AS a commercial woolgrower, Australian Wool Innovation (AWI) director election candidate James Morgan believes he has a closer affinity to the average wool levy payer than some of his peers.
“I like to think I represent the commercial woolgrower as well as the studs,” said Mr Morgan on Monday evening, at home on Outalpa station in South Australia’s north east pastoral country, much closer to Broken Hill than to Adelaide.
First elected to the AWI board in November 2013, he is seeking re-election for a second term, along with fellow directors Colette Garnsey and Paul Cocking.
Like Ms Garnsey, who brought valuable end-product marketing experience to the board, Mr Morgan, 55, has been recommended to shareholders by the AWI board nomination committee which vets candidates as required under a statutory funding agreement with the federal government.
Longstanding AWI chairman Wal Merriman also personally endorsed him in a controversial private letter to Wool Producers Australia shareholders last month.
Mr Morgan agreed it was flattering to have Mr Merriman endorse his qualities as a director.
“I’m comfortable with that,” Mr Morgan said.
“My personal ambition is to always do a good job in everything I try to do, so it’s a positive to have other board members acknowledge that you are.”
Although he grew up in Adelaide, Mr Morgan was always destined to join his family’s pastoral business.
He is a direct descendent of Peter Waite who opened up the north-east pastoral runs in South Australia in 1868 with Sir Thomas Elder.
After completing a diploma in farm management at Glenormiston Agricultural College in Victoria’s western district, he spent a year jackarooing on Wyvern station, run by the Field family in western New South Wales (the family shearing up to 40,000 sheep, before returning to family holdings in South Australia.
Apart from managing Outalpa with wife Alexandra and their children, Mr Morgan is managing director of the Morgan and Wells families’ Mutooroo Pastoral Company (MPC) which holds about 24,281 square kilometres in the same area.
It is medium to low-rainfall country either side of the Barrier Highway to Broken Hill and butting up to the dog fence along the State border.
MPC runs Poll Merinos and Poll Herefords on four family stations, Mutooroo, Mulyungarie, Lilydale and Manunda, as well as its own internal sheep stud to produce flock replacements.
Mr Morgan said a sheep property in Victoria’s high-rainfall western district was sold off to expand MPC’s South Australian holdings, including buying Quinyambie station from S Kidman & Co in 2010.
“I think we were first to buy property from the (Kidman) family when they decided to sell it (pastoral empire) off,” Mr Morgan said.
As well, he manages his mother’s property in the Liverpool Ranges area of the Hunter Valley which runs a Roseville Park bloodlines Merino flock and Angus cattle.
Through his mother’s family, descendants of BH MacLachlan, he has cousins connections with the giant Jumbuck Pastoral Company which has sheep and cattle stations across WA, Northern Territory and South Australia.
“I’ve been through the industry highs of the late ‘80s and the lows of the period that followed,” Mr Morgan said.
He said he believed that commercial woolgrower background provided additional benefit and insight on the AWI board.
“I’ve got a good understanding of the industry and the problems that ordinary woolgrowers experience with dog attacks, pests and poor seasons,” Mr Morgan said.
“I’ve made a number of trips to WA as an AWI director and when I talk to woolgrowers at events like Wagin Woolorama we are on the same wavelength.
“I see the world the same way they do.”
But he acknowledged the necessary skills in different areas of others on the board.
“We have some really high quality people I think on the board and there is collectively a great deal of knowledge about the industry.
“We work very well together and a lot of the decisions we make on big issues are consensus decisions,” he said.
As chairman of AWI’s science and welfare committee in his first term, Mr Morgan oversaw the presentation of research and technology advancements to the board, but he also acknowledged AWI’s important role in marketing Australia’s wool clip.
“A lot of its marketing push has been driven really hard and very successfully during the Merriman chairmanship,” Mr Morgan said.
Irrespective of the controversy surrounding Mr Merriman, the recommendation of AWI contractor and former Wool Exchange Portal working group chairman Will Wilson for a directorship and about proxy votes for the November 17 annual meeting, Mr Morgan said he believed corporate governance of AWI was sound.
“I value my integrity, it’s how I run my own business,” he said.
“I’m not going to be a part of something that is not run the same way.”
His belief “there’s a pretty bright future for wool” was reinforced by woolgrower trips to Vietnam and China during his time as an AWI director and Mr Morgan said AWI played an important role in relaying that message back to woolgrowers and educating them on industry development.
“Publications like ‘Beyond the bale’ convey so much information.
“The quality of the Australian wool clip has improved significantly I think in my time in the industry.
“All the measurement, genetics and breeding that has gone into wool has had an amazing effect on the quality of our wool.
“I’m pro-objective and subjective measurement of sheep because I believe they are equally important tools for us,” he said.
Mr Morgan said he hoped to be returned because there were industry issues he would like to help resolve.
“I think the mulesing issue is being used as a divisive tool by those out on the fringe, I think the decision whether to mules or not is entirely up to individual woolgrowers, but it’s a really important issue,” he said.
“In medium rainfall areas mulesing can be a valuable management tool, but I would like to see an effective alternative developed that is more acceptable to the general public.
“I also believe we also need to look at the situation with shearing.
“It’s a $700 million bill for woolgrowers and it keeps going up each year.
“But I don’t think the professionalism of the (shearing) industry has lifted each year along with the price.”