inside the battle for control of RSL Victoria

As the battle for management of RSL Victoria heats up, the old guard are doing all they can to block anti-pokies reformers. Will the conflict escalate to the Supreme Court?


Crikey readers ended up 1st introduced to the governance concerns at RSL Victoria in previous July when we summed up the controversial 2019 AGM.

There was a additional update a month ago, following it turned obvious the league was intending to promote off its Vasey RSL Care aged treatment division, a sale which would aid it satisfy a $68 million pokies licence obligation to the Victorian governing administration.

RSL Victoria has been bleeding dollars all through the COVID-19 shutdown, specifically owing to the compelled closure of its 52 pokies venue which ordinarily extract far more than $200 million a yr from gamblers. It’s the state’s third major pokies operator soon after Woolworths and Crown Melbourne.

Above the earlier 18 months, a team of younger veterans led by Hawthorn RSL president Lucas Moon, along with Dan Cairnes and Dave Petersen, have been spearheading a campaign for RSL Victoria to cut down its reliance on gambling and instead focus on advocacy and veteran welfare, together with retaining the Vasey RSL Treatment division which homes additional than 500 aged and susceptible veterans.

The reform leaders ended up profiled in The Age in April final calendar year. Their campaign has now achieved its closing stage, with all 3 previous soldiers obtaining nominated to be a part of the RSL Victoria board.

On the other hand, as you can see from these ballot papers snail-mailed to the 200-additionally Victorian sub-branches past week, neither Moon or Petersen have been accepted as candidates.

The previous guard in demand of RSL Victoria, led by a team of Vietnam conscripts, have been resisting reform from the outset. This has even incorporated rejecting Moon’s nomination for treasurer, even however he was the only applicant.

Moon is a CPA and has held a variety of senior roles in the construction market. He is a veteran of Australian peace-maintaining in East Timor and is also an extraordinary governance advocate.

Observing that there have been no other nominees for treasurer, the situation will be vacant. The apparent alternative would be for the board to appoint Moon through a everyday emptiness approach following the election. But no, the old guard are resisting improve and renewal, instead preferring a battle.

RSL Victoria is one of Australia’s 20 most significant not-for-financial gain charitable institutions with property of close to $1.5 billion and yearly revenues exceeding $300 million. However it is jogging its personal election, with the board’s hand-picked CEO Jamie Twidale getting the returning officer for the board contest. He decides no matter whether candidates can stand or not.

So how did Twidale handle the reform leaders when they nominated for the board?

Moon was turned down on the grounds that he hadn’t done the requisite two a long time of service on a committee. Moon rejects this, as he has been on the committee of Hawthorn RSL considering that late 2018, and president for over a year. He also served as acting treasurer of the Boronia RSL for eight months practically 20 many years back.

Twidale also turned down Petersen’s board nomination, inspite of his two many years of assistance, like a stint as president of the Camberwell RSL, currently being even clearer than Moon’s.

Equally of all those rejections could effectively be challenged in the Victorian Supreme Courtroom more than the coming weeks, despite the fact that anyone is waiting for the date of the AGM to really be established. It is a unusual organisation that sends out ballot papers for an AGM which is however to be referred to as.

As for Cairnes, his 3 a long time of company as vice president of the Combined Tramways/East Melbourne sub-department in Fitzroy was irrefutable, so his nomination was recognized — but then he was the only prospect whose color photo was not provided in ballot papers.

The incumbent board have just voted to provide off the Tramways sub-branch building in Fitzroy. This was the unique pokies-free of charge sub-department the place the youthful veterans gathered. Cairnes, Moon and their colleagues then misplaced regulate to the old guard immediately after a contentious EGM previous calendar year at the Fitzroy Town Hall, sparking a mass exodus of customers to Hawthorn RSL.

The aged guard played a difficult video game as they took handle of the Tramways sub-branch, changing the locks, padlocking the front door and now selecting to offer the developing, which is not suitable for poker equipment.

In whole, 7 of the 11 RSL Victoria board positions are up for grabs in excess of the coming weeks, which includes the presidency which has 3 candidates running. The only female director Michelle Campbell has had ample and will not be recontesting so it will be an all-male board likely ahead.

The youngest incumbent director on the board, Glen Ferrarotto, has been nominated for the presidency by Hawthorn RSL on a partly-censored platform of bringing the warring functions collectively. Ferrarotto give up as a principal board director before this thirty day period as he didn’t want to be linked with some of the contentious choices being manufactured.

He also encountered some intriguing editing of his election products, such as removal of a reference to the actuality he is now performing an Australian Institute of Corporation Directors training course on governance.

If there are any classes from this saga, a single of them is that major establishments ought to retain the services of impartial third parties to run their contested board elections.

If it is very good sufficient for unions, it ought to be good plenty of for the likes of RSL Victoria.

Crikey contacted multiple associates of RSL Victoria for remark, but they did not respond ahead of deadline.

Peter Fray

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