic, and attendance statistics. There are two reports – the Community Feedback report and the By the Numbers report. These reports summarise our findings from ICANN's second Public Forum Meeting of the new meeting strategy. These reports are part of ICANN's commitment to transparency.”

Note that last word. TRANSPARENCY.

OK, in years gone by transparency and accountability weren’t words that leapt into your mind when you thought of ICANN. But over the years with a lot of pushing from the community it learned it was much better to upfront than to hide.

Move over to Australia, and the .au policy and regulatory body defy logic when it comes to transparency and accountability. AuDA in the days prior to March 2016, when then CEO Chris Disspain was unceremoniously booted out in a bit of a boardroom coup that also saw long serving Chair Tony Staley booted a few months later, was consistently good with transparency and accountability. Meeting minutes were published, minutes and goings on for panels reviewing auDA policies were published, historical records were published and annual reports were published.

But in the months following the boardroom coup, new CEO Cameron Boardman and new Chair Stuart Benjamin oversaw the deletion of these historical documents and vowed they’d never return. But a Freedom of Information request to the Freedom of Information Commissioner at the Department of Communication and the Arts organised by former board member Josh Rowe saw auDA forced to make available 115 documents, previously published on their website but deleted under the new management. Some of these have even returned to the auDA website. However going forward auDA has vowed to keep the documents secret, to continue to hide the goings on in the organisation.

This lack of accountability and transparency is one of the main reasons behind a member revolt against the auDA Chair with a motion to be voted on Monday 31 July at a Special General Meeting. Many auDA members are disgusted at the current auDA leadership. Registrars are worried, some even privately disgusted as well.

* 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 proving online media monitoring services and contributing to the Behind the Dot magazine.

auDA Members Revolt Against Management as Chair Faces Ousting

On Monday 31 July, auDA members get to have their say on the current Chair, and whether they have had enough of the ongoing destruction of the organisation’s transparency and accountability and defying of the constitution. There are significant numbers voting to oust the Chair, Stuart Benjamin. Even registrars have had a gutful of the ongoing management debacle insisting they want no part of discussions on the management plans until the vote has taken place. This follows overtures from auDA for registrars to participate in a meeting, purportedly to discuss the organisation’s future. But registrars saw through this charade and told auDA bluntly they want no part of any discussions until after the vote has taken place.

The organisation has also either been wilfully defying the Corporations Act 2001 or has been getting poor legal advice. Either way, repeated attempts to shut down and manipulate the vote has failed. auDA did succeed though in having 3 of the 4 resolutions put forward by members thrown out. But in doing so they galvanised many members into supporting the fourth – to oust chair Stuart Benjamin.

The 3 resolutions blocked were relating to putting historical minutes, agendas and annual reports back online, a review and vote on by members of a Code of Conduct that was imposted without consultation and whether auDA was able to operate a wholesale registry.

AuDA members are currently lodging proxies for those unable to attend the meeting Monday with indications that many long term players in the Australian domain name industry, registrars, interested players and domain investors have all had enough. It’s even rumoured a director or 2 are having second thoughts as to Benjamin’s abilities to carry on as Chair.

As my fellow writer on .au domain name issues, Ned O’Meara, has also written in several articles, the clusterf&^k enveloping .au need not have happened had auDA’s management and board not wilfully defied members, thinking they would be patsies for their whims. Any organisation that takes down key historical documents and is only forced to re-release them after a Freedom of Information request, that imposes a Code of Conduct on members without consultation and explaining why such a Code is needed, and that goes against previous industry consultations and says it wants to “build and operate” its own registry certainly has no interest in its members.

So what will be the future if Benjamin goes? One would think after investing so much effort into the changes, the current CEO’s position would be untenable. He’s supported changes, pushed by he and at least some of the board, that members find abhorrent. But, the chutzpah of politicians and former politicians of the right, the latter of which CEO Cameron Boardman is one, would mean he’s likely to stick it out and hope for the best.

These indeed are factitious times for the .au policy and regulatory body. 12 of 14 staffers have resigned in about 18 months including one who came and went that was a prized recruit to deal with security. However she is thought to have found her position untenable due to management treatment.

