AUSTRALIA’S peak wool producer body opposes giving the Western Australian and New South Wales stud Merino breeder bodies separate membership of the industry’s consultative body.
The Wool Industry Consultative Panel (WICP) and the broader Woolgrower Consultation Group were formed to consult with Australian Wool Innovation on industry priorities and needs, and provide feedback on AWI’s research, development and marketing activities.
Up until they recently split from the Australian Association of Stud Merino Breeders, the Stud Merino Breeders Association of WA and the NSW Stud Merino Breeders Association Ltd were represented on the WICP through AASMB delegates.
The state Merino breeder bodies already have representation on the WCG; however, Sheep Central has learned they have enquired about membership on the WICP, which is regarded by AWI as the main levy payer consultative body.
However, WoolProducers Australia president Ed Storey said he would oppose any proposals for NSW and WA Merino breeder body membership of the WICP.
He said the WICP had not discussed the probability of admitting the two state bodies, but he believed it would mean Merino breeder interests would be overrepresented on the consultative panel.
“No, they won’t be on the WICP; they are represented through the WCG, the broader group, so there would be no reason, at this stage, for them to come onto the WICP.”
AWI chairman Jock Laurie said it is not up to the AWI board to deliberate on the WICP membership.
“Nothing will be decided by the board, because it is not the board’s role.”
“The WICP will determine who their members are and it’s not up to the AWI to determine who their members are.”
But Mr Laurie said AWI needed the WICP to be “very comprehensive in nature, so it incorporates the wool industry in its entirety as much as it can.”
Mr Laurie said he has had some correspondence with the NSW and WA stud Merino breeder bodies “basically saying that they were stepping away from the (national) body.”
“I don’t know what’s happening with the internal politics, I don’t need to know and I don’t want to know, but what I can say from AWI’s point of view is that we need the WICP to represent the broader industry and that really helps AWI.
“It will also help very much the government … both the government and AWI want to get really clear direction out of the WICP,” he said.
“If the WICP is really covering off on the major groups that are sitting out there then that makes it far easier for us.”
Mr Laurie would not disclose whether he thought the WICP would be more or less comprehensive in its membership with or without WA and NSW breeder representation.
“What I want to do is make sure that the people we are talking to around the WICP incorporate all the players in the industry, because that stops other groups coming in and lobbying us outside the WICP.”
However, Mr Storey said he found it interesting that Mr Laurie said WICP membership is up to the panel members, but that AWI had been talking about it.
“The studs get a huge representation – they get AWI staff turning up at every event they put on at great levy payer expense.
“They get beers and barbecues shouted for them after shows, a very poor use of levy payer money.”
Mr Storey said if the state Merino breeder bodies were granted WICP membership it would make the panel “more irrelevant than it is now.”
WA and breeders are in discussions on WICP membership
When asked if the NSW Stud Merino Breeders Association is seeking WICP membership, association president Drew Chapman said there were “lots of discussions happening,” but he had no further comment.
“I’m not entering into a yes or no or an in between.”
Stud Merino Breeders Association of WA Allan Hobley said the body would pursue any avenue where it can get industry representation that is seen as being of benefit to members.
“Anywhere where we see we can be a valuable contributor, then we will look into it.
“We have had early conversations around it (gaining WICP membership), that’s all I’ll say,” he said.
“We’re auditing ourselves and where we are best placed to have a voice.
“We’re not ruling anything in or out.”
Mr Hobley said it was no longer in the best interests of the WA association to remain a member of the AASMB and all state members were informed the national body membership was not being renewed.
“It (the decision) was made (in July 2021) by the (SMBAWA) council, because the council is the member of the AASMB, the breeders aren’t a member.”
Mr Hobley said there had been a number of unresolved issues over about 10 years, “in which we have had no value in that time in being a member of the AASMB.” These included disagreements over the flock book rules and national body constitution.
The WA body paid an annual membership fee of $27,000 for two AASMB delegates “and rising”, he said.
“I think the national body has lost its way and I don’t know whether it knows what it stands for or what it wants to achieve.
“Our vision of what a national body should look like and their vision of what a national body should look like were poles apart, so at the end of the day, we’re not going to continue to invest in something that gives us no return,” he said.
“I just wanted to see more focus around big picture thinking and less tit for tat over minute issues they had no control over.
“I don’t think there was a real understanding what its role and responsibility was in the industry,” Mr Hobley said.
“And it wasn’t fit for purpose; it might have been years ago.”