Sunday, May 6, 2012

Reasons to be Skeptical: SUCCESS LEADS TO PROBLEMS

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By 1990, the Victorian committee had become stagnant and subscribers numbers had fallen to below 200. New committee members were added to re-activate enthusiasm and Victorian subscribers began to increase with media interest and public meetings.

In 1993, the annual convention was held at the University of Melbourne with attendance by record crowds (over 700 in 2 days), no doubt due to the appearance of guest speakers such as James 'The Amazing' Randi, the controversial Professor Ian Plimer and other well known speakers. Victorian subscriber numbers were boosted until they equalled NSW (around 500).

The 'national committee' in Sydney asked for an extensive audit of the venture, despite the fact that they contributed little towards it. The 'national committee' also advised Victoria that 40% of the convention profits would be required to go into the 'national' coffers. This request, unheard of until after the conference, puzzled the Victorians. Because of the overwhelming media blitz and large crowds, the 'national committee' probably expected a substantial profit. However, due to the expense of bringing in overseas guests, the convention only broke even. After the audit was finalised, the Victorians in turn asked the 'national' committee for a complete audit of their books and an account of how subscribers' monies were being spent. The request produced only the very basic annual returns as submitted to the NSW corporate authorities, a requirement for all associations. It listed overall expenditure but contained little breakdown of what, how, when, and to whom monies were disbursed. There was no indication that these accounts had been independently audited.

Up to this time, all state branches had been given annual disbursements from subscriptions, based on their membership. Now the NSW 'national' committee claimed to be suffering grave financial difficulties and soon after declared that such disbursements would cease until further notice.

The 1994 annual convention in Sydney turned into an unmitigated disaster, with less than 70 people attending over the 2 days. Tensions at the all-states committee meeting generated into a shouting and slanging match with accusations of mismanagement and incompetence. A request to restructure the national committee to include other states was met with laughter and derision by the controlling NSW members.

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