“Well,
Helen Coonan’s put the cat among the pigeons and good on her,” declared
Alan Jones in his 2GB editorial on 16 June. The broadcaster was
referring to the minister’s announcement that Keith Windschuttle and
Peter Hurley had been appointed to the board. Jones liked what he saw,
describing Windschuttle as a “historian, and a good one, a truthful
one”.

Jones warned his listeners that the critics would now say
that the minister was stacking the board because Windschuttle’s
appointment came on top of those of Janet Albrechtsen and Ron Brunton.
Jones noted simply that the controversial pair had “previously
complained of left wing bias at the ABC”.

Implying that this was no bad thing, he focused on Windschuttle,
describing him as “a clear thinker, and an unapologetic one”. Perhaps
the broadcaster was thinking of himself when he concluded that there
were two things for which you could not be forgiven in Australia: “One
is success and the other is having an opinion which doesn’t tally with
that of the commentariat”.

By
mid-June it was clear Jones felt that some of his opinions tallied with
those of at least three of the eight members of the ABC board. He may
have felt less of an affinity with another individual who had aspired
to a directorship. As is well documented, the ABC board meeting last
Thursday was the first held since the abolition of the position of
staff-elected director.

The initial effect of this legislation was to prevent Quentin Dempster
from taking up a boardroom seat. Remembered for his fierce
protectiveness of the ABC’s independence during an earlier term on the
board, the Stateline
host also maintains an interest in Jones’s activities in NSW. On 8
August 2003, for instance, in a piece entitled “Pick’n’Stick”, Dempster
explored the broadcaster’s relationship with Tim Priest and Richard
Basham, and credited the “shock jock” with having Michael Costa
installed as Police Minister.

In the days after Coonan’s announcement of the new ABC directors, The Chaser‘s
Dominic Knight suggested that Alan Jones was now the only prominent
conservative commentator not on the board. Phillip Adams joked that the
prime minister was probably saving Jones for the chairmanship.

Peter Fray

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