AWI board abandons EGM plans

AWI says extraordinary general meeting originally slated for March no longer needed


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WoolProducers Australia president Ed Storey said to be able to come to a compromise rather than to have to go to an EGM on the contentious issues is a far better outcome for the industry.

WoolProducers Australia president Ed Storey said to be able to come to a compromise rather than to have to go to an EGM on the contentious issues is a far better outcome for the industry.

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WoolProducers Australia president says compromise rather than EGM is better for the industry.

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Wool Produces Australia has welcomed a move by the Australian Wool Innovation board to abandon plans to call an extraordinary general meeting to resolve issues surrounding its review of performance. 

The EGM, originally slated for March, was to be an assembly for discussion on five recommendations relating to the board’s make-up, identified in the Ernst-Young review of AWI performance and governance last year. 

But according to an AWI spokesperson, a mid-March date was only mooted at the AGM in late November - a date the board had been working to only - but since the AGM the company had engaged with stakeholder groups and the meeting was no longer needed. 

"Since the AGM the board of AWI has been proactively consulting with woolgrower representative groups on the recommendations in the Review of Performance that affect the company’s constitution," the AWI spokesperson said.

"It is the board’s intention to negotiate a best outcome for the wool industry and its shareholders.

"The board is very pleased with the positive and outcome-focused collaboration between industry representatives.

"The consultation process has been extremely productive and has been entered with a spirit of goodwill by all parties."

However, the spokesperson said if required the board will set a date and hold the meeting, but they hope that will not be necessary and that they will secure the unanimous support of their stakeholders.

At the Balmoral Sire Evaluation Group field day at Coleraine in western Victoria at the end of February, AWI board director Don McDonald said that AWI and industry groups, including WPA had agreed to AWI's proposal to implement an eight-year cap term on the AWI chair position.

Mr McDonald also said that AWI was proposing no limit on director tenure and recognised the original EY review 10-year tenure cap proposal was aimed at former chairman, Wal Merriman, who had held the post since 2008 before resigning last year. 

However WPA president Ed Storey said they didn't agree with comments made from Mr McDonald regarding no limit on director tenure. 

"We believe that the recommendation about director tenure has not been addressed," Mr Storey said.

"But I wan't to be very clear that that is a small hick-up, it is not a major point of contention.

"I have every confidence that we will come up with a resolution that reflects the intent of that recommendation that is agreeable to both the AWI board and WPA."

Mr Storey said to be able to come to a compromise rather than to have to go to an EGM on the contentious issues is a far better outcome for the industry.

"To have an EGM on these issues would have prolonged the state of uncertainty," Mr Storey said.

To have an EGM on these issues would have prolonged the state of uncertainty - Ed Storey, WPA President

"You need 75pc voting in favour of a resolution to change the constitution. 

"It would have needed unanimous support from the AWI board, WPA and from all the other groups to even have a hope in hell of getting close.

"If it didn't, and it got to somewhere around 50pc, the mess continues and the board doesn't have to change the constitution."

Mr Storey said the negotiations between the industry stakeholders and AWI had been a positive development for the future of the industry. 

"We have had good, frank discussions with AWI and on most of the contentious issues WPA and AWI have reached a compromised position," Mr Storey said.

"We are focused on getting an outcome that brings stability to the industry.

"There were issues in the report that needed addressing and we believe, apart from one, have been addressed."

AWI and the woolgrower bodies had also been negotiating over the review recommendations on the declaration of AGM proxies held by the chair, the structure of the board nomination committee and definition of director independence. 

AWI are scheduled to hold a board meeting this week, where it is hoped any remaining issues will be resolved. 

It is also expected that the make-up of a new look woolgrower Industry Consultative Committee (ICC) structure will be formalised.

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