In a referendum that closed on October 10 farmers declined the opportunity for a new wool commodity levy order. The previous levy was dropped in August 2009.
The new levy promoters and advocates, the Wool Levy Group, concede the fight is lost.
Chairwoman Sandra Faulkner describes the outcome as “disappointing”. She and fellow levy group supporters have a right to be disappointed: they worked hard to get the industry-good wool organisation reinstated. But they should not be disappointed about the voter turnout.
Some 47% of eligible woolgrowers voted – still pitiful – but high compared with most commodity levy referendums that struggle to get more than a 35% turnout.
Now however, the higher-than-normal voter turnout signals that the rejection of the wool levy should be finally accepted.
The vote: 57% of farmers rejected the levy, only 43% favoured it. Meanwhile, the weighted vote from larger enterprises was even more strongly against the proposal: almost 60% rejected the levy.
Faulkner says the promoters faced a twin challenge: to ensure wool growers understood the proposal to introduce a levy under the Commodities Levy Act, and to get a strong voter turnout.
This poll result shows that both of these objectives have been met.
While some proponents of an industry-good wool organisation will be disappointed that their fellow woolgrowers have elected to reject a levy, they must now accept this is the will of a sizeable majority of growers.
Thankfully, Faulkner has conceded there is no chance of a repeat effort to force another vote.
“Growers have had their say and that’s where we are at,” she says.
It is now time to move on for the sake of all involved in the country’s $700 million wool industry.