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posted by takyon on Tuesday October 15 2019, @09:02PM   Printer-friendly
from the strongly-worded dept.

A group of senior members of the Australian Computer Society (ACS) have launched a campaign to oppose what they describe as a corporate "hijack" of their society.

Best coverage so far is in Innovation Aus:

Proposed changes to the governance structure at the Australian Computer Society are headed for a rough ride as senior members launch a campaign against the corporatisation [of] a professional society, in favour of its executive and at the expense of its members.

A group being headed by Australian National University visiting professor Roger Clarke – a long-time privacy advocate in Australia and an ACS member since 1974 – says the proposed changes strip away the rights of the members in favour of the society's executive.

Mr Clarke also complains that recent take-over of the Association for Data-Driven Marketing and Advertising (ADMA) – among a series of acquisitions of other industry groups – was incompatible with the values and goals of the society.

Also covered in ITWire:

He claimed that the ACS would aim to pass a new constitution at a general body meeting on 25 October in Sydney which, if adopted, would:

  • centralise all power in the board;
           
  • extinguish all meaningful member involvement;
           
  • replace member-driven branches with subservient divisions; and
           
  • enable continuity of power by a clique.

...and on ZDNet:

"The ACS executive abused its power in order to railroad the existing branch committees into supporting the unsupportable," Clarke said

"It then brazenly argued in favour of its own motion; failed to provide appropriate information on the arguments against the motion; and prevented arguments against the motion from being communicated to members."

This follows hot on the heels of another open letter, signed by 63 senior ACS members (including iiNet founder Michael Malone, Camtech founder Chris Barter and such ACS stalwarts as Ashley Goldsworthy & Arthur Sale), objecting to ACS' acquisition of the Association for Data-Driven Marketing and Advertising (ADMA), an industry body which the group claims violates ACS' own code of ethics:

Critics of ADMA's behaviour over the last decades perceive it to:

  • behave unethically;
           
  • operate on an entirely token ethical basis; or
           
  • treat ethicality as merely an obstacle that needs to be overcome in order to serve the interests of consumer marketing corporations.

It is, in short, completely untenable for ACS to absorb ADMA into itself, or even to enter into any form of partnership with it.


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  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by PartTimeZombie on Tuesday October 15 2019, @09:47PM (11 children)

    by PartTimeZombie (4827) on Tuesday October 15 2019, @09:47PM (#907574)

    I think I see what's going on here:

    The increasingly wealthy organisation is registered as a charity and does not pay tax on its more than $2.5 million surplus (reported for its 2017-18 financial year), nor on the interest earned on its $26.8 million in cash and cash equivalent assets.

    Nobody is exploiting all that sweet, sweet cash properly.

    InnovationAus.com contacted the ACS chief executive Andrew Johnson for comment, but he was travelling overseas with ACS President Yohan Ramasundara and no-one else was authorised to comment.

    I may have also figured out who is going to benefit the most from this.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 15 2019, @09:59PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 15 2019, @09:59PM (#907578)

      Wow. I remember when I applied for residency in Oz, as a IT prof, I had to get an ACS assessment and pay for it... of course it was a token processing fee.. but I can see how they can turn this into making much more money on the sideline for rubber stamping "entrepreneurial" almost-IT-prof applications..

    • (Score: 5, Insightful) by c0lo on Tuesday October 15 2019, @10:52PM (9 children)

      by c0lo (156) on Tuesday October 15 2019, @10:52PM (#907603) Journal

      In the beginning of my career Downunder, I took an ACS membership for some 3-4 years. Until it became clear to me it's money down the drain in regards with the benefits I was deriving from the relation - mostly social networking and, occasionally, some conferences in which different vendors pitched their products. Thanks, but no, ACS membership is irrelevant, even from the perspective of career progression - doesn't even offer an advantage in hiring in the industry (and rightly so).

      Even more, I haven't seen any ACS preoccupation towards advising the politiheads in regards with the IT&C and good engineering practices. I suspect they may have done it as lobbying, but even for such cases it wasn't for the benefit of engineering but the interest of the vendors.
      Actually, a Google search attempting to find ACS support of open standards in public government [google.com] results in the following cash-cow as the first hit [acs.org.au]:

      The ACS plans to launch a new Professional Standards Scheme on 1 January 2019. All Certified Professional (CP) members will go into the scheme. This will provide public protections into the future, and strengthen the ICT profession with formal recognition by governments.

      Yeah, well, my answer to them would be on the line of "if you are gonna milk me, I'd need to derive some kinky pleasure at the very least. So, how about you blow me and maybe I'll pay for it?"

      --
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aoFiw2jMy-0
      • (Score: 2) by PartTimeZombie on Tuesday October 15 2019, @11:06PM

        by PartTimeZombie (4827) on Tuesday October 15 2019, @11:06PM (#907609)

        Yeah, providing anything of value is of secondary importance when there's several millions in the kitty and tax-free income to be had.

