Pirate Congress 2014/Constitutional Amendments

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Official Party Document
The veracity of this document is ensured by the National Council and editing of this page is limited to members of the National Council.

Constitutional amendment proposals must be presented to the National Council a minimum of 28 days before the National Congress, which this year is Friday 20 June 2014 at 11:59 pm (AEST) as per By-law 2013-03. Proposals submitted after that date will be held over until the following National Congress. Please email your proposals to [email protected].

If you wish to propose a change to anything here: please open a discussion topic on the forum, directly contact the person who put the amendment, or alternatively contact the Secretary at [email protected] to put you in contact.

Once the deadline for proposals has been met, unless specified by the relevant by-law, amendments may only be made by formal motion at the National Congress.

Contents

CAP-0: Raising the quorum for constitutional amendments

Put by: Constitutionally required

Motion

As per Article 8.1(3) of the Party Constitution, members must vote on whether to raise the quorum for constitutional amendments by 2%, from 16% to 18%.

Do you agree to raise the quorum by 2%, to 18%?

CAP-1: Non-profit clause

Put by: Mozart Olbrycht-Palmer, on behalf of the National Council

Motion

Insert the following as Article 1(2) ["Name, Principles and Constitution"]:

Constitutional Amendment Proposal Text

  • Pirate Party Australia is a non-profit organisation. The assets and income of the organisation shall be applied solely in furtherance of its above-mentioned objects and no portion shall be distributed directly or indirectly to the members of the organisation except as bona fide compensation for services rendered or expenses incurred on behalf of the organisation.

Rationale

In January the National Council enacted this as a temporary operational amendment to the Party Constitution to ensure we met the requirements of a non-profit organisation for banking purposes.

It codified the existing practice. At present no member of Pirate Party Australia is paid or reimbursed, except where they incur genuine expenses on behalf of the Party. Therefore, we are already a non-profit organisation in practice.

According to Article 8.4(2) ["Operational and Temporary Amendments"] this must come before a vote at the National Congress, and it will lapse if it does not pass.

CAP-2A: Extend time between National Congresses

Put by: Mozart Olbrycht-Palmer and Brendan Molloy, on behalf of the National Council

Motion

  • Replace "twelve months" with "thirteen (13) months" in Article 2(3) ["Structure & Composition"].
  • Replace "12 months" with "thirteen (13) months" in Article 6.1(2) ["National Congress"].
  • Replace "twelve (12) months" with "thirteen (13) months" in Article 9.1(1) ["Election"].

Rationale

In April the National Council enacted this as a temporary operational amendment to the Party Constitution in order to provide more flexibility when choosing the date of the National Congress.

Extending the time out to 13 months allows for the date of the National Congress to be selected according to other considerations. For example, this year the venue was not available on the chosen date, and vital organisers were not available on the original date we had hoped for. Bringing the date forward to the end of June would cause possible conflict with exams for many of our student members, and pushing it back to the end of July was unconstitutional. The temporary amendment was passed for this reason, which is why we are able to hold it closer to the end of July this year.

This amendment will provide the National Council with greater flexibility when it comes to setting the date of the National Congress.

According to Article 8.4(2) ["Operational and Temporary Amendments"] this must come before a vote at the National Congress, and it will lapse if it does not pass.

CAP-2B: Fix National Congress dates and National Council terms

Put by: Brendan Molloy

Motion

  • Delete ", for a period of no more than twelve months" from Article 2(3) ["Structure & Composition"].
  • Replace Article 6.1(2) ["National Congress"] with:

Constitutional Amendment Proposal Text

  • A National Congress must be held in July each year, and shall be referred to as the Annual National Congress where disambiguation is necessary.
  • Replace Article 9.1(1) ["Election"] with:

Constitutional Amendment Proposal Text

  • The positions enumerated within Article 3.3 ["Positions"] will be appointed by election through a vote of the Full Members at the National Congress, for a term that shall begin at the National Congress at which they are elected, and will all end at the next Annual National Congress, except where otherwise provided for in this Constitution.

