RESPECTED agribusiness executive Ron Cullen has been accepted as the independent chairman of Australian Wool Innovation’s new Wool Industry Consultative Panel, despite AWI attempts to appoint one of its nominees.
Mr Cullen will take the role previously held by former AWI chairman Wal Merriman and more recently by current AWI chair Collette Garnsey.
His paid appointment is effective for 12 months from 1 July, 2019.
Mr Cullen was nominated by WoolProducers Australia for the role and AWI chair Colette Garnsey has claimed he had the unanimous support of the members of an expanded Industry Consultative Committee, after it considered candidates nominated by AWI and the Australian Wool Growers Association.
The AWI candidates included several people who had worked, or are allied to the body, including former AWI chief executive officer Brenda McGahan, Western Australian Merino breeder Steve Bolt, and consultants Scott Williams, Russell Pattinson and John Harrison. The Australian Wool Growers Association nominated former wool grower and Melbourne Market Authority chairman Steve McArthur.
The expanded ICC group, including a guest member solicited by Mr Merriman, a former ICC chairman, reached consensus on Mr Cullen’s appointment at a meeting in early June. Sheep Central has been told the vote at one stage was 3:2 in favour of Ms McGahan, with two abstentions, and WPA and AWGA voting against. Consensus was reached only after all AWI representatives elected to leave the meeting room.
The AWI representatives at the June meeting included Ms Garnsey, AWI CEO Stuart McCullough, directors Meredith Sheil and Don Macdonald, plus staff members. Those left to decide on the independent chair position were Australian Association of Stud Merino Breeders president Peter Meyer, Australian Superfine Wool Growers Association president Danny Picker, AWGA director Martin Oppenheimer, broad wool representative Nick Cole, the Don Brown Memorial Ewe Competition’s Tom Kirk and the Pastoralists and Graziers Association’ Clinton Ayers, WPA president Ed Storey.
WoolProducers president Ed Storey said the body was extremely pleased its nominee was unanimously endorsed by other members of WICP.
“In putting forward a nominee for this role, WoolProducers was keen to find someone that could be considered independent, but knew the workings of the industry and also had strong chairing and governance skills, Mr Cullen certainly ticks all of those boxes.”
WPA said one of the 82 recommendations made in the 2018 Review of Performance of AWI was to redefine the consultation arrangements to enable independent advice to be provided on investments made by AWI and to recommend opportunities for the AWI Board to consider.
“WoolProducers has long been critical of the ICC process as it was essentially meaningless, so we have much higher expectations for the new industry consultation mechanisms within AWI.
“WoolProducers believes the appointment of Mr Cullen as chair is certainly a step in the right direction,” Mr Storey said.
AWI announced Mr Cullen’s appointment yesterday as heading up a new, enhanced industry consultation model to provide wool growers valuable input into the organisation’s priorities and give them an improved say in the future of the Australian Merino wool industry.
Under the new model, two consultation forums will replace AWI’s existing Industry Consultative Committee – a core AWI Woolgrower Industry Consultation Panel (WICP) and a broader group of the AWI Woolgrower Consultation Group (WCG).
Ms Garnsey, said the organisation had been reviewing its consultation arrangements since last year with a view to improving two-way communication with its wool grower stakeholders – as recommended by the AWI Review of Performance. The process involved holding workshops with wool grower representative groups and taking feedback and submissions from the industry.
“AWI believes to be effective, accountable and productive, genuine consultation is essential.
“Honest and transparent consultation is important not only to wool growers, but it is critical to AWI’s business, enabling us to identify wool grower priorities, and report on our activities,” Ms Garnsey said.
“We believe we have a way forward that strikes a balanced position, meeting the expectations of wool growers, our levy-payers, wool grower representative groups, government and AWI’s business needs.”
Ms Garnsey said the expanded WCG would ensure AWI received feedback from a wider range of regional and organisational perspectives, while the WICP was a core group that AWI could engage more regularly on specific issues.
She said AWI was delighted to have secured the services of Mr Cullen as the inaugural chair of the WICP.
“Having somebody of Mr Cullen’s calibre – with his strong chairing skills, extensive experience and knowledge of industry and good understanding of AWI’s corporate governance framework – will ensure the WICP is a genuine consultative forum that will give wool growers a real say in the future of our industry,” she said.
In accepting the position of chair of the WICP, Mr Cullen said it was privilege to be appointed as the inaugural chair of the new committee.
“Having been actively engaged in agriculture throughout my career I believe I can make a positive and productive contribution as chair of the WICP and I look forward to the challenge.
“The unanimous support of the ICC gives me the confidence to get on with facilitating effective consultation with Australian wool growers,” he said.
It is anticipated that the WICP will meet three times per annum and the WCG annually. The expanded WCG is expected to be finalised at the first meeting of the WICP.
The members of the WICP are the independent chair, Australian Association of Stud Merino Breeders, Australian Superfine Wool Growers Association, Australian Wool Growers Association, a broad wool representative, Commercial Merino Ewe Competitions Association, Pastoralists and Graziers of WA, WoolProducers Australia, a Department of Agriculture representative and two AWI board representatives.
Ron Cullen has been actively engaged in the agriculture industry his entire working life. In his former roles as chief executive and non-executive director of the Sheepmeat Council of Australia he played an active role in the development of an export-oriented sheep meat industry worth more than $3.5 billion a year. He is a former senior manager in the Commonwealth Department of Agriculture, a former chair of the National Farmers Federation Biosecurity Taskforce and a former member of the NSW Farmers Executive Council. He is the current chair of the National Sheep Genetics Advisory Committee and chair of Animal Health Australia’s Sheep Health Program Steering Committee. In 2018, he was nominated by the National Farmers Federation to the AWI Review of Performance Project Administration Committee.