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Tuesday, 24 July 2018 08:35

auDA war of words set to come to head on Friday

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The war of words that has been going on between factions within auDA, the administrator of the Australian domain namespace, will come to a head on 27 July, when the organisation holds a special general meeting called for the express purpose of considering resolutions to get rid of a number of directors.

One faction, led by Jim Stewart, the chief executive of StewArt Media, has called for a motion of no-confidence in chief executive Cameron Boardman and the sacking of directors Chris Leptos — the chair — Suzanne Ewart and Sandra Hook.

auDA says Boardman is appointed by the board and hence cannot be challenged by members. However the other three resolutions will come up at the SGM which is being held only after auDA tried to get the matters raised by Stewart and others considered at the annual AGM and failed.

A change of registry maintainer, from Neustar to Afilias, has ensured that auDA, which is already said to be flush with cash, will have even more money to implement its plans. With the old registrar, auDA was getting $2.25 per domain that was registered while Neustar took $7.15; under Afilias, auDA will get $5.08 while Afilias takes $2.80.

Thus it has been no surprise that at a board meeting in March, a vote was taken to increase remuneration to directors apart from the chair, with the AGM to consider an increase in the maximum amount paid to independent directors to $170,000.

Another indication of the cash surplus that auDA has now is its hiring of veteran PR man Ian Hanke to handle media relations. Hanke, an adviser to the Tasmanian state Liberal government, has been known to charge as much as $934 for a day's work.

He was also an adviser to former Essendon coach James Hird.

It is difficult to understand why auDA, a non-profit that has never been known to have financial problems, needs to keep bulking up its bank balance. But the proposed salary rises, hiring of expensive contractors and resolving matters in court could be reasons for this.

The major irritant for the fight between the auDA factions has been a decision by the board to change Australian domains from .com.au and similar suffixes to .au. This has now been put off to 2019.

In the meanwhile, the board is attempting to meet the demands of a Federal Government review issued in April that found its management framework was no longer fit for purpose. A new framework has been proposed and has to be put in place by April 2020, as per the government's demands.

Given all this, it is doubtful that the SGM on Friday will bring some measure of peace to the auDA ranks.

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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