In the face of a rapidly changing environment, I am pleased to stand before you this evening and report that the ANI can be confident in successfully navigating the last 12 months. More importantly, it has done so while laying strong foundations for the changes that it must make to remain successful into the future.
ANI’s Online Presence
The most obvious ANI advance over the past 12 months has been online. It is now a year since the institute revamped what had become an almost moribund website. We have leveraged the experience and advice of our webmaster, Crispin Hull, who has proceed with appropriate caution but always with the Institute’s aim of furthering debate on naval and maritime matters in mind.
The Council decided that we would allow free access to online material on the condition users became a subscribers to the site and provided their email address. All ANI members were subscribed immediately. The number of subscribers has slowly grown towards 500, including a dozen or more from overseas.
Ongoing growth in the number of on-line subscribers will be important to the business shift the ANI is in the course of making to adapt to new realities and survive as an organization of relevance.
Centre for International Maritime Security
In January this year, the ANI became the Australian partner of the US-based Centre for International Maritime Security. This partnership has opened access to a wealth of new naval maritime and geo political articles and essays, which we are permitted to place on our website to supplement the articles and reviews which we generate from our regular writers. Our long term aim is to attract some of the naval luminaries who write for the major journals to supplement Norman Friedman our most regular international contributor. This remains a work in progress.
The criticism of the ANI website in the past was that it never changed and was therefore not worth visiting. It was more of a notice board than a website. This is no longer true. All of you should be receiving from the business manager a weekly email pointing out new items on the ANI website. New high quality material is being placed on the site every day and is being read by our subscribers, and a consistent effort is being made by members of the Council to keep the website refreshed.
Articles and essays are becoming available on a range of international maritime strategic issues and defence matters closer to home. More than 200,000 words have been added since the revamp and the rate of addition is growing without sacrificing quality and pertinence to the maritime debate.
Forty years of ANI published archives online
A critical part of the revamping exercise was to ensure that the 40 years of the ANI’s journal and Headmark would be made accessible online to the naval community and the public at large.
It was a significant undertaking. The archive consisted of about four million words and thousands of images. Now the website has all of that in a text form which can be searched, as well as scans of the original pages. It’s quite an outcome that our valuable resource has now been preserved and made accessible.
With such rich content, we hold hopes that the website will encourage more people to contribute to the maritime debate whether by way of original articles or commentary on what is already there. There is more work to do to make the site increasingly interactive, but we are on our way to making the website the front door of the ANI rather than the cat flap around the back!
We are looking at continuously improving the website and a couple of examples of a new look have been included in the Power Point presentation you will see shortly. A new look would greatly assist to expand our appeal and grow the subscriber database.
Proposed Cessation of Headmark as a publication
If I could turn to Headmark.
Last year the Council agreed to reduce the number of Headmark editions to 2 per year to offset costs to develop the website in the first instance, and to also control ongoing costs over the longer term. We have been monitoring this step, with a keen eye on website use and the balance sheet.
At the first Council meeting after this AGM, a decision on publication of Headmark editions and the format of future publications will be made in the context of the finalisation of the business plan which will be completed by mid-year.
I should explain, however, that we assess the cost of producing Headmark and posting it to members can no longer be sustained without an unaffordable drain on current and projected resources. The expenditure of $30,000 pa to produce four editions of Headmark is disproportionate when considering we are only reaching our 350 members. Even a more economical two per year is unsustainable in light of present income from membership and sponsorship.
The council will therefore be asked to consider a proposal that the next hardcopy edition of Headmark, due in June this year, will be the last. At that point the name ‘Headmark’ will migrate to the Website and money saved will directed towards a staged upgrade.
Proposed: “Australian International Journal on Naval and Maritime Affairs”
It is planned that ANI will continue to publish annually, though perhaps in a simpler format and under a different title – possibly the
Australian International Journal on Naval and Maritime Affairs
The proposal will be to produce this as a small annual edition of important maritime papers, which we do not put onto the website. The journal would be an academic publication and therefore may not require pictures. It could be produced very simply in A5 size, though we would aim for it to become a prominent publication, both nationally and internationally. There is no equivalent publication, which may offer market opportunities. Consideration is being given to positing the annual publication for international readership, which will hinge on the profile of its contributors. It will be distributed to the ANI financial members with the objective of sustaining part of the basis for current and ongoing membership.
