The day before the national conference in Melbourne, the national executive of WBA held a meeting in the morning to discuss various issues, especially priorities, campaigns and strategy for the future. From the national executive, those attending were Brian Martin (president), Jean Lennane (vice president), Isla MacGregor (vice president), Lesley Pinson (director), Matilda Bawden (secretary), Greg McMahon (legislation coordinator) and Kim Sawyer (conference coordinator). Vince Neary (treasurer) was unavailable. As well, some other members were in attendance for part or all of the meeting. Here are the main outcomes.
Frequency of publication of The Whistle
It was agreed that if possible The Whistle would be brought out 6 times per year, but this is at the discretion of the editor (Lesley Pinson), and it is possible that contingencies may reduce the frequency.
Return of a fraction of membership fees to branches
At least one branch wanted its allocated fraction of membership fees returned to cover expenses such as payment for typing. Currently a large fraction of the annual membership fee is consumed by production and distribution of The Whistle, by distribution of information to people making inquiries, and by phone calls by some members of the national executive. These costs are borne centrally rather than by the branches. We recommended that one third of the membership fees be available for return to branches on request and production of suitable receipts or invoices. A formal decision will be made at the next Annual General Meeting.
We recommended that WBA not seek tax-deductibility, since it would put too great a constraint on our ability to engage in action supportive of whistleblowers and related policy issues.
1996 Annual General Meeting
We agreed on an AGM in November in either Brisbane or Sydney, to be decided at the end of July depending on the number of financial members in Queensland. Since then, I have been informed that there will not be enough WBA members in Queensland. (Whistleblowers there are more likely to be members of Whistleblowers Action Group, a separate organisation that works closely with WBA.) Hence, the AGM will be in Sydney in November, with details to be announced.
Arrangements for memberships, finances, record-keeping, contact with members, and other duties and activities by committee members
Richard Blake of the NSW branch has raised several concerns: some membership forms arrive without nominators and seconders; applications for membership need to be formally accepted by the national committee We appointed a subcommittee consisting of the national director, secretary, and treasurer to look into these issues and make proposals for the AGM.
Policy on media releases, comment to media, etc.
We agreed that any member of the national executive can issue a media release or comment to the media. In normal circumstances, media releases should be checked first with another member of the executive, typically president, vice-president or director. In all cases, approval should be sought in advance from anyone whose name is given in a release. In other words, members of the national executive should take responsibility for their own initiatives, taking care to check with others especially on sensitive topics (i.e. most of them!). The same sort of policy can apply to state branches. Isla agreed to prepare a list of media contact numbers and to circulate a media release kit. WBA does not have a formal policy on specific issues, for example whistleblower legislation. We noted that within the organisation there is support for different policy positions.
The draft defamation leaflet text that I had circulated was approved for publication as a WBA document, with permission to make minor changes and add graphics.
Content of The Whistle
Lesley appealed for submissions of state reports, articles, press clippings, etc.
A number of positions were presented in a discussion of strategy, including the following options:
* focussing on federal whistleblower legislation, and insisting on John Howard meeting a delegation from WBA;
* running a number of campaigns, especially ones that allow people to be involved;
* nominating the top 10 whistleblower cases;
* holding a whistleblower celebration as planned in NSW.
There was no consensus on a particular national campaign or initiative. That means that branches and individuals can pursue the campaigns they believe are most appropriate.