Peak grower body joins attack on AWI board selections

AWI board selections don't add up says WoolProducers Australia

Wool
FOUR DON'T FIT INTO THREE: WoolProducers Australia president, Ed Storey, is puzzled why the Australian Wool Innovation Nomination Committee selected four candidates to fill three vacancies on the AWI board.

FOUR DON'T FIT INTO THREE: WoolProducers Australia president, Ed Storey, is puzzled why the Australian Wool Innovation Nomination Committee selected four candidates to fill three vacancies on the AWI board.

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WoolProducers Australia has attacked the process which has seen the official endorsement of three candidates for the AWI board elections from the same ticket.

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The peak national body for woolgrowers has slammed the official process which has endorsed the re-election of Wally Merriman and David Webster, two long-serving directors of Australian Wool Innovation.

The pair were among four candidates out of a field of eight identified by the AWI Board Nomination Committee as having the necessary skills to serve as directors of the grower-owned marketing and research company.

WoolProducers Australia president, Ed Storey, questioned why the committee had nominated four candidates when there were only three vacancies on the AWI board.

Also of serious concern was the subsequent decision by the AWI board to allocate undirected proxies given to its chairman equally to Messrs Webster and Merriman and new candidate, Dr Michelle Humphries.

He said the three were standing on the same ticket while the fourth candidate recommended by the nomination committee, Victorian Merino stud breeder, Noel Henderson, had been rejected by the board without explanation.

Mr Storey said the push to endorse candidates from just one ticket increased the risk of reduced diversity of thought and "group think" which raised the risk of poor outcomes on the board.

WoolProducers has recommended shareholders vote for Mr Henderson along with NSW-based livestock consultant, Philip Holmes, and South Australian sheep producer and researcher, Janelle Hocking-Edwards.

Mr Storey said Mr Holmes had a deep understanding of the profit drivers in wool enterprises while Dr Hocking-Edwards had a strong record in sheep research.

Mr Henderson had had a significant career in the construction industry which had given him a background in finance and corporate governance.

Added together they had the combined skills to get better outcomes from AWI R&D spending and help the company tackle serious financial headwinds from lower levy income, he said.

"Of course, production, marketing and trade knowledge are essential skills to have on the board of AWI but WoolProducers believes that existing directors adequately address these requirements," Mr Storey said.

"WoolProducers has been vocal regarding our concerns over the transparency, accountability, consultation and governance of AWI, which has led us to identify these three (Holmes, Hocking-Edwards and Henderson) as being most suited to address these concerns, along with meeting the skills matrix as identified in the Statutory Funding Agreement."

"Our concerns regarding the operations of AWI were somewhat vindicated by the findings of the 2018 Ernst Young (EY) Review of Performance which made 82 recommendations to improve governance and accountability of the organisation.

"Unfortunately WoolProducers doesn't feel there have been many genuine changes to the operations of AWI despite public and private assurances following the EY Review that there would be.

"Following this WoolProducers is surer than ever that a change of culture is what must happen at AWI which can only be done with board renewal," Mr Storey said.

He said AWI needed directors who spent less time worrying about their re-election and more time solving board and industry problems.

The board had stuck its head in the sand over breech strike prevention and had refused to work with other groups.

"The current practices of the board and the work they are doing, in terms of mulesing and pain relief, are not cutting through as best-practice welfare when we believe it is."

The outcome of the election will be announced at AWI's annual general meeting in Sydney on November 22.

The story Peak grower body joins attack on AWI board selections first appeared on Farm Online.

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