The President's Message - 2 July 2015

Special Member Briefing: Extraordinary General Meeting 9 July 2015

Dear Colleagues

There is less than one week to cast your vote on the constitutional changes proposed by a small group of College members. In this special member briefing, I reflect the importance of having your say on the future of our College, correct some of the inaccuracies that have been made in the lead up to the EGM and highlight the need for a strong and united College by sharing the reasons behind why of some of our respected colleagues will vote no to the motions put forward in the Requisition. 

It is important to note the Board has no side and takes no side ever – its role, enshrined in legislation, must be to consider what is in the best interests of the College as a whole, not one group or another, not even one Division or Faculty or Chapter, not one individual or one committee, but what is best for the whole (and best for the community we serve too) in their judgement. In this case after very careful consideration the Board decided the motions were not in the best interests of members as written. 

I urge to you avail yourself of the facts, and be fully informed before you cast your vote. You can learn more about the arguments for and against the motions to be voted upon at the EGM here.

Laureate Professor Nicholas Talley
RACP President

 

Why your vote matters

Over recent weeks you have been asked to vote on constitutional changes proposed by a small group of College members who have enacted their democratic right to call an Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM) of our College.

It is important you understand what your vote means to our College.

From speaking to our members who have supported the Requistion motions, I know we all share the same vision for our College – one with more transparency, more member involvement and more engagement with the communities we serve.

However the College Board does not agree that voting Yes to any of these motions will achieve that goal. In fact, by allowing a small group of 100 members to force our entire College of over 22,000 to repeat the process we have just undergone with the Requisition time and time again, it has the potential to achieve the opposite.

 A YES vote means

  • Constant conflict and cost - a group of just 100 members will be able to challenge decisions of your member elected Board at any time, on any matter, any number of times a year.
  • Educational accreditation jeopardised – instability in the College will inevitably draw scrutiny from the regulators who have recently awarded the College an unprecedented six-years accreditation.
  • Participation discouraged in the College and difficulty in attracting staff - our staff and anyone wishing to contribute to our College will be forced to reveal their personal financial details to ANY College member that is interested
  • Shifting the College off its course - our College reforms for a modern, relevant, transparent and democratic College will be derailed

In contrast a NO vote means:

  • A strong and united College
  • Stability through regular scheduled Board elections
  • A College that acts in the interests of all members, not just a few
  • Responsible College governance and financial management
  • Continuing improvements in professional training
  • Support for the current College reforms for more transparency and democracy – including a new representative College Council, a smaller expert Board and a reinvigorated committee structure.

Should you wish to read other perspectives on what a 'yes' or 'no' vote means, please see the Notice of Meeting

The College Board urges you to vote NO for all motions put in the Requisition for this EGM so we can get on with the work we’ve started in making our College more democratic and more involved in shaping health policy for our patients and our community. Members can vote by proxy,
online, by post or in person at the EGM on Thursday, 9 July 2015.

To find out more about this work and to get involved in the discussion around our College’s future direction go to www.ourcollege.org.au

Support for a strong and united college

A growing number of respected colleagues have been encouraging members to vote at the EGM. Some have shared their reasons for voting against motions in the Requisition.

Many of the names you may know. Others you may not. They come from all areas of our College and all are respected Fellows and trainees. They share my passion for a College that is strong, united, cohesive and focussed not on itself, but on our patients and our community. Here’s a selection of some of their statements:

Ours is a world class College. This is the result of many years of work and the deliberate efforts of successive boards, committees and our staff to ensure a College which is ‘fit for purpose'.” Adult Medicine Division Executive, AMD eBulletin 26 June 2015

“Probity is important, but the College already has appropriate disclosures and conflict of interest protocols in place, why would we want to intrude unnecessarily into the personal lives of any member beyond the current requirements?”
AFOEM Council, AFOEM eBulletin, 26 June 2015


One hundred Fellows could stop the College supporting the new Academy [of paediatrics]. One hundred Fellows could change the Board's stance on the environment, climate change, requirement to train rurally, approval of Overseas Trained Pediatricians. The list goes on. That doesn't sound like democracy to me. It sounds like chaos. I think the motions are well-intentioned but have unintended consequences not foreseen by the 400 members proposing them.” Dr
Nicki Murdock, PCHD President, PCHD Pot-pourri eBulletin, 12 June 2015

“The proposed constitutional changes open the door to the possibility of small groups voting at General Meetings to remove some or all of the Board, and/or to make substantial changes to our College's function through a vote "to direct and authorise the Board to develop or implement certain policies or undertake certain actions". If the proposed motions are accepted, decision making in our College could be paralysed and subsequent progress could grind to a halt.” Past Presidents, RACP,
President’s eBulletin, 25 June 2015

