AWI delays tenure vote for another year and revamps consultation

AWI delays tenure vote another year and revamps consultation

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CONSULTATION: AWI chief executive Stuart McCullough says consultation, traceability and evaluation and measurement are key to its new strategy.

CONSULTATION: AWI chief executive Stuart McCullough says consultation, traceability and evaluation and measurement are key to its new strategy.

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AWI has published its strategic plan for the next three years, which included a move to replace the Industry Consultative Committee.

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The debate over board tenure will continue for at least another year, with Australian Wool Innovation confirming a vote on the issue won't be held at this year's annual general meeting, but instead at next year's.

The revelation came after AWI published its strategic plan for the next three years, which included a move to replace the Industry Consultative Committee (ICC) with a new consultation panel and group.

AWI chief executive Stuart McCullough said traceability, consultation, measurement and evaluation were the major investment and operational priorities of the plan, which was influenced by Ernst & Young's (EY) 2018 Review of Performance (ROP).

"With our overall implementation progress of the ROP recommendations progressing well and tracking at more than 70 per cent, consultation and measurement and evaluation are both integral parts of the new strategic document," Mr McCullough said.

He said four of the five remaining recommendations from the EY review had been "agreed on by industry" and would be voted on at the AGM this November.

"The final one relates to board tenure and we're continuing to work with industry to come up with a solution that will work with the new ICC to make sure they are happy with whatever model has resolved in the end and that will go to the AGM in 2020," he said.

"There's a raft of different opinions amongst the ICC panel.

"That is something that we will work with them harder to make sure that everyone is in agreeance and that, in 2020, a proposal will go to the AGM that has their blessing and our blessing."

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Mr McCullough said he could not disclose what was being discussed but that negotiations were underway.

"We've got a long way to go, we've got until November next year but we [will] continue to talk with them on a regular basis about that," he said.

"We're highly confident something will be achieved by November 2020."

Mr McCullough said extra time to consider the tenure issue was widely supported.

"This goes back to January this year but, you know, everyone's quite comfortable with that," he said.

"We certainly took this proposal to the previous [Federal] Agriculture Minister [David Littleproud], the current Minister [Bridget McKenzie] is aware of what's going on, the Department of Agriculture is aware of what's going on, the industry is aware of what's going on and all those people are comfortable that this is progressing in a sensible fashion."

He stressed the importance of the change.

"I think it's fair to say the previous Agriculture Minister was quite strong in his views," he said.

"I think that we respect that but we felt that if some of these things changed, it fundamentally changed the DNA of our institution and thus affected our shareholders' rights then that should be probably something that industry has a good discussion about and that's exactly what's happened."

WoolProducers Australia (WPA) president Edward Storey said the extended debate was justified.

"We support the need to ensure orderly rotation of directors such that corporate knowledge is retained by the board as a whole, not the individual few," Mr Storey said.

Rather than a simple question of limiting directors' tenures to 10 years, he said there were several ideas under consideration.

"Could it be addressed by just a maximum term for the chair and others?" he said.

"Could it be addressed by limiting the number of terms slightly to fit with the election cycle at AWI?

"Should a director be able to go six years without facing an election?"

The nature of consultation between AWI and industry will also change, with the newly-released strategic plan outlining a two-tiered representative model.

The ICC will be replaced by the Woolgrower Industry Consultation Panel (WICP) and Woolgrower Consultation Group.

WPA is supportive of the change, and Mr Storey said they looked forward to hearing who was appointed WICP chair.

"It's important that's a little more at arm's length from the board than it's been," he said.

"The previous ICC arrangements were very ineffective, we found."

He said more formalised arrangements would be beneficial.

"And that people are accountable for what they say and people are accountable for how they respond and us, as groups, are alsoaccountable for information we feed back to our members," he said.

"A lot of the comments made and a lot of the issues raised by the ICC weren't taken very seriously.

"With a more formal process in place and an independent chair, they'll have to be taken more seriously."

He said WPA would also lobby for the adoption of another recommendation to reset the timeframe of AWI strategic plans.

"One of the other key recommendations out of the review was that AWI move to a five-year strategic planning cycle," he said.

"WPA support that, however, we feel one thing that's very important in the implementation of that is that those five years line up with the same five years of the Meat & Livestock Australia's strategic plan.

"It's sometimes been the case in the past where the lack of alignment...provides both companies with the opportunity to not talk to each other and have slightly different programs that run concurrently but are really trying to achieve the same thing."

Ms McKenzie was contacted for comment.

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