For auDA members that want to vote on the remaining resolution, or those just simply want to know more, there is more information available at grumpy.com.au.

* 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 proving online media monitoring services and contributing to the Behind the Dot magazine.

FoI Request Forces auDA to Make Public Documents They Tried to Keep Secret

The .au policy and regulatory body, auDA, has been forced to make available 115 documents, previously published on their website but deleted under the new management. However going forward auDA has vowed to keep the documents secret, to continue to hide the goings on in the organisation. The documents were board minutes and other historical information going back to 2000.

The move follows a Freedom of Information request to the Freedom of Information Commissioner at the Department of Communication and the Arts organised by former board member Josh Rowe to have the documents reinstated. auDA have previously claimed, in an effort to keep secret the goings on at the body, the move to delete the documents would result in better accountability and transparency.

According to the FoI request, it was requested that access be given to 115 documents that were deleted. The Information Commissioner agreed the documents should be given access to, and these documents will be reinstated on the auDA website within the next month.

But in an effort to pull the wool over the eyes of auDA members, stakeholders and interested parties, in an email to Members on 5 July they state it was a decision of the Board to reinstate the documents with no mention of the FoI request. auDA have fought the FoI request trying to deny the right of auDA members, stakeholders and other interested parties to have access to what happens within the organisation. But it will try and continue to do so as the FoI request only relates to already published documents and auDA intends to deny access to the same documents in the future.

In their email to members, auDA disingenuously says:
While we stand by the need to adhere to best practice regarding the governance of the organisation, we accept the feedback that past Board papers do not necessarily affect that adherence. The Board has approved the reinstatement of past Board papers and Board member listings, as archived on the current auDA website. The website will be updated to reflect this resolution within the week of receipt of this email.

However to show they’re not interested in any form of transparency, the next paragraph reads:
We maintain the Board’s decision that all future Board papers (from 13 February 2017) will not be published on the website, with the monthly auDA Members’ Newsletter hosting Board updates as well as the regular Member Meet-ups providing an opportunity for two-way conversation. Thank you again for your feedback and we now look forward to continuing to implement the Governance plans as promised at the 2016 AGM.

* 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 proving online media monitoring services and contributing to the Behind the Dot magazine.

auDA Members Revolting Against Changes and Transparency and Accountability Disappearing with Demands to Remove Chair

auDA’s members are revolting against recent developments within the .au policy regulator following moves to bring the registry under auDA’s wings without consultation and transparency and accountability disappearing.

As a result, a number of members have today “expressed their dissatisfaction with the current board and management by using the provisions and protections of Corporations Act 2001 (and the auDA Constitution) to call for a General Meeting under S249D of the Act,” reports Domainer AU.

The campaign even has its own website, grumpy.com.au. To require auDA to hold the General Meeting, a minimum of 5% of members are required to support the move, and more than double that number have now done so.

The petition has 4 resolutions, being restoring all historical documents that have disappeared from auDA’s website to be restored, and in future relevant documents to be published in a timely manner, that the recently imposed Code of Conduct is in contravention of auDA’s constitution, that auDA is not a wholesale registry and if it wishes to be the change must be approved by members and that the Chair be removed as of immediate effect.

For auDA members, they can join those revolting against the current management and organisational changes by going to grumpy.com.au. Or just check out the campaign in more detail.


auDA’s Daily Calamity Update: CEO Defends Lack of Accountability and Transparency

It’s turning out to be an almost daily update on the calamities of auDA, the .au regulatory and policy body. It could be amusing, and frustrating for those involved, if it weren’t that auDA was a key player in such a critical piece of Australia’s infrastructure. Today’s update is that they claim they should be compared to the ABC, Australia’s version of the BBC, and the CSIRO, Australia’s peak scientific body.

“Huh?” I hear you ask. Well me too. The man behind Domainer.com.au, Ned O’Meara, wrote to auDA’s CEO Cameron Boardman questioning the recent disappearance of key documents, and questioning the commitment to improving communication and transparency as outlined at the 2016 annual general meeting last November.

Both Stuart Benjamin, auDA Chair, and Boardman had promised that communication and transparency would improve.

