6. Procedural matters

The Executive Officer is responsible for advising Members of the scheduled meeting dates no less than 14 days before a meeting is due to be held. As far as possible, meetings will be scheduled to take account of the availability of Members, however, it may not always be possible to meet individual requirements. There is an expectation that, in accepting appointment to a committee, Members have made a commitment to be available for, and make time to attend, meetings. However, if exceptional circumstances (ie sudden illness or unforeseen work or personal circumstances) prevent a Member from attending a meeting, he/she must advise the Chairperson before the date of the meeting.

6.1.1 Alternate or Deputy Members

There is no provision in AFMA’s legislation for alternate or deputy Members and AFMA does not support such a concept for the following reasons:

  1. members are appointed to particular committees on the basis of their skills and expertise, and because of their ability to complement the skills of other Members
  2. it is important to have consistency in membership to ensure continuity and consistency in discussion and decision making
  3. in relation to MACs, appointments are statutory in nature, the same as Directors of the AFMA Board, and if a Member is unable to fulfil his/her responsibilities, he/she should resign from the MAC and allow for the appointment of a Member who can meet the responsibilities involved.

In exceptional circumstances, a Member may approach the Chairperson to seek agreement for a person to attend in their place as an adviser to the committee. However, this person will have Casual Observer status and will not be able to act as a Member of the committee.

6.2 Conduct in AFMA Committee Meetings

There are no formal rules that govern how Industry Members should conduct themselves in a meeting, or how debate should be conducted. The tone of interactions in a meeting is set by the Chair, who ‘manages’ a meeting to ensure that discussion takes place in a co-operative, orderly, mature and constructive manner.

AFMA considers that a co-operative rather than a ‘them and us’ approach to discussion in meetings is essential. This doesn’t mean that there won’t be disagreements from time to time on issues being considered by the committee. However, it does mean that, at the end of the day, agreement is reached through mature discussion, consultation and negotiation having regard to what is best for the fishery as a whole.

A general rule of debate adopted by AFMA is that, in addressing an agenda item, the Chair may ask a specific Member to ‘speak to’ (ie talk about) the item. The Chair then typically seeks comments from other Members of the committee. Members should address the committee by speaking to the Chair, rather than to specific Members. This ensures that all Members can concentrate on the comments. It also ensures that multiple ‘conversations’ between groups of Members do not happen at the same time.

The Chair will summarise views that emerge from the discussion of Members. If a recommendation/decision is made as a result of this discussion, the Chair will seek the Members’ approval of the wording for the recommendation/decision to be recorded in the minutes/report of the meeting. It is important that Members fully understand the recommendation/decision and seek clarification from the Chair if required. The Chair attempts to reach agreement on the wording of a recommendation/decision through consensus that emerges from discussion and negotiation. In these discussions it is important that Members consider what is best for the fishery as a whole. It is also important that Members express their comments as clearly as possible.

AFMA expects committees to reach agreement through consensus and does not support the use of voting as a mechanism for achieving outcomes. Where views are so different that agreement cannot be reached, Members are encouraged to reconsider the issue and/or seek further information before making their recommendation. On the occasions when Members can not reach consensus on an issue, the views of the Members and general discussion will be documented in the minutes/report of the meeting. It is important for Members to appreciate that the business of a meeting will flow more smoothly and quickly if they observe the general rules of debate described above and support order in the meeting.

6.2.1 Observers

Many committees allow persons who are not Members to attend committee meetings as observers. Persons wishing to attend a meeting should contact the committee Secretary/Executive Officer. The committee Chair is responsible for deciding whether observers may attend committee meetings, either for a particular item or items or for the whole meeting. However, as a general rule, this attendance should be limited to the extent necessary to provide for the effective management of the business before the committee. Where space is a constraint, priority for attendance is typically given to direct stakeholders over non-stakeholders.

Observers do not hold the same status at a meeting as a committee Member. However, like Members, observers are expected to conduct themselves in a way that ensures discussions take place in a mature and constructive manner. Observers may only address the meeting and/or participate in discussions when invited to do so by a committee Member (through the Chair), and are expected to respond to instructions from the Chair. Observers are not permitted to directly negotiate as a Member would on issues discussed in a meeting or to influence the negotiations of Members. Observers are also required to observe confidentiality requirements in relation to any papers and/or discussions which are identified as, or known to be, confidential to the committee proceedings and such information must not be distributed outside the meeting. If an observer is unclear about the status of any particular matter, he/she should seek advice from the committee’s Chair.

6.3 Developing the Meeting Agenda

Agendas for meetings of AFMA committees are usually prepared by the committee Secretary/Executive Officer in consultation with the Chair. Members may suggest topics for inclusion in the agenda or bring relevant issues to the attention of the Chair or the Secretary/Executive Officer.

6.4 Agenda Items

As a general rule, agenda items will be supported by background papers which are usually prepared by the Secretary/Executive Officer in consultation with AFMA. Papers may also be prepared by AFMA, external agencies, researchers or others depending on the committee’s purpose. Members may be asked to contribute background papers on issues for which they have particular knowledge or expertise or they may elect to submit a paper on their own initiative. Members wishing to submit papers for committee consideration should first contact the Secretary/Executive Officer and/or the Chair to ensure that the paper will be accepted as part of the agenda.

Unless otherwise specified, agenda papers are public documents and Members may provide copies to non-Members as part of the information sharing and dissemination process. However, in accordance with section 5 of this Paper, agenda papers and other documents which are marked as, or known to be, confidential must not be provided to any person who is not authorised to see them. Similarly, Members must not discuss any confidential document or fact which comes to their attention as a result of being a committee Member.

In some instances, background papers may not be prepared for specific agenda items, in which case the Chair or another member/s will usually introduce the item before it is opened for discussion.

6.4.1 Consideration of Agenda Items

Once background papers have been tabled, or items have been introduced, at a committee meeting they become available for consideration by all committee Members. If an Industry Member is concerned about the disclosure to non-Members (eg observers) of an issue that they consider may be sensitive, the Member should seek advice from the committee’s Chair, preferably before the meeting commences. Items, including papers, will generally not be withdrawn after they have been tabled. Deliberations and any formal recommendations arising from the committee’s consideration of the agenda items papers will be recorded in the minutes/report of the meeting.

6.5 Responding to Draft Minutes/Reports

Minutes/reports of meetings are an official, permanent, written record of the business transacted at a committee meeting. The purpose of the minutes/report is to provide an accurate, objective account of the proceedings, outcomes and actions arising from that meeting.

Following a committee meeting, a draft of the minutes/report of the meeting will be provided to committee Members, usually by the committee Secretary/Executive Officer, to give Members an opportunity to satisfy themselves that the draft minutes/report are an accurate record or summary of the proceedings of the meeting. Members are required to comment on whether the draft minutes/report are an accurate reflection of the discussion and any recommendations made at the meeting. Comments should not include views that a Member may hold but which he/she did not make known during the meeting. Members should provide comments on draft minutes/reports in writing, or verbally, either via the committee Secretary/Executive Officer prior to the following meeting of the committee or at the following meeting of the committee. If considered necessary, the committee may determine a shorter timeframe for comments.

Once any comments received from Members have been considered and, where appropriate, included in the draft minutes/report, the committee adopts the final minutes/report as an accurate record of the meeting, generally at the following meeting of the committee.

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