CAMPAIGNS to disrupt the power-block on the Australian Wool Innovation (AWI) board are underway as the industry group’s voluntary gag placed on the mulesing debate is removed.
In a sign of frustration with how the organisation is being run, lobby group, WA Farmers, has publicly backed two nominees, going against the endorsement made by the controversial Board Nomination Committee (BNC).
AWI shareholders will vote on November 17 in Sydney for three vacant positions on the board from five contenders, including incumbent directors Colette Garnsey, Paul Cocking and James Morgan, and outside nominees Don Macdonald and Will Wilson.
It is the first time WA Farmers has publicly backed AWI board candidates, which WAFarmers livestock section vice president Steve McGuire said was due to concerns about the behaviour of the current board.
WA Farmers encouraged woolgrowers to consider casting their vote for Don MacDonald or Paul Cocking, which Mr McGuire said was due to both supporting governance improvements.
“If you want to give your proxy, we recommend you give your proxy to Don Macdonald, he is not an insider in the AWI camp,” Mr McGuire said.
He called a recent letter sent to shareholders from AWI chairman Wal Merriman, (which reiterated the endorsement of the election committee), as “denigrating” and “misleading”.
The nomination committee has recently come under fire for a lack of independence, after it was revealed current member Katrina Hodgkinson, former NSW Primary Industries Minster, was a cousin of Mr Merriman who also sat on the committee.
Other members of the BNC include former president of the World Federation of Merino Breeders Robert Ashby, current AWI director Meredith Sheil and former AWI chairman Brian van Rooyen.
Mr Merriman and Mr Ashby sat together on the 2003 Wool Poll panel and are both former Australian Association of Stud Merino Breeders presidents.
The BNC formally endorsed Ms Garnsey, Mr Morgan and Mr Wilson who recently sent a joint letter to shareholders declaring their stance on mulesing.
RELATED COVERAGE: Click links below
Ms Garnsey was “committed to preserving the rights of woolgrowers without regulation and interference”, while Mr Morgan said “mulesing or non-mulesing is the choice of each grower”.
However, Mr Macdonald said the attempt to bring mulesing into the election debate was “a dangerous gamble”.
“I have never sought to see a ban on mulesing. I commend those who have ceased mulesing and are managing their stock well, at the same time I fully support and understand growers who continue to mules their sheep,” Mr Macdonald said.