Australia’s .au admins told to reform or get rooted

auDA bins plans for direct .au sales to focus on governance and not pissing off members

The administrator of Australia’s top level .au domain, auDA, has been told to reform or be forcibly stripped of its role.

That edict was delivered yesterday by Australia’s minister for communications Mitch Fifield, who ordered a review of auDA after the organisation’s board introduced a Code of Conduct that restricted members actions, but did so without consultation. The auDA board also stopped publishing its minutes online. Those events eventually led to a vote of no confidence in its executive led to the departure of its chair. Opposition to a new plan to sell .au domains also rankled members.

The review landed on April 18th, here, and doesn’t mince words, offering a “central finding” that “the current management and governance framework for auDA is no longer fit-for-purpose and that reform is necessary if the company is to perform effectively and meet the needs of Australia’s internet community.”

The detailed recommendations call for auDA to reform its board and the way members are selected, to focus on sustainability rather than profit (which rather puts the kibosh on .au domain sales) and to do away with graded memberships in favour of a single class of membership.

auDA’s been given three to six months to show it’s acted on the recommendations and two years to get its house in order, with a requirement for quarterly progress reports. The Department of Communications has also said it will place a senior officer on the auDA board, albeit without a vote, to oversee the reform process

If it can’t reform, Australia’s government “will take action to ensure that Australia’s domain name is administered effectively and in the interest of all Australians. This includes transitioning the delegation for management of .au to another provider if auDA is unable to achieve necessary outcomes.”

auDA CEO Cameron Boardman welcomed the review and said the organisation is already cracking on with reform. The organisation has also written to members saying “your Board believes it will not be able to properly consider ‘direct registration’ until the second half of 2019 at the earliest.” Until that time, the government’s desired reforms are its priority.

Internet Australia declared itself “particularly pleased to see that many of our concerns and recommendations have been incorporated in the Government’s review, with a focus on multi-stakeholder engagement in Internet governance, and reforms of .auDA’s governance model.”

So now we wait: auDA’s confident it can remake itself. And if it cannot, things will get even more interesting. ®

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