While some of the documents, such as annual reports, have returned with “human error” blamed, there are still documents missing. In an obvious thumb of the nose at the commitment to accountability and transparency, the Board resolved at its 13 February board meeting to “cease publishing Board Meeting Agendas and Minutes and remove historical Board Meeting documents from the public website in order to comply with good governance practices.”

One could easily ask how good governance can come about when a member driven organisation purposely make it hard to find out what is going on?

And then the comparison by Boardman of auDA to 2 of Australia’s leading public sector corporations – the ABC and CSIRO. But hang on a minute. auDA is not a public sector organisation. It’s a not for profit with members. While there are no doubt like organisations in Australia, none have such a direct impact on critical infrastructure like auDA does. Comparisons with other member-driven country code top level domains (ccTLDs) would be more accurate.

Organisations like the ABC and CSIRO are accountable according to legislation. For example the CSIRO is a government body that was formed under the Science and Industry Research Act 1949 and subject to the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013. The legislation has an accountability standard and particularly under section 29, an official needs to declare their personal interests.

The relevant section, 10F, on “Disclosure of interests” reads:

  1. The Chief Executive shall give written notice to the Board of all direct or indirect pecuniary interests that the Chief Executive has or may have in any business or in any body corporate carrying on a business.
  2. Subsection (1) applies in addition to section 29 of the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 (which deals with the duty to disclose interests).

* 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 proving online media monitoring services and contributing to the Behind the Dot magazine.

The Madness Continues As auDA Defies Own Constitution and Industry Advice While Seeking Registry EoI

AuDA today confirmed it is going ahead with the building and operation of a dedicated .au registry. To begin the .au policy and regulatory body is, as an initial scoping exercise, releasing a Request for Expressions of Interest for the Registry Transformation Project.

The .au registry is currently operated by AusRegistry, now owned by Neustar, who have operated it since 2002, seeing registrations grow from 307,000 to the current 3.115 million. During that period while AusRegistry operated the registry auDA handled the policy and regulatory side of the .au country code top level domain (ccTLD).

The controversial decision goes against the organisation’s constitution and its own Industry Advisory panels made of registrars and industry insiders. Industry Advisory panels in 2008 and again in 2012 recommended that the existing setup of auDA as the policy and regulatory body and a separate registry should be retained.

The 2012 Industry Advisory Panel recommendations to the auDA Board included Recommendation 1A that reads:
a) the competitive registry model should be retained;
b) auDA should initiate renegotiations with AusRegistry to extend contractual arrangements for 2, 3 or 4 years;
c) auDA should seek stakeholder input on relevant negotiating factors prior to the renegotiations with AusRegistry;
d) if renegotiations with AusRegistry fail, auDA should proceed to conduct a formal RFT process; and
e) the auDA Board should publicly commit to undertaking a formal RFT process once the renegotiated registry agreement expires.

Likewise in 2008, the panel recommended “that the existing competitive registry model should be retained with future licence terms to be increased from the current 4 year licence term to either a 6 or 8 year licence term” and “that auDA negotiates with the current registry operator with a view to extending the current registry licence term by up to 4 years.”

Further, auDA’s constitution says Advisory Panels will be used to develop policy recommendations, but the decision to operate the registry has come about before any consultation.

A meeting with registrars was held early last week to discuss the changes. Sources indicate there is much uneasiness with auDA’s decisions.

Further to the ongoing madness the current leadership group has overseen key documents deleted from its website including annual reports, some of which have been reinstated. And last week auDA’s Director Technology, Security and Strategy, Rachael Falk, suddenly departed after only 8 months with insiders saying she was under untenable pressures from senior management with the CEO calling into question her professionalism. While the auDA announcement states Falk is leaving at the end of June, industry sources say she is not going back. Falk was appointed with much fanfare last October with glowing comments by the auDA Chair and CEO.

The EoI documents are now available for download on auDA's Registry Transformation Project website. Expressions of Interest are due 26 June.

No comment was sought from auDA as they don’t discuss issues with industry blogs as they’re not considered part of the media and have previously refused to comment.

* 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 proving online media monitoring services and contributing to the Behind the Dot magazine.