AUSTRALIAN Wool Innovation has clarified figures revealed during the recent Senate estimates and tallied the total cost of last year’s restructure at $1.6 million.
In a letter to Senate Rural and Regional Affairs committee chair Senator Barry O’Sullivan, AWI chief executive Stuart McCullough clarified discussions made during senate estimates about investigating decentralising to a regional location, as well as figures paid to seven staff retrenched from AWI during a 2015-16 restructure.
In the letter, Mr McCullough said the total termination benefits, including ex-gratia payments, were listed in the annual report, however the number of employees in receipt of these termination payments were not. In the 2015-16 annual report, a total of $811,934 was listed as “termination benefits” paid in 2016, as well as $313,670 listed as post-employment benefits paid to non-executive directors and key management in 2015-16.
Staff termination figures revealed in estimates have been clarified to show a 63-year-old employee received a termination payment of $330,709, including standard entitlements and an ex-gratia payment initially reported at $97,115, following five years’ work on a reported $311,000 salary.
Another 50-year-old employee received $233,966 retrenchment package, including an initially reported $73,758 ex gratia after 11 years’ employment.
Federal Agricultural Minister Barnaby Joyce has since requested further information on AWI’s redundancy policy and how it benefits woolgrower levy payers.
The letter explained discussions about whether AWI chairman Wal Merriman had discussed with Minister Joyce relocating out of Sydney, however AWI had advised the discussion was in passing. In a response to questions from Fairfax Media, a spokesperson for Minster Joyce’s said since the estimates hearing, feedback had been received from woolgrowers who feel AWI could be based in regional areas as opposed to overlooking the harbour at The Rocks in Sydney.
While the Federal Government supported decentralisation, the spokesperson said AWI had not been asked to relocate. They said while this was a matter for AWI and its levy payers, “there is significant marketing and professional expertise in regional areas”.
Tensions about AWI having a legislated peak industry group have stemmed from the estimates, with most state farming organisations campaigning Mr Joyce to legislate WoolProducers Australia.
“The involvement of peak councils as representative organisations helping to advise research and development corporations on farmers’ research priorities works effectively in other industries,” the spokesperson said.
While Minister Joyce expects AWI to consult effectively with woolgrowers, they said he was not currently considering changes to AWI’s governing legislation.
AWI declined to comment.