AUSTRALIA’S sheep sector has a new team of leaders after the election of the inaugural board of Sheep Producers Australia Ltd in Perth this afternoon.
At the Parmelia Hilton, state farming organisation delegates and proxies elected Michael Craig from Victoria, Jamie Heinrich and Allan Piggott from South Australia, Ian McColl from New South Wales and Bindi Murray from Western Australia, as directors of the new company.
Mr Piggott was later elected SPA president and the board also resolved to increase its numbers, and its governance and strategic focus through the appointment of an independent chair. The SPA board will also seek to appoint one additional director as well as the independent chair following a skills audit early next year.
“Five directors is a small board, particularly when you think of the workload that we have in front of us over the next 12 months.
“There is going to be a lot of work about bedding down the new structure, governance and building relationships with our state farming organisations and producers,” Mr Piggott said. “It really is a unique opportunity to build our profile.”
Mr Piggott said the inaugural SPA directors would work on strategic decisions for the national industry while ensuring there were no state biases at the board level, supported by various SFO policy committees.
Governance consultant Sonya Beyers said there were five candidates for seven positions on the first SPA board and based on the votes cast, the SPA directors were validly elected under the SPA constitution’s first-past-the-post system.
Delegates and proxies from AgForce, Livestock SA, the Victorian Farmers Federation, WAFarmers, NSW Farmers, the Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association and the Pastoralists and Graziers Association of WA progressively voted for all candidates in five separate motions. No votes were cast against any candidate.
SPA structure will ensure good governance
At the launch of the new body tonight, SPA chief executive officer Kat Giles said when she started as CEO in 2014, a process to reform the organisation and build leadership capability was started.
Many of the findings of SCA’s three-yearly governance review in 2014 aligned with the conclusions of the Senate inquiry into grass-fed cattle industry structures and systems governing levies. The Senate review found that the structure of peak industry councils often made them less relevant and removed from those they represented.
Dr Giles said the inquiry also found that under current peak industry council organisational structures, the council members are removed from SFO members, “leading to the widespread view among levy payers that they are disenfranchised from their peak bodies.”
“The new structure, Sheep producers Australia Limited, will ensure good contemporary governance practices and ensure SPA is able to accommodate and adapt to changes in the environment in which it operates.”
She said the SPA structure provided an improved platform for all producers’ voices to be heard through a professional organisation, underpinned by good governance.
“Further, the organisation is structured to enable it to be part of any unified model proposed or adopted by Australian Farmers Ltd, or that matter, any other entity SPA chooses to collaborate with.”
Challenge is to move industry forward
Immediate past president of the former Sheepmeat Council of Australia, WA producer Jeff Murray chaired the inaugural board meeting for the election of the SPA directors.
He said the new skills-based board and constitutional model would benefit the sheep industry, with several advantages to moving from the industry association-state farming organisation to a company limited by guarantee structure.
“The industry is already in a great position, the challenge is now to carry it forward and improve on it again.”
Mr Murray said a direct voting model was an option under the SPA’s constitution, but this was “not on the cards at this stage.”
The major benefit of the new SPA structure will be its ability to be more inclusive of other sections of the industry and widen its scope of activities, especially in regard to producers.
“It is going to give us more scope to move and do different things.
“Under the old constitution we had no room to move.”
Mr Murray said the SPA’s structure would allow it to look at the option to “join with WoolProducers down the track, if we need to.”
“Our constitution talks about sheep, not just meat, so we will be a total sheep industry group, and down the track there is an ability to represent all sheep producers.”
He said the new structure would also allow SPA more scope to work with Meat & Livestock Australia, including co-operating in events like Lambex.
Mr Murray has been SCA president for the past three years and said the body had served the industry well since 1978.
Mr Heinrich said he was very excited to be involved on the inaugural SPA board.
“It is a very good step for the industry and for leadership in the industry moving forward.”