With the news that Australian Wool Innovation chairman Wal Merriman has stepped down as chairman of the not-for-profit company, we thought we’d take a look back at some of the more colourful moments while he was at the helm.
The news of his decision hit the headlines mid-morning today. He has been chairman since 2008 and will remain as a director of AWI.
Back in October 2017, the alleged dysfunction of AWI was hitting the headlines.
Shadow Agriculture Minister Joel Fitzgibbon was supporting an inquiry into the effectiveness of the current RDC system amid widespread behaviour and governance concerns of Mr Merriman.
West Australian Liberal MP Rick Wilson was watching embattled AWI’s potentially explosive appearance at Senate estimates hearings in Canberra and Mr Merriman’s testimony, with keener interest than most others.
At the same time Mr Merriman was under fire, accused of breaching the industry group’s code of conduct and putting at risk $14 million in federal government funding.
The behaviour had been deemed “unethical” by some woolgrower shareholders, and came ahead of the AWI leadership team’s appearance at a Senate Estimates Committee meeting in Canberra.
Mr Merriman ended up express posting a letter of apology to stud principals present during the so-called ‘man-in-the-mirror’ event.
Mr Merriman was also rejecting allegations the industry group was not spending enough money on genetic evaluation due to his perceived breeding conflict of interest.
During a controversial Senate Estimates hearing, Victorian Senator Bridget McKenize interrogated AWI chiefs on whether Mr Merriman’s breeding philosophy had influenced the body to ignore industry support to fund the Sheep CRC. Read more here.
In January this year, it was reported that Australian Wool Innovation’s deadline to respond to Senate estimate questions, from last October, expired in December – three questions relating to evidence of professional processes remain unanswered. Read more here.
Back in July 2017, Mr Merriman was denying an attempt to oust Meat and Livestock Australia’s chief from the meat industry’s top position.
MLA managing director Richard Norton said Mr Merriman phoned MLA chair Michele Allan asking for the board of directors to address Mr Norton’s public comments made about mulesing.