It's clear, AWI's big problem is a lack of transparency

AWI's culture is broken and needs fixing says Paul Cocking

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LOOK OUTWARD: Paul Cocking says Australian Wool Innovation should stop navel gazing and connect better with its levy payers and shareholders to jointly shape the industry's future.

LOOK OUTWARD: Paul Cocking says Australian Wool Innovation should stop navel gazing and connect better with its levy payers and shareholders to jointly shape the industry's future.

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AWI board candidate and southern NSW woolgrower, Paul Cocking, says the company must become much more transparent with its levy payers.

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Paul Cocking, a southern NSW woolgrower, says increased transparency is the key to Australian Wool Innovation winning back the trust of its levy payers and shareholders.

The former AWI director from Mangoplah is looking to win a seat at the upcoming ballot on November 22.

He says a major overhaul is needed in the AWI's present culture before the company can tackle the challenges and opportunities facing the industry.

He said the AWI board was now more focused on defending its support for unlimited board terms than helping growers through the drought.

Question: What would be your major priorities as a director of AWI?

Answer: To unite the industry and lead with integrity and respect. Structural and cultural change is a must. A vote for me will commence the change needed to restore transparency to the company and corporate governance. AWI must collaborate with all of industry to deliver value for our levies, not working against industry.

Change must be executed with fiscal accountability, employing a leaner and more cost-effective expenditure model to ensure maximum returns on levies returned. I will push to cap board terms at eight to 10 years maximum and give all growers of all wool types a greater say into AWI.

Q: Do you think AWI has now got the balance right between marketing and research?

A: I believe growers should have a greater say. I would like to see a question in WoolPoll on this issue.

I would like to see a balanced approach, but, more importantly, a greater focus on research within AWI. I believe the current culture is not allowing for an open and honest discussion around this issue.

Q:What do you think should be AWI's main research targets?

I believe AWI must collaborate with all of industry to deliver value for our levies, not against it. I will agitate for AWI to work towards the alignment of their strategic plans with MLA and GRDC to allow better use of industry funds and co-ordinated outcomes. Embracing and developing opportunities for scientific and technological enhancements. Projects to help on-farm efficiencies to reduce cost, animal health, genetics and welfare outcomes. A renewed focus on new fabrics and uses for all wool types.

Q: How do you rate the AWI's current promotion and marketing strategy and what, if anything, would you do differently?

A: I place importance on continual focus on market diversity for our product and will push to explore as many alternatives for new markets to mitigate long-term trading and market risk.

Q: Do you think the AWI is now transparent enough with its levy payers?

A: No! AWI is not transparent enough to its levy payers. This will not change without a change in culture as result of new independent directors.

Q: The Merino flock has declined dramatically in size. What should the AWI be doing to rebuild it?

A: AWI should spend less time and funds defending why they should have unlimited board terms and more on helping wool growers through drought. There are many options to help rebuild the flock, however first we must continue to rebuild the confidence and trust in AWI. Without this we run the future risk of reduce levies and possible government interference.

Also we are not sending the right message to people considering rebuilding or entering our industry for the first time. We need a positive message and that as an industry we are ready and willing to face the major challenges ahead.

Q: How important do you think it is to end surgical mulesing?

A: Firstly I cannot believe industry is pushing back on messaging around 100pc uptake of pain relief. I do support mulesing with pain relief. I also strongly commend and support growers who have stopped mulesing. It will be a matter of when, not if, surgical mulesing will be ended.

We need to get our head out of the sand and continue to look for alternatives to surgical mulesing and support all growers and their right to farm which ever option they choose.

Q: The AWI is often portrayed negatively in the media. What do you think needs to happen to change that or is the company the victim of the "usual suspects" out to stir up trouble?

A: AWI needs to be more open and transparent to the media and work with them rather than against. I think showing a greater degree of respect and rebuilding trust would be a great start.

Q: Does the Australian wool industry's heavy dependence on the Chinese market worry you?

A: Yes. However, they are, and will continue to be, our most important market. We must re focus resources and our energy to exploring as many new alternative and developing old markets to mitigate long term market and trading risk.

Q: Any other comments?

A: We all love our great industry. AWI is an important part of our industry with many great staff. We all want a strong AWI which all woolgrowers can feel proud of and help the industry face the challenging yet very bright future ahead.

A vote for me is a vote for a positive change with my immediate focus on installing a new culture that will lead with integrity and respect and removing hidden agendas.

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