Wool tax hinges on poll turnout

01 Dec, 1999 04:37 AM
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THE Federal Government will dictate what wool tax will be paid by woolgrowers and what services will be provided by the Woolmark Company's replacement, if there is not a strong turnout for the wool ballot next year. The ballot, titled WoolPoll 2000, was designed to establish how growers wanted to set up the financial side of their industry but, if they failed to show interest in the poll, the Government would decide the new format, Wool Working Party chairman John Keniry said. "This is their (growers') opportunity to vote and express a view on what they want," he said. The postal ballot has been set to run from the end of January to the end of February, although just who will be able to vote, and what weighting their vote will carry, has yet to be decided by the Government-appointed Working Party. "We want this to be as inclusive as we can," Dr Keniry said, indicating small growers were likely to get the chance to vote. Just how the ballot will be conducted, and how the result will be decided are also still to be confirmed, with the Working Party consulting several polling experts before committing to a preferred option. The biggest problem it faces is devising a process that will deliver a clear result on which the Government must act. The ballot will list six tax rates (zero, 0.5, one, two, three and four), with details on what services the Woolmark Company/Australian Wool Services can provide at those tax rates. Growers will then be asked to decide which rate and corresponding levels of service they wish to commit to. Woolmark has provided the Working Party with a list of services it believes can be provided for each tax rate. That list is now being audited by KPMG. Based on that information and the audit, the Working Party will provide a 10-20 page information memorandum, which must be ratified by Agriculture Minister Warren Truss, with the ballot paper. The memorandum will provide an independent analysis of each option. It is to be completed by Christmas. "Our job is to distill the information and put it out in as objective a form as possible," said Dr Keniry, who also serves on the WoolStock Australia board. A campaign for one particular option will come from the National Woolgrowers Forum, which is made up of large scale wool agri-political organisations, such as Wool Council, various state farming organisations, the Australian Wool Growers Association and the Pastoralists and Graziers Association. It intends to analyse the figures and then combine its collective might to push the proposal it believes will best serve growers. History says the chance of the Forum remaining unified is slim, plus it must not risk disenfranchising grassroots growers with its large voting bloc.

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