RSL NSW Bill 2018

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RSL NSW is a charity with the mission of ensuring veterans and their families are respected, supported, and remembered.

The RSL NSW Bill 2018 was extensively discussed at the RSL NSW Annual Congress in Albury in May 2018 by representatives from both the government and opposition.

RSL NSW was not consulted on the proposed amendments to the RSL NSW Bill 2018 and is unable to resolve, as a council, a formal position on them prior to the second reading debate in the NSW Legislative Council.

We are grateful for the acknowledgement by parliament of the importance of the RSL to local communities, and the engagement with this bill by representatives from all parties.

The issues raised by the proposed amendments to the RSL NSW Bill 2018 are issues which the RSL NSW State Council is aware of and has addressed in the new draft constitution being recommended to RSL NSW members for their consideration at an extraordinary congress in December 2018. The current draft RSL NSW constitution, developed through close consultation with a member nominated Constitutional Review Panel, has been sent to the RSL NSW membership for their consideration and feedback. It includes the following components:

The RSL NSW board will consist of 10 directors: two directors who are independent of RSL NSW and eight elected service members of RSL NSW who are veterans.
A new Regional Representative Council will be constituted to preserve the voice of regional and country members. This council will have a formal role to advise the RSL NSW board on regional and country issues, as well as new powers to trigger an extraordinary general meeting, should it be necessary to vote out the board. Council members will be elected from regional areas and budgeted to coordinate and improve league operations in regional areas.
The preservation of the existing voting system which gives country and regional RSL members an outsized voice in voting on constitutional change and policy motions at our annual general meeting.
The heart and soul of our league is our engagement in local communities, particularly on ANZAC Day and Remembrance Day.

For one hundred years RSL NSW has been a strictly non-partisan organisation, and a charity. It would be entirely inappropriate, under existing legislation and the RSL NSW constitution, for RSL NSW to use its resources for partisan political purposes. There is no record of RSL NSW funds having been used for political donations. In recent times, however, it was detected that former directors and staff of RSL LifeCare had used that company’s funds to attend functions hosted by political parties. The current leadership of RSL NSW publicly disendorsed those donations and took immediate action to see that the funds were returned. The board of RSL LifeCare has significantly changed since those donations were made and RSL LifeCare now has strict policies forbidding attendance at political functions.

The State Council of RSL NSW will recommend to RSL members that they vote to approve remuneration for board directors of the charity. This is entirely appropriate given the size, complexity, and accountabilities of the League and the workload expected in transitioning from a representative council to a board. The new RSL NSW board will be directly and indirectly responsible for nearly 3500 staff, 2200 aged care beds, approximately 200 properties, and nearly $2bn of charitable funds and assets held on behalf of veterans and their families in NSW. Failing to attract quality leaders to run the RSL in recent decades has had obvious consequences for the League. To ensure we can attract the best possible members to lead the League into the future, and to allow future directors to devote appropriate time to their significant responsibilities, State Council will recommend that directors be remunerated.

It would be inappropriate for RSL NSW State Council members to approve their own remuneration. Independent analysis, benchmarked against comparable charities, will form the basis of a remuneration proposal to be put to members for their decision at an extraordinary congress to be held in December. It will be in the hands of grassroots members to decide whether it is approved or not.

The RSL NSW President, State Councillors, and staff have been travelling across NSW for the past two weeks meeting members to hear their concerns and ideas for the future of the League. Our membership are keen to return to fundraising to help veterans and their families, concerned to ensure our new constitution works, and ready to put the crisis of the past year behind us. RSL members are also excited to be a founding partner of the Sydney Invictus Games. The RSL NSW Bill is a major step towards completing the reform of this proud organisation.


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