Michael Pascoe writes:

The Australian Shareholders Association has
added its straw to the back of the camel
on which the AWB board has been junketing, calling for a major clean out.

ASA deputy chairman John Curry wants a
board clean out on the scale of the NAB, neatly fingering the company’s heavily
conflicted structure.

“The AWB board is riddled with conflicts of interest,” Curry said in a
media release this morning. “Nine of the directors are elected by grower
shareholders. Most of them are grain growers themselves. Grower shareholders
receive no dividends on their shares so their interest is confined to the
successful sales and marketing of their wheat crop (maximum tonnes at maximum
price) and purchase of services. This is a massive conflict with the interest
of the other shareholders who may have a greater interest in good governance.”

“During the period of the events covered by the Cole Royal Commission,
and the issues being raised, six of the present 11 AWB Directors were on the
board. We are seeking to have the seven directors who were in place at the
time of the contentious issues replaced by some sort of orderly transition to a
new team of directors. Further the constitution of the company and the
structure of the board need to change to give more equitable control to all
shareholders, so we are looking for a transition to a new and independent board
to lead the company.”

It’s hard to imagine the grower directors
going willingly – the directorships are very nice little earners for the
average farmer, even if they are presently so embarrassed they had to withdraw
their request for a pay rise.

Losing the single-desk monopoly though
should go hand-in-glove with a restructuring of the two-tier AWB board and
voting rights. Well, that’s what logic would indicate anyway.

Peter Fray

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