The Federal Opposition has welcomed David Flint’s decision to resign.
Shadow Communications’ Minister, Lindsay Tanner, says John Howard must ensure Professor Flint’s replacement is absolutely above board.
“Labor has called for his resignation since late April, when
details emerged about his correspondence with Alan Jones.
“Professor Flint could no longer effectively regulate many areas of
Australia’s media because of perceptions of bias.
“The Prime Minister must take full blame for this chequered tenure at the ABA, having been instrumental in Flint’s appointment and reappointment. John Howard had refused to call for Flint’s resignation, despite the scandal of the past six weeks.
“The new head of the ABA must be above politics. The new appointment must be based on merit, not mateship with the Liberal Party. John Howard must ensure the ABA can regain its integrity and
impartiality under new leadership.
“The new appointment should also be made on a temporary basis, as the planned merger between the ABA and the ACA is yet to be finalised.
“The ABA must audit all investigations involving Professor Flint to ensure such inquiries were not compromised by any allegations of bias.”
“The ABA has effectivelty been crippled in recent times, virtually unable to do its job properly. It’s been brought into disrepute and it’s to Professor Flint’s credit that he has finally got the message.”
The Democrats also say the ABA must have a merit based appointment process. Senator John Cherry fears that if not, there will be a political appointment:
“I’m deeply concerned that given this Government’s track record of putting political mates into positions, if we don’t change the act and put in a merit based appointments’ process, we will get another mate into this position.
“I think the last thing the ABA needs – after the past few years under Professor Flint – is another mate in such a sensitive political regulatory position.
“The resignation ends an embarrassing era for the media regulator where its head had clearly lost public confidence as an impartial regulator. The resignation was overdue given the collapse in public confidence.
“The appointment of Flint’s successor should be made against clear selection criteria and from an independently assessed short list of qualified candidates. All mates of the Prime Minister and his favoured broadcasters should be told they need not apply.
“The ABA needs to recover quickly from this debacle and the process of naming a successor should proceed forthwith. It would not be satisfactory for the Government to delay an appointment until the Parliament has determined whether the ABA and the Australia Communications Authority (ACA) should merge.
“The ACA chair announced his resignation 10 months ago and the Government is yet to announce a decision. With the ACA at the centre of major questions on the monitoring of Telstra’s service delivery, that situation is already unacceptable and destabilising.
“The Democrats have grave concerns about the merits of merging the media standards functions of the ABA and the technical regulations’ functions of the ACA.
“To weaken both organisations by failing to appoint chairpeople during this crucial merger discussion period is not in the public interest.”