Publication of this new ANI journal is not anticipated until mid 2016. This will avoid the expense of a producing a hard copy magazine over the next 12 months allowing us to:
a. Reinvest in website, and
b. Focus on seeking support and submissions for the new journal.
ANI will approach the National Security College at ANU to seek papers. The CDSS is another logical place to seek high quality submissions.
An active Editorial Committee to both seek content, and review and assess articles provided will be important.
A notice to members explaining why Headmark will no longer appear will be placed in the June edition and inviting all members to take advantage of the new Headmark, which will be on their Institute’s website.
The major ANI event this year was the Vernon Parker Oration in October, delivered at the National Press Club by Mike Carlton. This was very well attended with over 100 diners and represented a break from our practice of holding this dinner in ADFA or at the ADC. Sydney-Emden was well and truly covered by Mike only a couple of weeks before the centenary of the engagement. Sponsorship was provided for the third consecutive year by Lockheed Martin for which we are most grateful.
I will leave the events manager to speak on the plan for the next Vernon Parker Oration on 26 May and the Goldrick Seminar we hope to hold in October after Sea Power Conference 15.
Changes to Presidency of the ANI
As the ANI seeks to reshape the manner in which it furthers the maritime debate, so must it consider the relevance of its constitution in the current day and into the future.
We have reached the point where there are too few senior serving officers to fulfill the responsibilities of President. Indeed, I am finding it increasingly difficult to exercise my responsibilities as President while also serving as Head of the Future Submarine Program. Many of our valued sponsors legitimately seek opportunities in the program I am responsible for delivering, and the perception alone of a conflict of interest on my part is enough to damage both the ANI and, of course, Defence.
For this reason and the related need for the ANI to avail itself of the talents of those not serving in the RAN, a special resolution will be put to you to amend the constitution to allow the President to be either a currently serving member or a previous serving member of the RAN.
And for the reason I just outlined, I will be stepping down as President of the ANI at the conclusion of this AGM. I do so, however, in the sound comfort of announcing that Vice Admiral Peter Jones has nominated for the position and will stand for election to the role later in this meeting along with the other office bearers and members of the Council. Subject to your agreement to the change in the constitution, he will be able to take up the role once the updated constitution is lodged with the Registrar General for the ACT.
The lodgement must be done within 1 month of the AGM, but the Business Manager will achieve this within 5-10 days. The ANI will be without a President for this short period.
I don’t hesitate to say that we are very fortunate that VADM Jones has nominated for role of President, which also lessens the regret with which I stand down from the position as I continue to serve as Head of the Future Submarine Program.
If I may touch on the ongoing importance of our membership before concluding. Without our members we would not be an Institute.
We need support from the existing membership and to expand the paid up base while also attracting a much larger number of online subscribers. We need to shore up our relationship with our sponsors and seek new sponsorship from companies which have not been previously been approached. Brian Mansell has kindly agreed to take up the banner and is actively approaching sponsors for this year’s Vernon Parker oration and looking beyond to a long term and sustainable income stream from sponsors
To conclude …
There remains a place for the ANI in 2015 and beyond if we are willing to understand the new environment in which we operate and adapt as we must to remain relevant to the maritime debate, and meet our enduring charter. In other words, our vision and goal has not changed, but the manner in which we achieve these must if the Institute is to survive.
Change is never easy. But I commend to you the initiatives that I have outlined in this report, and others will expand upon during this meeting.
As I step down from role of President, I must acknowledge the unfailing support of the Council of the ANI. There are a number of dedicated individuals who are working hard for your Institute. I pay special tribute to the Vice President, Captain Timothy Brown (who has spearheaded reform), the Secretary, Commander Ben MacDonald, Councilor the inimitable Lieutenant Commander Desmond Woods, our Public Officer, Lieutenant Commander Sophia Hill, Treasurer Lieutenant Lee Robinson, and our exceptional business manager, Ms Sue Hart (who has gone beyond the call on so many occasions to support the Institute).
To the membership, thank you for your support for the Institute and the privilege I’ve enjoyed to have served as President.
I submit my last report. Thank you again.