19 June 2006

Recent appointments #1: ABC Board

I have hitherto refrained from adding anything to the many comments which have been made about the recent appointments to the ABC Board. Today's Australian prints articles by P P McGuiness and Glenn Milne, each of whom points out (1) that appointing party political supporters to the ABC is a longstanding, if not generally acknowledged, practice of both major parties, and (2) that stacking the Board in this manner is unlikely to produce major changes in the ABC.

PPMcG writes in a style which might have attracted criticism from those, including some of his fellow contributors to The Australian, who are sticklers for correct expression:

The weeping and gnashing of teeth at the ABC, in the Fairfax media and among the ABC's cheer squad about the appointment of Keith Windschuttle to the ABC board is the usual knee-jerk reaction to any shift in the balance of power in that organisation that might seem to threaten the hegemony of its view of the world

But eventually he does acknowledge that the ABC Board can't do much to change the situation

...the reality is, members of the ABC board have few actual powers other than the appointment of the managing director. That has already been done and will not arise again in the near future. And despite the presence on the board of a number of government appointees, two of whom in particular - Ron Brunton and Janet Albrechtsen (respectively an independent-minded anthropologist, a strong critic of the notion of a stolen generation; and a lawyer turned provocative columnist) - have received similar treatment to Windschuttle, the new managing director can be trusted to do nothing daring or original. The old gang is safe.

PPMcG doesn't proceed to discuss whether, given their limited powers, the Board members are worth their remuneration, which seems to be of the order of $40,000 pa: see here at p 168 for 2004 -2005 payments. Perhaps he will only be satisfied when the Quadrant and ABC Boards are merged. I'm sure that his ethical sense wouldn't allow him to argue that the editorship of Quadrant and position of managing director of the ABC should be combined.

In the blogosphere Club Troppo has (have?) weighed in with its (their?) own perspective, which has attracted many comments, including some which talk about the unwisdom of the former Federal ALP government's appointment of Mr Bannon, sometime Premier of SA who left office, to put it mildly, with many unanswered questions about his competence as a financial manager.

One consequence of the scrutiny of Mr Windschuttle's appointment is that the other fresh face on the ABC board, Mr Peter Hurley, has not attracted the scrutiny someone of his standing warrants. The ABC website describes him as "a businessman in the hotels [sic] industry". His major holdings include the Arkaba hotel, situated in the inner eastern suburbs adjacent to the Glenside campus of the Royal Adelaide Hospital (Rannspeak for mental hospital), and several other hostelries.

In the UK last century when several prominent liquor industry figures were ennobled they were collectively described as the "beerage". Is Mr Hurley's appointment the first in a similar line of Australians: perhaps the appropriate collective noun for them is the "corkage"?

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