Today’s appointment of new Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) and Special Broadcasting Service Corporation (SBS) Board members has cost too much and taken too long, Senator Simon Birmingham said today.
Questions asked by Senator Birmingham in recent Senate Additional Estimates revealed the new board appointment process had cost more than $200,000, with the new members still ultimately selected by the Communications Minister and Cabinet.
Senator Birmingham is Deputy Chair of the Senate Standing Committee on Environment, Communications and the Arts.
“I welcome the appointment of two new Board members for both the ABC and SBS, and wish all four of them well in bringing their expertise to these important organisations,” Senator Birmingham said today.
“However, the Rudd Government has spent nearly 18 months and approximately $202,000 just to reach this point, which still involves the Communications Minister and then Cabinet signing off on the appointments.
“This process has proven to be an expensive farce that is clearly designed more for the Minister to big-note himself rather than delivering anything that might actually help advance public broadcasting in Australia.
“I hope this process will be less costly and less time consuming in the future, and that the process will remain as free of political influence as the Government claims.
“It is worth noting, however, that there is nothing in the Rudd Government’s guidelines preventing the Prime Minister or Ministers from influencing the composition of the Nomination Panel, or even appointing former MPs or senior political staff to it.”
The Government based its model on the so-called “Nolan principles”, used in the UK to make appointments to the Board of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), which have been widely criticised including by a committee of the House of Lords:
“What is clear is that this process gives Ministers considerable opportunity to influence the selection. Ministers appointed the selection panel, Ministers were allowed to change the shortlist of candidates and ultimately Ministers were able to choose between four candidates who passed the interview process.”
First Report of Session 2006-07, Lords Communications Committee, 3 August 2007
“Minister Conroy has failed to learn any lessons from the BBC experience, and is just wasting taxpayers’ money for his own political ends,” Senator Birmingham said.