Rationale

The amendments to Article 2(3) ["Structure & Composition"] and Article 9.1(1) ["Election"] do not remove the term limit--they merely remove points of inconsistency. Article 9.1(1) ["Election"] states that the term begins at the National Congress and ends at the next one, but also states a maximum time period of 12 months. This removes the time period ambiguity and links it directly to Article 6.1(2) ["National Congress"].

This wording ensures that a National Congress is always hosted in July, which has been the month used for the last 5, which also provides for enough wiggle room to not require awkward election periods of 13 months, as this would allow at most a tenure of 1 July to the next 31 July, and at a minimum 31 July to the next 1 July.

For the sake of clarity, the National Congress always has the ability to motion for the spilling of any position within the party regardless of whether this amendment passes. This means that calling an emergency National Congress to remove a bad National Council would still follow the same procedure as before, except the replacement NC would automatically spill at the next Annual National Congress.

CAP-3: Amend Principles to include evidence-based policy, and deliberative and open government

Motion

Put by: Brendan Molloy

  • Replace "transparency and open government." with ""transparency, evidence-based policy, and deliberative and open government." in Part I ["Principles & Objects of the Party"].

Rationale

Some people have asked on what basis we guarantee that our policies are based on the best available evidence. While convention is sufficient for many, this amendment would codify this convention into a party principle. It also clarifies our position on taking a deliberative approach to solving problems, instead of who can yell the loudest.

CAP-4: Minor Corrections

Put by: Brendan Molloy

Motion

  • Replace "meeting- however" with "meeting. However, " in Article 6(3) ["Meeting Procedure and Requirements"].
  • Replace "unaffiliate" with "disaffiliate" in Article 6.1(4) ["National Congress"] and Article 6(9) ["Meeting Procedure and Requirements"].
  • Replace "competing in" with "contesting", and replace "Such branches would" with "These branches", in Article 2.1(2) ["State and Territory Branches"].
  • Replace "two thirds" with "two-thirds" anywhere it appears in the Constitution.
  • Replace "should" with "must" in Article 6 ["Meeting Procedure and Requirements"] and all subarticles.
  • Replace Article 5.1(1) ["Development"] with:

Constitutional Amendment Proposal Text

  • Policy development must occur with as much interaction with members as is feasible, the process must be as participatory as is feasible, and outcomes must be reached through consensus where feasible.

Rationale

Minor typographical and grammatical error corrections. Made Article 5.1(1) ["Development"] read significantly better, changing some "should" to "must" and "possible" to "feasible".

CAP-5: Clarify and remove unnecessary examples from Article 2(1)

Put by: Brendan Molloy and Tim Serong

Motion

  • Replace Article 2(1) ["Structure & Composition"] with:

Constitutional Amendment Proposal Text

The Party shall be governed at a Federal level by a body entitled the “National Council”. The National Council may create additional structures and subordinate organisations, such as committees, working groups or branches, as it sees fit.

Rationale

Presumption of committee names in the Constitution is a bit annoying, and in the process, unnecessary implied what style of subordinate organisation that the NC would be empowered to create, which is now clarified.

Clarifies that the NC has the power to create committees, working groups and branches, as it already has. It also clarifies that a branch is considered a subordinate organisation that can be overridden by the Federal Party.

CAP-6: Clarify Article 2(5) ["Structure & Composition"]

Put by: Brendan Molloy

Motion

  • Replace Article 2(5) ["Structure & Composition"] with:

Constitutional Amendment Proposal Text

  • The National Council, as the paramount governing body of the Party, has the authority to overrule or amend any policy or decision of any subordinate organisation (except the Dispute Resolution Committee), if it deems those things to be inconsistent with or repugnant to the values, ideals or policies of the Party.
  • A two-thirds majority vote of the National Council is required for any action from paragraph (5) to be taken against a subordinate organisation or their decisions.

Rationale

There were major grammatical flaws in this paragraph, which have been corrected, without changing the purpose behind this paragraph, by breaking it into two separate paragraphs.

CAP-7: Update membership requirements and powers in Article 4.1 ["Eligibility"]

Put by: Brendan Molloy

Motion

  • Replace "registered" with "registered or unregistered" in Article 4.1(1)(c) ["Eligibility"].
  • Replace Article 4.1(1)(d) ["Eligibility"] with:

Constitutional Amendment Proposal Text

Have not been members of another registered or unregistered political party in Australia in the previous twelve (12) months, unless this is disclosed in the membership application by the applicant.

