Wool group in effort to thrash out changes

Headshot of Cally Dupe
Cally DupeCountryman
AWI hopes it won’t have to hold an extraordinary general meeting.
Camera IconAWI hopes it won’t have to hold an extraordinary general meeting. Credit: Bob Garnant

Australia’s wool industry is on tenterhooks waiting to find out whether Australian Wool Innovation will hold a meeting to discuss major changes to its constitution.

It has been seven months since Ernst & Young handed down an independent review into AWI’s performance and governance.

The wool research and marketing body was handed a long to-do list, including 82 recommendations sorted into 12 themes.

AWI has “actioned” all of the recommendations and Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud has turned up the heat, telling Countryman he expected AWI to “show leadership” and “implement all 82 recommendations”.

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AWI has implemented six of the recommendations so far, and determined one not necessary.

Countryman understands AWI originally planned to put five of the remaining 75 recommendations to shareholders at an extraordinary general meeting in March.

The meeting would require shareholders to vote on whether to implement each of the five recommendations relating to AWI’s board.

The five recommendations in question include changing AWI’s board nomination committee structure, the definition of the independence of AWI directors, whether there should be a 10-year limit on the tenure of directors, and whether a rule requiring director candidates to secure 100 AWI shareholder votes should be removed.

Under the Corporations Act 2001, the company requires a 75 per cent majority of shareholders to pass a constitutional change.

However, whether the meeting will go ahead at all is unknown.

An AWI spokeswoman said AWI was “consulting with wool grower representative groups on the recommendations” and hoped there would be no need to hold an EGM.

The spokeswoman said the company would “not hesitate” to put issues to shareholders at an EGM if there were “lingering or unresolved concerns”.

“To this end, a date for the EGM has not been announced,” she said.

“A date has been discussed ... if required, the board will set a date and hold the meeting.

“We hope this will not be necessary and that we will secure the unanimous support of our stakeholders.”

Mr Littleproud urged AWI to “show leadership” and implement all 82 recommendations. “I also expect AWI to thoroughly involve grower groups in rolling out the recommendations,” he said.

WAFarmers livestock council vice-president Steve McGuire said his organisation was waiting to hear whether an EGM would be held.

“We have been trying to work with AWI to find the best outcome for the industry,” he said.

“We are waiting to see whether there will be an EGM.”

Many of the 82 recommendations were aimed at the seven-strong board.

Recommendations included having a skills-based board, increasing transparency regarding proxy votes at board elections and improving strategic planning with stakeholders.

It also recommended code of conduct breaches be investigated independently and AWI’s WoolPoll be held every five years instead of three.

AWI’s revenue swelled to $103 million in 2017-18 on the back of good wool prices, compared to $88 million in 2016-17.

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