Unconstitutional Funding Revisited

SSAA Newcastle Branch has obtained the opinion of Senior Counsel on the constitutionality of SSAA (NSW) donating $250,000 to the Shooters Party election fund without the approval of the members in a special resolution.

The opinion finds that the donation was unconstitutional as previously stated here, contrary to the opinion of a solicitor engaged by SSAA(NSW) who was subsequently nominated as a candidate for the Shooters Party in the State election.

Senior Counsel opinion carries considerable weight and is regarded as more likely to reflect the views of a court than a solicitor.

The opinion obtained by Newcastle Branch reads as follows:

Opinion

RE: SPORTING SHOOTERS ASSOCIATION OF AUSTRALIA (NSW) INCORPORATED

1. My instructing solicitors act on behalf of the Sporting Shooters Association of Australia (NSW) Newcastle Branch Incorporation (the “Newcastle Branch”) an association incorporated under the Association Incorporations Act 1984 (NSW) (the “Newcastle Branch” and the “Act” respectively).

2. The Newcastle Branch is a member of the Sporting Shooters Association of Australia (NSW) Incorporated under the Act (the “New South Wales Branch”). My advice has been sought concerning whether the payment of funds by the New South Wales Branch to the “Shooters Party” (which I assume is a political party registered under Party 4A of the Parliamentary Electorates and Elections Act 1912 (NSW)) was undertaken in accordance with, or contrary to, its rules.

3.  I am instructed that some time in the latter part of 2006 the “Board of Directors” of the New South Wales Branch resolved to donate the sum of $250,000 to the Shooters Party. The decision was not placed before the members for their approval and, in particular, no special resolution of the members was obtained to approve the payment. Some time prior to 19 October 2006 the monies were paid to the Shooters Party.

4. I have been briefed with what I am instructed are the rules of the New South Wales Branch (the “Rules”) and I am assuming that they replace the model rules in force under the Act (see sub-section 19(2)(a) of the Act). Clause 3 sets out the “Aims, Objects and Purposes” of the New South Wales Branch. Clause 3.11 specifically identifies as one of the “Aims, Objects and Purposes” the opposing of “all aspects of firearms or firearms use legislation”.

5. Clause 4 of the Rules is headed “Powers“. It relevantly provides as follows:

“The powers of the Association are:-

4.1 …

4.7 The investment of any moneys of the Association not immediately required for any of its aims, objects or purposes in such manner as the Board may from time to time determine.  

4.8 Except as specifically permitted by a special resolution of the Association, the making of gifts, subscriptions or donations to any worthy cause, unless the funds are raised specifically for that purpose, are limited to an amount in total of any one year $500.00. 

4.9 The establishment or participation in insurance or superannuation scheme/s to benefit employees or past employees.

4.10 To do any other lawful things that may be deemed necessary or convenient in the pursuance of the aims, objects and purposes of the Association.”

Clause 6.3 also provides:

“6.3.1 The Board shall be subject to the relevant legislation, these rules and any resolution passed by the Association in general meeting:

a) shall control and manage the affairs of the Association;

b) may exercise all such functions that are not required by these rules to be exercised by general meeting of member branches of the Association;

c) has the power to  perform all such acts and do all such things as appear to the Board to be necessary or desirable for the proper management of the affairs of the Association.

…”

6. Clause 7.10.1 of the Rules defines “special resolution”. For present purposes it can be treated as a resolution of not less than 3/4 of the members voting in person or by proxy at a meeting of which not less than 21 days written notice has been provided (see also sub-section 5(1)(a) of the Act).

7. In my view, Rule 4.8 clearly restricts the making of “gifts, subscriptions or donations” to any external body which is judged to be a “worthy cause” unless the funds are raised specifically for that purpose or are approved by a special resolution of the members. The clause is not meant to cover payments for services rendered or goods supplied but does restricte donations to external bodies such as political parties to assist them with an election. The restriction is not overcome by clause 4.10 because it only enables the body to do “any other” lawful thing; i.e. something that is not governed by clause 4.8. Further, clause 6.3.1 of the Rules does not empower the Board to make any such payment as that clause is subject to the Rules including rule 4.8.