  • Replace Article 4.1(2) ["Eligibility"] with:

Constitutional Amendment Proposal Text

  • A Member's Party membership will not lapse unless the Member resigns from the Party in writing to the National Council, or an applicable membership fee is failed to be paid more than ninety (90) days after their membership period has expired.
  • A Member must be sent an email to inform them that their membership will lapse in 30 days before that Member's membership may lapse.
  • The National Council may at its discretion opt to waive membership fees on a case-by-case basis.

Rationale

The first and second items ensure that members who join that were previously members of a party that was or is unregistered must declare it on their application form. This also changes the requirement from requiring an active acknowledgement from the National Council. This power had never been exercised.

The third item clarifies our membership arrangements such that a member can have their membership declared to have lapsed after 90 days, not within two years as the current Constitution states. A safeguard is introduced to require that that member is informed that their membership will lapse 30 days before it lapses. This means that if the National Council does not notice that a member has been late in their payment of their dues, they cannot be removed without an extra 30 days of warning being provided.

It also ensures that the National Council has explicit powers to waive membership fees conditionally, such as in cases of hardship.

CAP-8: Clarify ambiguity of Article 6(6) ["Meeting Procedure and Requirements"]

Put by: Brendan Molloy

Motion

  • Replace Article 6(6) ["Meeting Procedure and Requirements"] with:

Constitutional Amendment Proposal Text

  • The method of voting and the medium by which the meeting occurs is to be determined by the meeting facilitator, except where otherwise provided for by this Constitution.

Rationale

This paragraph was grammatically flawed, with the potential to cause confusion. The purpose of this clause has not been changed beyond correcting any ambiguity.

CAP-9: Create Article for National Congress Online Voting

Put by: Brendan Molloy

Motion

  • Delete Article 6(9) ["Meeting Procedure and Requirements"].
  • Insert a subsection at the end of Article 6 as follows:

Constitutional Amendment Proposal Text

6.x Online Voting

  1. Some elements of the National Congress and Policy Meetings are required to be put to a final vote on an online voting system.
  2. The online voting period must not be less than seven (7) days.
  3. Motions of the following types that carry at a National Congress will be put to a final vote on an online voting system for Full Members, where said motions will only carry if they pass by the threshold provided for by the Constitution, or where not provided, a two-thirds majority:
    1. Constitutional amendments,
    2. Platform amendments, policy amendments and position statements
    3. Other documentation that guides party position or direction, and
    4. Party mergers, formal affiliations or disaffiliations with other organisations.
  4. Motions of the following types that carry at a Policy Meeting will be put to a final vote on an online voting system for Full Members, where said motions will only carry if they pass by the threshold provided for by the Constitution, or where not provided, a two-thirds majority:
    1. Platform amendments, policy amendments and position statements
  5. Officer election requirements as provided for by the Constitution, including for the Dispute Resolution Committee, will be fulfilled by the online voting system.

Rationale

The current wording is all shoved into the end of another Article somewhat as an afterthought, with rushed and difficult to understand wording. That paragraph has been expanded to a full Article for easier amendment and expansion in the future, and clarifies some edge-cases that were left ambiguous by the previous wording.

EDIT (8 July, 2014): conditional markers referred to a proposal that had been withdrawn, so updated to reflect that. Also corrected the insertion position in the motion, as it was invalid.

CAP-10: Correct Ambiguity for Article 11(1) ["Dispute Resolution Committee"]

Put by: Brendan Molloy

Motion

  • Remove Article 11(1)(a) ["Dispute Resolution Committee"].
  • Amend Article 11(1) ["Dispute Resolution Committee"] to:

Constitutional Amendment Proposal Text

At the National Congress, members of the Party must elect three (3) members who will form the Dispute Resolution Committee, as per the requirements of Article 9.1 ["Dispute Resolution Committee"].

Rationale

Clears up some ambiguity.