The constitution is a contract between the College, the Board and the members. It governs how the College operates. Any changes to the constitution have to be viewed in that light and must avoid unintended consequences. In my view the resolutions put forward in the requisition fail that test and I will not, therefore, be supporting them.” Dr Greg Stewart, AFPHM President, AFPHM eBulletin, 12 June 2015

“We cannot live in the past. The size and complexity of our College is orders of magnitude greater than it was in the 1930s when it was first established. We need to respond to current external and internal complexities in ways that will see the College survive and fulfil its objectives – a wicked problem. However no matter how difficult, not to do so will see the College reduced to a gentle persons club or perhaps disappear completely as it becomes irrelevant to the people it serves, governments and the wider medical profession.” Dr John O’Donnell, past President (RACP NZ),
response to requisitioners 30 June 2015

“The New Zealand Committee has carefully considered information supplied by the Board and the requisitioners, both for and against the resolutions.

The stated aim of the requisition is to improve “democracy and transparency” within the College. The members proposing the resolutions argue that their constitutional changes will achieve that.

However on careful consideration of the specific changes proposed, the New Zealand Committee felt there were serious risks to the future of the College if these were to be adopted in our Constitution.  In particular, outcomes completely opposed to the stated intentions of the requisition are likely to result.” Dr Mark Lane, RACP NZ President, 
New Zealand eBulletin, 19 June 2015


 
“I fear the mechanisms being proposed will push our College in the opposite direction – to one of conflict and disengagement. The current College structure creates a stable environment, with elections for Board positions held every two years.  This gives the elected representatives time to establish an agenda for our College and implement activities and projects that are aligned to our Strategic Goals and Vision. Allowing members to direct the Board in particular matters outside this election cycle would undermine their capacity to focus on the long-term. It would create a mechanism for constant conflict, turning our College in on itself, rather than opening it up.” Open letter to members, Laureate Professor Nicholas Talley, 22 June 2015

 

Correcting the inaccuracies

There have been a number of unfair and unfortunate accusations over the last few months which have been damaging to our College reputation and hurtful to our professional staff.

Sadly, some of these have been floated by supporters of the Requisition in public forums including the Medical Journal of Australia and the ABC. It is important that before next week’s EGM and vote these claims are corrected.

Claim One: Proxies to the EGM will be controlled by the President voting as your proxy

Fact: All members can vote in person, by mail and online. By voting online members are appointing the President their proxy and he is bound by law to direct those proxies as directed by the member. Computershare run this process so President has no ability to change a members vote. The voting process is managed through Computershare and audited by global auditors, Grant Thornton.

All office bearers in our College are aware of and legally bound to their fiduciary duties. They are aware of their responsibility for placing proxy votes. To suggest otherwise is insulting to professional physicians who devote their time probono to our College.

Claim Two: The cost of the Extraordinary General Meeting has been exaggerated

Fact: The College has received legal advice that any Requisition meeting should be run in the same way as a planned general meeting. This includes the paper-based distribution of the Meeting Notice via Australia Post.  Over 500 College members do not hold an email address. Many more do not receive electronic notice of meetings as a result of hospital firewalls blocking emails with attachments. To ensure meetings are not invalidated as a result of members failing to receive a notice of meeting, members are sent printed notices. Many members also prefer to cast votes in hard copy.

Signatories to the Requisition have asked to see the costings of the EGM so, in the interests of fairness and transparency; I am sharing them with all members here. They are also available on the Noticeboard:

 

Company

Service

Cost

Computershare

Printing (inclusive of Notice of Meeting (based on an 8 page document) and Proxy Forms)

$25,000

Computershare

Postage (inclusive of envelopes and stamps)

$38,000

Computershare

Attendance at the meeting, processing of votes and managing of queries

$21,000

External Legal Advice

Legal Services (inclusive of research, preparing the mark-up Constitution and providing legal advice)

$25,000

AV Requirements

Inclusive of Audio equipment (radio Microphone system), Data Equipment (Logitech Remote Mouse/Laser pointer unit, LCD Panel, Plasma Monitor Stand, RGB data splitter, Data Cable) and Draping materials (Operator Surround). Also inclusive of Installation Crew, operator and pack down crew.

$4,000

Venue Hire

 

$1,500

Teleconferencing

Based on a flat one hour

$120

 

TOTAL

$114,620

 

Claim Three: Members are not at the centre of the College

Fact: The Board sets the strategic direction for our College and staff carry out the wishes of the Board. This is normal in ANY organisation.

