Role of new wool body questioned

30 May, 2001 10:00 PM
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WHAT role will wool's new national representative body play?

According to the Australian Woolgrowers Association, the recent privatisation of wool's research and innovation companies has rendered the role of a full-time wool lobby group irrelevant.

"We no longer require full lobby groups as we did in the past, dealing with statutory or government authorities," AWGA spokesman John Roydhouse said.

"As of January, we have corporate structures operating under corporations law, which means every shareholder or wool producer has a say in the operation of those companies.

"There is no obligation for these companies to be accountable to any advocacy group, they are only accountable to their shareholders."

AWGA walked out on Wool Council restructure talks in February, angered that State Farm Organisations would be given the power to appoint one councillor each to the new board.

"We wanted directly elected representatives right across the board, and no board members coming from State Organisations at all," Mr Roydhouse said.

"The reason for that is accountability - if you were appointed through a State Farm organisation, then you must in your own heart be accountable back to that state organisation, not necessarily to the overall membership base of the structure."

Mr Roydhouse said State Farm Organisations could effectively handle issues such as animal health and taxation without the need for a national body.

"The National Woolgrowers forum, which included all groups, was a very good vehicle for industry groups to come together and meet on national issues only as required."

AWGA, itself a political lobby group, will remain in place at least until August according to Mr Roydhouse, when members vote on the future of the organisation at its annual general meeting in Dubbo.

"As we do at every annual general meeting we discuss the charter of the organisation and jobs to be done, and it will be up the individual members of the AWGA to plot its future."

Wool leaders respond by saying the all grower groups involved early in the restructure process, which included AWGA, agreed on the need for a strong national body to represent grower interests.

Wool Council president David Wolfenden said the new body would play an important watchdog role for growers, in discussions with Government, industry bodies and wool buyers and processors.

Shareholder advocacy would also be a primary function, with the group working as a key conduit of information interpretation for growers.

Mr Wolfenden said it was likely the body would conduct detailed analysis of Australian Wool Innovation and The Woolmark Company's annual reports and strategic plans, as done by the NSW Farmers Association until 1998.

The organisation would represent grower interests on industry boards, such as the Australian Wool Testing Authority, Australian Wool Exchange and Animal Health Australia.

NSW Farmers Association wool chief Duncan Fraser said the interim executive committee would go back to shareholders to identify priorities for the new organisation.

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