Melbourne’s “Age” newspaper has recently confirmed that the Federal Minister for Communications, Senator Stephen Conroy, that both the ABC and SBS boards would have two new appointees in the near future.
Understandable apprehension exists in relation to the prospective appointees given that the Conroy-commissioned selection board did not appear, in this writer’s view, to comprise the appropriate multiculturalism and/or telecommunications gravitas suitable for the task of selecting the two new appointees for each new board.
The presence on the SBS and ABC selection board of such luminaries as Professor Allan Fells, the highly respected predecessor to Graeme Samuel as Australia’s prices and competition “czar”, along with Ms Leneen Forde, the former Governor of Queensland, raises legitimate concerns about Conroy’s suitability and command of the telecommunications portfolio.
Conroy, a former Industrial Officer with the Transport Workers Union in Victoria, is presently a major player in the midst of unprecedented turmoil within the Labor Unity faction in Victoria. Conroy and Bill Shorten, MHR, have entered an unlikely and tentative alliance with Senator Kim Carr’s Socialist Left faction, a development that no doubt is causing Premier Brumby some angst.
Accordingly, given the nature of Conroy’s selection committee and the distractions of internecine brawling within the Victorian ALP, a Greek-Australian appointee is unlikely given the Melbourne Cup-field of applications that were actually received, namely, a total of 352 applicants.
At least Senator Conroy has made a decent attempt to limit the possibility of cronyism hijacking the appointment process by declaring “former politicians and senior political staff” as ineligible (as reported by “The Age’).
Nevertheless, Allan Fells is a strongly-opinionated “right of centre” contributor to the “Australian Financial Review” while the presence of the chairman of the Australian Securities and Exchange Chairman, David Gonski, on the selection committee is also arguably anomalous. One would think that the committee was selected to head-hunt a replacement for the Board of the Reserve Bank, as opposed to finding suitable appointees for the ABC and SBS Boards.
The presence of Mr Ric Smith, the former Ambassador to both China and India, may hint at a selection that is in step with the Rudd Government’s foreign policy orientation towards becoming a fully immersed geo-political player within the Asia-Pacific rim (as per the policy direction of the former Keating Labor Government).
Clearly, Conroy’s selection committee is a talented one, even if, in my opinion, it could have been more appropriately constituted.
Hopefully, the forthcoming announcement of the appointments will ameliorate some of the justifiable concern as to how the selection committee was constituted..
As for the continuing chatter about a possible ABC-SBS merger, commonsense seems to be prevailing on this issue for the time being.
In the interim, it’s a matter of “watch this space.