The MA proposal for a unitary structure – some facts
Dear MQ members,
Many of you will have recently seen a copy of a letter from MA president, Tania Lawrence, to the MA Council; ie the presidents of the State Controlling Bodies (SCBs) in which she proposes that the MA federation be dissolved and MA become the sole governing body for all motorcycle sport and recreation across Australia. Leaving aside for the moment the way in which this letter was made public, before jumping to the apparently seductive proposition that one governing body is better than a federation, let's consider some facts.
In late 2014 and early 2015, at the instigation of the SCBs, a whole of sport review (WoSR) was commissioned. All SCBs committed to implementing the recommendations of the WoSR panel, including reforming the composition of the MA board and the way in which the SCBs work with MA. All SCBs then unanimously appointed 4 new MA board members recommended by a nominations committee after it conducted an exhaustive selection process for new MA board candidates.
In two 2-day meetings convened in the 2nd half of 2015 the great majority of SCB board members and the MA board agreed on creating an alliance in which MA and each SCB would commit to principle-based cooperation and collaboration as the way to deal with the various state-based and national interests of motorcycle sport and recreation, given the reality that MA is a federation of SCBs.
The very fact that all SCBs clearly committed to the WoSR panel recommendations aligned on the candidates to be appointed to the new MA board and aligned on the principles for the creation of an alliance is historic in itself. Never in the history of the MA federation have all 7 SCBs committed to a common approach on these crucial matters. And all 7 SCBs remain committed to that approach; ie nearly 2 years of cooperative and collaborative interaction to date.
But the MA board, despite its agreement to create an alliance, almost immediately eschewed cooperating with the SCBs, refused to meaningfully engage with SCBs in whole-of-federation decision-making and instead demanded subservient obedience from SCBs. In other words, the MA board has ignored the aligned good will of the SCBs to unify and standardise the MA federation instead of exploiting that historic alignment of all SCBs. I would like to have been reporting to you on the development of the MA alliance, but little has happened because of the obstruction of the MA board on the development of an effective alliance.
Then, on 21 May 2016, the MA Council (excepting Victoria who did not send a representative) met with 4 members of the MA board in Sydney, we thought to progress the alliance. Instead, the SCBs were ambushed with what amounted to a demand that we all immediately agree to a unitary model - an ambush, because the topic had not been raised with SCBs before that meeting. The 6 SCBs present at that meeting all told the MA board essentially the same thing: We are all prepared to commence discussions about dissolving the SCBs but the adoption of any unitary model by the SCBs depends on 3 things:
- MA actually achieving meaningful leadership on national issues and demonstrating the sustainability of that leadership.
- MA demonstrating that it has developed the capability of managing the detailed and granular issues with which SCBs deal constantly.
- Resolving the transfer of assets, a very significant issue.
At this stage, MA has not even begun to achieve any goals on any of these crucial issues and its track record of the past 10-20 years gives the SCBs little confidence that these matters will be effectively addressed by MA, at least as quickly as the current MA board imagines is possible.
Yet, despite the unanimous view of each SCB present at that Sydney meeting, the MA board chose to ignore that view and go to print with its 'unitary model' proposal and, it seems, allowed that letter to be published all over social media. That breach of confidentiality is unacceptable and looks very much like deliberate mischief. It is difficult to imagine a more effective way to destroy trust.
The SCBs recognise that the parochial divisions of the past must be reformed and that is what the MA Council has worked at for 2 years and to which it unanimously remains committed. It is also important to note that the new MA board also committed to creating an alliance, yet that is not apparent from its more recent conduct.
To be clear, MQ is not necessarily opposed to a unitary model. But there are many things to consider before committing to the creation of a unitary structure, the most important of which are set out above. However, there are also advantages in federation: productive pluralism and benchmarking opportunities, the accommodation of regional differences, the controlling body being more accessible to it constituents, our clubs etc. These matters require careful and complete consideration and they will not be resolved by the ultimatum issued by Tania Lawrence.
The SCBs are also currently working on the creation of a single financial model for the MA federation in accordance with the following principles:
- It must be equitable for all SCBs and MA.
- It must be simple as possible, transparent and easily explicable to members.
- It must be flexible through regular review and adjustment to ensure continuing equity for all SCBs and MA and value for our members.
- It will have much greater emphasis on 'user pays’ to better reflect actual insurance risk/premium and admin costs.
- It will minimise fixed and ‘up-front’ charges and to the extent that fixed charges are necessary, the financial purpose for the charge must
- The value equation must be compelling: To the maximum extent possible, the overall cost to participants must be minimised, but balanced with a
need to cover actual costs and new and necessary development programs.
- It will include principles for expenditure controls and management common to all SCBs & MA.
- It will embed a correlation between insurance risk and insurance premium collected.
MA committed to this new financial model project in November 2015, but did nothing to progress this crucial project. The project has only progressed because it has recently been resurrected by the SCBs, not MA.
But it seems that the MA board has ignored this initiative and chooses instead to see the solution to its own financial sustainability as simply getting hold of SCB revenues and assets. MQ is far from being convinced at the moment that it is in the interests of MQ members that we transfer the assets of MQ, developed and held for the benefit of all MQ members, to MA as naively proposed by the MA board.
The SCBs have also, on numerous occasions, recommended to the MA board that MA and the SCBs work on eliminating any unproductive duplication and share our people resources more effectively. But MA has done nothing in respect of that suggestion and the commitment from SCBs to share resources.
The MQ board always takes a 'we are where we are' approach and that is currently that we are a member of a federation of SCBs, and that MA was created by the SCBs. The MQ board remains committed to an alliance of SCBs and MA to unify policy and MA and SCB operations. In that context, we will meaningfully engage in discussions about the merits of a unitary model. But given the conduct of the MA board in flying its 'unitary model' kite, the crucial element of authentic trust must now, somehow, be rebuilt.
The MQ board will always act in the interests of its members and will certainly do so in relation to the creation of a unitary MA, if that turns out to be the best approach for MQ members. However, at this time, the MQ board is strongly of the view that MA is simply not currently in a position to become the sole governing body. When MA demonstrates that it has the competence, capability and commitment to act in the interests of all MA members, the MQ board will seriously consider the creation of a unitary MA, but balanced by serious consideration of the benefits of some pluralism.
We are not in this for money or glory. We are in this for MQ members. Indeed, we are in this for all MA members.
As always, if you have any questions, please get in touch.