        I am sure Andrew Johnson and Yohan Ramasundara will do very well out of this.

      • (Score: 1) by fustakrakich on Tuesday October 15 2019, @11:17PM (1 child)

        by fustakrakich (6150) on Tuesday October 15 2019, @11:17PM (#907613) Journal

        If they are just another political machine, it is possible to form another group, right?

        --
        La politica e i criminali sono la stessa cosa..
        • (Score: 2) by c0lo on Tuesday October 15 2019, @11:45PM

          by c0lo (156) on Tuesday October 15 2019, @11:45PM (#907626) Journal

          If they are just another political machine, it is possible to form another group, right?

          I don't see the need for yet another professional association.
          It's pretty much the same with the unionizing of IT sector: there may be corner cases in which it may work fine, but the sluggishness** an institution inevitable brings in a highly dynamic technology sector will surely make the institution deprecated quite fast.

          ---

          ** sluggishness in the social area is not always bad, the society needs a good amount of stability to progress - at least the conservatives (aka "slow and dumb cookies") on this site should wholeheartedly agree that disruption is not necessary a Good Thing™ and "all disruption no tradition" is actually Very Evil™ (large grin)

          --
          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aoFiw2jMy-0
      • (Score: 4, Informative) by jb on Wednesday October 16 2019, @01:09AM (3 children)

        by jb (338) on Wednesday October 16 2019, @01:09AM (#907665)

        Even more, I haven't seen any ACS preoccupation towards advising the politiheads in regards with the IT&C and good engineering practices. I suspect they may have done it as lobbying, but even for such cases it wasn't for the benefit of engineering but the interest of the vendors.

        In recent years perhaps, but it wasn't always that way.

        Two ACS groups in particular used to do exactly what you're suggesting ACS should be doing:

        The former ACS Economic & Industry Policy Board was an elected committee -- with one representative elected from each branch, plus a director elected by the ACS Council (later by ACS Congress). It used to release papers on public policy issues relevant to the Australian profession (and to some extent the industry too) as a whole. Sometimes, goverment actually listened to what the ACS EIP Board had to say.

        The former ACS Ethical, Legal & Social Implications Committee (ELSIC) was a long-standing sub-committee of the ACS Community Affairs Board. It focussed on issues in those three specific areas.

        Whilst the EIP Board was proactive (it would consider issues its members felt ACS should raise), ELSIC was mostly reactive (they responded on behalf of the Australian computing profession to topical government proposals).

        ELSIC in particular *did* achieve positive outcomes for public policy in Australia at various times over the years.

        Probably the best known of ELSIC's campaigns was ACS' successful opposition to the infamous "Australia Card" policy in the 1980s (but don't just take my word for it -- it's right there in Hansard if you want to read it for yourself). At least two of the signatories to the current open letter (Clarke himself and Barter) had prominent roles in that campaign.

        ACS evidence before the Alstom Inquiry (if memory serves me, led by former ACS President Tom Worthington) also helped prevent the first attempt to introduce Internet censorship in Australia.

        Both ELSIC & the EIP Board have been abolished over the last decade (EIP replaced with an unelected committee; ELSIC not replaced at all).

        Those sort of changes are just one part of the ongoing ACS shift away from being a proper professional society that the "group of 65" are objecting to.

        The current two issues (the inappropriate merger; and sneaking a highly anti-member replacement consitution into the restructure proposal) simpy brought to a head what has been a far broader problem with ACS direction over much of the current decade (if not longer).

        • (Score: 2) by c0lo on Wednesday October 16 2019, @01:47AM (1 child)

          by c0lo (156) on Wednesday October 16 2019, @01:47AM (#907672) Journal

          Probably the best known of ELSIC's campaigns was ACS' successful opposition to the infamous "Australia Card" policy in the 1980s

          Heard nothing from them in regards with Internet access filtering and metadata collection (going back as far as 2008, when the Conroy prick was cowboying iiNet).

          --
          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aoFiw2jMy-0
          • (Score: 3, Informative) by jb on Wednesday October 16 2019, @02:46AM

            by jb (338) on Wednesday October 16 2019, @02:46AM (#907701)

            Heard nothing from them in regards with Internet access filtering and metadata collection (going back as far as 2008, when the Conroy prick was cowboying iiNet).

            True. 2008 saw the second attempt (also unsuccessful; the third attempt was the one that eventually got up) to introduce Internet censorship in Australia and the ACS response to it (written by another unelected committee) was indeed dismal. That stands in stark contrast to the excellent ACS reponse to the first such attempt (from memory, around the turn of the century or a couple of years before).

