EDITORIAL: Insight welcomes OA?s newfound willingness for transparency

In an editorial titled “Now is the time for Optometry Australia to be transparent” Insight called on the peak industry body to behave as other health-related organisations have and place its actual paid mbership number on the public record, rather than keeping it confidential.As previously reported, Brodie and OA president Mr Darrell Baker have continually declined to reveal the organisation’s mbership figure.This has left OA as the only association of 15 similar organisations contacted by Insight to not publically release this information. Other ophthalmic bodies such as RANZCO, Orthoptics Australia, the Australian Society of Ophthalmologists and the country’s dispensing associations all freely provided their mbership numbers – see chart below. {{quote-A:R-W:400-I:2-Q:“There is some good news. Right around the country your state organisations are finalising mber renewals. And next week we will bring you all the details.” -who:Lyn Brodie, 28 August 2019}}OA instead asks that people estimate its mbership, based on a percentage of optometrists registered with the Optometry Board of Australia, while keeping the true number confidential.More importantly, Baker would not confirm to Insight if the number would be made available to an OA mber upon request.In response to an Insight article, Brodie issued a statent on 28 August telling mbers: “There is some good news. Right around the country your state organisations are finalising mber renewals.“As I sit here today we represent more registered optometrists than we did 12 months ago. The percentage of optometrists that we represent is greater than it was a year ago.”She said the information would be made available “next week”.While this latest statent appears to be an about-face on her previous claims that “even our mbers would find a number meaningless”, the transparency should be welcomed.What rains unknown is whether OA will continue to obscure its mbership number behind a percentage-based estimate.Insight has advocated for Brodie and Baker to resume transparency by publishing the data as part of OA’s annual report to mbers, thereby avoiding any appearance of secrecy. This practice was last undertaken in 2014.Brodie’s recent claim that the peak industry body represents more optometrists this year is not unexpected, given the increasing number of new practitioners entering the workforce.This publication has never questioned an actual number because the figure is not on the public record. Our reporting has concerned one issue, and one issue only – why the lack of transparency?If, as Brodie claims, there is “good news” on mbership numbers, then the OA board should reverse its practice of keeping it a secret; publish the number each year and make it freely available upon request, especially to its own mbers.If all other health-related not-for-profit associations willingly provide their information, surely OA can too? Mbers have a right to know this important information.Insight looks forward to reporting the “good news” – assuming an actual number is made available – and for the current secrecy to end.After all, OA’s obfuscation and some of its recent decisions have barrassed both itself and the profession, including Baker’s failed attpt to discredit Insight’s investigation and reporting by lodging a complaint with the MEAA’s National Ethics Committee.The Committee unanimously dismissed Baker’s allegations, saying the reporting “is accurate in saying that OA has not revealed its actual mbership numbers – only a percentage and a calculation based on that percentage which is not the actual mbership number”. It also concluded that the journalist’s correspondence was professional and not aggressive or intimidating. “He clearly, and firmly but politely, made his points about the fact that OA had not provided its actual mbership numbers, which other like organisations have,” the ruling read. 

Ophthalmic & Health Organisations’ Mbership Number
RANZCO (excludes associates) 1,497
Australian Society of Ophthalmologists 550
Cornea and Contact Lens Society of Australia 616
Orthoptics Australia 563
Optometry Australia (OA) Classified
Dispensing Opticians’ Association (NSW/VIC) 330
Australian Dental Association 15,367
Australian Medical Association 44,970
Australian Osteopathy Association 3,030
Australian Physiotherapy Association 25,625
Australian Podiatry Association 2,678
Australian Psychology Association 24,059
Chiropractors Association of Australia 3,290
Occupational Therapy Australia 6,867
Australian College of General Practitioners 39,316

Of the above 15 health related not-for-profit organisations contacted, only OA
refuses to divulge or place its mbership number on the public record.

Chart first published 31 May, 2019

More reading:

Optometry Australia mbership "confidential" – 31 May, 2019
Optometry Australia holds firm on "confidential" mbership number – 31 July, 2019
OA complaint dismissed: committee rules in favour of Insight – 23 August, 2019
Now is the time for Optometry Australia to be transparent – 28 August, 2019