The Australian government has unveiled its plan to force tech giants such as Google and Facebook to pay news outlets for their content.
Google is being taken to court for allegedly misleading consumers to give away a lot more personal information than they had expected.
An Australian Strategic Policy Institute report says ISPs should share information and automatically blacklist dangerous websites as Australia battles an escalation of cyber attacks.
A document sent by the search giant to Australian regulators argues that the company doesn’t control enough of the digital ad industry to overcharge customers or block competitors.
Google has taken a step to resolving its spat with publishers, saying it would pay some media groups in Australia, Brazil and Germany for high-quality content and expects to do more deals with others.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison says Australian organisations, including governments and businesses, are currently the targets of sustained attacks by a sophisticated foreign “state-based” hacker.
A couple of reports from the people behind .nz have shown the impact of COVID-19 (coronavirus) on New Zealanders and their internet use in recent months. Statistics for .nz shows increased DNS activity, including a surge in registrations that has taken registrations to close to 715,000.
It was supposed to be a new beginning. But on the day when a new auDA Board, including a new Chair, was announced, it appears there are still recriminations from those in the past with explosive allegations of what could at worst amount to corruption by outgoing directors. Not only that, the new Chair was second choice, with the first choice as Chair overruled due to what can be best described as a personality conflict.
First, today. A new Board has been appointed. The new Chair, Alan Cameron AO, was appointed after an executive search for the new Board. However the first recommendation for Chair, a high profile female company director, was overruled due to what Domain Pulse has been told can be best described as a “personality conflict” with at least one person on the outgoing Board.
Cameron has had a strong background having been appointed Chair of NSW Law Reform Commission in 2015 and prior to that was head of the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) from 1993 to 2000. According to what is believed to be his LinkedIn profile he has been an Executive Director at Macquarie Group since 2007.
The new Board has stronger executive experience than previous Boards, but only a few Directors on the 9-member Board appear to have any background in the domain name industry. Also, auDA members were told there would be 6 independent appointed directors, one of which would be the Chair, and 4 elected directors. However in their announcement of the new Board today there were only 3 elected directors, none of whom have a background in domain investing which is sure to irk that community.
It also emerged today that a Freedom of Information (FOI) request in the name of Christopher Byron Leptos has been lodged on the Right to Know website [account now deleted – see below for explanation], a website setup where the public can make requests for information on the goings on in government departments and their agencies, of which auDA, the .au policy and regulatory body, comes under through their connection with the Department of Communications and the Arts. The request has been timed 2 days out for the annual general meeting on 14 November, the last of which the outgoing Directors will attend.
Leptos was the former auDA Chair who walked out of a Board meeting in late July never to return with claims he was spurned in his request for more information on the then auDA CEO Cameron Boardman’s allegedly falsified academic qualifications. However it’s likely Leptos is not the person making the FOI requests as several of the requests relate negatively to him, but rather a disgruntled present or former Director, or even staffer, or both, with intimate knowledge of recent happenings at the Board level.
There were 6 FOI requests to the Department of Communications and the Arts dated 12 November in Leptos’ name, these relating to:
- “serious allegations of bullying and intimidation committed by AUDA Chair Chris Leptos between May 2018 and June 2019 resulting in the resignation of a company secretary and an official complaint from a current AUDA staff member”
- a “serious breach of governance and directors duty committed by AUDA director James Deck via his attempt to inappropriately access AUDA marketing funds, specifically” relating to an application using Deck’s position on the Board for “substantial marketing funds for his private business” and that former Chair Leptos “attempted to cover up and misrepresent the conduct of Deck”
- a request for all relevant information on a direction from Departmental Officer Vicki Middleton instructing outgoing acting Chair Suzanne Ewart to “withdraw her application for Chair of the new AUDA board”
- allegations of “verbal abuse directed at Departmental staff member Annaliesse [sic] Williams by AUDA directors Joe Manariti and James Deck at the ICANN meeting in Barcelona in October 2018” including amount of alcohol consumed by Manariti and Deck and response of the then Chair Leptos
- an order by acting Chair Suzanne Ewart “to pay her A$10,000 per week despite there not being a Board resolution or budget for this to occur”, which didn’t include superannuation payments and was in addition to her Chair salary of $70,000 which would have taken her total salary “to $627,000 per year, making her the 9th highest paid public servant in Australia”
- expense claims by the aforementioned Directors James Deck and Joe Manariti relating to their attendance at the ICANN meeting in Barcelona where the FOI request alleges Deck and Manariti’s flights were “booked through Manariti’s wife [sic] travel agency (African Luxury Safaris) at 30% more than market rates and equivalent airfares and contrary to AUDA travel policy” with “4 nights in Prague, 4 nights in Paris and 7 nights in Barcelona which shows that only 3 meeting [sic] were conducted over the 18 day trip”, “hotel accommodation in Barcelona at A$1500 per night for a luxury suite, despite other AUDA staff and directors staying in A$250 per night accommodation and a “total expense claim showing the AUDA was charged over $35,000 for this travel for 3 meetings in 18 days”
- allegations relating to the above travel by Manariti and Deck that “AUDA incurred [an FBT liability] totaling over $11,000 as the travel was of a personal nature and not approved by AUDA and that the Chair of AUDA Suzanne Ewart covered up this liability”.
UPDATE: The Right to Know account set up to raise the allegations has now been suspended as a report was received the “account was created to impersonate someone else.”
Tuesday’s sudden departure of the auDA CEO comes during a protracted period of turmoil at the .au policy and regulatory body and leaves nobody at the .au policy and regulatory body in positions to make key decisions on policy, marketing or spending, and with the introduction of second level registrations looming in the fourth quarter of 2019, the new rules still haven’t been announced.
