Calls for Stewart's head

15 Jan, 2008 09:00 PM
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UNREST over the recent performances of AWB Ltd chairman Brendan Stewart could see tensions boil over at the company’s Annual General Meeting next month, with calls for his resignation now starting to grow in volume.

Mr Stewart replaced Trevor Flugge as chairman of AWB in 2002 and is a former president of the Grains Council of Australia and Queensland Grain Growers Association.

He has been on the board since 2000 but is not up for re-election at this year’s AGM.

Mr Stewart’s recent performances have come under the microscope, with several critics demanding he bear the brunt for AWB’s involvement the Iraqi wheat scandal.

The Australian Securities and Investment Commission have taken action against former directors and officers of the company but critics are not satisfied with the level of accountability.

Wheat Growers Association (WGA) Chairman Bob Iffla said Mr Stewart’s efforts in controlling the company during the past two years had been disappointing.

Mr Iffla said an immediate change was needed, in order to reinvigorate the company.

“I am generally disappointed with the performance of all directors but particularly Mr Stewart,” Mr Iffla said.

“He has overseen the company as it has gone from being a flourishing organisation when he first started, to where it is now.

“He has seen it go through the Iraqi wheat scandal and the Cole inquiry and plummeting share prices.

“I think it’s time for him to move on.”

Mr Iffla’s calls were backed up by WAFarmers grains council president Derek Clauson.

“As chairman, it is customary to assume responsibility for corporate governance failures and in my view there have been many under his leadership,” Mr Clauson said.

“Further, the manner in which AWB was led throughout the Cole Inquiry was puzzling to onlookers and wasteful of the company’s resources.”

Mr Clauson said Mr Stewart had remained “bunkered down” for the last few years and was seemingly “out of touch” with grower expectations for AWB into the future.

Mr Stewart has declined to comment on calls for his resignation.

“I am not going to respond to personal attacks,” he said. “I make no apologies for doing my job and acting in the best interests of the company.”

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