The unstacking of the highly politicised ABC board is progressing at a cracking pace, with the removal of two so-called “captain’s picks” by the former Coalition government.
First there was news that Sydney Institute director and Turnbull-government appointed ABC board member Joseph Gersh would leave his position in May.
Now another Liberal appointee, Fiona Balfour, is being removed after concerns about a possible perceived conflict of interest due to her senior position at a Telstra subsidiary.
Balfour is a former Qantas and Telstra executive who is reportedly a friend of former coalition communications minister Paul Fletcher.
Fiona Balfour’s WikiPedia entry
Commercial media reported that Balfour’s departure was due to conflict with the Chair, Ita Buttrose, but the truth of the matter is that Balfour’s position had been subject to a government review, and the results of that review had recently been handed to the Chair.
The Labor government will now be tested on its promise of an open, unbiased, merit-based selection process for replacement board members.
Although the final say on who can become a board member is still technically the decision of the communications minister, the existing regulations mandate a merit-based process.
Read the ABC and SBS Board selection process guidelines
The guidelines state:
…a person must not be appointed as a non-executive Director to the ABC or SBS Board by the Governor-General unless a merit-based appointment process in compliance with the ABC and SBS Acts is conducted.
With a nomination panel:
The Nomination Panel consists of a Chair and a minimum of two, or a maximum of three, other members. The Nomination Panel members are appointed by the Secretary of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C).
On publication of these guidelines in 2020, the nomination panel was comprised of Dr Sally Pitkin (Chair), Ms Helen Williams AC and Mr Mark Kenny.
… the Nomination Panel must conduct a merit-based appointment process in accordance with the ABC and SBS Acts. The Nomination Panel must assess all applicants against the relevant selection criteria on the basis of merit.
Meanwhile the field in the race for the staff elected board position has widened significantly.
As well as 7.30’s Laura Tingle, TV-turned-radio presenter and author Indira Naidoo, who made her name on the Late Edition TV News in the 90’s and is now presenting the ABC Radio Evenings programme in Sydney and Canberra, has also thrown her hat in the ring.
TV business reporter and journalists’ union candidate Dan Ziffer will also be included on the ballot with a candidate supported by the majority Community and Public Sector Union and several others.
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