Moffet motive questioned

28 Jun, 2007 07:00 PM
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THE WA Grain Group (WAGG) says it is concerned about the intention behind AWB director Chris Moffet¹s recent threat to resign from the AWB board, calling on grower interests to be placed ahead of board members¹ corporate games.

Speaking during an exclusive interview with Farm Weekly two weeks ago, Mr Moffet promised he would protect wheat growers from the possibility of footing the bill for a controversial break fee or give up almost 10 years on the Board.

Mr Moffet, a WA farmer and director of both AWB Ltd (AWBL) and AWB International (AWBI), said he would resign if the break fee ‹ believed to be worth up to $30 million ‹ was implemented.

Last year the break fee was placed under the microscope after it was revealed the clause could cost growers hundreds of millions of dollars if AWB lost control of the single desk.

Mr Moffet¹s actions in raising public debate over the issue upset AWB chairman Brendan Stewart who asked for an explanation of his comments leading up to next week¹s board meeting.

Mr Stewart issued Mr Moffet with a stern letter last week, suggesting his Farm Weekly interview had breached company communication guidelines, protocols, and media policy.

But WAGG, spearheaded by disenchanted past and present senior leaders of the WA grains industry, says it is concerned about simmering tensions between Messrs Moffet and Stewart.

WAGG members Julie Newman and Ray Marshall, formerly on the WAFarmers grains council, claim to be the only two grass-roots growers that have read the fine print in the services agreement between AWBL and AWBI.

WAGG spokesperson Doug Clarke said Mr Moffet¹s ultimatum was highly questionable.

³The WA Grain Group regards this with suspicion,² Mr Clarke said.

³Everyone should be asking how growers will be asked to pay a break fee in the first place.

³Secondly, Mr Moffet was on both the AWBL and AWBI boards when the break fee was signed off, a clear conflict of interest.

³Thirdly, Mr Moffet has been on AWB boards since 1998 so it is doubtful he¹s eligible for another term under re-election rules.

³So here we have a rare moment in AWB corporate history where a director appears to be standing up for growers, but in fact that is too little too late.

³In the meantime, the chairman goes on the attack and plays the man and not the ball.

³Shouldn¹t the board discussion be about growers not having to pay more money to AWB for the so called break-fee if the de-merger goes ahead, instead of it being a meeting about a director telling growers the truth about the liabilities yet to come from this disgraced company.²

However, Farm Weekly understands Mr Moffet was not a member of AWB¹s services agreement committee when the break-fee was signed.

It is understood the decision to implement the break fee clause was taken from the advice of both board¹s services agreement committees.

Both AWBL and AWBI have separate committees dedicated to the services agreement.

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