Prime Minister Scott Morrison has rejected Opposition leader Bill Shorten’s call for the opposition to be consulted on any future ABC board appointments. Picture: AAP
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has rejected Opposition leader Bill Shorten’s call for the opposition to be consulted on any future ABC board appointments. Picture: AAP

ABC board appointments ‘a charade’

COMMUNICATIONS Minister Mitch Fifield has been accused of stacking the ABC board with the government's picks and ignoring the proper selection process for board members.

Neil Brown, a former member of the independent panel tasked with recommending ABC and SBS board members, has accused the federal government of treating the selection process as a "charade" as the fallout continues from a chaotic week that left the ABC leaderless.

Mr Brown, a former Fraser Government communications minister, has also accused Mr Fifield of "misleading" the public about the selection of certain candidates and blasted the government's appointment of ABC board members Vanessa Guthrie and Donny Walford, saying Ms Walford's appointment "came from nowhere".

"We nominated five people; Donny Walford was not one of them. That's a clear breach of any recognition of the panel process being of any value whatsoever,'' Mr Brown toldThe Australian.

 

"In all of those cases the minister is holding up a figleaf in what is a government directive to ­appoint individuals, using the charade of going through the nominations panel process."

Mr Brown also slammed Mr Fifield for saying in 2016 that the panel had recommended ­Bulent Hass Dellal to be SBS chairman.

"What the minister did was take the one who was our last ranked, and said that we recommended him. That is in my view quite misleading,'' Mr Brown told the publication.

Mr Brown said the government selected Mr Dellal despite the panel's top ranked candidate being "head and shoulders above everyone else".

Senator Fifield told the publication last night: "Dr Hass Dellal was one of the candidates recommended by the nomination panel. He is an outstanding chair of SBS, is supremely qualified and well respected in the community and across the parliament."

Mr Brown's criticism of the government's appointments comes just days after ABC managing director Michelle Guthrie was sacked and Justin Milne quit as ABC Chairman in a "firestorm" over his call for Guthrie to sack two journalists after complaints from then Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

Former ABC Chairman Justin Milne (left) and former Managing Director Michelle Guthrie during the ABC Annual Public Meeting in Ultimo, Sydney, in February. Picture: AAP
Former ABC Chairman Justin Milne (left) and former Managing Director Michelle Guthrie during the ABC Annual Public Meeting in Ultimo, Sydney, in February. Picture: AAP

There are now calls for the remaining board members to quit after it was revealed they knew for a week about Mr Milne's call for journalists Emma Alberici and Andrew Probyn to be sacked and did nothing.

The government is also under pressure to overhaul the selection process for ABC and SBS board members, which Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Mr Fifield have so far rejected.

Mr Brown has also revealed the panel had not "recommended" Mr Milne, despite Mr Turnbull and Mr Fifield making that claim when appointing the businessman to run the ABC in 2017.

"The minister said we recommended Mr Milne, which is not true. We nominated five people and said they were qualified. That is not the same as a recommendation," Mr Brown told The Australian.

Yesterday, Mr Morrison rejected Labor leader Bill Shorten's call for the Opposition to be consulted on any future ABC board appointments.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg also shot down calls for US-style confirmation hearings for future board members if there wasn't bipartisan agreement on the candidate.