War of words over mulesing commitment

31 Jul, 2008 09:57 AM
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MINUTES from a 2004 meeting when a decision was supposedly made to phase out mulesing by 2010 have been released, showing less than a third of the 36 people who attended were wool growers.

Last week, the Australian sheep and wool industry taskforce sent the minutes to those who attended the meeting, in response to recent reports surrounding the industry's commitment to erase the practice.

The minutes say the meeting agreed in principle that the industry was committed to ending the current practice of mulesing by 2010.

They also said delegates agreed to expand the current mulesing operator accreditation program Australia-wide and continue to investigate a broad range of pain relief options targeted at mulesing.

Australian Wool Innovation (AWI) claims the minutes were unequivocal, with their clear decision to phase out mulesing by 2010.

But while at the meeting, AWI representatives did not vote on the in-principle decision.

WAFarmers president Mike Norton, who was present at the meeting, said this was the first time he had seen the minutes.

"We never received a copy of the minutes after that meeting in Sydney," Mr Norton said.

"It seemed to me that they were coy on making them available.

"I never signed anything to say they were a correct record of the meeting."

Mr Norton said while most of the document was a reasonably accurate record of what was discussed, some words were taken out of context.

"The wording in some sec-tions of the minutes was mislea-ding and may be interpreted that we did agree to cease mulesing by 2010," Mr Norton said.

"But a lot of positioning and posturing went on."

Mr Norton stands by his statement that he never agreed to phase out mulesing by the end of 2010.

He recently requested a copy of the minutes to read what its content recorded.

"I have spoken to others who attended the meeting and their recollections were the same, that we never agreed to a deadline for mulesing," Mr Norton said.

With the minutes' release, it was revealed that of the 36 people at the meeting, two-thirds are not recognised woolgrowers. The meeting was dominated by organisations that service wool-growers: the Australian Wool Exchange, Australian Wool Tes-ting Authority, Australian Wool Processors Council, Australian Wool Selling Brokers, Livecorp, Woolmark, Australian Wool Innovation and the Australian Wool Industries Secretariat.

Of the 36 at the meeting, only 10 can be clearly identified as woolgrowers representing State and national farming organisations.

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