GRAIN Producers Australia (GPA) chairman Andrew Weidemann said he felt the processes and governance involved at the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC), which his organisation formally monitors, were robust enough to avoid an Australian Wool Innovation (AWI) style scandal.
However, he said the system had fallen down at the top end, with the selection panel’s nominations for the GRDC board overridden by then Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce.
“I’ve had a lot of feedback from growers unhappy with the Minister meddling in the selection process at the end, they are saying we don’t have a GRDC board with a good filtration of growers,” he said
“I’m not worried about the processes in terms of board selection, we were pleased with how everything went, except for the way things were finalised by the Minister.”
“If it is adhered to, and there is no meddling, I think the GRDC board appointment process is a good one, the industry selects the selection panel and they put forward some very good candidates.”
A spokesperson from the Agriculture Minister’s office said the process had been adhered to.
“The GRDC board appointments were made from a list of candidates provided by the GRDC Selection Committee as being suitable,” they said.
Mr Weidemann said the concept of ‘skills-based’ boards did not rule growers out.
“Farmers are running businesses valued in the tens of millions of dollars, they clearly have the skills required to sit on these type of boards.”
“It’s not on to cut grower numbers on boards on the basis of ‘skills’, and I don’t accept that the selection panel got their processes wrong.”
Grain Growers (GGL) chairman John Eastburn, whose group is the joint representative organisation (RO) trusted with monitoring GRDC along with GPA, was not so concerned about Mr Joyce’s involvement in the eventual make-up of the GRDC board.
“In the end, as the constitution is written up, the ultimate decision on the board make-up goes to the Minister, he has obviously made his decision based on the information he had, so I am not too fussed with that.”
Mr Joyce’s move to appoint directors to the board outside those recommended by the panel is not without precedent, in the past Government has been involved in grains industry appointments.
Former Labor ag minister Joe Ludwig was involved in the dismissal of incumbent GRDC directors and the recent Abbott Government pushing to get more female representation on the board.