NEW South Wales wool broker and grower Don Macdonald is the new director on the board of Australian Wool Innovation.
Mr Macdonald was successful in his bid for a board seat at today’s AWI annual general meeting, receiving 136,384 votes this afternoon, along with re-standing directors Colette Garnsey (205,584 votes) and James Morgan (135,892 votes).
Candidates who failed to gain a seat were re-standing director Paul Cocking (128,608 votes) and consultant Will Wilson (74,308 votes).
The shareholders earlier voted to retain the board size at seven directors, rather than nine.
After growers from five states claimed delays in getting voting papers for the poll, shareholders were told at the annual general meeting that AWI and its share registry Link Market Services will investigate the company’s 2017 election mail-out.
About 160 shareholders and AWI staff attended the AGM and an extensive question session fielded inquiries about the behaviour of chairman Wal Merriman, media coverage, wool marketing, research projects and priorities.
AWI director Colette Garnsey told the meeting the board had determined that chairman Wal Merriman had not committed a material breach of the AWI Code of Conduct, in regard to his behaviour swearing at an ABC journalist and observing Merino breeders at in a research focus group in the ‘Man behind the Mirror’ incident without their permission.
The meeting was told that the Wool Exchange Portal – WoolQ – will be launched in July next year, followed by an electronic trading bulletin board. Some ‘functionalities’ would be pre-launched in the New Year, WEP technical lead Nick Potter said.
WoolProducers challenges new board to improve its operations
WoolProducers Australia issued a statement this afternoon congratulating the successful candidates of the AWI director elections, and challenging the new board to improve its operations.
WoolProducers president Richard Halliday said his organisation welcomed the election of Colette Garnsey; Don Macdonald and James Morgan to the board of AWI, and after a “very political and at times personal” campaign, expected that they “now get on with the business of effectively managing woolgrower funds.”
WoolProducers has been calling for more accountability and transparency to woolgrowers from the industry’s research, development and market body.
“To be elected onto the AWI Board carries an enormous responsibility, as one of seven people responsible for the expenditure of millions of dollars of a compulsory tax on woolgrowers and millions of dollars of taxpayer dollars, the actions of these directors must be nothing short of transparent,” Mr Halliday said.
“WoolProducers expects that the AWI Board will improve its governance practices which have been demonstrated to be lacking in recent times,” he said.
“AWI’s work should be acknowledged with the current prices being enjoyed by woolgrowers, however the prices need to be considered in the context of volume of supply.”
“AWI have previously stated that around 70pc of the GVP and EMI are driven by supply and the reality is we as an industry have lost 20pc of levy payers in the last decade.”
“If AWI is going to continue to take credit for the current high prices, it must also accept that over the past it has caused thousands of growers to walk away from our industry,” Mr Halliday said.
“WoolProducers strongly believes that with the current optimism within industry that now is the time to improve the operations of AWI. Historically the wool industry must be in crisis in order for change to occur, and we believe the current reactive industry structure will eventually lead to this if things are not changed.”
‘WPA does not want to see the industry in that position, now or at anytime in the future, therefore the current AWI board must start being proactive in its governance and operations to mitigate the risks of this occurring,” Mr Halliday said.
“Going forward, it is WoolProducers expectation that the board of AWI will implement changes to increase independence, transparency and accountability in all aspects of their operations, in line with shareholder expectations.”
‘WoolProducers has an action list that it expects the AWI board to address immediately, which in some cases will require constitutional change and in others will just require the board to improve its current performance.”
WoolProducers said initially, it wanted reform leading to transparency and genuine independence in the following areas:
- the conduct of WoolPoll
- the entire voting and election process, including the board nomination committee, proxy allocation and declaration and shareholder access
- the operations of the industry consultative committee and the three-yearly review of performance.
WoolProducers also believed it was time for the AWI board to improve consultation, communication and collaboration with industry, Mr Halliday said.
“AWI has previously acknowledged that WPA represents the most woolgrowers in Australia. It is high time that AWI started working with us rather than against us, after all both organisations work for woolgrowers.”
“As the representative of the single largest body of woolgrowers in the country, plus having the responsibility of oversighting the wool portion of the transaction levy for animal health and welfare activities, WPA and AWI must start working together.”
‘We have approached AWI numerous times on this issue to no avail, so our final expectation of this board is that it start collaborating with us in the interests of all woolgrowers across a range of issues,” Mr Halliday said.
- More follow-up and context to come on Sheep Central.
Source: WoolProducers Australia
The growers said they wanted change and Don Macdonald will contribute in a positive way, I’m sure. Unfortunately once again the chairman’s “donkey vote” open proxies have removed a current director; this time Paul Cocking, who polled better than James Morgan. In 2013, the chairman removed sitting director George Falkiner, despite polling higher. In democratic systems, donkey votes are dead votes, but with AWI they aid the chairman and cost the industry.
I would endorse WoolProducers Australia’s action list also. Action on these lines is overdue.
As AWI takes the view that matters outside R&D and Marketing (i.e. promotion) are not its concern, when many of these matters are of concern to wool growers, they should consult more closely with and accept WPA as representing these (as well as other) wool growers’ interests.
A brilliant result for Don, to fight against the odds to win this directorship.
There can be know doubt or debate that the election of Don MacDonald to the new AWI board is an industry vote of no confidence in current chair Wal Merriman.
By his own yardstick, the wool growers he represents have sent a message today by electing Don MacDonald before Mr Merriman’s endorsed candidate Will Wilson.