Newly appointed Australian Wool Innovation (AWI) chairman Colette Garnsey has signalled a new era for the peak wool industry body, telling shareholders the company is committed to greater engagement with Australian woolgrowers.
Ms Garnsey used her speech to last week’s AWI annual general meeting to signal it was a time of change at AWI.
Her speech came after woolgrowers throughout Australia gave AWI a clear message they were unhappy with AWI’s performance by recently voting to cut the wool levies they paid it from two per cent of their wool sales to 1.5 per cent. AWI had wanted the levy maintained at two per cent.
Ms Garnsey was this month appointed as AWI chair to replace Wal Merriman who stepped down after controversy over his leadership style and critical reviews of AWI’s governance structure.
Mr Merriman said he was proud of what he had achieved at AWI and would continue as an AWI board member.
Ms Garnsey said AWI’s priority was “to be a company that is engaged with all of its stakeholders - woolgrowers and shareholders, of course, but also the government, farmers’ groups, the media, our supporters and, yes, those who hold a more critical view of our performance.”
“All have a stake in the future of the company, all want the very best for the wool industry - and all deserve a say and to be heard,” she said.
Ms Garnsey told the meeting one of AWI’s highest priorities was responding to, and implementing the 82 recommendations from the Review of Performance commissioned by the federal government.
“We are already 33 per cent of the way through the implementation process,” she said.
“For example, since the review, we have introduced a board skills matrix in the 2018 Annual Report that will help ensure we have the right mix of skills and experience on our board. And we have appointed a general manager of operations - a new role that will allow our CEO to focus on more strategic activities.
“Of the 82 recommendations in the report, there are 75 which we have accepted and actioned. Of the remaining ones, there are two that are the subject of continued negotiations with the department. There are also five we expect to put to shareholders at a general meeting in mid-March after a period of consultation.”
On the wool levy vote, Ms Garnsey said AWI was determined to give woolgrowers confidence their levies were “being invested effectively and efficiently. AWI must continue to run lean, with every dollar spent wisely and every dollar accounted for.”