New wool Chair says it's time to get on with business

New wool Chair says it's time to knuckle down

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Newly elected AWI Chairman says he has no intention of getting tangled up in any agri-political arguments.

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New AWI Chairman Jock Laurie said he has no desire to partake in any agri-political warfare and it is time to do what is best for growers.

New AWI Chairman Jock Laurie said he has no desire to partake in any agri-political warfare and it is time to do what is best for growers.

NOT interested in entering any agri-political warfares, newly elected Australian Wool Innovation Chairman Jock Laurie said it's time to get on with business.

Mr Laurie, a sheep and wool producer from Walcha in NSW's New England area and AWI director of six years, was elected as the new Chair of the peak wool body at an out-of-schedule board meeting last Wednesday with his position taking effect immediately.

The appointment followed the decision of former Chairman Colette Garnsey to step down from the role in March to ensure a smooth transition ahead of the annual general meeting on November 19.

"My view has always been to do the job and do it well and hope that people will support what you are doing," Mr Laurie said.

"So I hope to think what we are doing and what we will continue to do at AWI is to knuckle down and do the job well and engage the industry and stakeholders the best we can.

"Hopefully woolgrowers will see a benefit in that approach, but that's for them to judge in time."

Mr Laurie knows levy payers want to see AWI working in the best interests of the woolgrowers.

And he said he has no intention of getting tangled up in any agri-political arguments.

"If people want to carry on those in the sidelines, they can do that," he said

I have no intention of getting tangled up in any agri-political arguments. If people want to carry on those in the sidelines, they can do that - Jock Laurie

"AWI is a research and development and marketing company. We have to manage our company under current market conditions and we've got to focus our expenditure in areas that are going to generate the best outcomes for the real workers of the industry.

"There has certainly been a strong agri-political component around one of the chairman's time whilst I have been a director, and that is the type of thing I will be trying avoid because I can't see the benefit in that.

"I think AWI has been a company that has been well run, but unfortunately underestimated by some of the growers because of some of the agri-political issues that have gone on."

It's a big year for Mr Laurie to take the reins with both director elections and WoolPoll scheduled for later in the year.

At the 2018 WoolPoll elections AWI supported the 2pc rate, but voters strayed away from the recommendation and the majority opted for 1.5pc

It was the first time in WoolPoll's history the votes were so close that a preference count was needed to determine a result.

Mr Laurie said the AWI board hadn't made a decision on the percentage they will be recommending.

Historically the board had supported the 2pc levy, but that discussion will be down the track, he said.

"Over the last three years there have been some pretty major changes impacting the industry - COVID, a drop in production and a drop in the levy," he said.

"But any decision made will be justified.

"What AWI needs to do is be clear about is what we are aiming to achieve and what we are aiming to invest in and the outcomes we would like to see.

"I think that is going to be a critical part as we go forward. Without doing that it is very hard to garner the support of the industry for any levy rate."

According to Mr Laurie the main threats the Australian wool industry is currently facing is the looming European Union labelling legislation, the shearer shortage and mulesing.

"I am going to be very clear about mulesing. AWI is an R&D company, we are not the agri-political organisation to deal with mulesing," Mr Laurie said.

"We will provide all of the information, we will do the research that we can so people can make up their own minds about what they want to grow on their properties.

"Everybody's environment is completely different, we will provide them with all the tools to make the best decisions for their enterprises."

The wool market, he said, is displaying positive signs for the future and as the world recovers from COVID, demand should build and in time the market will firm.

"Once all the economies get up and going and people start buying again, I think it is going to be really interesting to see what that looks like," he said.

"There could be a fair few things that change how wool is bought and sold over the next few years."

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