Board Communiqué – 29 June 2020
On Wednesday, 24 June 2020, the Board met by video conference because of the restrictions associated with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Due respects were made to the fallen.
The President’s Update
The President conveyed feedback from sub-Branches. Some have returned to meetings, adhering to safety protocols. Some are not returning to meetings until August. The Board acknowledged and endorsed the return to Day Club activities so long as all pandemic safety requirements were being met. He further noted that many members are looking forward to participating in congress and the board election process.
The Board acknowledged the ongoing pandemic and asked management to keep the membership informed of their safety compliance obligations (as promulgated by the NSW Government) as sub-Branches return to major community activities in support of our veteran community.
From the recent RSL National meeting the President reported the following feedback:
- Confirmation that RSL National (RSL Australia Ltd) will acquire AIMG, pending outcome of the due diligence, and noted that the Veteran Sport Australia program was being transferred from RSL WBI to AIMG on 26 June, as planned.
- He noted that the National Board did not support the review of the decision not to award the posthumous VC to Ted Sheean, but acknowledged RSL NSW’s direct approach to the Prime Minister and Minister for Defence which conveyed concerns about the decision not to support the Defence honours and awards committee’s recommendation to make the award. The Prime Minister has responded by notifying the decision is being reviewed.
- The National Board agreed to a budget for FY 20/21, funded through reserves and assets. Future funding model is to be determined in conjunction with the strategic plan, once that is determined at a National Board planning day in September.
- The National Board acknowledged that RSL Queensland is funding the development of options for a revised national organisation, to be considered by the Board at the planning day, and States were requested to provide thoughts on future funding models for RSL National to the National Chairman.
- The National Board agreed to establish a CEOs group to ensure RSL maintains control of ANZAC Day and other commemorative activities. The intrusion of other ESOs into commemoration is noticed. It was acknowledged that States need to collaborate effectively like the last ANZAC Day.
- The National President acknowledged that he had written to the former NSW State President advising of the revocation of his award of life membership to the League. The National Board further resolved to direct further action in relationship to this matter.
The President continues to receive positive feedback from members and sub-Branch executives about the proposed plan. The sub-Branch consultations have recommenced, and the Board reiterated the importance of member feedback and sub-Branches seeking feedback sessions with the CEO and directors by contacting the Support Unit and passing their feedback to place on the website.
The Board is considering the final strategic plan in October, delayed because of the pandemic. Concurrently, the Board noted an update on the DPC’s Funding Working Group which is providing a detailed assessment on the proposed funding concept developed in conjunction with the draft strategic plan.
Budget and Business Performance
The CFO has forecast a surplus for FY 19/20. This has been made possible through significant cost cutting, including re-structuring and generous support from several sub-Branches which recognised the impacts of the pandemic on Hyde Park Inn revenue.
While reviewing the broader risks associated with revenue because of the ongoing pandemic, and by considering the reduced costs of ANZAC House, the Board agreed that staff currently on reduced hours (which includes the Support Unit) could return to full-time work from Monday, 3 August.
The Board received an extensive update on the sale of 262 Castlereagh Street. Due to the State Government amending planning regulations in May, ostensibly automatically extending a DA on the site that had expired, the Board resolved to change strategy to maximise the opportunity on the site. The CEO was directed to present detailed options at the July meeting. Matters associated with this are commercially sensitive, constraining some member communications. The Board’s objective is to maximise returns from all activities.
Key Correspondence and Actions Arising
The Board discussed a letter from a sub-Branch concerned about the practice of some sub-Branches continuing to pay members’ fees. The Board noted that the matter is on the Board’s Forward Business List for August due to the matter having been raised by numerous sub-Branches and districts after the Board’s earlier decision to stop the payments was reversed. The Board directed the CEO to write back to the sub-Branch on behalf of the Board about the process to reconsider this important matter.
The Board considered a paper on the future of fundraising.
It agreed to:
- Support the current practice of supporting sub-Branches in their own local fundraising activities for local benefit.
- Formalise informal agreements that were previously made by RSL WBI with RSL Victoria about fundraising through Woolworths and Bunnings (while it is a national agreement, the Board recognises the need to have a higher level of involvement to ensure a fair benefit back to NSW from the fundraising campaigns).
- Establish a Board committee to drive a new strategic approach to fundraising, aligned with the strategic plan. This included establishing a Board Committee to drive the reform required.
RSL & Services Clubs Association
The Board agreed to invite the Association to an upcoming Board meeting to discuss alignment of the draft RSL NSW strategic plan and consider how the current MOU could be improved and updated.
