The Rudd Government has been better than anyone could have expected on the issue of appointments — probably better than any previous government. It has made non-Public Service appointments merit-based, made worthy moves toward a genuinely independent approach to ABC Board appointments, resisted the temptation to fire Coalition favourites from the Public Service and shown a willingness to tap former Coalition MPs for a variety of roles.

It would be a bit harsh to declare that all that good work has been undone by Tim Mathieson’s appointment as a men’s health ambassador. It hasn’t, but it suggests that even this Government — composed, after all, of mere political mortals — is susceptible to the same temptations of cronyism that ensnare so many others. In particular, it’s the political tin ear it betrays on the part of Nicola Roxon and even the hitherto near-perfect Julia Gillard, who is the real reason for her boyfriend’s appointment, that should worry the Government most.

A very good men’s health program and the Government’s own well-deserved reputation for non-partisanship in appointments have suffered as a consequence. It’s a slip, and hopefully a one-off, not a sign that the Government’s hitherto-impeccable standards on appointments are slipping.

Peter Fray

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