US-Style Confirmation Hearings For ABC Appointments, Under Senator's Proposal
Candidates for positions on the ABC board would be subjected to US-style confirmation hearings under a proposal by a South Australian senator who wants to stamp out political interference.
Independent senator Tim Storer is pushing the change to ensure the public broadcaster's appointment processes are transparent and independent.
"The position of chairman and managing director should not be filled permanently unless and until new legislative arrangements are in place," he said on Monday.
Storer, a former Nick Xenophon Team candidate, outlined a process where an independent panel would make recommendations to the government for ABC board nominations, rather than the government putting people forward.
"The proposed amendment would also require the government to explain publicly in advance and in good time if it intends to ignore the recommendations of the Panel," Storer said in a statement.
"If [the government] disagree the appointment would then be subject to a public Senate committee inquiry."
The Guardian reported last week that many recent board members had been directly appointed by the government, with nominations either not going to a panel or the panel's recommendations being ignored.
However, treasurer Josh Frydenberg is not enamoured by the idea.
"We have a comprehensive process in place and I haven't heard a powerful reason to change that," he told Sky News.
"We want the best people for the job, and the best people for the job have a deal of expertise from across the economy and from across the community."
Adding fuel to the fire is a fresh warning from Prime Minister Scott Morrison to acting ABC chairwoman to "settle the ship" after a week of turmoil at the taxpayer-funded institution during which managing director Michelle Guthrie was sacked and chairman Justin Milne was forced to resign.
"I expect the ABC board to do better. And if they don't, well they can expect a bit more attention from me," he told ABC Insiders on Sunday.
Storer said he was "troubled" by this statement from the PM.
"This points to the urgency of Parliament acting to enhance the transparency and independence of the process for appointing ABC Directors," he said.
Morrison said it was up the ABC board to ensure the organisation was well run after a "pretty ordinary" week which claimed the scalps of its chairman and managing director.
Milne, a friend and business associate of Malcolm Turnbull, was forced to resign last week after it was revealed he demanded ABC several journalists be sacked to appease the coalition government.
“They [the government] hate her,” Milne reportedly wrote in an email about Alberici on May 8, according to Fairfax.
"You have to shoot him," Milne said of Probyn.
Shadow treasurer Chris Bowen said the "extraordinary" interventions of the former ABC chairman had exposed a disconnect between the government and its ABC board appointees.
"We do need a parliamentary inquiry to get to the bottom of exactly what interference occurred, what the board knew and when they knew it," Bowen said.