Voting at the AMA AGM? Here’s what to know

5 minute read

The AMA’s virtual Annual General Meeting will be held at 7pm tomorrow night via Zoom. The fate of the Tasmanian branch hangs in the balance.

With tensions rising between state and federal AMAs, tomorrow night’s AGM might prove to be a rather awkward family reunion.  

On the face of it, the main issue at play is relatively uncontroversial: AMA Tasmania wants to become a branch of the federal body rather than a separate organisation.  

Around 96% of Tasmanian members support the move, as do the individual state, territory and federal bodies.  

Which is why it might be odd to hear that three state AMAs have advised their members to vote against some of the changes, arguing that they give the federal body too much power.  

What will be voted on? 

AGM attendees will be asked to vote on five resolutions separately.  

The first resolution is on amendments to “facilitate the creation of branches” and includes new clause 9.2, which will allow the federal AMA to establish state or territory branches in jurisdictions where there is no path to ordinary membership of the organisation.  

“This is intended to provide continuity of membership and member services … in circumstances where an existing separate legal entity that represents ordinary members who live or work in a State or Territory ceases to operate and/or winds up,” the explanatory notes read.  

Resolution number two looks at updating the process for collecting subscriptions and sets out specific fee collection arrangements.  

Number three is about the appointment and removal of directors, adding the requirement for the federal AMA board to be satisfied that state and territory representatives have “appropriate” skills and experience to be on the federal board. 

The fourth resolution streamlines the process for circular resolutions. This would allow the federal board to pass resolutions on a majority vote without having to call a board meeting; currently, a unanimous vote is needed.  

The lucky last resolution tinkers with wording around the membership of the federal council. 

Resolutions one and three are the most contentious.  

Why the fuss?  

Just a few months back, the AMA WA was kicked out of the federation over a dispute about fees.  

Overnight, the AMA WA members were stripped of the right to vote in federal AMA elections and AGMs, as well as complementary access to the Medical Journal of Australia.  

To some of the individual states and territories, the proposed amendments appear to go above and beyond what is required to make Tasmania a branch.  

“We hope and expect that the current board and management of AMA Federal would act responsibly with respect to the sovereignty of the remaining independent State and Territory AMAs, as they have stated they will,” AMA WA president Dr Michael Page told members.  

“But constitutions must be conservative and cautious, foreseeing all possible future scenarios, including the possibility of a board and management with an expansionist agenda.  

“A future Federal AMA could use its constitutional power to set its fees, without consultation with the State and Territory AMAs, in a way that creates an untenable relationship, then establish its own state branch in competition with the local AMA.” 

Federal AMA leadership disputes this narrative, arguing that the constitution needs to allow for it to create local state and territory branches in order to subsume Tasmania. 

“The AMA Board will always uphold strong, doctor-led state representation and that is not going to change,” it told The Medical Republic.   

“These proposed changes are an important commitment to diversity and delivering on the right set of skills to meet the current regulatory and compliance obligations for corporations.” 

The other resolutions, it said, are necessary to bring the AMA constitution up to date, given that the last significant changes were made a decade ago.

Who wants what? 

Both the federal AMA and AMA Tasmania back the resolutions being passed.  

While neither has made a public statement to that effect, the facts are that the merger operation was Tasmania’s idea and the federal body is hardly going to propose resolutions that it does not want to pass. 

Queensland, South Australia and Victoria AMAs have all advised members to vote against the changes, but to varying degrees.  

Where Queensland outlined its opposition to the changes and told members to “exercise [their] voting rights”, Victoria direct told doctors that it “encourages you to vote against the amendments”.  

South Australia, meanwhile, recommended members vote to support the changes enabling AMA Tasmania to become a branch but vote against the other resolutions.  

The problem here is that the amendment that is considered crucial for AMA Tasmania to become a federal subsidiary, resolution one, is the most controversial proposal.  

Western Australia, having been kicked out of the club, does not have any voting members at this AGM.  

New South Wales, Australian Capital Territory and Northern Territory have stayed quiet on the matter.  

The 2024 AMA AGM will be held on Wednesday 22 May at 7:30pm via Zoom. Members must register in advance.  

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