Recommendations to our College Board feed up from more than 240 Fellow and trainee-led Education, Policy and Advocacy, Research, Ethics, Fellowship, State, Division, Faculty and Chapter Committees, Councils and Working Parties across Australia and New Zealand through peak Board committees that reflect the activities of our College.

More than 2,600 Fellows and trainees sit on those Committees, Councils and Working Parties. More than 2,500 Fellows also contribute to the delivery of core College business as Supervisors, and a further 1,300 as Examiners.

Through the College reforms – which have been widely consulted upon - we are also establishing a new representative College Council, reinvigorating our committees and proposing a new, smaller, member elected Board that will put members firmly in the middle of College structure. You can find out more at www.ourcollege.org.au.

Claim Four: The scourge of managerialism is driving decision making in this College

Fact: Our College supports almost 23,000 members, and has 6,500 trainees. We cannot expect an organisation to function effectively and efficiently with only the goodwill of physician volunteers.

Staff support the thousands of Fellows and trainees that drive our College through relevant committees, Councils and working parties, and through supervision and examinations.

Our 300 staff also help our College meet our legal and financial responsibilities. They have been instrumental in many of our College’s significant achievements during the past 12 months.

Claim Five: Our College won’t disclose the results of the President elect voting

Fact: To publish the details of a President elect vote the College needs the prior agreement of all candidates. This was not sought at the 2013 elections so the Board cannot disclose the results from the last election.

However the Board will seek permission from nominees for the position of President-elect and disclose the voting results at
all future elections for that position.

Claim Six: The College Board has undermined democracy by abolishing Physician-led Expert Advisory Groups and Committees

Fact: Following feedback from a survey of members in 2013 that indicated there were too many committees, the Board undertook a review of structure and function of all committees across the College. The purpose of the review was to ensure our College had a robust, efficient and cost effective committee structure in place and that they were adequately equipped to meet the strategic goals of the College.

The review also facilitated the establishment of short term working groups to provide content based and time specific activities. For example, on Tuesday last week, the newly appointed Ethics Committee, Chaired by Dr Greg Stewart held its inaugural meeting. The committee was appointed following the recommendations of the RACP Ethics Review, conducted by independent expert in ethics, Dr Jeff Blackmer, and an Expression of Interest process.  The committee serves to provide the Board with advice in areas that raise ethical considerations in the context of policy and advocacy, education, research and financial investment.

Our EVOLVE initiative was an example of our College partnering with specialty societies and industry stakeholders to create a sustainable healthcare system by identifying and eliminating where appropriate low-value interventions in a way that the old EAGs were not able to do. At the College-led forum in March attendees from over 41 specialties participated in a broader discussion about how to take this work forward in their own specialties. Already, lists have been completed by ASCIA and the Endocrinology and NZ Dermatology societies and another 9 specialties are in development.

I firmly believe, that these new structures, alongside our new College Council, will allow members to lead the College’s broader agendas.

Claim Seven: The Board is denying Requisitioners’ access to College resources to campaign for the Yes vote.

Fact: The Requisitioners were invited to tender a Statement to send with the Notice of Meeting outlining their case. This was distributed to the whole membership in paper form and is available to all members online together with the Notice of Meeting and was publicised in the Division, Faculty e-bulletins and my President’s Post.

I have also personally written to the 400 signatories of the Requisition inviting them to discuss their concerns in person.

Member of the requisitioning group have only recently asked to use College channels to communicate with members about the Yes vote and again I invite and encourage them again to use the Noticeboard on our website which is accessible to all our members. The Requisitioners have instead chosen to use public channels, such as the media to communicate with members and the public.

Every vote counts

We all want a strong and united college so be involved, be informed and take part in this important vote for the future of our College. The EGM will be held in the College Education Centre, Level 8, 52 Phillip Street, Sydney at 4.00pm (EST) on Thursday, 9 July 2015. 

Our College is not perfect. But your elected representatives are committed to creating a College that meets the challenges our profession faces while remaining loyal to the vision of our Founders.

I’m proud of what we have achieved over the past 12 month from supporting the development of a business case for a new Paediatrics Academy, to our leading role in  seeking a global Climate Change consensus to our new College Council.

If you can’t attend you can vote online until 4.00pm (EST) on Tuesday, 7 July 2015 at https://www.votingservices.com.au/Login?cn=7820&demo=N.

If you’ve voted already and want to change your vote you can. You can vote as many times as you like but only your last vote will be counted. If you then attend the meeting you can vote again at the meeting and that will be the vote that is counted.

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