News that Laura Tingle is running for the position of staff elected director of the ABC board may be welcomed by her many fans, but her accession is not a fait accompli.
Her self-nomination for the position coincides with the departure of Liberal Party political appointee and Sydney Institute director Joseph Gersh, and an impending decision on the position of another Liberal appointee, Fiona Balfour.
It means the board will have at least two, and maybe three new members by mid-year.
Tingle, who is Chief Political Correspondent for 7.30, announced in an email to her colleagues that she was throwing her hat in the ring for the staff-elected spot, but the fact she is not endorsed by either of the ABC’s two unions will work against her.
An interesting assessment of the context for Tingle’s nomination has just been published, by Quentin Dempster in Pearls & Irritations. Dempster is a former staff representative on the ABC Board.
While her public supporters are legion, it must be remembered that this is an entirely internal popularity contest, and union endorsement is likely to be extremely valuable.
The incumbent staff-elected director, Dr Jane Conners, was previously endorsed by her own union, the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU), which covers most ABC staff.
The CPSU is in the process of deciding which candidate, if any, it will endorse this time.
The ABC’s second largest union, the Media Entertainment Arts Alliance (MEAA), which includes journalists, conducted an electronic ballot that has resulted in Melbourne business journalist Dan Ziffer attaining that union’s endorsement.
Even though Ziffer is a far newer to both journalism and the union than some of the journalists who ran against him (including veteran Business Editor Peter Ryan) it is believed his active support of workmates got him over the line, though there is some disquiet about how the ballot was conducted.
In a clear appeal to win over staff who are members of the CPSU, Tingle wrote in the email to her colleagues:
There are clear obligations for directors of any board to be independent and while I would obviously listen to all staff concerns, I feel it would be detrimental to simply be perceived as representing the interests of one sector of our workforce.
Meanwhile the Labor government’s commitment to a fair, balanced, and open selection process for non-elected non-executive board members is about to be tested.
It’s being reported that Joseph Gersh — one of the several Liberal Party political appointees to the board — will be replaced when his term expires in May.
He was apparently advised late last year that he would not be offered a second term, which is sometimes the case for board members.
It seems the ALP is working to “unstack” the board, which has been politicised in recent years by the right.
Communications Minister Michelle Rowland has promised that, under Labor, the selection of board members will be transparent and based on merit, rather than political allegiance.
A cloud is also hanging over the fate of another Liberal political appointee to the board, Fiona Balfour.
Balfour, who is a former Qantas and Telstra executive, has faced calls to resign over what is reported to be a potential conflict of interest relating to her position with a Telstra subsidiary, Digicel.
It is reported that the government has investigated the matter, and that the results of that probe are now with the ABC.
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