An ASKAP antenna at the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory. Image Credit: Ant Schinckel, CSIRO.




Quarterly update: April 2007

Opening of the office at Swinburne University of Technology

On Monday 23rd April 2007 Astronomy Australia Ltd (AAL) formally opened its office at Swinburne University of Technology's Hawthorn campus. AAL's office is located in the Centre for Astrophysics and Supercomputing. We gratefully acknowledge the University's support in providing this office, along with a range of other services, such as hosting our website. The University was also the venue for AAL's first board meeting on 24th April 2007.

Annual General Meeting

AAL intends to hold its first Annual General Meeting (AGM) on 5th July 2007 in Sydney. The time and location of this meeting will be finalised shortly. This AGM will be the first opportunity for members to elect the board of directors. Members are also asked to contact AAL during May with any other items they may have for the agenda.

Nominations Committee

AAL is in the process of forming a nominations committee of the members to consider applications for the board of directors. The committee will be chaired by Prof Elaine Sadler and will meet the week beginning 28th May 2007. All members are invited to participate in the nominations committee, and are asked to contact AAL by 11th May 2007 if they wish to participate. To ensure adequate member representation, the committee should ideally have no less than seven people. The timeline for appointing the board is:

  • 4th May 2007: Public notice in the Australian of the AGM and call for directors.
  • 11th May 2007: Nominations committee formed.
  • 25th May 2007: Closing date for director applications.
  • week of 28th May 2007: Nominations committee meets.
  • 5th June 2007: Nominations passed to AAL.
  • 5th July 2007: Members elect board at AGM.

Once the committee is formed, the location and date of the meeting will be finalised. However, given the tight schedule, the committee will need to meet during the week beginning 28th May 2007.

All members are asked to encourage suitable candidates for the AAL board to contact AAL without delay. Suitable candidates must be able to act independently in discharging their duties as a director of AAL.

Director remuneration

The board set a rate of $488 per day for directors for the current financial year. This rate was guided by the current Government rate for such positions. For ease of administration, rather than ask directors to keep time sheets, participation in a board meeting will be considered as three days of work, covering preparation for the meeting, the meeting itself, and resulting actions. A director's participation in committee meetings, solely in the capacity as an AAL director, will be considered as one day of work. The 2007/08 remuneration rate will be set by the members at the AGM.

Strategic Options process

A major task for AAL during 2008 will be the recommendation to DEST on the use of the NCRIS strategic options fund. This decision will be greatly determined by the progress of the PILOT design study and the first year of the GMT DDP. Given the importance of this decision to the astronomical community, the process for making the decision will be agreed with the members at the AGM.

Income tax status

The ATO is currently in the process of re-assessing their pre-endorsement advice regarding AAL's income tax status. The ATO has also issued non-binding advice to DEST that even if AAL is not income tax exempt, the NCRIS grant paid to NCRIS participants will not be subject to income tax. AAL will shortly submit a formal ruling request to the ATO to confirm the income tax status of the NCRIS grant.

NCRIS contracts

The drafting of the astronomy NCRIS contract between AAL and DEST is now well advanced, and a copy of the draft contract has been circulated to all astronomy NCRIS participants for comment. The NCRIS sub-contracts between AAL and participants are currently in draft stage, and negotiations are underway with participants. These contracts are dependent on clarifying the income tax issue highlighted above.

Australian GMT Advisory Committee

AAL is currently forming an Australian GMT Advisory Committee. Prof Warrick Couch has carriage of forming this committee, and more details will be released when available. AAL is seeking to form this committee without delay given the upcoming decision on AAL membership of the GMT consortium.