AWI CEO defends wool selling review drive for online sale portal initiative

Terry Sim April 18, 2016
AWI CEO Stuart McCullough

AWI CEO Stuart McCullough

AUSTRALIAN Wool Innovation chief executive officer Stuart McCullough has denied he has a personal agenda to institute digital disturbance in the industry through the proposed Wool Exchange Portal.

Mr McCullough said there had been about five grower meetings on the WEP recently, including separate grower and agri-banking forums in Sydney and grower forums in Adelaide and Burra in South Australia and Wagin in Western Australia.

It was discussed by superfine wool growers in Tasmania last weekend and a forum would soon be held with exporters, he said.

AWI was not leaving its assessment of wool growers’ attitude to the WEP “to chance” and was asking them to vote on specific questions before and after the forums. Mr McCullough said AWI was being transparent about the process, but when asked what questions growers were asked, he said Sheep Central would have to “show up” at the invitation-only events.

“We’re talking with wool growers and I can tell you right now, they are very interested – I don’t know any that aren’t interested.

“They are interested in other alternatives, they are interested in seeing some transparency that may emerge from this.”

Mr McCullough said AWI “wasn’t involved” and “absented ourselves” from the WSSR and “commissioned the best minds we could” to oversee it. The “competition and productivity minds” on the WSSR panel then reported that issues raised by the industry in 130 submissions, including 60 “unique ” issues, might be solved with a form of digital or exchange platform, he said.

“Are we second-guessing Graeme Samuel, are we second guessing Bernie Wonder or Will Wilson?”

When asked if he considered AWI now had a mandate to digitalise the selling of wool in Australia or if the WEP was part of a personal campaign for digital disturbance in the industry, Mr McCullough said he did not believe the AWI board saw the review as a mandate issue.

“I don’t think the board sees it as a mandate at all.

“We put in place a review and that review came back very clearly and stated there were 130 submission, 60 different issues of which here are our suggestions – the WSSR not only recommended a Wool Exchange Portal, there are lots of things.”

AWI would now form a WEP steering committee by the end of May, he said.

“Again we are going after the best business minds we can get – the best digital platform transformational minds – the best talent we can possibly muster to sit on this,” he said.

“We’ll have brokers and we will exporters on there naturally, potentially some industry people.

“And then we’ll ask them to come back to the board in November and present to the board a business case, or not, as to whether this goes ahead,” he said.

“What a load of garbage to talk about my personal agenda — you know it is not my right.

“Do you reckon I’m that arrogant?”

But Mr McCullough said he was “pretty adamant” about seeing the wool industry survive.

“I’m thinking of…I’m 48, I’m not thinking about myself here, I’m thinking about what it (the industry) looks like in 20 or 30 years – I don’t have much time left in this industry, I genuinely don’t have much time left in this industry.

“I’m not thinking about what it means to me, I’m thinking about what it means to the Y Generation who are going to come through and take roles like mine and the Z Generation that are going come through after them,” he said.

“We can’t continue to sit back and go without question anything that that is the right thing to do.

“We question everything irrespective of where it is in the supply chain,” Mr McCullough said.

“So what you are talking about is one project – I’ve got 350 on the go at any one time.”

On the issue of broker and exporter opposition to the WEP, Mr McCullough said he had talked to a bunch who “quite liked” or were interested in the Wool Exchange Portal. He said the innovators among them did not see that it took out exporters, brokers or wool samples from the selling system.

“We think it is something that will offer great opportunity for everyone involved in the industry and potentially provide some transparency and higher level of competition.”

He said the WEP steering committee would cost the establishment of portal.


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