Difficulties with the committee
Your agenda papers are incomplete
If you find discussion taking place on papers you have not seen, interrupt the discussion and ask for a copy of the papers being discussed. If an item is important, ask that it is deferred until you or others have had time to read the paper and consider the issues. Occasionally papers are circulated to some members of the committee, but not to all.
The agenda papers are late
You need to receive the agenda papers in time to consult properly with your organisation and its constituents. This will vary according to the work of the committee, but you will usually need at least a week before the meeting to prepare properly.
The agenda is extremely long
Extensive agendas can lead to problems such as:
It is necessary to assess which items are really worth spending time on, where the decisions have direct effects on consumers, both in your preparation, and in committee discussions.
The committee is insisting on a 'view', but you haven't consulted your organisation -what should you do?
Occasionally the committee will require you to give your opinion, or to vote on a motion, when you have not had time to consult with your constituency. If this happens:
Consumer representatives can use the Australian Charter of Healthcare Rights, other consumer rights statements and consumer principles to explain the consumer perspective to the committee when they have not canvassed the views of consumers or if consumers are divided over an issue.
You are having problems getting heard
This may occur:
You doubt the evidence
If the facts are misrepresented, ask the person to verify these facts. You must be prepared to verify your own facts. You may wish to bring in an expert to put views on your behalf. Arrange this before the meeting with the whole committee if possible or at least with the Chairperson.
Existing research and data are often used to support an issue. The research can sometimes indicate only part of the story. If this is the case, it is useful if you can demonstrate the larger picture.
You disagree with a major decision
If you disagree with a major decision of the committee, ensure that this should be recorded in the minutes, or even stated in the final report. Always let your nominating organisation know if you disagree with a major decision.
'I thought we'd agreed on that'
When a decision is reached, and everyone is committed to it, it is important to verify everyone's understanding of the agreement and if any action will result from the decision.
You can help to clarify issues by summing up or asking someone else to sum up the understanding of the agreement. The final agreement is recorded in the minutes.
If no minutes are recorded, you should write down your understanding of the decisions for further reference.
Something 'agreed on' is never carried out
If a decision has been made but not yet implemented, you may wish to follow it up at the next meeting.