A NEW WoolPoll Panel has been selected to administer the 2021 levy vote among Australian wool growers.
And new regulations outlining the levy options for the levy ballot later this year are being “pursued” by the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment.
The WoolPoll Selection Committee has released the names of eight new industry people it selected on 4 February from 12 nominations for the 2021 WoolPoll panel. The selection committee comprised Wool Industry Consultation Panel chair Lyndsey Douglas, AWI director Don Macdonald and DAWE assistant director animal products Laura Johnson.
“To enable an independent review prior to this meeting, selection committee members were provided with the applications for each of the nominees on 28th January,” the committee’s statement today said.
“The selection committee aimed to deliver a WoolPoll panel from the nominee pool that was reflective of the diversity of levy payers.
“Importance was placed on the nominee’s production experience and industry engagement, as well as ensuring representation across varying wool sectors, diverse production systems and different geographic areas,” the committee said.
The new panel members include WoolProducers Australia chief executive officer Jo Hall, Australian Wool Growers Association nominees John Murdoch, Bibbenluke, New South Wales, and Kate McBride, NSW; Australian Superfine Wool Growers director Mark Waters; Australian Association of Stud Merino Breeders nominees Steven Bolt, WA, and Daniel Rogers, Victoria; Pastoralists and Graziers Association of WA nominee Michael Wright, and; commercial ewe group nominee Dianna Martin.
The first meeting of the new panel is expected to be held later this month. The new panel contains no industry representatives from the 2018 WoolPoll Panel and will be operating under a new structure recommended by last year’s WoolPoll Review, including a limited range of levy options.
After last year’s WoolPoll Review, it was recommended (Recommendation 7) that the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment pursue amendments to the Wool Services Privatisation (Wool Levy Poll) Regulations 2003, to require the WoolPoll ballot paper to list the following levy rates: zero, the current levy rate, 0.5 percent below the current rate, 0.5pc above the current rate, and a supplementary rate, if needed, to be proposed by AWI. The current rate is 1.5pc and the 2021 ballot will decide the levy wool growers will pay from 2022-2024.
Review Recommendation 8 suggested the department pursue amendments to the regulations to require AWI to provide its recommendation of a particular levy rate to growers separate from the Voter Information Memorandum.
A departmental spokesperson told Sheep Central the department’s 2020 review of WoolPoll made recommendations that cut across the responsibilities of government, Australian Wool Innovation (AWI) and industry.
“Within its responsibilities, the department is progressing amendments to the regulations that govern WoolPoll, the Wool Services Privatisation (Wool Levy Poll) Regulations 2003.
“These changes would introduce a structured set of levy rate options to appear on the ballot paper (Recommendation 7) and would require AWI to provide its levy rate recommendation as a standalone document (Recommendation 8),” the spokesperson said.
“The department is pursuing these amendments well in advance of the 2021 WoolPoll.”
WoolPoll Review made wide-ranging recommendations
The WoolPoll Review made several recommendations to restructure ballot options, improve the independence of the process from AWI and of the information presented to growers.
The focus of engagement in the lead-up to future WoolPolls should shift to more online activities. Australian Wool Innovation (AWI) and the 2021 WoolPoll Panel should prepare a plan for a ‘digital roadshow’ for the 2021 WoolPoll, drawing on lessons learned from successful digital engagement during the COVID-19 pandemic.
AWI should provide wool levy payers with additional information that clarifies the optional preferential voting process, as part of the voting instructions.
The preference for a 5-yearly poll should be tested with wool levy payers through an additional question on the 2021 WoolPoll ballot paper. This would inform government’s consideration of regulatory amendments that would be required to enact such a change.
AWI should undertake scoping work, in partnership with Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA), to explore the considerations and develop potential operational models for aligning their strategic planning processes.
The ‘general services’ levy model should be retained, with decisions about how levy funding is split between research and development, marketing and other activities to remain a matter for the AWI Board. AWI should engage with levy payers, to canvas views to inform the board’s decision and to explain the rationale for the funding split for a particular period once adopted.
AWI should develop a framework of diverse and accessible avenues to engage in a two-way dialogue with levy payers, beyond WoolPoll. To create a strong feedback loop, this framework should facilitate levy payers to provide to AWI their priorities for future levy expenditure, as well as receive from AWI detailed information about the outcomes of past levy investments.
The department should pursue amendments to the Wool Services Privatisation (Wool Levy Poll) Regulations 2003, to require the WoolPoll ballot paper to list the following levy rates: zero, the current levy rate, 0.5 percent below the current rate, 0.5pc above the current rate, and a supplementary rate, if needed, to be proposed by AWI.
The department should pursue amendments to the Wool Services Privatisation (Wool Levy Poll) Regulations 2003 to require AWI to provide its recommendation of a particular levy rate to growers separate from the Voter Information Memorandum.
AWI’s recommendation should be presented to growers as a standalone document, which could be included in the voting pack.
The process of forming a selection committee to appoint all members to the WoolPoll Panel should be adopted as an ongoing feature of WoolPoll. The selection committee should comprise the independent Chair of the Wool Industry Consultation Panel and a representative from the AWI board and the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment. Once appointed, the members of the WoolPoll Panel should select the panel chair from among themselves. AWI should set out the selection committee process in the WoolPoll Panel Terms of Reference, which should be made publicly available.
To ensure the WoolPoll Panel is able to execute its independent verification function, AWI directors should not hold membership on the panel. AWI directors should act as engaged observers. AWI should continue to facilitate access to information, expertise and provide secretariat support to the Panel. AWI should reflect this in the WoolPoll Panel Terms of Reference, which should be made publicly available.
Click here for more information on the WoolPoll Review.