Senator Helen Coonan is a very busy minister, what with all her various
portfolios. There’s her role as the Minister for Mollifying Media
Magnates and the related job of Minister for Restricting Diversity and
Arresting the Development of Digital Technology.

One wonders how she ever gets time for being Minister for Neutering the
National Broadcaster. Nevertheless, it’s a job she does with great
finesse and sensitivity, a bit like the Taliban taking a hammer to an
effigy of the Buddha.

There Senator Coonan was this morning announcing she was dispensing
with the position of Staff Elected Representative on the ABC Board.

It’s all about ensuring good governance, according to the minister. As
a minister in a government that was allegedly blind to the AWB’s
under-the-counter payments to Saddam Hussein, Senator Coonan should
know all about good governance.

If she was so concerned about good governance, why has she left it so long to fill vacant positions on the ABC board?

The minister’s statement also alluded to the risk of breaches of
confidentiality that is supposed to come with having a staff-elected
board member.

What absolute tosh! The last major breach of boardroom confidentiality was the hatchet job The Bulletin recently did on Chairman Donald MacDonald.

There is no way the staff rep was responsible for that and every
likelihood it came from a government appointee. But that would only be
in keeping with the Howard Government’s edict on leaking – it’s OK if
it’s our side that’s doing it; if the other side does it, call the cops.

I’ve neither the space nor the time to argue the case for maintaining a
staff-elected position on the ABC board, except to say that, at a very
practical level, it’s the only way of ensuring there is anyone on the
board with any experience in public broadcasting or, indeed, any media
experience full stop.

Coonan says she wants to remove any doubt as to which constituency the
board represents. Without a staff member there, and with all the
remaining directors owing their positions to the Howard Government, the
only constituency that will be represented will be a group of people
who think it’s time to settle some scores.

Peter Fray

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