Article by: Hari Yellina
The election of the next president of the United Dairyfarmers of Victoria (UDV) has been postponed by the Victorian Supreme Court after one of the candidates filed a lawsuit about his expulsion. Ian Morris, a former UDV Corangamite chapter secretary and dairy farmer, was nominated for the top role, but his membership with the Victorian Farmers Federation (VFF) was revoked before the election. Mr Morris has filed an injunction in the Supreme Court against the VFF and its president, Emma Germano, in an attempt to halt the election and reverse the expulsion. Judge Andrew Keogh of the Victorian Supreme Court has ordered the VFF not to take any more measures toward electing the UDV president, or to make any announcements regarding an appointment, until the trial begins again on March 1.
The time is crucial since the UDV had planned to complete the election and designate many policy council members at its annual convention on April 28-29. Since nominations closed on March 17, ACM, the publisher of this magazine, has been looking for information on the candidates. Paul Mumford, the current president of the UDV, has declared that he will not seek re-election, while vice president Mark Billing of Colac has stated openly that he hopes to gain the presidency. The VFF and Ms Germano’s decision to cancel Mr Morris’ membership was “tainted by anticipated bias,” according to Mr Morris’ lawyers.
His attorneys said in court records that they had either not listened to or ignored material Mr Morris wished to bring to the board’s awareness, denying him procedural fairness. They claim the board failed to clarify the alleged VFF constitution violations that led to the expulsion, as well as failing to follow its own constitution and grievance procedures. Members can be expelled from the VFF if they act in violation of the constitution, in any way that is prejudicial or damaging to the VFF’s interests, if subscriptions are not paid, or “for grounds stipulated and publicised from time to time by the board.”
It further specifies that the member must be notified of the intended membership termination and the allegations within 30 days. The individual should also be given the option of appearing in front of the board or submitting a written explanation. Mr Morris and Ms Germano both declined to comment while the case was pending in court. “Members will be informed more during the VFF UDV Annual Meeting and Conference on Friday,” Ms Germano said. On May 26, the matter will be heard in front of Justice Keogh in the Supreme Court.