ACBC Chairman, Frank Tudor, discusses the organisation’s new constitution following a special general meeting in February.
It goes without saying that change is difficult and the founding constitution of an organisation is changed rarely in the life of the organisation. I am of the view that we have made very significant progress in making the case for change in the Australia China Business Council and reflecting the derivative changes in our new constitution that was recently adopted by the overwhelming majority of members present at the Council’s Special General Meeting in February.
The resolution we considered was the product of almost two years of extensive consultation with Branches, two board retreats, 12 Audit and Governance Subcommittee meetings and numerous hours of work driven by mostly volunteers. However, it is also important for us as an organisation to ensure that any change is accompanied by as much support as possible from all quarters of the Council. This is why the recent meeting followed two adjournment resolutions to allow for greater consultation and engagement with the length and breadth of our stakeholders.
I am absolutely confident that our new constitution delivers the organisation a more effective constitution that manages to increase our capacity for good governance while responding to the concerns expressed by Victorian members in the course of our consultation process – the new constitution delivers autonomy for each and every one of our Branches within the corporate context of a single national organisation.
Additionally, our extended consultation process has delivered the organisation a document that is now unanimously supported by a united Board that stands ready to tackle the challenges of the New Year and work towards providing a valuable national program of events for the Council’s members and principal stakeholders throughout 2011 and beyond, which through effective coordination will complement the excellent Branch-based programs around Australia.
This is an entirely complementary process – success nationally translates into increased membership and interest in Council affairs at a local level and vice versa. It is the effectiveness of this process over the past two years that has differentiated the Council from all other organisations working in the Australia-China space. This has seen a significant increase in both national and state sponsorship as well as increased membership of the organisation across all Branches.
The adjournment process was designed to seek further input from Members and Branch Executive Committees on a range of issues including provisions to ensure that the organisation’s foundational document delivers ongoing autonomy to Branches and reflects our status as a truly membership driven organisation.
The new constitution also formalises terms of directors and puts provisions in place to ensure smooth leadership successions and provides for a smaller Board structure of 15 directors with appropriate provision in place to ensure Branches remain strongly represented via prime nominee and ASIC listed alternates Both of these changes ensure that the Council’s corporate structure is more consistent with best governance practice.
As I have noted before, the last two years have seen the Council take important steps forward through our representation in-country, including formalising the ex-officio national board position of the Australian Ambassador in China through the written endorsement of the Minister of Trade, as well as working with DFAT in China to deliver a range of events at Shanghai World Expo 2010 such as the Qantas SME Trade Mission, the Low Carbon Building event run in conjunction with UNSW and the NSW Government and the Council’s dialogue held at the pavilion in partnership with the Australia Network.
I believe that getting our China strategy right is crucial to the organisation’s future relevance as the peak body focused on the bilateral economic relationship. As outlined above, our presence in-country through the creation of a China-based Director as well as ongoing visits by Directors to date has delivered us immense value. It is important to note that by making reference to our activities in China specifically within the constitution, the Board is providing the focus and the transparency around process which our Members should expect from us.
The Board has listened to comments from some Members in relation to the governance and protocols surrounding our China representation and the Audit and Governance Subcommittee has adopted wording that has been legally endorsed. Furthermore, the structure and governance arrangements surrounding this role will be further subject to comprehensive operating protocols that will be separately considered by the Board in the first quarter of this year. This is designed to provide the necessary transparency and focus to ensure that the role remains effective while dealing with the practical governance and administrative process required taking the role forward.
Lastly, I would also like to acknowledge the tireless efforts of ACBC NSW President Jim Harrowell and his team at Hunt & Hunt Lawyers, Audit and Governance Subcommittee Convener David Powell, Board Director Ben Foskett, Senior Vice-President Ian McCubbin and all Directors to reach agreement on a very pragmatic way forward that capitalises on the complementarities between the national body and the Branches. ■
View the ACBC’s annual report in the media section of the website: www.acbc.com.au