Comment from Peter Saxon
When it was revealed last Monday that Ita Buttrose had suddenly become frontrunner for Chair of the ABC, you could hear the sound of knees jerking all across Australia.
To that point she wasn’t even on the radar. After an extensive search by global recruitment firm Korn Ferry, a short list had been compiled and Ms Buttrose’s name wasn’t on it.
Those that were on the shortlist reportedly included: Fairfax Media chief executive Greg Hywood, former News Corp chief executive Kim Williams, Film Victoria president Ian Robertson, and Gilbert + Tobin managing partner Danny Gilbert.
All good men, no doubt. And if no female candidate who could compete with them on merit could be found then, so be it.
Normally, one would expect The Greens to be the first political party to object to such a gender imbalance but instead were the first to slam the Morrison Government for by-passing due process and ignoring Korn Ferry’s candidates. Senator Sarah Hanson-Young’s office issued a statement saying:
“Independent process must be followed in ABC appointments. Ita Buttrose must be considered by the independent nomination panel before cabinet names the next ABC chair.
“If the Morrison Government wants to nominate Ms Buttrose, it must go through the proper channels. The independent panel exists for a reason and must not be disregarded or side stepped yet again by this Government.”
Although the Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, aided and abetted by the Comms Minister, Mitch Fifield could be accused of making a Captains Pick, it was, nonetheless a good one.
No one is more experienced in all facets of media than Ita. In radio, television and print, on air and off air… she founded Cleo and edited The Women’s Weekly for Kerry Packer then went out on her own to publish ITA and other titles.
By Wednesday, the Government confirmed that Ms Buttrose had been appointed to the role of ABC Chair.
The naysayers had to admit that Captain’s Pick or not, they could think of no one more qualified for the job than her.
In the end it was not just good choice but a great choice for the government.
Although it would normally choose from the shortlist presented to it, under the rules, it is not obliged to do so. Despite the Greens and Labor’s initial objections, imagine if the government had followed procedure and chosen from the Korn Ferry short list without a female candidate on it. No matter which bloke they picked, they’d never have lived it down.