            2008 was, in my opinion, the year in which the current ACS decline began. It was also the first year in which not all branches were represented on the ACS' governing body (Management Committee from 2008 onwards; had been Council until 2007). And it was also the year in which the ACS core body of knowledge (CBOK) was diluted. And it was also the year in which the current push for centralisation (at the expense of the branches and all their members) began in earnest. The juxtaposition of those changes with the beginning of the decline does not appear to be mere co-incidence...

            The previous two years (2006-07) had seen Philip Argy's very public push for professionalism in IT; and the two years before that (2004-05) had seen Edward Mandla's very public push to make ACS a household name in Australia (much in the way the CPAs had done a decade or two earlier, although on a far smaller budget than they had). As I see it, ACS made more positive progress in each of Mandla's & Argy's presidential terms than it has managed in all six subsequent terms put together ... and much detriment has been suffered during those six subsequent terms.

        • (Score: 2, Insightful) by Devin on Wednesday October 16 2019, @03:24PM

          by Devin (8660) on Wednesday October 16 2019, @03:24PM (#907894)
          I remember this very well; this during my early years early years in Australia. Unfortunately, due various reasons ACS has not been a Respected and Trusted voice in ANY of the current topics of Digital Transformation or Cybersecurity. While there have been numerous attempts by the organisation to involve itself in public debate; NOTHING in the past 3-4 years has approached the aforementioned 'Worthington" efforts. The few efforts of public comment and advocacy have sadly lacked a level of indepence from the current trends in vogue and/or vendor bias.
      • (Score: 2) by coolgopher on Wednesday October 16 2019, @02:24AM (1 child)

        by coolgopher (1157) on Wednesday October 16 2019, @02:24AM (#907688)

        ACS is largely irrelevant, but not as much as I'd like. As an imported character, I had to get their blessing of approval as part of my residency approval process. Based on my experience I quickly concluded that ACS as an organisation had no clue about the industry its members operated in, and only cared about collecting membership fees. Sounds like it has gotten even worse since. I wish these senior members good luck, but I'm still not going near that organisation.

        On the other hand I happily did join the Systems Administrators Guild of Australia (SAGE-AU), now the IT Professionals Association (ITPA) [itpa.org.au], which for many years I felt I actually got something in return from. And unlike the ACS, they've been actively been submitting feedback and commentary to the government. Having since moved away from sysadmin and back into dev, I've let that membership lapse however, and I haven't found anything comparable on the dev side (well, there's StackOverflow I guess =) ).

        • (Score: 2) by c0lo on Wednesday October 16 2019, @02:45AM

          by c0lo (156) on Wednesday October 16 2019, @02:45AM (#907700) Journal

          As an imported character, I had to get their blessing of approval as part of my residency approval process.

          Was the same for me. But it took another 4 years to get to the point where I dropped them. In my defense, only took me 2 participations in their events to realize how remote they were. Except I was busy enough in those 4 years to be involved in anyway else but to pay my dues to them.

          I haven't found anything comparable on the dev side (well, there's StackOverflow I guess =) ).

          (You can say it)++
          With the note that SO doesn't address the needs of advising the idiots in the govt in regards with the needs of the professionals in the industry (not trying to say I harbour any illusion it will make a difference)

          --
          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aoFiw2jMy-0
  • (Score: 1) by fustakrakich on Tuesday October 15 2019, @11:14PM (2 children)

    by fustakrakich (6150) on Tuesday October 15 2019, @11:14PM (#907612) Journal

    C'mon, you know what I mean. Just split, man...

    --
    La politica e i criminali sono la stessa cosa..
    • (Score: 2) by jb on Wednesday October 16 2019, @01:16AM (1 child)

      by jb (338) on Wednesday October 16 2019, @01:16AM (#907668)

      C'mon, you know what I mean. Just split, man...

      Whilst that's possible (and may indeed end up happening), it'd be far from ideal.

      ACS has a rich history, going back depending on how you measure things, either to 1966 (when ACS itself was formed) or to 1960 (formation of the Computer Society of South Australia, the oldest of the state & territory based computer societies which federated to form ACS in 1966).

      It would be a great shame to throw all that away.

      A better solution would be for those people who want to turn ACS into an industry body (or, worse, a mere marketing group), to go off and form their own new organisation from scratch (perhaps using the remains of ADMA?), instead of trying to pervert ACS into something other than a professional society.

      But that too seems unlikely to happen, at least whilst those who want something quite different to the objects for which ACS was established continue to run the show.

      • (Score: 1) by khallow on Wednesday October 16 2019, @03:37AM

        by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday October 16 2019, @03:37AM (#907710) Journal

        A better solution would be for those people who want to turn ACS into an industry body (or, worse, a mere marketing group), to go off and form their own new organisation from scratch (perhaps using the remains of ADMA?), instead of trying to pervert ACS into something other than a professional society.

        Since the ACS is the group with the money, that probably would not be an desired solution for the people trying to take over.

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