Senator wants US-style ABC appointments

Senator Tim Storer is advocating for new changes to the ABC's board appointment processes.

Senator Tim Storer is advocating for new changes to the ABC's board appointment processes. Photo: AAP

Candidates for positions on the ABC board would be subjected to US-style confirmation hearings under a radical proposal by a South Australian senator who wants to stamp out political interference.

Independent Senator Tim Storer’s proposal follows a torrid week at the public broadcaster which claimed the scalps of managing director Michelle Guthrie and chairman Justin Milne.

Mr Milne, a friend and former business associate of Malcolm Turnbull, was forced to resign over allegations he demanded several journalists be sacked to appease the coalition government.

The accusations have cast a dark cloud of political influence over the remainder of the ABC board.

Senator Storer is pushing the changes to ensure the public broadcaster’s appointment processes are transparent and independent.

“The steps I am taking …. would help enhance the autonomy and integrity of this profoundly important institution,” he said on Monday.

“The position of chairman and managing director should not be filled permanently unless and until new legislative arrangements are in place.”

Senator Storer is concerned the Coalition government has ignored the advice of an independent nomination panel in appointing several directors.

He wants the panel to publish its recommendations, and the government to publicly explain its reasons if it intends to ignore them.

If the major parties disagree on an appointment, the nominee would be subjected to a public Senate committee inquiry.

However, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg is not enamoured with the idea.

“We have a comprehensive process in place and I haven’t heard a powerful reason to change that,” he told Sky News.

Mr Frydenberg said he maintained confidence in the remainder of the ABC board.

“I’ve seen no evidence – and the prime minister has also said this – that there should be further changes there,” he said.

But Labor frontbencher Stephen Jones has suggested each member of the ABC board should consider their positions.

“I think there is a big question about whether it’s in the interest of the broadcaster that they continue in their role, and this is exactly what a full and independent inquiry needs to look at,” he told the ABC.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has thrown fuel on the fire by warning the acting ABC chairwoman to “settle the ship” at the taxpayer-funded institution or risk attracting more attention from his government.

“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.


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