Sunday, May 6, 2012

Reasons to be Skeptical: INTERSTATE ANGER

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The Victorian committee expressed anger in 1995 when minutes from the 'national' committee showed they were to purchase new computer equipment and fax machines only 2 years after previously buying such equipment. A motion was also passed to pay for airfares for any of the 'national committee' who wished to attend the forthcoming 1995 Melbourne convention, unheard of previously. All queries regarding expenditure were met with disdain and a closed door from Sydney.

The South Australian Skeptics put in for a grant to purchase a computer and were met with refusal. Victoria was allowed a fax machine and some small items to appease their anger. Professor Ian Plimer, growing in concern about his legal expenses, was encouraged to apply for a grant on the basis that his legal battles related directly to fighting creationism and flying the Skeptics banner. A lengthy letter outlining his costs and a plea to the Skeptics Trust to assist met with a refusal that his application did not meet the criteria set down.

Amidst mounting criticism of Williams’s autocratic editorial style and allegations of abusing his position, accusations of lack of accountability of subscribers funds and of the bequest, cries of mismanagement, the 'national committee' suspended itself and immediately reinstated themselves as the 'NSW committee', but with no changes to matters relating to finances, policy, or the magazine. They advised that the organisational structure of the Skeptics is such that only the members of the NSW committee can vote themselves, or the editor, out, contrary to what was declared in the 1986 issue of the group's journal regarding national interests.

Victoria complained that as the Whalley bequest was left to a national body called "The Australian Sceptics [sic] Incorporated", and not the NSW committee, the trust should include interstate representation. While NSW sought legal opinion, the Victorians considered a variety of options, including a suggestion of contesting the will, which led to some splitting of ranks and fears of a wider national split.

Eventually and begrudgingly the states backed off, realising that NSW now had the money and any further disharmony would aggravate future hand-outs. Barry Williams successfully put in his application to become the full-time paid editor and CEO, and others began receiving honorariums of varying amounts for previously voluntary positions, for example to Harry Edwards $5000 p.a. as chairman of the Foundation and a further $3000 p.a. as secretary of the NSW committee, and $3000 p.a. to Peter Rodgers who was the treasurer at the time. Two loans of $8000 each were also approved for Edwards to publish two books promoting scepticism. This money was being progressively paid back through book sales by the Skeptics up to the time of Edwards' departure (see below).

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