From the chair — transforming auDA to build .au

By CHRIS LEPTOS | 17 July 2018

I have been watching with dismay the online commentary by a small number of members who seem determined to undermine the good work of auDA, and by extension the .au community.

They are entitled to have their views. However, we should also acknowledge that auDA does not exist just for some of its outspoken members. auDA is a vital part of Australia’s digital infrastructure. auDA is also a quasi-regulator of the .au namespace with over a million unique registrants, and many millions more who rely on a safe and stable .au domain.

Currently, auDA is undergoing a major transformation to meet the requirements of modern business practices and governance processes. This is in part due to the federal government review which recommended 29 reforms, and which the auDA board has fully embraced.

The review highlighted that management and governance practices had not significantly changed over the past 17 years, and had become an impediment to auDA performing its role effectively.

As with any reform which introduces fundamental changes after almost two decades, there is strong resistance from some quarters. Indeed, the government review stated “the extent to which the membership supports reform is unclear”.

Nonetheless, it is important that auDA is not distracted from pursuing these critical reforms.

Some members say auDA is not listening to their concerns. I can assure you that auDA is listening to its members and stakeholders at both management level and board level. The reality, however, is that auDA needs to balance the requirements of many members and stakeholders who disagree among themselves. For example, the Consultation Model Working Group (CMWG) is doing great work, and its most recent report has been well received. The working group is operating on the principle of robust yet constructive debate, even when they don’t fully agree with each other.

Others have raised questions about the registry transition. The transition has effectively been seamless, but of course no transition of this scale can be perfect from day one. Many of you have provided feedback to me and other board members over the past few weeks, and I encourage you to continue doing that.

What is most surprising to me is that a small number of members are criticising the new $12 million Marketing and Innovation Fund that will be used to grow the .au namespace. The fact is that auDA now has more funds, and those funds are being ploughed back into lower wholesale prices, and programs that will benefit participants in the .au namespace, rather than benefiting the private owners of the former registry operator. On any reasoned analysis, this is a good thing.

Importantly, I can also say that our CEO, Mr Cameron Boardman, enjoys the full confidence of the auDA board. As many of you know, the CMWG is chaired by Mr Boardman. Mr Boardman was also instrumental in the success of the Registry Transformation Project, and numerous other formal and informal consultation processes. I know that Mr Boardman has a deep respect for the multi-stakeholder model, indeed he says it is the foundation on which auDA is constituted.

However, being the leader of an organisation where policy differences abound makes him a target whenever policy debates are contested.

Good people, with good intentions and driving passion, will inevitably disagree on some important matters when it comes to internet governance. Indeed, vigorous civil debate is the essence of the multi‑stakeholder model which auDA promotes. For those of you who have made respectful and constructive contributions to the issues outlined above, I sincerely thank you.

On 27th July 2018 there will be an opportunity for you to express your views at the general meeting of members. I encourage you to attend, and I encourage you to vote in support of your board to allow us to conclude the reform process.

In the meantime, rest assured that the board and management of auDA will continue to work in a professional manner to build the organisation you need.

(Chris Leptos AM is the independent chair of .au Domain Administration Ltd (auDA), which is the policy authority and industry self-regulatory body for the .au domain space.)