Fact Sheet No. 03/2003 7 May 2003, Australian Industrial Registry

Registration and Accountability of Organisations Legislation Fact Sheet

Rules and Membership of Organisations

The Registration and Accountability of Organisations Schedule (Schedule 1 to the Workplace Relations Act 1996) [the RAO Schedule], generally comes into operation on 12 May 2003. The RAO Schedule contains most of the matters previously dealt with in the body of the Workplace Relations Act 1996 [the Act], which relate to the registration and functioning of organisations of employers and employees under the Act. The Workplace Relations Legislation Amendment (Registration and Accountability of Organisations) (Consequential Provisions) Act 2002 [the RAOCP Act], deals with various transitional provisions arising from the introduction of the RAO Schedule.

Note: The information in this Fact Sheet does not cover all matters relating to rules or membership of organisations, nor does it include all related changes which come into force as a result of the coming into operation of the RAO Schedule and associated legislation.


Sections 140 to 155 of the RAO Schedule deal with the contents of rules of registered organisations, such as matters which must be included, matters which are specifically allowed, and matters which are not allowed in rules.

Sections 156 to 162 deal with alteration of rules.

Sections 163 to 164B outline the functions of the Federal Court in relation to invalid rules and directions for performance of rules.

Sections 166 to 179 deal with various aspects of membership including entitlement, resignation, termination and liability for arrears.

Requirements of rules

Section 141 lists some specific matters for which an organisation's rules must make provision, along with some restrictions on certain rules. These were previously found in s195 of the Act.

Section 142 contains provisions that rules must not be contrary to law or awards etc., hinder certain conduct, and must not impose oppressive, unreasonable or unjust impositions on, or discriminate between, members or applicants for membership.

NEW Discriminatory rules:

In addition to matters previously covered in s196 of the Act, a new provision is made [in s142(1)(d)], which requires that rules must not discriminate against members, or applicants for membership, on a list of specified grounds (including but not limited to, race, sex and age). An exception is made to the prohibition on age discrimination, which allows membership subscription rates to be based on age in some circumstances.

Note: New provisions included in Subsection 163(1) allow applicants for membership (in addition to members) to seek orders in the Federal Court declaring rules to be in contravention of the "oppressive" and "discriminatory" provisions of s142.

Sections 143 to 146 deal with requirements of rules relating to elections and terms of office, which were found in former ss197-200 of the Act.

NEW Closing of voters' roll

In addition to the matters covered in former s197 of the Act, s143(1)(e)(i) makes a new requirement, that for all direct voting system elections, the rules must make provision for the day on which the roll of voters closes. That day must be between 7 and 30 days before nominations open [s143(3)].

NEW Declaration envelopes

The definition of "postal ballot" (in section 6 of the Schedule) now includes a requirement to use a "declaration envelope" (also defined in s6). Section 188 provides that no vote in a secret ballot will be counted unless it is returned in a declaration envelope. Rules relating to conduct of elections for office by postal ballots will need to be consistent with these new provisions.

NEW Extension of terms of office near retirement age

The provision found in former s199(1)(b) of the Act, which allowed some extension of term of office without election for officials nearing retiring age, has been removed [see s145 of Schedule]. Item 28(b) of the RAOCP Act, effectively voids any existing rules made under that provision, in respect of any election not commenced before 12 May 2003. Any rules based on former s199(1)(b), will need to be removed in order that the rules, as a whole, will conform with the Schedule.

NEW Model rules

Sections 147 & 148 allow for the development of model rules regarding elections and the conduct of officers and employees. When promulgated, organisations will be able to choose to adopt such model rules in whole or in part.

Sections 149 to 155 deal with various other provisions which may or must be included in rules. The provisions of s149 to 151 were found in former s201 & 202 of the Act.

NEW Assets and Liabilities Agreements

Section 152 allows Organisations and State Unions to enter into agreements about the control of assets and liabilities. Such an agreement does not come into force until the Commission is satisfied of certain matters. Sections 153 & 154 provide for the Federal Court to require compliance, resolve difficulties, and approve terminations of these agreements.

