The revelation of a commercial bailout relationship between Australian Wool Innovation (AWI) and the Graziers’ Investment Company (GIC) during recent Senate estimates has prompted WAFarmers to support a call for the funds to go back to the wool grower shareholders.
Established in 2001 as a successor to the Australian Wool Research and Promotion Organisation, GIC (formerly Australian Wool Services Limited) had a number of subsidiaries which were all slowly wound up over time.
Following the sale of a property in India, GIC could not get the funds out of the country so AWI stepped in to help. Liquidation of GIC’s $22 million bank balance is yet to be finalised, but is not far away.
WAFarmers Livestock Executive Officer Kim Haywood said every effort must be made to get the money paid to the original shareholders if possible and should not automatically go into AWI accounts, as a preference.
“Any money accrued must go back to the surviving original wool grower stakeholders, many of whom are located in Western Australia,” she said.
“For income that has not got a home, it could either go to the Sheep CRC business model or be split between the Sheepmeat Council of Australia and WoolProducers Australia.
“We applaud Senator Chris Back for raising the issue during Senate estimates, and for standing up for the shareholders rights to the funds.”
AWI Chairman Wal Merriman said it would be difficult to find the original shareholders, but Ms Haywood said WAFarmers would not accept this as an excuse not to get money back to them.
“There are absolutely no excuses as to why the money should not make it back to the shareholders, as the original database 2000 can be followed up with GIC’s database, through state farming organisations such as WAFarmers, and state and federal electoral rolls,” she said.
“While we acknowledge that databases change over time with people buying and selling farms, people having passed away, and others changing their contact details or names, it may not be easy to find the surviving stakeholders, but it is critically important that GIC make every effort to restore the funds to the producers involved.”