Changes the voting mechanism from simple majority to optional preferential voting, as per all other officer elections. It simply cannot work (and has never been done!) for multi-candidate elections.

Removes an unenforceable clause about someone "should" be legally qualified. This can be returned in the future if we choose to reform the DRC properly.

CAP-11: Move Article 3.1.1 ["Refusal, Suspension and Expulsion"] to become Article 4.5 ["Membership"]

Motion

  • Move Article 3.1.1 ["Refusal, Suspension and Expulsion"] to become Article 4.5 ["Membership"]
  • Remove now empty Article 3.1 ["Powers"]

Rationale

This was proposed at the last National Congress but in the context of the larger document does not make sense to be placed where it has been and should be moved back to Article 4 ["Membership"].

CAP-12: Standardise Election of Registered Officer

Put by: Brendan Molloy

Motion

  • Remove Article 3.3.7.1(3) ["Duties and Responsibilities"]

Rationale

It does not make sense that this position is elected differently to the other councillors.

CAP-13: Requirement for National Congresses to have online participation

Put by: Brendan Molloy

Motion

  • Insert paragraph at the end of Article 6.1 ["National Congress"]:

Constitutional Amendment Proposal Text

  • Every effort must be taken to ensure that there is some accessible and as equitable as feasible mechanism available for remote participation at the National Congress.

Rationale

Enshrining something that we have continually done for the last several Congresses to ensure that this continues regardless of who the National Council is made up of.

A poem about this is courtesy of Andrew Downing:

Online members are important
else our cause will be discordant.
Every effort must be taken
to ensure they're not forsaken.
At our congress they're online
or else our motions are not fine.

CAP-14: Announcement criteria for National Congress

Put by: Brendan Molloy

Motion

  • Delete "and at least seven days in advance of the National Congress" from Article 6(2) ["Meeting Procedure and Requirements"]
  • Insert paragraph after Article 6.1(2) ["National Congress"]:

Constitutional Amendment Proposal Text

  • The National Congress must be announced forty-two (42) days prior to the date of the National Congress.
  • The agenda must be finalised at least seven (7) days prior to the date of the National Congress.

Rationale

42 days is 6 weeks.

The current wording allows a National Congress to be called within 7 days. This is an issue for multiple reasons.

Article 8.1(2) ["Amendments"] requires that constitutional amendments are proposed 28 days prior to the National Congress, but there is no formal way to propose an amendment prior to the announcement of the meeting, making it impossible to amend the constitution if a meeting is called less than 28 days before it is expected to occur.

It is also an unreasonably short period of time to give to the members to organise flights and accommodation if the National Congress is being held as a physical event.

Also 42.

CAP-15: Insert a new part: Definitions

Put by: Brendan Molloy

Motion

  • Insert the following part after Part I ["Principles & Objects of the Party"]:

Constitutional Amendment Proposal Text

Part II: Definitions

  • Simple majority: one half (1/2), ignoring the remainder, plus one (1) of votes on the motion must be in favour of the motion for it to carry. Abstaining is not considered for the purposes of calculating the majority but still contributes to meeting the relevant quorum.
  • Absolute majority: one half (1/2), ignoring the remainder, plus one (1) of all members who have the right to vote on the motion must vote in favour of the motion for it carry. For the purposes of this type of majority, abstaining is equivalent to voting against the motion.
  • Two-thirds majority: two-thirds (2/3), ignoring the remainder, plus one (1) of votes on the motion must be in favour of the motion for it to carry. Abstaining is not considered for the purposes of calculating the majority but still contributes to meeting the relevant quorum.
  • Absolute two-thirds majority: two-thirds (2/3), ignoring the remainder, plus one (1) of all members who have the right to vote on the motion must vote in favour of the motion for it carry. For the purposes of this type of majority, abstaining is equivalent to voting against the motion.
  • Three-quarters majority: three-quarters (3/4), ignoring the remainder, plus one (1) of votes on the motion must be in favour of the motion for it to carry. Abstaining is not considered for the purposes of calculating the majority but still contributes to meeting the relevant quorum.
  • Optional preferential voting: a type of voting where the voter may opt to fill in as few as none and as many as all of the fields provided, with numbering relevant to the voting system being used.

