The last twelve months have been nothing if not eventful. No sooner had we wrapped up our last AGM, than I received the resignation of our Executive Director, Paul Deane, who had been offered a full-time position lecturing at Melbourne University.
After Paul’s resignation, we then needed to find a replacement, and the decision was taken by the board to endeavour to fill the position from within the industry, without advertising. Discussions and enquiries yielded several possible candidates, with the successful candidate, Robert Herrmann, officially taking up the position in May this year, but due to travel commitments, he really didn’t commence work until the last week of July. When Paul Deane tendered his resignation, he had offered to help us transition his replacement into the role, and true to his word and despite his illness, he did just that.
For most of us, Robert Herrmann needs little or no introduction. We felt quite fortunate to have had the opportunity to bring someone of Roberts reputation, skill set and abilities into the role. Whilst quite different to his predecessors, Robert I am sure, will prove to be a valuable addition to the National Council of Wool Selling Brokers of Australia.
This last year saw the reintroduction of the AWI Broker Forums. These forums provide an opportunity for AWI to advise different industry sectors of how AWI are spending growers funds. One of the messages from the forum, was that brokers were unanimous in pressing for an Integrity and Traceability Platform for Australian Wool. An Australian Platform. Over the last twelve months, both Josh Lamb from ACWEP and myself have held meetings with John Roberts from AWI and Mark Grave from AWEX, and more recently included Michael Jackson from AWTA, pressing our case for the need for a Traceability Platform for the Australian Wool Industry. There will be more on this issue this afternoon.
This year saw the return of the IWTO Congress, with Kyoto hosting this years event. NCWSBA had several members in attendance, but it was our last two Wool Broker of the Year winners that I would like to mention. Sam Wan from Elders (the 2021 winner), and Gen Butler from Karee Wool (2022 winner) attended the Congress. Both were also participants in the Young Professionals Segment, and both represented our industry and the Council with distinction. In fact, to see the Young Professionals from all over the world, on stage in Kyoto, was a heart warming experience. I’m sure Sam and Gen enjoyed the experience and will establish new contacts and friendships that will stay with them for the rest of their careers.
Unfortunately, there had been no nominations by the closing date for the Young Wool Broker of the Year Award this year, and so for this year, the competition will not run. This may well be a sign of the times, and a reflection of the labour market generally, but it is also a sign that we must work hard to encourage youth and not allow the industry, and more particularly this National Council of Wool Selling Brokers to ignore the signs of ageing. Whilst this is not the first time the competition has been suspended, it is the first time it has not run due to a lack of nominations. This will however be the perfect time for us to reconsider how we run this competition, and to reinvigorate it, and to redesign it so that it is fit for purpose. It should encourage everyone who actually nominates for the award, not simply reward the nominees who have a slick audio visual presentation or are more confident in front of an audience, such as this forum. Participants who enter, but are unsuccessful must not feel unsuccessful. All these factors, and many more, need to be kept in mind for future competitions.
The challenges for this industry are many, and no secret to any of you, and they just seem to keep coming:
- The Cost of Wool Harvesting
- The Availablity of Labour, and not just in the wool shed, but on farm, and in the wool store too
- Ageing Wool Producers
- Ageing Wool Brokers
- The every present threat of FMD
- The potential demise of the Live Export Trade
- The sudden drop in sheep prices
- The Reliance on one major market
- The Wool Market itself, just to name a few, all seem to conspire to lead growers away from wool production.
It is the Wool Broker who provides the conduit between producer and market. It is as important as ever that Wool Brokers are unified and are represented vigorously as the integral part of the chain we are. We are in a strong financial position, and this afternoon we will welcome another member to the National Council, and I hope, there will be more to follow. We don’t yet represent all selling brokers in Australia, but we should.
Once again, I would like to pay tribute to the Board of National Council, and to pay tribute to those Board Members Retiring. Vice President Steve Keys, immediate Past President John Colley, Gerard Buchanan, Andrew Mills, Michael DeKluever, Tim Edwards and Emma Reynolds, and the two alternates who were present at as many meetings as anyone else, Michelle Dalzell standing in for Emma, and Rod Miller standing in for John. I understand that Steve will not be continuing as a Board Representative for Nutrien, so I would like to thank him for his contribution to National Council over many years. He has been an excellent and astute sounding board, and a valuable contributer to the board.
In closing, I thank you all for your attendance, and challenge you to consider from where you believe your biggest threats lie. I assure you, they are not in this room.