MURDOCH University Professor Kevin Bell is now the sole Western Australian candidate at the Australian Wool Innovation (AWI) board elections in November after the withdrawal of Badgingarra woolgrower Dale Park this week.
Mr Park told Farm Weekly he thought it would be pointless for both men to seek votes and he doubted Eastern States woolgrowers would vote for two WA candidates.
Dr Bell, an animal production research scientist, is one of the three current AWI board directors whose terms expire at the end of this year but who have chosen re-election.
It will be a four-candidate race for the three vacancies as Dr Bell joins New South Wales-based directors Hugh Nivinson and Peter Sykes with a first-time contender, Dubbo sheep and wool processor Roger Fletcher.
Mr Park has thrown his support behind Dr Bell’s re-election.
He said WA needed a greater presence on the board and it was important to retain and support Dr Bell’s directorship.
Mr Park will nominate for board elections next year when Dr Bell is not up for re-election but the other half of the six directorships are up for grabs.
Dr Bell also said it was important the State retained a board presence in at least one of the skills-based areas.
“WA agriculture is still very much a part of our national economy,” he said.
The continued support of the members WA’s wool industry caused Dr Bell to run for the board again.
“If the industry came to me and said they wanted to put someone else up for election, that’s fine,” he said.
“I’m only there because people have asked me to be there and I think I can contribute something.
“I don’t see myself running a campaign, I’m only there to do what I can for the industry.”
Dr Bell said his previous term on the board had been challenging and said there was no doubt there would be more challenges in the future.
“In general things are moving faster on all fronts,” he said.
“We can’t be naive enough to think the wool industry is immune from that.
“Like it or not, we have demanding customers, most of whom are on the other side of the world.
Dr Bell said the demands included increased fabric qualities, animal welfare and environmental standards.
Twenty-year-old perceptions of wool were changing, he said.
Dr Bell said surgical mulesing had largely been successful for woolgrowers.
“But the world is saying they’d prefer us not to do it,” he said.
“AWI now has the research job of finding an alternative.”
Dr Bell said genetics contain the long term replacement surgical mulesing but it was still some years away from being adopted.
“In the meantime, we have these non-surgical alternatives. But whatever we do, it has to be comparable with surgical mulesing,” he said.
“We also have to keep in mind other welfare issues like the transport and live export of animals.”
Dr Bell said one advantage of tackling extreme animal welfare groups was the industry now liaised closely with legitimate organisations associated with the issue.
“The industry has actually gained a lot of support from these non-extreme groups,” he said.
“Yes, AWI did get thrust into the spotlight by the extremists.
“But, once again, that was a decision made looking at the bigger picture and the international retailers of wool.”