8. I have been instructed that neither the New South Wales Branch nor its member bodies engaged in specific fund raising for the Shooters Party prior to providing the $250,000. Further, the material available to me suggests that the payment was a donation to the Shooters Party and not some form of payment for services rendered. In my view it follows that the payment was not authorised by the Rules.

9. I have been briefed with correspondence from the President of the New South Wales Branch suggesting that the Shooters Party did not answer the definition of “worthy cause” and clause 4.8  was only intended to apply to a charitable or similar body such as the Red Cross, Cancer Council, Lions Club etc. In my view this is not a correct interpretation of the Clause 4.8. I do not consider that the phrase “worthy cause” add any further limitation on the context of “gifts, subscriptions or donations”.  It merely highlights that the clause is concerned with donations. What is “worthy” is a matter to be judged by the New South Wales Branch and, in particular, by its members in considering a special resolution. Clause 4.8 serves the important purpose of securing member control over the payments of funds (other than for services or for other value). In my view that important purpose would be defeated by interpreting the clause in the manner contended for by the President of the New South Wales Branch.

10. The correspondence from the President also contends that the payment was not covered by clause 4.8 because the payment to the Shooters Party was not an “unconditional donation” but was only to be made “for the express purpose of the party’s campaign”. This makes no difference. A conditional donation is still a donation. The monies were not paid to the Shooters party for the supply of services but for the Shooters Party to pursue its own interests in seeking the election of its candidates.

11. Accordingly, I consider that the payment of the funds by the New South Wales BAssociation to the Shooters Party was not undertaken in accordance with the Rules and was thereby contrary to sub-section 18(1) of the Act.

12. For the sake of completeness I confirm that I am not addressing the consequences of the breach as that would require further inquiry and a consideration of sub-section 18(5) of the Act.

I so advise.

ROBERT BEECH-JONES SC

St James Hall Chambers

20 March 2007

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10 Responses to Unconstitutional Funding Revisited

  1. Bruce says:

    Hmmmm seems that the powers that be may have overstepped the mark spending our money without proper consent, but then when did they ever ask?

  2. David says:

    Classic SSAA internal bitchiness.

    Nice to see this rubbish being pulled in the leadup to the the election.

    Way to shoot yourselves in the foot.

  3. Bill says:

    Get stuffed David you prat. Spending $250,000 of our money without our approval is a big deal.
    There’s other things that matter besides one miserable election. If they can give our money away on this, who knows what they’ll give it to next?

  4. David says:

    Excuse me???

    For the record it’s my money too.

    And a lot of other SSAA members across NSW that i’ve heard from also support it.

    In fact why dont you spend tens of thousands of dollars in a retrospective vote on the matter just to settle it???

    Just before the election at a time when shooters should be banding together to support the party that’s looking out for your interests you get a bunch of REAL PRAT’S who pull this rubbish.

    The greens must be looking at this and laughing their arses off.

    Now much money is the Newcastle Branch going to piss up the wall in a little girly sook session that most of the SSAA NSW members think is money well spent??

  5. Bill says:

    “And a lot of other SSAA members across NSW that i’ve heard from also support it.”

    Well then the vote would have been in favour, wouldn’t it? But there was no vote because they didn’t follow the constitution. That’s the whole point. You can break the law if you want but please use your own money, not mine.

    As for who is looking after my interests, we all have our own views.

