As Crikey alerted you to in Wednesday’s edition, conservative columnist Janet Albrechtsen has been appointed to a powerful role overseeing the ABC and SBS boards. Albrechtsen, who writes for The Australian, will take up a vacancy on the four-person nomination panel that plays a crucial role in appointments to the ABC and SBS boards.
That’s an interesting development for ABC managing director Mark Scott, given that Albrechtsen last year used her column in the Oz to call for him to resign. As MD, Scott sits on the ABC board.
It’s not Albrechtsen’s first official role with the ABC. She sat on the board from 2005 to 2010 (she was appointed by John Howard).
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The nomination panel was a Kevin Rudd initiative and was supposed to depoliticise the process of appointing board members to the ABC and SBS. The ” independent” panel considers applications then presents a shortlist of board candidates to the minister or PM. There are currently two vacancies on the panel; Albrechtsen takes one. It’s currently chaired by former diplomat Ric Smith. All positions on the panel expire by April next year, so the Abbott government can entirely remake the panel as it sees fit.
The nomination panel has some important decisions to make in the coming months. There has been some media speculation that the government was stalling on certain broadcasting board appointments because it wanted to stack the nomination panel with sympathisers.
Appointments that the panel will mull over include one new ABC board member (to replace Julianne Schultz) and one new SBS board member (to replace Elleni Bereded-Samuel). Two more ABC board members are due to leave next year (see the current board here). These decisions have lengthy ramifications as each new board member will sit for up to five years.
Meanwhile, SBS chairman Joseph Skrzynski has of course left the job (Fairfax reported Malcolm Turnbull wanted him to stay, but was rolled by Tony Abbott). It appears that the nomination panel will be involved in replacing him. Has the Coalition government been waiting to get Albrechtsen on the nomination panel before that decision is made?
This is not the first occasion where the Coalition government has appointed friendly figures to key positions. Columnist Gerard Henderson was appointed a judge for the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards, and Tim Wilson made a Human Rights Commissioner.