AUSTRALIAN Wool Innovation has been condemned for recommending growers support a 2 percent levy in the 2021 WoolPoll ballot, without releasing budgetary, wool price and production projections to support its position.
AWI said today it is recommending wool growers vote for a 2 percent levy in the upcoming WoolPoll, just after its board also this week said it supported including a supplementary 2.5pc rate in the five ballot options.
Levy payers will vote for either a levy of zero, 1pc, 1.5pc, 2pc or 2.5pc. Voting for WoolPoll will open on September 13 and run until November 5, but the voter information memorandum will not be public until early September.
AWI chairman Jock Laurie said an increased levy from the current 1.5pc will deliver more industry-wide investment that benefits all Australian wool growers.
“Our industry has opportunities but also many challenges and that’s why we needs the extra investment.
Mr Laurie said key projects needing extra AWI funding include:
- promising research work on developing a vaccine for flystrike,
- fighting against proposed clothes labelling changes in Europe that would rate wool poorly in terms of the environment.
- extra shearer and wool handler training and support
- increasing wool’s use in sporting, casual and leisurewear.
- smart marketing campaigns in major Northern Hemisphere markets like China, the UK, Europe and the US.
“Without an increase in the wool levy good projects that help growers will not be acted on or delivered as quickly,” Mr Laurie said.
“It would be like fighting with one hand behind our back.
“AWI’s sole purpose is to make things better for Australian woolgrowers through research, development and marketing. If funding stays at current levels AWI’s ability to deliver for growers will be limited,” he said.
“It is the right time to invest more and get better long term returns for our great industry.
“Detailed information about what AWI can do at each levy option are included in AWI’s Grower Document which will be mailed out to growers in September.”
AWI must release VIM information or shut up – WoolProducers
However, WoolProducers Australia president Ed Storey said AWI should immediately release the information in the WoolPoll voter information memorandum or stop promoting its 2pc levy preference. A WoolPoll panel spokesperson told Sheep Central the VIM would be sent to levy payers in early September.
Mr Storey said AWI staff should not be speaking in support of the 2pc option until the VIM is released.
“It happened last time, but we haven’t seen that yet.
“Therefore it behoves the AWI board to release the relevant information that they are basing the 2pc on immediately,” he said.
“The need to release that to all levy payers and other groups to give the industry an opportunity to peruse the data and makes their decisions quickly.
“If AWI are going to spend the next two months not working for shareholders but lobbying for 2pc, they need to release information they are basing it on immediately.”
Mr Storey said AWI’s actions in this situation by promoting a 2pc WoolPoll results amounted to “doctoring the marketplace.”
“Marketplaces work best when everyone has the same information, but they (AWI) are trying to flood the marketplace with 2pc before everyone has an opportunity to avail themselves of the relevant information.
“That is unconscionable and unacceptable.”
Mr Storey said AWI is entitled to have a view on what the levy should be.
“But if they are going to spend time and levy payers’ money, they need to release immediately the information, otherwise it could conceivably be six weeks now before everyone gets the VIM.
AWI’s behaviour “absolutely” reflected an attempt to influence levy papers before they had all the VIM information.
“That is unequivocably clear as day.
“AWI must give shareholders and levy payers an opportunity to form their own views in the same time, not try to brainwash them for six weeks before they give them the information, and that’s very clearly what is going on here, it’s unacceptable,” he said.
AWI’s 2pc levy option promotion is ‘ethically corrupt’ – AWGA
Australian Wool Growers Association director Rob Ingram said AWI’s promotion for the 2pc levy option at this time showed complete disregard for good governance and due process.
Mr Ingram queried why new AWI chairman and career agri-politician Jock Laurie had allowed AWI to promote the 2pc option without informing levy payers of the data justifying its position.
“How can he let this happen at this point in his tenure?
“How can he not the organisation and people into line in relation to governance and ensuring due process is properly followed?,” he asked.
“It is a very poor reflection on him, the chair of our organisation.”
Mr Ingram said it was also wrong that not even the WoolPoll Panel could talk about the levy options, while AWI still could.
“The process is ethically corrupt in terms of good and proper governance and due process.”
AWI is ‘open and honest’ about its preference
An AWI spokesman said criticising AWI for making its case early for 2pc in the WoolPoll ballot is a strange argument to make.
“We are open and honest about what we want growers to support.
“More information will be sent to growers ahead of when voting opens,’ he said.
The spokesman said that suggestion that AWI releasing its preference for the 2pc option reflected poorly on the culture and governance of the AWI board is ‘ludicrous”.
“Growers will make up their own minds.
“We are being very honest about what we are calling on growers to support.”