You can get into a lot of trouble in 300 words


As new rules about strata meetings drag us inevitably to less personal contact; we will soon have a provision for motions to be supported by explanatory notes which are not to exceed 300 words.

This is the print equivalent of speaking to a motion. It gives voice to an idea proposed as a motion for those who will vote by post, telephone or electronic means; all of which are new to strata meetings in NSW.

But there are some important differences. While a speech is fleeting, the written word lasts forever. A speech has context, and a note has none. A speech has nuance and a speech can be stopped or altered mid-course if it’s off track.

The lessons from north of the border, where this practice has prevailed for many years, is that inevitably some explanatory notes will descend into a rant. Some will inflame and incite and, most damaging of all, some will provoke a written response that entrenches opposing positions.

In fact the Australian Financial Review notes that investors are on the lookout for signs of disorder in meeting papers and minutes. It could be that eager sellers might find themselves losing a sale because of some passive-aggressive sniping in their explanatory notes.

Explanatory notes will throw up special challenges to strata managers; they’ll be dammed if they publish and dammed if they don’t. Publishing defamatory material can make you guilty of the defamation as if you made the statement yourself.

Everything comes at a price. The price of more ways to participate in meetings is the explanatory note. Let’s see if it’s worth it.

P.S. This post is a safe 299 words, counting the title, in case my more mischievous readers are looking for a laugh.

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