Sections 156 to 162 deal with the manner in which rules may be altered.

Section 156 reflects former s203 of the Act, and allows the Industrial Registrar to alter rules to bring them into conformity with the Schedule.

Note: Item 26 of the RAOCP Act provides that the Registrar must not exercise the power in s156 in relation to any new RAO Schedule provisions, until the expiration of the interim period, namely 6 months (with provision for possible extension of a maximum of a further 6 months, upon application).

Item 27 of the RAOCP Act requires the Industrial Registrar to review the rules of each organisation at the expiration of the interim period under Item 26.

NEW The Industrial Registrar has a separate power under section 247 to alter rules in relation to reporting units in certain circumstances. (see separate Facts Sheet on Accounting, auditing and reporting obligations).

Section 157 reflects former s203A of the Act, and outlines the Commission's power to alter rules, where there has been a breach of an undertaking in relation to demarcation proceedings.

Sections 158 & 159 set out the manner in which alterations to eligibility rules and other rules are consented to by the Commission and certified by Registrars, respectively. These provisions were found in former s204 and s205 of the Act.

Sections 163 to 164B deal with applications to the Federal Court for orders regarding rules in contravention of s142, directions for performance of rules and rectification of breaches of rules. The former equivalent provisions were found in s208 & s209 of the Act.

NEW Section 164A is a new provision clarifying the Court's powers to make orders to rectify breaches of rules.

Other rules related provisions

NEW Section 266 (which relates to financial reporting to members) contains a new provision, the operation of which may require alterations to rules of many organisations in relation to General Meetings. Under s266(1) & (2), a reporting unit must present financial documents to a general meeting of members. However, where the rules "provide for a specified percentage (not exceeding 5%) of members to be able to call a general meeting" for the purpose, s266(3) provides that the reports may be presented to a Committee of Management meeting instead.

Note: Where the rules of an organisation do not make provision for the calling of general meetings for each reporting unit, (including for the organisation as a whole), it will be necessary for new rules providing for the manner of summoning of such meetings, to be made and certified in time to enable them to be utilised for the first financial reporting period affected by the new reporting provisions.

If an organisation wishes some or all of its reporting units to utilise the provisions of s266(3), (i.e. to present financial documents to a committee of management meeting instead of a general meeting), then the organisation will need to ensure that the rules provide for members to be able to call general meetings of those reporting units in accordance with s266(3).

NEW Provision of list of offices etc. to members

In addition to the requirement to supply copies of rules to members found in former s289 of the Act, Section 347 now requires organisations to supply copies of lists of offices and holders of office to members, upon request.

Membership of Organisations

Sections 166 to 171 deal with entitlement to, and statements regarding, membership and the powers of the Federal Court in relation to membership. Equivalent provisions were found in former s260 to s263 & s266 of the Act.

NEW Section 172 requires organisations to remove from its Register of Members, the name and address of any member who has not paid subscriptions for 24 months since the amount became payable. This must be done within 12 months of the end of that 24 month period. Section 173 provides that no entrance fee is payable by a person removed under s172 who rejoins within 6 months. (Note also section 231 which requires a copy of the register of members as at 31 December each year, to be kept for 7 years.)

Section 174 deals with the manner in which a member can resign and reflects previous s264 of the Act. A note to this section indicates that rules may provide for electronic forms of resignation.

NEW Sections 175 & 176 are penalty provisions regarding the giving of false information about a person's membership of an organisation or about resignation from an organisation.

Section 177 deals with disputes between members and reflects former s290 of the Act.

Sections 178 & 179 deal with liability for and recovery of, arrears of membership subscriptions etc., and reflect former ss264A & 265 of the Act.

This material has been prepared by the Australian Industrial Registry as a general guide to the Workplace Relations (Registration and Accountability of Organisations) legislation. This material should not be treated as advice on the circumstances of any particular case. This material does not have any legal status; the relevant law is set out in Schedule 1 to the Workplace Relations Act 1996 (the RAO Schedule), the RAO Schedule Regulations and the Workplace Relations Legislation Amendment (Registration and Accountability of Organisations) (Consequential Provisions) Act 2002.

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