ABC Alumni is a new group comprised of former staff members of the ABC. Between them, they possess hundreds of years of experience working at the public broadcaster. The Alumni’s objective is to advocate for the continued prominent role of quality, independent public media in Australia.
ABCFriends welcomes the formation of the Alumni which brings together the skills and talents of so many people who have worked with the ABC.
The ABC Act states that the primary duty of the Board of Directors is to “maintain the integrity and independence” of the Corporation. The events of recent days make us wonder whether the former chairperson or the current directors understand what that phrase means.
ABC Alumni call for a thorough bi-partisan parliamentary inquiry into the events of the past week and the background to them. Before any new appointments are made to the Board, that inquiry should be given time to assess how well the current appointment system is working, and in particular:
1. How the current legislation, particularly as it pertains to the selection and appointment of ABC board members, should be amended to reflect the clear intention of the Act – that is, to prevent politically partisan appointments, particularly of unqualified people.
2. Whether the Minister (or in the case of the chairperson’s appointment, the Prime Minister) should be permitted to ignore or by-pass the nomination panel’s recommendations (as has been the case in the appointment of the majority of current Directors).
3. Whether it should be a legal requirement that the Prime Minister consult the Leader of the Opposition over the appointment of the ABC’s chairperson in all circumstances.
4. Whether a Senate or Joint Parliamentary Committee should have some oversight or involvement in the appointment of Directors, and/or of the Chairperson, of the ABC.
5. Whether the selection criteria for Directors laid down in the ABC Act should be changed to ensure that all candidates display an understanding of their duty “to maintain the independence and integrity of the Corporation”, and that the Board as a whole includes an appropriate range of experience and expertise.
ABC Alumni believe it is unrealistic to hope that pressure on the public broadcasters from the government of the day can ever be entirely eliminated. The task is to ensure that those appointed to govern and manage the ABC are people with the understanding and the backbone to resist such pressure when it is inappropriate, while at the same time ensuring that the ABC’s journalism is accurate and impartial.
We will be publishing our own detailed recommendations in due course.
Released by Jonathan Holmes, Peter Manning, Matt Peacock, Helen Grasswill, Greg Wilesmith, John Cleary and Quentin Dempster on behalf of ABC Alumni Limited