I was recently asked (on Twitter, but that part really isn’t that important), while discussing the Assistance and Access Bill (I’ve written about that particular topic a few times here already), why someone would join ITPA as a financial member. What does a member get back in return for $165 each year (roughly the annual cost of a takeaway coffee per week)?
It’s easy to rattle off some of the ‘tangible’ benefits — we provide members with a regular newsletter (the one you’re reading), an eBook each year when you renew, access to our discussion forums, an @member.itpa.org.au email address, access to the Symantec VIP multi-factor authentication solution, our DNS secondary service, a portable IPv6/48 allocation, access to our supporter discounts and our CPD program.
Now, I openly admit, some of those things won’t be of use to every member. Some members may actually struggle to make use of any of those specific benefits.
But is membership in an industry professional representative body just about the tangible ‘what lands back in my pocket?’ benefits?
Aside from keeping the lights on — keeping back-end systems online, ensuring that we can process and track memberships, that we’re fulfilling our obligations under a variety of regulatory bodies, and ensuring that the organisation’s (and thus the member’s) assets are protected — the majority of effort over the last few years (I say ‘few’; if you count SAGE-AU before us, then you’re talking about 20+ years) has gone into representing our members, and our industry, back to government and the public.
We’ve fought, hard, to ensure that our members’ interests are represented in a variety of areas. Just in the last 24 months:
- We strongly opposed the introduction of the Assistance and Access Bill (2018), which threatens the security and privacy of society online. And despite the legislation being passed, we are still fighting to, if not remove it entirely, lessen the impact it will have on law-abiding individuals in the general public (our members included).
- We slammed the idea that certain usage of the Internet wasn’t as important to others when NBN Co’s CEO accused gamers of ruining the fixed wireless portion of the nbn; had this idea taken off, net neutrality would have been under serious threat in Australia.
- We have repeatedly called out bad decisions on the National Broadband Network, pushing for sensible technology and financial treatment of this critical national infrastructure, so that when the network isn’t obsolete by the time it’s built and Australians can take full advantage of the social and economic benefits the project should deliver to the nation.
- We questioned the ongoing validity of the way the 457 visa scheme was being abused by some parties to artificially lower remuneration for IT professionals in Australia, and to force overseas-based workers to work on artificially low incomes in Australia or risk losing their sponsorship, and the ongoing impact this then had on the job prospects for Australian students studying IT. We specifically lodged an FOI request around the remuneration being provided to 457 visa recipients in IT roles (the Department of Immigration claimed not to have access to this information, despite there being minimum wage requirements that needed to be met under the scheme). The 457 visa scheme was abolished shortly thereafter, replaced with the (better, but still not perfect) ‘Temporary Skills Shortage’ visa scheme.
None of this kind of work would be done without organisations like ITPA. And ITPA cannot exist without members — and while it’s great that we have as many associate members as we do, we really need financial members to keep the organisation running. Although the board is staffed entirely by volunteers, without financial members we have no income, no way to pay our outgoing costs, and we simply would not exist.
If you value the representative work done by organisations such as ITPA, I urge you to join at least one of those organisations as a financial member. Obviously, I’d love to see you become a financial member of ITPA, to enable us to continue the work we’ve been doing, and to fight new battles as they arise.