It's time to go Peter Part Two - depaNews December 2006

It's time to go Peter

The September Bulletin reported on the steps being taken by the employee representatives on the LGSS since July to have Chair Peter Woods stand down after almost 9 1/2 years and allow a member representative to replace him. As background we reported that Woods had agreed in 1997 to stand down in 2001 and to rotate the Chair between employee and employer representatives every four years.

An agreement with the USU in 2001 saw him reappointed with an agreement with the then General Secretary of the USU Brian Harris to stand down when Harris retired from his position. Harris retired in September but Woods remains. We should all learn a lesson from this. It’s so much better to have terms of office included in a Constitution or some other document.

Well, it's now December and Woods remains firmly and resolutely in the Chair.

Hundreds of members used the link provided in the September Bulletin to deny that Woods, consistent with the Divine Right of Kings, should remain Chair as long as he damn well liked. And a lot of people who aren't members used the link to tell us that he should go as well. We had no idea so many general managers and other interested people cared.

The Chair was very agitated at the December meeting of the LGSS Board that the report in our September Bulletin, published also on our "tin pot union website", as he put it, breached Board confidentiality, so it is with some trepidation that we continue to report things we think that members of the LGSS have a right to know.

There is a "general flavour of disclosure"(as a lawyer once described it to us) in the Superannuation Industry Supervision (SIS) Act and it is the SIS Act, together with Corporations Law, that determines how a superannuation fund should behave. The SIS Act requires that boards are obliged to provide certain information to members of the fund but the "general flavour of disclosure" encourages openness and transparency in the stewardship and management of members’ retirement incomes.

Corporations Law regulates public corporations and establishes relatively strict levels of confidentiality - levels now being challenged by shareholder rights organisations and advocates as little more than an excuse to hide things that should ordinarily be accessible by shareholder owners. Public corporations don't have the same obligations to disclose as superannuation funds which comply with the SIS Act.

But an agitated Chair is an agitated Chair so we won't be reporting on what may have been said by individual Board members in debate and we won't be reporting on the numbers of votes cast on particular resolutions. We think people should be more accountable and if you going to say stupid things at Board meetings, you should be game enough to say them outside. Or just not say stupid things at all.

Neither will we report on how many meetings of the Board have been abandoned because the employer representatives have refused to attend, the difficulties in organising shareholder meetings to resolve this issue because LGSA shareholder representatives haven't been available, nor the plethora of things that occur that the employer representatives would like to keep quiet. Well, not yet anyway.

Clearly there are things that are superannuation boards deal with that should be confidential - tendering, business and commercial matters, personal and financial details about individual members etc - but there are many, many things that should be accessible to members as part of our accountability in managing their retirement incomes.

Confidentiality provisions should never be misused to suppress information that is legitimately the right of members. Like, for example, the proper disclosure of how The Chair can hold onto a position he should have handed over back in September and the sorts of things he and the other employee representatives say at Board meetings in defence of that unacceptable practice. Neither will we report what is said at Board meetings about what is happening in the background to make it more acceptable for The Chair to do the right thing. Well, not yet anyway.

An agreement has been reached in principle between the LGSA and the USU shareholders for a Constitution change from 31 March to require a new Chair and the introduction of a rotating two-year term. While we and the LGEA wanted a four year term for the first employee member Chair, and while the LGSA correspondence doesn't mention their acceptance that the new Chair will be a member representative, this is probably how it will all end. No bang, lots of wimpering.

So, despite this agreement, The Chair would still not acknowledge that he would stand down when he was pressed at the LGSS Board meeting on 20 December. We think we can get away with saying what didn't happen at Board meetings.

We expect Woods will be gone as Chair on 31 March and will revert to a position of Board member and that, around that time, he will also become Chair of the Futureplus Board - another of the five boards that ex-councillor Woods sits on, and is remunerated for, as part of his LGSS role.

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