PROGRESSIVE SA sheep breeder Andrew Michael said participants in the Australian Wool Innovation focus group in Sydney in June have been left feeling “violated” and “disappointed” after being informed of who was sitting in on the “confidential” meeting behind a mirror in the opposite room.
“We came into the meeting being very open and honest because we were told it was going to be confidential,” he said.
“The facilitators only told us halfway through the meeting that there were ‘members of the team' behind the mirror in the room, but no-one mentioned that it would be AWI chairman Wal Merriman.
“We understood why Neil Judd (AWI genetics program manager) would be there, to translate what we said to the board, but he should have been the only AWI representative in there.
“I don’t think the facilitators were fully aware of Wal’s anti-genetic technology beliefs.
“A focus group is the right way of doing this type of research, if it’s managed properly, and this just wasn’t managed properly.”
Mr Michael said the meeting went for nearly three hours, in which they discussed the advantages and future of sheep genetic data collection.
The Michael family run about 8000 sheep at Snowtown and have been using genetic measurement for more than 30 years.
“It’s hard to see AWI refuse to support programs such as the Information Nucleus and cut funding to key genetic research.
“This is why we believe the organisation needs to become more transparent, because when you are using levypayers money going forward, you really have to be made accountable.
“The organisation is doing really well in the marketing of the industry, but I feel it is not heading in a direction that is positive and up-to-date with the thinking of commercial producers and the industry in general.”