Littleproud wants action

By Country News

The controversial chairman of Australia’s wool industry research body, who admitted to secretly viewing farmers in a focus group through a one-way mirror, could be forced out the door.

A Federal Government-initiated independent review into Australian Wool Innovation has recommended 10-year limits for board members.

The long-awaited review comes after a string of scandals involving embattled chairman Wal Merriman.

Agriculture Minister David Littleproud has made it clear he wants all 82 recommendations acted on.

‘‘I expect the AWI board to show strong leadership and work with wool growers to implement change, including cultural change,’’ Mr Littleproud said.

Mr Merriman last year apologised for covertly watching farmers during a focus group which they believed was anonymous.

He would be unable to seek re-election if the recommendations are fully implemented, along with fellow directors David Webster and Meredith Sheil, because they have all been on the board for more than 10 years.

Other recommendations include AWI moving to a skills-based board and providing transparency around use of proxy votes during board elections.

Last year it was revealed Mr Merriman, through the use of proxies, controlled more than a fifth of votes cast in the most recent board elections.

He also admitted breaking AWI’s code of conduct by telling an ABC reporter to f*** off and calling him a ‘‘useless prick’’ when he attempted to interview him at a function last year.

The review said breaches of the code of conduct should be investigated independently, rather than by AWI.

Mr Littleproud said he expected changes to AWI’s constitution to be ready in time for the organisation’s annual general meeting in November.

Farmers and taxpayers fund AWI, which spends the bulk of its budget on marketing and the remainder on research and development in the wool industry.