Min­is­ter wants all AWI re­forms

Countryman - - NEWS - Ann Rawl­ings

Aus­tralian Wool In­no­va­tion has been taken to task by the Fed­eral Govern­ment over its plans for fu­ture re­form.

Fed­eral Agri­cul­ture Min­is­ter David Lit­tleproud this week crit­i­cised AWI re­gard­ing its strat­egy to adopt the rec­om­men­da­tions, which were handed down in July as part of a per­for­mance re­view by ad­vi­sory firm EY.

The rec­om­men­da­tions in­cluded the move to a skills-based board, with board mem­bers to serve a max­i­mum term of 10 years, as well as an im­prove­ment in the lev­els of com­mu­ni­ca­tion with stake­hold­ers.

Mr Lit­tleproud said he ex­pected AWI to im­ple­ment all 82 rec­om­men­da­tions from the re­view, a stance that has bi­par­ti­san sup­port, with shadow agri­cul­ture min­is­ter Joel Fitzgib­bon echo­ing his sen­ti­ments.

“Last Fri­day I re­ceived AWI’s im­ple­men­ta­tion plan. The plan is short on de­tail and vague about how or if it would im­ple­ment all rec­om­men­da­tions,” Mr Lit­tleproud said.

AWI chief ex­ec­u­tive Stu­art McCul­lough said while the wool mar­keter had agreed to most rec­om­men­da­tions, five would be de­cided by share­hold­ers at an ex­tra­or­di­nary gen­eral meet­ing in March next year.

“We’ve been pretty clear on this — 75 we’ve agreed to, we’ve agreed to two in prin­ci­ple and five have to go to a share­holder vote. We don’t know how that vote is go­ing to turn out,” he said. “When it comes to con­sti­tu­tional change, we have to put that to share­hold­ers. We are not a govern­ment agency, we are a non-listed pub­lic com­pany.”

On share­hold­ers’ vot­ing agenda next March is a cap on the num­ber of years a board mem­ber can sit. Adopt­ing this rec­om­men­da­tion would halt any in­ten­tion of long-stand­ing AWI chair­man Wal Mer­ri­man seek­ing re-elec­tion.

Mr McCul­lough said AWI’s obli­ga­tion was to its wool­grower share­hold­ers. “It’s not whether we want to, or what Mr Lit­tleproud thinks we should do, it is what we have to do. Our obli­ga­tion is to share­hold­ers,” he said.

“We sent an im­ple­men­ta­tion plan to Mr Lit­tleproud. He didn’t like it, so we’ll put some more meat on the bones of it and we will send it back.”

Mr Lit­tleproud ad­vised AWI it had un­til Mon­day to rec­tify its plan. “AWI needs to be trans­par­ent with its share­hold­ers, the pub­lic and the Govern­ment about its plans,” he said.

The call for trans­parency has come in the lead-up to WoolPoll, set to end on Novem­ber 2. “AWI needs to . . . prove to wool­grow­ers they are se­ri­ous about change, in­clud­ing cul­tural change,” Mr Lit­tleproud said.

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