abcfriends"The Coalition's response to government moves to legislate for a merit-based system for ABC and SBS board appointments is extremely disappointing,” said Glenys Stradijot, a spokesperson for Friends of the ABC (Vic).

Today, Senator Minchin announced the Coalition will seek two amendments to the National Broadcasting Amendment Bill - one to reduce the restriction on the appointment of former politicians and senior staff to the boards of the ABC and SBS to only 18 months after holding office, and the other to prevent the staff-elected director position being restored to the ABC Board.

"The Coalition's planned amendments would gut the Government's proposed system of merit-based appointments to the ABC and SBS boards. If not carried, they will provide the Opposition with the excuse it presumably wants to jettison the Bill.

"The Bill's planned restriction on the appointment of former politicians will be rendered meaningless if the Coalition's amendment to reduce to 18 months the period within which former politicians can be appointed to the ABC and SBS boards succeeds.

"The Coalition's ongoing opposition to there being one measly staff-elected position on an entire board sends a message that, given the opportunity, its interest is still to entirely stack the ABC Board.

“Senator Minchin’s claim the staff-director is a ‘representative’ of staff is dishonest. The position is not proposed to be and never has been one of representation.

"The potential for conflict of interest for staff directors is no greater than it is for other board members who may feel an allegiance to the government which appoints them. In practice, it is likely to be less, with the staff director's appointment being the outcome of a secret ballot of a large and diverse group.

"The staff-elected position is important because it ensures there is at least one member of the board with intimate understanding of public broadcasting and who is entirely independent of the government.

"The present government is offering a board appointment system that will help to protect the integrity of the country's public broadcasters. Sadly for the people of Australia, the Coalition's interest in undermining the independence of the ABC seems unchanged from when it was last in government," said Glenys Stradijot.