Communications Minister Stephen Conroy is ignoring criticism of a UK model to be applied in relation to the selection of Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) Board members, Senator Simon Birmingham said today.
In a scheme similar to the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) board appointment process, a so-called “independent panel” is planned to provide Senator Conroy with a shortlist for ABC Board vacancies.
Under questioning in Senate Budget Estimates today, Senator Conroy has confirmed he still intends to proceed with this model, that he will appoint the “independent panel” and that he will make the final selection based on a shortlist provided by the panel.
The process upon which this has been modeled has been widely criticised in the United Kingdom, including from the Lords Communications Committee in a report on the chairmanship of the BBC:
“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
“It is clear that the process being adopted by the Rudd Labor Government to appoint the ABC Board is open to abuse – the Minister appoints the panel and has the final say on the recommendations it then provides,” Senator Birmingham said today.
“Disappointingly, despite telling Senate Additional Estimates more than three months ago that he ‘would hope to have it [the selection panel] in place in four to eight weeks’ and that he would ‘take on board the commentary and your observations from the UK’, Senator Conroy has been unable to shed any more light even on the process.
“At February’s Additional Estimates, Senator Conroy was unable to assure the Committee that Members of Parliament, former Members of Parliament, current or former political staffers or senior public servants would not be eligible to be appointed to the selection panel.
“Senator Conroy has some work ahead of him before he can convince us his scheme will do anything new to ensure the ABC Board remains free of political interference.”