Reform process to start By MEGAN BROAD ACTION towards reform in the wool industry is expected to start next Monday, when the National Woolgrower Forum meets in Canberra. WA Forum members expect a clear direction for the future of wool research, development and promotion to come out of the meeting. Earlier this week, the Pastoralists and Graziers Association's wool committee developed its own plan for the future of these activities and where the money will come from to fund them. The plan departs from the McLachlan report's recommendation for a body, possibly called Australian Wool Services (AWS), to commission wool innovation and to commercialise the results. The PGA will lobby the forum to endorse the formation of two organisations < one responsible for research and development (AWS) and one for commercialisation of that research (The Woolmark Company). The privatised Woolmark would then contest with others in the private sector to purchase intellectual property from AWS to commercialise it. AWS would be a company limited by guarantee, which would include a trust comprised of government representatives in order to collect the statutory tax. Under the plan, a compulsory 0.5 per cent research levy, which would be matched by federal funds, would continue to be collected by AWS until 2002 to provide certainty to existing research projects. The future of that levy and the 3.5pc promotion levy would be determined by a grower vote, which the PGA is lobbying to be completed by the end of the year. Outgoing PGA wool committee chairman Lynne Johnston, who will be attending the Forum with new chairman Digby Stretch, said it was important to determine the future funding arrangements in order to establish the appropriate structures to spend the money. The PGA will also lobby the forum for an independent chairman to ensure the reform process is not politicised. Mrs Johnston dismissed criticism the PGA had broken ranks with the Forum to lobby Agriculture Minister Warren Truss to expedite the grower vote on the levy. "Unity for unity's sake is worthless," Mrs Johnston said. "If we can achieve what we want to in concert with the rest of the Forum we will be happy to continue the association < if not, so be it." Australian Wool Growers Association deputy chairman David Webster hopes a heads of agreement will be signed at the Forum meeting on key reform issues. Mr Webster believed a smaller sub-committee of the Forum would have to be formed to start to work intensively on the reform process. He said the McLachlan report's "windows" for reform were realistic and it was up to the Forum to achieve them. Mr Webster said the reform process might be evolutionary and change to industry structures could be achieved in stages. "It (AWS) does not have to be a statutory body. In the long term, it may be a user pays structure. We do not want to become fixated at this point in time about what is required tomorrow," he said. Mr Webster said industry unity and commitment to the reform process was essential for it to succeed. "If somebody wants to get up and do some bulldozing, it will stuff the whole thing up," he said. "The spirit of the Forum is very good and it is important we get to where we want to go and people accept and acknowledge that." WA Farmers Federation Wool Council president Tony Gooch said the Forum would have to resolve what legislation was necessary to establish the new industry structures, including the Forum and whether it should be recognised. While the Forum has been told its members are responsible for funding their participation, Mr Gooch said it was starting to prove to be expensive. "It will be a major decision whether the Forum can handle it, it's a technical issue we need to resolve," he said. Mr Gooch said there was a great diversity of opinion on many issues in the Forum and the challenge would be to harness them to form a direction for the future. "The Forum really has to decide to accept the challenge Truss has put on it to look after these issues," he said. Wool Council Australia chairman David Wolfenden was confident indutry unity could be achieved on where the reform process should go and stressed the Mclachlan report was only a guide from which to work. "AWS will not make or break the industry, but it will help it change with a commercial structure," Mr Wolfenden said. "But in the end it will be the commercial pipeline that turns things around."