Brought to you by AG Concepts

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

VOTE! Your flock needs you

By Andrew Woods  |  Source: AWI, AWEX, Sheep Central, The Weekly Times, ICS

Key points

  • The proportion of possible votes returned at AWI AGMs looks to have fallen drastically during the past decade.
  • Recently, reports indicate directors are being voted in with as little as 16% of the theoretical number of votes.
  • Press reports appear to mix voting rights and votes (for multiple directors) which makes for confusion.

2017-10-31 Wool Fig 1

2017-10-31 Wool Fig 2

The discussion at the recent Senate Estimates hearing of votes cast at Australian Wool Innovations (AWI) Annual General Meetings (AGMs) threw up what seemed like very small numbers. This article takes a look at the theoretical number of votes which could be cast in the election of AWI directors and compares this to the reported number of votes cast.

Figure 1 shows the annual wool tax collected from 2001-02 onwards, with an estimate made for 2016-17, along with the calculated gross wool proceeds. The wool tax is shown on the left hand scale and the gross proceeds on the right hand scale.

The AWI constitution states that a vote is given for every $100 of wool tax paid (on a rolling three year average). Figure 2 uses this calculation to develop the theoretical number of voting rights from the wool tax. Each voting right enables a vote to be made for each directorship which is vacant. Where three directorships are vacant each voting right will be able to return three votes. Voting rights and votes looked to be used somewhat indiscriminately in reporting, which can muddy the waters when trying to determine what proportion of theoretical votes have been returned. 

There will be some shrinkage in the number of voting rights and hence votes. The AWI company secretary Jim Storey stated at the recent Senates Estimates hearing that in 2016 some 90,000 votes were returned out of total possible around 1.1 million. For the 2016 AGM, the potential votes was around 470,000 which equates to a possible number of 1.41 million (470,000 multiplied by 3, for each directorship). This implies shrinkage of some 21%. A total of 90,000 votes returned imply that only 30,000 voting rights were exercised, which would account for only 8% of the possible voting rights/votes.

In Figure 2 estimates have been made about the proportion of votes returned in the 2007 and 2008 AGMs. The estimates range from 60% to 80%. In 2015 three directors were elected with around 73,000 votes. These 73,000 votes account for around 16% of potential votes, well down from the proportion of six years before. It appears the proportion fell even further in 2016, to very low levels.

It would be healthy for the industry for AWI to publish the theoretical, possible and actual votes returned as a way to encourage a more healthy wool grower involvement in industry affairs.

What does this mean?

The key message in this article is that grower participation in AWI elections for directors has fallen heavily during the past decade, to apathetic levels somewhere between 8% and 20% of potential votes. This is not healthy for an industry which, like all other industries, faces many challenges despite the boom times currently upon us. 

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