PEAK grower body WoolProducers Australia is urging all Australian Wool Innovation shareholders to personally vote in this year’s AWI director elections and not appoint any proxies for the November 17 ballot.
But despite also questioning the independence and transparency of the AWI board nomination committee and election process, WPA has stopped short of naming its preferred candidates or indicating which it believes qualify as independent.
WPA said AWI shareholders should be receiving their voter information packs either online or via post and voters must make their voice heard through voting and not give any proxies.
If shareholders cannot attend the AWI annual general meeting in person, for their vote to be counted they need to have appointed a proxy, either to be carried personally or submitted online, as a directed or undirected proxy. A proxy can be allocated to anyone who is attending the meeting.
Candidates running in the election include current directors James Morgan, Colette Garnsey and Paul Cocking, wool grower and broker Don Macdonald and Wool Exchange Portal consultant Will Wilson.
In voting papers sent to AWI shareholders, AWI’s board nomination committee has said the 2017 candidates are collectively of a high standard, and capable of making a contribution to the skills of the board in one or more areas. The committee has recommended Colette Garnsey, James Morgan and Will Wilson to shareholders on the basis that they are the candidates who, if accepted, would result in the board having “the best balance of director competencies”.
WPA president Richard Halliday said it was a WPA board determination not to back any particular AWI election candidate.
“AWI is a grower-owned company so our point of view is that it is actually up to individual growers to take the time, effort and due consideration in regards to the candidates and make an informed decision on who they should vote for without us influencing their opinion.
“This is the importance of having an independently operated transparent organisation; that growers should have the ability to make clear decision in their own right and know that those decisions and choices will be acted upon,” he said.
Mr Halliday said last week’s Senate Estimates revealed the lack of transparency, independence and accountability with the current voting process with AWI.
WPA said under questioning from the Senate’s Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Committee, AWI was unable to clearly articulate the process of selecting Board Nomination Committee members, including the independent members required under their Statutory Funding Agreement with the Commonwealth.
‘Given that a number of previous so called independent BNC members are either now AWI board directors, running for the AWI board or were previous Board Directors, this calls into question the integrity of this whole process,” Mr Halliday said
“WPA are calling on woolgrowers to take the time to consider the information provided and vote in the best interests of their organisation and not appoint a proxy.”
It was also revealed at the Senate Estimates hearing that AWI chairman Wal Merriman receives a large number of proxies and does not have to declare where he allocates undirected proxies. Mr Merriman guessed he could hold up to 45,000 proxies in an election.
“WoolProducers does not believe that there is adequate transparency or accountability in this process,” Mr Halliday said.
AWI has stated that shareholders have the power to direct the company, so WPA said it is incumbent on wool growers, if they are not happy with the current operations of AWI, to vote for change.
“As a company responsible for the expenditure of a compulsory levy, AWI shareholders cannot sell their shares if they are unhappy with how it is running, so now is the time to make your voice heard,” Mr Halliday said.