Are AGMs pointless

Australia’s most connected businessman, David Gonski AC, Chair of Coca-Cola Amatil and the Australian Stock Exchange Ltd has called for reform of Annual General meetings for Australia’s listed companies. His comments have made me think about how AGM’s are working for our bodies corporate and owners corporations and I see some parallels in what he is saying and some merit in his proposed solution.

Gonski’s comments were made on the back of a survey of 125 leading directors by law firm Mallesons Stephen Jacques. It identified that, due to proxies, matters were largely decided before the meeting commenced and the information given to attendees was therefore nothing more than information that could be accessed on-line or in the meeting papers. Gonski suggests there should be a separation of the voting requirements of an AGM from the meeting itself so that it becomes more informative, there is more discussion, and it is more open.

Imagine owners turning up to a meeting with open minds to debate important issues about how they live together in close proximity. Imagine how that might lead to a better understanding within the community of the role of an owners corporation and the responsibilities for each owner to the others when they sign up for apartment living. Imagine that, following such a debate, the polls were open for 14 days and owners could vote on-line or by written voting paper and the strata manager could count the vote, have them scrutinized by an independent returning officer and declare the motions won or lost by posting the minutes electronically or by snail mail.

Too far fetched? Never going to happen? Good things don’t happen unless we first imagine.

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