Wool sales spark spat

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Senator Bridget McKenzie.
Camera IconSenator Bridget McKenzie. Credit: Josh Ferndandes/Josh Fernandes, Josh Fernandes Picture: Josh Ferndandes

The head of a WA agricultural lobby group has labelled claims Australian Wool Innovation was “not aware” of its concerns over an online wool platform as “inconceivable and just plain wrong”.

It comes after a Senate estimates hearing in May, when the wool body’s chief executive Stuart McCullough stated he was unaware of Pastoralist and Graziers Association of WA’s opposition to AWI’s investment in its WoolQ initiative.

PGA livestock committee chairman Chris Patmore.
Camera IconPGA livestock committee chairman Chris Patmore. Credit: Countryman

PGA WA livestock committee chair Chris Patmore said Mr McCullough’s comments had misrepresented the lobby group, which he said had voiced its concerns on several occasions via a letter, at meetings and personally to AWI representatives.

During the hearing of the Senate Rural Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee, Senator Bridget McKenzie asked AWI representatives a series of questions on the $6.4 million initiative.

Ms McKenzie said WoolQ was not working towards gaining its intentional 2 per cent of the wool trade market and asked Mr McCullough to address what AWI was doing to change its performance.

Mr McCullough responded that support would be forthcoming by way of consultation.

“We felt that in the early stages of launching this platform from April last year, the trading of bales on it would be a more successful roll out than it has been,” he said.

“It was a time of COVID lockdown, when the auction system was threatened, that we turned this thing on — the selling platform, it’s one small part of WoolQ.”

Mr McCullough said the WoolQ platform — which has sold 1423 bales online since April 2020 — was built to serve woolgrowers as wool could not be sold any other way than open-cry auction.

“You can buy everything else digitally, so we developed this platform,” he said.

Ms McKenzie said the PGA was very concerned that AWI, a rural research and development corporation, that provided research and development and market promotion services was providing commercial services through WoolQ.

Mr McCullough said he was not aware of the PGA’s concern.

Mr Patmore said that statement was “inconceivable and just plain wrong” and the group had written to AWI in May 2019 stating it did not support any investment in WoolQ.

“AWI should not be competing with the private sector in providing selling options,” he said.

“Further, PGA had tabled their opposition to levy money being spent on WoolQ at every possible Wool Consultation Group meeting and every Woolgrower Industry Consultation Panel meeting.”

Following the Senate estimates hearing an AWI spokesman said Mr McCullough accepted PGA’s statement regarding its views on WoolQ. “He apologises to the PGA and would like to take this opportunity to correct the record,” he said.

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