Friction over AWI elections

28 Oct, 2005 08:45 PM

WITH Australian Wool Innovation (AWI) elections just around the corner, candidates have stepped up their campaigns in an attempt to persuade voters.

Continued low wool prices, the dominance of China, exchange rate fluctuations, the battle against animal rights groups, marketing and promotion and the new age of genetic analysis have all been issues in the headlines over the past 12 months.

One WA candidate who usually lays low during this time has come out to have his say, angered by recent issues dividing the wool industry.

In his first ever letter to the editor, current AWI director Kevin Bell voiced his opinion on the recent antics of organisations such as Australian Wool Growers Association (AWGA), which he described as transparently political.

"As a current member of the board of AWI, and standing for re-election, I must take personally the tiresome tirades of an organisation (AWGA) whose devotees seem to have the self-proclaimed, mistaken opinion that they represent our Australian sheep industry," Mr Bell said.

"That they number less than the members of your average WA country tennis club, and are responsible for considerable less wool, seems to have got lost in the tediousness of their well-oiled press releases.

"They represent only themselves."

Mr Bell said he took AWGA claims about AWI mismanaging grower funds as a direct attack on his personal integrity.

"The misinterpretation of openly-available strategic plan financial figures by Mr Olsson and his band represents horrible ignorance and childish naivety, to give them the benefit of the doubt, or could be interpreted as mischievous and deceitful conduct certainly not befitting our industry."

Mr Bell denounced the group for negotiating with animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), and said he just wanted to get on with the core mission of improving the profitable production of wool by Australian farmers.

The other WA candidate has issued a press release through AWGA, claiming unfair treatment by AWI.

Quairading farmer Shane Edwards said he had been told by AWI it was unsuitable for him to solicit proxies, even though other WA farmer organisations had been campaigning for proxies.

"It is okay for the establishment to protect current directors and openly campaign on their behalf, but it is not allowable, according to AWI for challengers to campaign in the same fashion," Mr Edwards said.

"In the past week I have received not one but two communiqu?s from the company secretary of AWI, expressly stating it was not appropriate for me or my supporters to solicit signed proxies."

According to Mr Edwards, state organisations that are actively participating in the election process are compromising the security of shareholder reference numbers when soliciting proxy forms from their membership.

Mr Edwards has lodged a formal complaint with AWI, Link Market Services and the Australian Securities and Investment Commission.



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