Operational Matters Noted
The Board was updated on operational matters including:
- the status of the ‘interim’ Reveille to be released in Sep/Oct while the market is being tested for a new contract,
- the status of the temporary (for ANZAC House Staff) and proposed Code of Conduct aligned to the draft strategic plan,
- the status of the ACNC Report due in July,
- administrative investigations,
- model constitutions, and
- the operating status of the Hyde Park Inn during the pandemic.
Nowra Veterans’ Wellbeing Centre
The Board received a presentation by Lee Cordner (DC President CSDC) on progress with the development of the business case for the veterans’ wellbeing centre in Nowra. The business case, to support a $5m grant from DVA, is expected to be approved by the Board next month. The Board acknowledged the extraordinary effort by Lee and the support of his group of volunteers to get the project to this critical point.
The Board received a verbal update on the advice sought about the extent of directors’ duties as they pertain to all RSL related entities. A draft paper has been circulated and will be settled for discussion at the July Board meeting. This paper will be important for all members considering seeking a director’s role.
The Board agreed to extend the operation of the independent Penshurst RSL Auxiliary, but tasked management to ensure the group is appropriately compliant with fundraising regulations and aligned to the intent and governance of auxiliary members of the League.
The issue of director’s duties as they pertain to the delivery of the advisory service delivered by ATDP qualified pension officers was raised, as the directors, through trustees, are liable for performance and compliance. It was noted that pension officers have been sued in other jurisdictions. The CEO was tasked to assess this risk.
Election Process Update
The Board received an updated brief on the project to deliver the board election, including risk assessment. The Board noted progress and the appointment of an independent Returning Officer. The Board also noted the member consultation on the draft ‘election’ SOP, and preparedness of draft documents associated with the election and their intended release date.
Members will be informed of critical election project dates and detailed processes via member communications and the website. The Board noted receipt of the NSW Government grant to fund the election administration.
The Board was updated on the RSL LifeCare Constitution amendments and noted the RSL LifeCare Board’s concurrence with the proposed administrative changes and the updated purpose statement. The latter assures the emphasis on veteran wellbeing services generally, and to enable the delivery of the soon to be acquired RSL DefenceCare capabilities.
The Board noted RSL LifeCare Board’s final agreement (18 June 2020) for the RSL DefenceCare acquisition to occur on 31 July 2020, based upon the acceptance of conditions associated with the transfer. Conditions included RSL NSW’s commitment to continue to work with sub-Branches to ensure ongoing funding support for RSL DefenceCare, as the premier veterans services organisation in New South Wales.
The Board emphasised the communications task required of management to ensure all sub-Branches know how to continue to donate to this critical RSL member owned and operated veterans support service, similar to what has been achieved with the transparency of the Disaster Assistance Fund on the RSL NSW website. The live website enables sub-Branches to see when their donations are received, and critically, when and where their money is spent. The requirement to amend SOP 1 was noted and is underway.
The Board resolved to delegate to John Hutcheson to make the formal arrangement for the changes to the RSL LifeCare Constitution agreed to date. The documents will be published as soon as practicable after settlement.
John Hutcheson updated the Board on the progress of the discussion paper on the third tranche of proposed changes to the RSL LifeCare Constitution, which is about the membership.
Awards and Recognition
The Board approved the recommendations from the selections committee for two Life Memberships and three Meritorious Service Medals.
Tribunal: The Board noted the update and advice on the conduct of hearings, including the interpretation of the Constitution which currently requires a minimum of five panel members for each hearing. The Board then agreed to prepare a recommendation for members consideration to amend the Constitution to allow the Tribunal to determine the number of tribunal members required at any tribunal hearing and to generally clarify Appendix D of the Constitution (Dispute Resolution and Disciplinary Procedures). To assist with the number of cases currently before the Tribunal the Board agreed to return the State Secretary to five days a week work from 1 July.
The Board considered and referred two new matters to the Tribunal.
After taking a report from the Nominations, Remuneration and Performance Committee, the Board approved the appointment of three new interim tribunal members for 12 months.
Rent Waivers, Deferrals, and sub-Branch Matters
The CEO updated the Board on this significant activity. The matters are all being progressed, but the Board noted the limitations of staffing, and the complexity associated with each case as they are all different.
The Board noted the approvals given for sub-Branch investments, under the CEO’s delegation.
The Board resolved that on return to post COVID-19 conditions it will continue to meet via teleconference for every second meeting to help cut back board expenses associated with travel and accommodation, and to make it more feasible for members in regional NSW to be directors.
The Board agreed to conduct a monthly meeting in October, now congress had been moved to December.
Chair, Board of Directors