  6. Gary Vandersluis says:

    Lets not miss the point. As the NSW Constitution and the Sydney branch constitution are essentially the same document with only the names changed this is about a breach of their constitutions not whether the donations were a good thing or not. Those like myself who believe in the law raised this issue with Roy Smith and by proxy Bill Shelton at the time and we were arragantly disregarded by both. The fact is that in each case the Association,NSW and Sydney, only had to call a Special General meeting to approve the Donations which might have happened if as some correspondents believe, the majority of Members do support them.
    The law is the law and unfortunately it seems that successful or not as a shooters party candidate we can only hope that Roy Smith is not tainted by this unconstitutional act of the Association branch off which he was president

  7. BOBLEE says:

    Whether the donation is illegal or not, the real crime is to publicise INTERNAL POLITICS at that critical time.
    This bullshit infighting is what is keeping 2/3 rds of the LAFO’s from supporting our sports without unity we are nothing.
    Perhaps now that the election is over we need to ask the membership to vote on this and whether the rank and file membership should have more say instead of those who use our money for things that will never benefit the majority.
    As a member of SSAA for almost 40 years I do not have any interest in ranges, target shooting, game parks etc I have never attended a SSAA meeting partly due to locality but mostly due to the fact that I have no interest in bitchy self serving personally motivated internal politics by big frogs in little puddles.
    I did however start a local Hunting Club which is affiliated with SSAA and including 50 full SSAA members now numbers 320+ members in an area that would never be considered to have strong hunting traditions.
    Few of our members if any is interested in SSAA range activities as they are except for a few pistol shooters and clay targets well catered for elsewhere, and except for perhaps 50, none are interested in meetings etc.
    All are now supporting the SSAA financially by varying degrees for which they recieve sweet FA except insurance and the hope that they will be supported politically.
    Do the prats (fits) at Newcastle who put their own interests above everybody else’s really believe that our members would disagree with the actions of the Executive whether it is eventually found to be legal or illegal but definitely in good faith for the benefit of all members not the self serving few.
    Note our own small Club donated $2000 to the Team 2007 fighting fund despite only having $10 left per member after affiliation fees and covered almost 40 booths.

  8. BOBLEE says:

    Gary V
    This is not about a “breach” of the constitution it is about a percieved breach by a bunch of Prats who obviously by the timing, have their own agenda which they are prepared to put above everybody elses.

  9. David Leyonhjelm says:

    the real crime is to publicise INTERNAL POLITICS at that critical time.

    Internal to what? The SSAA?
    Critical to what? The Shooters Party?
    They are quite different organisations.

    It also sounds like you think free speech should be a crime. Nice.

    Do the prats (fits) at Newcastle who put their own interests above everybody else’s really believe that our members would disagree with the actions of the Executive whether it is eventually found to be legal or illegal but definitely in good faith for the benefit of all members not the self serving few.

    Newcastle branch was merely seeking adherence to the constitution and the rights of members. They were correct to do so and it is far from self-serving.

    They did not argue against the donation. They did not claim it should be spent on range development. They simply said the constitution should be followed, meaning members are the only ones who can legally approve donations. All donations over $500, not just this one.

    our own small Club donated $2000 to the Team 2007 fighting fund despite only having $10 left per member after affiliation fees

    Well done, but I’m sure your members had a vote and approved of the donation if that’s what your constitution requires.

    a percieved breach .

    A breach according to a SC, which probably means a breach in law. If it went to court, the committee members may well be personally liable.

    by a bunch of Prats who obviously by the timing, have their own agenda which they are prepared to put above everybody elses

    Let me get this straight. Because you would have voted for the donation if you were given the chance, you think anyone who believes you should have had the chance to vote is a prat?

    I think you are the prat. You don’t understand the difference between right and wrong.

  10. Bruce says:

    A hand full of hogs with their snouts in the trough have been making the descions for years and now someone has finally woke up, maybe time for a change in management in the greatest shooting organisation in Australia, or are all the sheep going to continue to hand over their hard earnt money and have no control over what it is spent on. Many times very intelligent people with good credentials have nominated for positions in the SSAA, but have been seen coming and told to bugger off, or you have to work your way up through the ranks before you can take a position here. In this case Roy Smith should have joined a branch of the shooters party and spent 10 years working for mob to make up for the years he supported his mates who tried to destroy the Shooters Party

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