Key figures jostle for position on AWI board

Headshot of Bob Garnant
Bob GarnantCountryman
AWI director Colette Garnsey will hang up her AWI hat and retire from the board in November allowing for a suitable replacement voted in by the wool body’s shareholders.
Camera IconAWI director Colette Garnsey will hang up her AWI hat and retire from the board in November allowing for a suitable replacement voted in by the wool body’s shareholders. Credit: Bob Garnant/Countryman, Bob Garnant Picture: Bob Garnant

Wool industry figures are positioning for a place on the Australian Wool Innovation board with at least one seat to become available after Colette Garnsey announced she would retire.

AWI’s constitution requires one third of its seven directors to retire and stand for election every second year.

The four directors that must retire or stand for election this year are Colette Garnsey, Don Macdonald, James Morgan and Jock Laurie.

Ms Garnsey announced in March she would step down from the board, and AWI chairman Jock Laurie has confirmed he will stand again.

Mr Macdonald and Mr Morgan have not confirmed their positions.

With anticipation for board positions, two high-profile wool industry leaders have put their hands up on a joint ticket based on improving corporate governance and market diversification.

TA Field Estates managing director Michael Field.
Camera IconTA Field Estates managing director Michael Field. Credit: TA Field/TA Field

TA Field Estates managing director Michael Field, who runs five NSW properties producing 2500 bales of wool per year and South Australia-based Michell Wool chief executive Steven Read are currently in the process of gaining the required 100 signatures of support from AWI registered shareholders.

“Getting signatures is no mean feat,” Mr Read said.

Both nominees believe strongly in good corporate governance and a healthy culture.

“We feel now is the time for new directors with no ties to any sectorial interest other than what is best for the commercial wool grower,” Mr Field said.

“We must adapt to a modern ever-changing environment.

“This means responding to and engaging with all stakeholders.”

At the very centre of the two nominees’ interests, is bringing cultural change of AWI and getting all stakeholders to return to the table.

They want to proactively rebuild collaborative, inclusive relations with other relevant research and development corporations, including the Federal Government.

Michell Wool chief executive Steven Read.
Camera IconMichell Wool chief executive Steven Read. Credit: Michell Wool

Mr Read said they both stood firm on the view that AWI must finalise all the recommendations of the 2018 Ernst and Young review of performance.

“We both agree that there is a large shearer and shedhand shortfall and we want to support the successful AWI shearer and shedhand training program,” he said.

“A lot of time and research levy dollars has been invested in WoolQ and we believe it lacks industry adoption, which questions as to whether AWI should continue to fund it.”

Both nominees are united in the view that AWI’s rule is not to determine whether farmers should be mulesing sheep.

“Painful animal husbandry practises should be replaced where possible and pain relief used where appropriate,” Mr Read said.

“What is critical for wool growers to making such decisions is knowing the market’s position.

“We both will ensure comprehensive market reports from AWI’s marketing operatives across all markets, especially Europe, remain detailed and comprehensive.”

Mr Read said they were both also interested in a comprehensive review of market diversification strategy for increased competition.

“From my background, in the middle of the supply chain, I believe AWI could invest in research for early stage wool processing — scouring and top making,” he said.

“Early stage processing has almost 86 per cent of the Australian wool clip funnelled through one location. We haven’t seen a great deal of innovation in wool processing for decades.”

Mr Field said he understood in detail the on-farm management requirements of the major agroclimatic and enterprise production systems.

“Management and research needs to breed sheep across these systems to meet the needs of our domestic and international customers,” he said.

“As an AWI director, I would encourage AWI to be more involved with sheep genetics, from a commercial wool growers perspective.”

The two candidates have the support of NSW wool grower and Australian Wool Growers Association director Robert Ingram.

Nominations of candidates for AWI director positions must be received by the AWI between September 2 and September 20.

AWI shareholders will be mailed their voter information packs on October 12 with the list of board candidates. The outcome will be decided at the November 19 AGM.

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