AUSTRALIAN Wool Innovation’s inclusion of 2.5 percent as the supplementary rate in the coming WoolPoll levy ballot has been branded as unnecessary and unjustified.
Under the Wool Services Privatisation (Wool Levy Poll) Regulations 2003, AWI is able to add a supplementary levy rate to the legislated levy options, and it can separately recommend a preferred rate to levy payers.
The current levy rate until June 30 2022 is 1.5 percent. WoolPoll regulations prescribe four levy options that must be put to levy payers: zero, the current levy rate of 1.5 percent, 1pc and 2pc, and a supplementary rate, if needed, can be proposed by AWI.
Sheep Central was told by an AWI spokesman yesterday that the board has not yet decided on the rate it will recommend to levy payers. Any recommendation of a particular levy rate has to be made in a stand-alone document, which could be included in the WoolPoll voting pack.
WoolProducers Australia president Ed Storey said putting 2.5pc as a levy option indicated AWI board members “continue not to listen and it continues to be about them as directors.”
Mr Storey said at the last WoolPoll in 2018 only 3.23 percent of voters voted for a levy above the status quo of 2pc. In the 2018 WoolPoll, before preferences were allocated, 2.07pc of votes were returned for 2.5pc and 1.16pc votes favoured 3pc. Of valid votes returned, 43.51pc were for 2pc, 44.77pc were for 1.5pc and 8.49pc of votes were for zero. After preferences were allocated, 47.18pc of votes favoured 2pc and 52.82pc voted for 1.5pc.
The percentage of valid votes returned for a levy greater than the status quo before preferences has been falling. In 2012 it was 6.95pc, then 6.69pc in 2015 and 3.23 in 2018.
“So to put another option that caters for a tiny section of the levy payers indicates the board is not listening to levy payers,” Mr Storey said.
Mr Storey said he “pretty sure” AWI has opted for a 2.5pc supplementary option to ensure that 2pc isn’t the highest on the 2021 ballot paper.
“That’s what they are about and from that number going in there I think we can predict what their preferred option is going to be…”
By putting the 2.5pc option in, Mr Storey agreed it looked like AWI’s preferred option in the 2021 ballot will be 2pc.
“2.5pc is unnecessary, no-one votes for it.
“It indicates they are going to use the setting of the options to try to influence the final outcome, which is a disappointing use of their discretionary powers in respect to setting another levy option.”
2.5pc had never been a realistic option – AWGA
Australian Wool Growers Association director Robert Ingram said for most wool growers 2.5pc has never been a realistic option in a WoolPoll ballot.
“That vote (greater than 2pc) has been decreasing forever, so to me, this is actually wasting shareholders’ money yet again, developing an argument to justify 2.5pc.
“The very comprehensive WoolPoll Review set out a clear framework as to what the four rates should be and if AWI wants to put in a supplementary rate they can,” he said.
He said past WoolPoll voting figures showed that wool growers have never substantially supported a levy rate above 2pc and a 2.5pc option could not be justified in terms of past voting preferences.
“It just shows again the arrogance of the board in not looking at what wool growers are telling them in terms of the number of votes.
“The culture of the organisation in terms of the way it treats its shareholders is appalling.”
2.5pc is not a superfluous option – AWI
An AWI spokesman said the five options provide wool growers with a wide variety of levy rates to consider.
“Wool growers will make up their own minds on what to support.
“It (the 2.5pc) is not a superfluous option,” the spokesman said.
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