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Wool farmers say no to levy, sparks fear in Australia
16
Sep '09
A vote by a minority of New Zealand sheep farmers to axe the wool levy paid over the Tasman signals a dire warning for Australian woolgrowers in the lead up to WoolPoll 2009.

Fewer than 40% of New Zealand sheep producers voted down a proposed lower wool levy of NZ4c per kilogram by 2012, and chose, on behalf of the entire industry, not to pay any levy at all, in the recent Kiwi wool poll.

“There's a lesson here for Australian wool levy payers. When it comes time to vote in WoolPoll 2009 later this month, we can't afford to let our future be dictated by a minority,” Queensland woolgrower Will Roberts, who chairs the WoolPoll 2009 Panel in Australia, said.

“It's not what New Zealand producers decided, but how few of them decided for everyone. This is what we want to avoid for WoolPoll 2009, and it's a possible outcome here in Australia.

In last month's New Zealand wool levy vote, 39% of wool producers voted, with 54% of these voting down a proposed levy amount. By comparison, during WoolPoll Australian growers will be asked to consider what percentage of their wool income will fund research and development and marketing.

The levy rates being polled in Australia are 3%, 2.5%, 2%, 1% and 0%.

“One way or the other, the result of WoolPoll 2009 in Australia will have an instrumental effect on the future of our industry, so a majority of growers should make sure they have their say,” said Mr Roberts.

“Notwithstanding the size of the turnout in New Zealand, the message to Meat & Wool New Zealand is decisive. The same will apply to WoolPoll, whatever the turnout, whatever the result.”

“It is essential that Australian growers stand up and be counted. Those who don't vote are basically allowing somebody else decide how much they pay or, as has happened in New Zealand, don't pay.”

If woolgrowers voters decide to retain the current 2%, the nation's wool research and marketing body, Australian Wool Innovation (AWI) would expect to receive an annual income of approximately $45 million, including a $10.6 million contribution from the Federal Government.

Under the Wool Services Privatisation Act 2000, AWI is required to run a poll of woolgrower levy payers every three years. All woolgrowers, who have paid $100 or more in wool sale levy in the three years ending 30 June 2009, are eligible to vote in WoolPoll 2009.

Voter information kits will be sent to eligible growers in late September. The poll closes at 5pm EST on Friday, 6 November 2009.

Australian Wool Innovation (AWI)

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