AWI shareholders denied votes in director election raise idea of new poll

Terry Sim, November 29, 2017

AUSTRALIAN Wool Innovation shareholders who received their 2017 voting papers late or not at all support an investigation into the flawed election mail-out and possibly another poll, if the number of affected votes is large.

Peak wool grower WoolProducers Australia has offered to assist AWI with their review of missing voter information by using the state farm organisation network, to collate names of shareholders who believe they missed out on their chance to vote.

WoolProducers chief executive officer Jo Hall said registered AWI shareholders who didn’t receive their voter information, either by post or electronically, or received it too late to vote, are urged to contact their state farm organisation or WoolProducers directly as soon as possible.

WAFarmers Kim Haywood said the organisation had put a call out to its members asking how many AWI shareholders didn’t get the voting pack or received it too late.

She had faxed some voting papers to AWI on behalf of WAFarmer members, but these could have been regarded as invalid because the growers could not sign them. Ms Haywood said she knows from personal experience it takes nearly a month to get mail from Victoria

Shareholders were told at the AWI annual general meeting that the 2017 election voting packs were mailed out to shareholders by the share registry company Link Market Services by October 24 through Australia Post. The poll closed at 10am on November 15 for the annual general meeting on November 17. AWI chairman Wal Merriman said there seems to have been a problem with “the post”, but further questions put to Australia Post and Link Market Service by Sheep Central have not been answered.

Disgruntled growers suggest repeating the AWI election

Western New South Wales wool grower Stuart Mason at Gwabegar received his AWI voting pack the day after the poll closed, but called candidate Don Macdonald earlier to arrange online voting. Mr Mason and his wife were among the 100 shareholders who signed to support Don Macdonald’s election and held less than 50 votes. He knew of at least one other grower who also had to vote online because his voting pack did not arrive before the poll closed.

“It pissed me off.

“In the past we have normally ticked the box for the chairman to be our proxy,” he said.

Mr Mason did not agree with the current vote apportioning system which meant a few large growers “had all the power”.

“It’s geared towards the big fellows, like a lot of these things.”

Victorian wool grower John Pola at Rhymney Reef said he was unable to vote in the election because he didn’t receive any papers. He said he received the separate campaign letters sent by AWI chairman Wal Merriman and all election candidates to registered shareholders before the ballot closed, but not the AWI voting pack.

“Apparently there were a hell of a lot of blokes like me who didn’t get papers.

“We pay a fair bit of tax — we sold 260 bales of wool in Melbourne this year — we are entitled to a fair view votes,” he said.

The Polas run a pure Merino operation, normally shearing 9000-10,000 sheep a year.

“I think they should find out how many people did not actually get to vote and how many sent their votes in and they weren’t counted, because they didn’t get there in time.”

When asked if those who couldn’t vote or received their papers late should still have their votes counted, Mr Pola said: “I suppose if they are going to do that then they have to cancel the election and start again, haven’t they?”

“Because they can’t just get some of us to vote for the first time and count them – they’ve got to cancel the whole lot and start again.”

Central west NSW grower Nick Mason at Wellington received his voting papers in the mail hours after the voting closed on November 15 and faxed his ballot paper to AWI, while trying to contact AWI secretary Jim Story.

“I presume no, I didn’t get to vote.”

Mr Mason said perhaps the election should be held again, because he had heard several other growers also could not vote because they did not receive voting packs.

“I’m not too sure, the damage is sort of done and I don’t even know whether they did let me vote or not, but I did send it in to them, although it would have been about one or two o’clock in the afternoon, I think.”

Mr Mason held less than 100 votes and had given his votes to the chairman in previous elections, but this time wanted “a change.”

“Some of the things that have been happening have been a bit bloody amateurish, I thought.”

Mr Mason supported collating how many shareholders were affected by the mail-out issues before taking action.

“It might only be a small amount, but if it is a large amount it certainly needs to re-done.

“They posted them out more than a month before, the mail couldn’t be that bloody late,” he said.

“It sounds to me like a whole heap of them haven’t been posted, I mean it couldn’t take a month to get here could it?

“It is certainly worth investigating and it smells of a bit of a rat, doesn’t it?”

AWI election vote result favoured Merriman picks

The final AWI director election result generally favoured two of the candidates recommended to shareholders by the AWI board selection committee and chairman Wal Merriman — Colette Garnsey and James Morgan. The final vote tallies were Ms Garnsey 205,584 votes, Don Macdonald 136,384 votes, Mr Morgan 135,892 votes, Paul Cocking 128,608 votes and Will Wilson 74,308 votes. Mr Macdonald’s election and Mr Wilson’s vote result is believed to have been affected by campaigns by major growers and WoolProducers, and by Mr Cocking and Mr Macdonald, for growers not to give undirected proxies to Mr Merriman. After the election, Mr Merriman was re-appointed by the board as its chairman.

Mr Macdonald said he fully supported the investigation into the voting pack mail-out. Mr Cocking has said there needs to be an examination of how many voting paper packs were not received by shareholders, how many votes they amounted to and what were the shareholdings’ voting intentions. He had the third highest number of direct grower votes, but was beaten for the third board seat by James Morgan, by just 7284 votes.


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  1. Michelle Humphries, December 1, 2017

    While the mail-out system was inadequate and posting should have been done earlier, interested shareholders would have been aware of the voting deadline and could have voted at any time prior to this online. There are really no excuses for not voting.

  2. Andrew Farran, November 29, 2017

    AWI is under too much of a cloud to let this go uninvestigated.

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