abcfriends"Today the Government took a significant step to protect the independence of the ABC into the future", said Glenys Stradijot, a spokesperson for Friends of the ABC (Vic).

If adopted, the National Broadcasting Amendment Bill will usher in a process of appointments to the boards of the ABC and SBS that is merit-based and more transparent. It will restore the staff-elected director position to the ABC Board.

"Past governments have damaged the ABC by appointing people to its board who lacked merit and independence. In some instances it was about giving jobs to mates. In others, the governing party selected board members to implement its political agenda.

"Prior to the present government putting into practice its new board appointment process, stacking of the ABC Board was in danger of spiralling out of control, damaging public trust in the national broadcaster's independence and the integrity of government.

"Now, legislation is important to ensure there is not just a pause in inappropriate appointments to the ABC and SBS boards. The new appointment process must become law. The position of staff-elected director must be restored. It ensures there is at least one member of the ABC Board who has intimate understanding of public broadcasting and is entirely independent of government.

"The new system doesn't guarantee the independence of the public broadcasters from political interference. In keeping with the Westminster tradition of accountability, elected governments will still make the final decision to appoint. But, with its assessment of candidates at arms-length from government and against published criteria, it would be a significant improvement.

"The Labor Government is to be commended for initiating a process that depoliticises the assessment of candidates for the governing board of the ABC.

"FABC is urging the Opposition to join with the Government in demonstrating respect for Australia's foremost cultural institution and recognition of its importance to the community," said Glenys Stradijot.