In what can only be described as a tribute that was over the top in its praise of the controversial CEO, himself appointed after the controversial ousting of the founding CEO Chris Disspain, the auDA statement announcing Boardman’s departure gushes on his achievements, including “development and implementation of new Licensing Rules for .au second-level domain names, and the introduction of direct registration of .au.” With second level registrations due to be introduced within a few months and despite the auDA Board’s inference that Boardman’s “job is done” there is still much to do. Boardman himself said in the recent auDA Quarterly Report: Q2 2019 report that:
The biggest project on auDA’s immediate horizon is the implementation of second level registrations as recommended by the Policy Review Panel. Key to its delivery is the development of a national marketing and public awareness campaign which will build upon the public awareness generated during the policy development process. This project will be the biggest marketing project in auDA’s history and involves not just the uptake of second level .au names, but also building a comprehensive brand for the .au domain more widely.
Registrars are seething as policies and procedures are still to be implemented and end users, for the ones with an interest, are even less well informed. However registrars are reticent to speak on the record due to contractual arrangements. But Domain Pulse is aware of lists of complaints from registrars sent to auDA which appear to be never acted upon. And with the upcoming introduction of second level registrations, Boardman had promised on several occasions that all current registrants would be contacted, and yet it still hasn’t happened. With no CEO and Chair, one wonders what the future is for second level registrations as policies haven’t been finalised and little implemented.
It begs the question, why would Boardman leave of his own volition with still so much to do? Sources have indicated that of course, he didn’t actually resign but his hand was forced by a “reluctant” Board that certainly wouldn’t like having to go public with an ugly termination from a company that is already under the microscope of the Department of Communications and the internet using public.
Incredibly, the announcement saw no interim CEO announced at what, for end users at least, is leading up to the biggest change in the organisation’s history with the implementation of second level registrations.
Bruce Tonkin, the current COO, should have been a walk up start for the CEO position, especially after the plaudits he received in the Statement from the Board. Again, why wasn’t he? Or was there an issue and auDA would have been faced with 2 “resignations”?
Whatever is going on it once again showcases an inept Board and casts a dark shadow over the conduct of the Executive. It’s not like it was the first time either: there have been allegations Board meeting minutes have been altered after publication, sackings of staff members that spoke out against the CEO’s activities, the former Company Secretary compiled a report that ultimately led to their effective sacking and also in Boardman’s suspension of employment. All of these things highlight a pattern of concern for the Department of Communications and the Arts and the domain name community as a whole.
Boardman’s departure comes just 6 weeks after Chair Chris Leptos departed and a terse announcement that followed his abrupt departure. The departure of both means there is no Chair or CEO. Just the “current executive team [who] will collectively carry out the CEO’s responsibilities.” A recent Quarterly Report makes no mention of Leptos and his departure. It will be interesting to see if the same treatment is applied to the departing CEO upon his departure.
Then there’s the reconstitution of the auDA Board, a process that was announced on the same day as the Chair’s abrupt departure. The new Board is to consist of 6 independent directors, one of whom will be the independent Chair, plus 4 elected directors. So, in short order, we will have a new Chair, a new CEO and a new Board, right at the time when .au is going through its single biggest change. Is it time for the current auDA Board, all of which have been tarnished by Boardman, to resign and for the Department of Communications and the Arts to take a stronger position in the future of the .au namespace? It is just too damn important to leave in in the hands of the incompetent and the inept.
Going forward, what of auDA? One can expect their first test in the international community will be the APTLD meeting in Malaysia in September. And then because of the Sri Lankan bombings, auDA is hosting the APTLD meeting in February 2020. There’s also an ICANN community meeting to be held in November 2019 which auDA is hosting. There is also the lack of input in the international community. As far as Domain Pulse can ascertain, auDA is contributing to zero ICANN working groups when they used to be such a contributor. They do have a Strategic Adviser, Head of Government Affairs. But when asked Wednesday if his job was ever advertised and if so where, Domain Pulse received zero response.
So what do we know about Boardman’s “resignation”? As usual in the way auDA works since late 2016, accountability and transparency are sorely lacking, and stakeholders are kept in the dark. Following the “resignation”, it would a travesty if once again this not-for profit was engaged in another golden handshake, several of which have been paid to former employees forced out in recent years. We also have an organisation that has nobody in place that can make key decisions, including on marketing and spending. And the biggest change for .au since auDA was formed almost 2 decades ago, the introduction of second level registrations, is looking dead in the water.
The domain name pay.com.au sold this week for a very lucrative A$168,300 (US$116,000) deal in whatâs a record reported price for any three-letter .au domain.
The purchaser was Point Hacks Pty Ltd, a Melbourne based company, and the seller was Jack Media Pty Ltd based in the Australian surfing and lifestyle mecca of Byron Bay, on the east coast about 150 kilometres south of Brisbane.
The sale was brokered by well-known and now semi-retired domain investor Ned OâMeara who believes itâs a boost in confidence in the aftermarket for Australiaâs country code top level domain (ccTLD).
âIn a further confidence boost for the .au domain aftermarket, Iâve just negotiated the sale of the domain pay.com.au for a record price for an Aussie 3L domain of just over $168,000,â OâMeara told Domain Pulse.
âI was approached by a representative of the buyer who was a past client of mine, and as it turned out, the seller was someone who I had sold the domain to many years ago. So I came out of semi-retirement, and made it all happen within 5 days. Buyer and seller both very happy!â
The sale comes just a few weeks after it was revealed money.com.au had sold for $400,000 last year, which is one of the largest reported sales for a .au domain name, ever.