Pulling the wool
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.