Rationale

Other parties such as the Greens have a Definitions part to their Constitution, which serves to clarify the definition of terms commonly used within the Constitution that may result in debate and confusion if not clearly defined in a central repository.

It is forseen based on our experience with PPI that debates about what constitutes a majority are a popular are of contention in close votes, so this preemptively solves this issue.

CAP-16: Clarify some references to majorities and quorum

Put by: Brendan Molloy

Motion

  • Replace "majority" with "simple majority" in Article 6(5) ["Meeting Procedure and Requirements"].
  • Replace "majority" with "two-thirds majority" in Article 6.1(4) ["National Congress"].
  • Replace "A majority vote of the" with "The" in Article 4.3(1) ["Additional Categories of Membership"]
  • Replace Article 3.2 ["Quorum"] with:

Constitutional Amendment Proposal Text

3.2 Quorum and Majorities

  1. Unless otherwise provided within this Constitution, no question regarding Party business is to be decided or resolved at a meeting of the National Council unless at least five (5) members or two-thirds of the National Council are present, whichever number is greater.
  2. A Councillor may add their contribution to quorum if they are unable to attend, but only for specified issues, by express, written consent, conditional on the following:
    1. The vote may only be applied where the exact motion text was known to the Councillor in advance, and the vote is for the unmodified text.
    2. Written consent must be included within the minutes.
  3. (If CAP-15 lapses) Only for the purposes of calculating a majority, Councillors who are not present are considered to have voted against the motion being considered if a Councillor has not provided a position on that motion as per paragraph (2).
  4. (If CAP-15 carries) All motions must be carried by an absolute two-thirds majority of the National Council.
  5. The quorum for any motion to accept the minutes of a previous meeting is set at the number of Councillors who attended that meeting. All Councillors absent from the previous meeting abstain by default.

Rationale

The first item of the motion clarifies the type of majority in Article 6(5) ["Meeting Procedure and Requirements"].

The second item changes the requirement for a successful vote to affiliate or disaffiliate from an organisation to be two-thirds instead of a simple majority.

The third item merely removes a tautology. (Original line: "A majority vote of the National Council may propose to existing members the creation of additional categories of Membership of the Party.")

The final item relays out the article, changing its title to clarify its purpose, and moving some of the paragraphs to the top level, as their placement was erroneous. Some terms have been capitalised for consistency. The line "Written consent must be included within the minutes." has had "should" changed to "must".

The final item of the text introduces a new rule to solve ambiguity when dealing with the acceptance of minutes of a previous meeting. I am uncertain whether it would be best to have this in the Constitution or as a by-law. This can be determined at the Congress.

CAP-17: Make "Pre-Selection of Candidates for Election to Federal Parliament" a top level Article

Motion

  • Move Article 6.3 ["Pre-Selection of Candidates for Election to Federal Parliament"] to become Article 7

Rationale

It doesn't make sense to have such an important Article shoved into Meeting Procedure and Requirements.

CAP-18: Clarify policy formulation

Motion

  • Delete Article 5.2(2) ["Adoption"]

Rationale

Article 5.2(2) ["Adoption"] states that new policy should be introduced by the tenuous phrase "general consensus". The paragraph goes on to require the National Council to then vote on whether there was consensus, and if not, put it to a vote. As we have always put our policies to a majority vote, this article no longer has relevance and is currently contradictory our practices, and has been overlooked for years.

CAP-19: Consistent references to numbers

Motion

  • Change all references to numbers to follow the format of written form followed by numerical digit in brackets, eg four (4), forty (40), fifteen hundred and six (1506).

Rationale

Consistency.

CAP-20: National Congress Quorum clarification

Motion

  • Insert the following paragraph into Article 6.1 ["National Congress"]:

Constitutional Amendment Proposal Text

  • No business shall be considered by the National Congress unless a quorum of twenty (20) members is met.

Rationale

Party convention has introduced ambiguity on what constitutes a quorum for the National Congress due to the introduction of online voting. This clarifies that no business may be considered without at least 20 people being present, be it remotely or physically, for the proceeding of the Congress that result in the motions to be voted on by the larger membership body who choose not to attend the meeting.