Pulling the wool

The Weekly Advertiser Horsham - - Ag Life -

So, you’re a wool­grower? What did you vote for in Woolpoll? Did you vote for a re­duc­tion in the levy you pay for mar­ket­ing and re­search?

If you did, was it be­cause you’re not happy with the ‘in­ci­dents’ that por­trayed Aus­tralian Wool In­no­va­tion chair­man Wal Mer­ri­man in a far from favourable light?

We’ll never know if that’s why. The Woolpoll votes went to pref­er­ences and no one asks why grow­ers vote as they do.

But with the wool mar­ket as good as it has been in nearly 30 years, al­beit with a re­cent cor­rec­tion, it’s ei­ther be­cause grow­ers thought a smaller per­cent­age of a lot of in­come was a good idea, or they weren’t happy with how their money was be­ing spent.

A drop in the levy from two per­cent of wool in­come to 1.5 per­cent equates to about $11 a bale ac­cord­ing to Mer­cado agri­cul­tural mar­ket an­a­lysts.

That’s $11 less from an av­er­age of $46 a bale. Not in­sigQL¿FDQW

Be­fore Woolpoll, AWI di­rec­tor and wool bro­ker Don Mcdon­ald told 3WM’S Coun­try To­day, the 0.5 per­cent levy cut would amount to AWI’S in­come drop­ping about 36 per­cent.

That is, a 25 per­cent cut in the levy plus an 11 per­cent re­duc­tion in the wool clip due to the drought.

If that didn’t wash with some wool­grow­ers, the then chair of AWI Wal Mer­ri­man claimed the cut in the levy could leave the com­pany in­sol­vent.

The feed­back from wool­grow­ers I re­ceived was ei­ther out­rage or laugh­ter at the ab­sur­dity of the sug­ges­tion.

AWI chief ex­ec­u­tive Stu­art Mccul­lough was quick to play Mr Mer­ri­man’s sug­ges­tion down.

But hav­ing come on the back of the ‘man in the mir­ror’ in­ci­dent, where Mr Mer­ri­man watched wool­grow­ers in a fo­cus group through a one-way mir­ror when they’d been told it was anony­mous, and some se­ri­ous ques­tions raised at Se­nate hear­ings, I think it fair to say Mr Mer­ri­man’s com­ments lacked grav­i­tas and deeply dam­aged his cred­i­bil­ity. Just days be­fore ZH ZHUH WR ¿QG RXW WKDW WKH SROO re­sults had got down to pref­er­ences, Mr Mer­ri­man an­nounced on a Fri­day af­ter­noon – an old trick to min­imise me­dia cov­er­age when many progams-pub­li­ca­tions had been put to bed for the week – that he’d re­signed as chair­man.

One can’t help but won­der whether, had he done so ear­lier and well in ad­vance of Woolpoll vot­ing, if it might not have been a dif­fer­ent out­come.

Fed­eral Agri­cul­ture Min­is­ter David Lit­tleproud has per­sis­tently urged AWI to con­vince him it is se­ri­ously at­tempt­ing to im­ple­ment all 82 rec­om­men­da­tions of an in­de­pen­dent re­view into AWI’S gov­er­nance.

Mr Mer­ri­man has stepped down as chair, but not as a di­rec­tor. Wool­grow­ers will have WKH ¿QDO VD\ ZLWK WKHLU YRWH DW DQ ex­tra­or­di­nary gen­eral meet­ing in March as one of the rec­om­men­da­tions is for a limit on board terms of 10 years.

Now in his 14th year, hav­ing served 10 of those as chair, it will be in­ter­est­ing to see if Mr Mer­ri­man bows to pres­sure by step­ping down from the board be­fore the meet­ing.

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