First skills-based AWI board elected

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Bob GarnantCountryman
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Australian Wool Innovation (AWI) shareholders voted for the company's first skills-based assessed board members at last week's annual general meeting in Sydney.

Incumbents Brian van Rooyen and David Webster were re-elected along with AWI-nominated candidate Colette Garnsey.

The challengers were Robert McBride, of South Australia, and Alix Turner, from New South Wales.

Ms Garnsey received 122,680 votes and Mr van Rooyen polled 118,735 to Mr Webster's 118,506, while Mr McBride tallied 65,037 and Mr Turner 27,236.

AWI chairman Wal Merriman said the proxy votes assigned to him were cast on the incumbents and Ms Garnsey.

While Mr Merriman would not release the number of votes entrusted to him by AWI shareholders, he said it was substantial.

"There was an overwhelming vote to limit the board to seven directors," he said.

Meanwhile, voter turn-out was relatively low at 7.5 per cent of AWI's 28,470 shareholders, including 4835 in WA.

Mr Merriman said AWI's global wool marketing strategy, which woolgrowers endorsed at WoolPoll 2009, had been successful for the company and its shareholders.

AWI has budgeted to double its market spending in 2011-12 as the result of increased revenue from higher wool prices.

The company reported an income of $72.6 million and an operating surplus increase of $24.3 million.

While the AGM was somewhat subdued compared with the past - notably on the back of current wool prices which are up by 16 per cent on last year - the problem of shearer training was discussed with no real resolution.

Director Roger Fletcher said the issue went past AWI's role.

"We all have an obligation to increase retention of the shearing trainees," Mr Fletcher said.

It was the defeated AWI board challengers who were charged up by this issue.

Mr Turner was intent on bringing wool harvesting into the 21st century, while Mr McBride said a great deal of work and interaction with shearers and crutchers was desperately needed to find suitable solutions to increase retention of shearers who entered the industry.

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