The appointment of media icon Ita Buttrose to chair the Australian Broadcasting Corporation has been savaged across all sections of broadcasting and publishing – and beyond.
But the negative reception will not prevent Prime Minister Scott Morrison from announcing more personal choices to head major federal agencies before the expected May election.
Industry watchers say the reaction to appointment of the perennially popular and instantly recognisable Ms Buttrose (pictured below) is the most negative they have seen for any appointment at the highest levels of the national broadcaster.
The unanimous “thumbs down” has come from those who have worked with and competed against Ms Buttrose over her stellar career, the media union and Friends of the ABC, the group fighting a perceived threat to the very future of “Aunty” from political foes.
Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance federal director Neva Herdoff said: “The union would normally approve of an ABC chair with a proud and long record of experience across the various platforms of our industry. But sadly that has been totally outweighed by the fact that Ms Buttrose is Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s captain’s pick for the role.”
Friends of the ABC spokesperson Graham Nomad said of the appointment: “Ms Buttrose would appear to be the right person to fight for adequate funding for the ABC to continue performing its independent media duties. But sadly that has been totally outweighed by the fact that she is Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s captains pick for the role.”
Current editor of The Women’s Monthly magazine, Tamara Ponn, who worked under Ms Buttrose when the incoming ABC chair was the youngest ever editor of The Australian Women’s Weekly said of the appointment: “Ita was a kind and thoughtful employer who could also be fiercely strict when need be, and under normal circumstances I think she’s just what the ABC needs. But sadly that has been totally outweighed by the fact that she is Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s captains pick for the role.”
Casper Jonquil, talkback caller and neighbourhood snitch shouted: “The taxpayers have forked out $150,000 for a shonky committee to draw up a short list of candidates for this very important position. $1.5 million! The committee then sent three names to the government and all have been overlooked. It’s a disgrace, I tell you. There should be an immediate royal commission into this flagrant waste of $2.5 million and the fact that she is Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s captains pick for the role.”
Society for the Advancement of People with Speech Impediments national general secretary Jonathon Woss said: “Ita Buttwose is an excellent choice. Well, at least our society thought so until we heard that she is Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s captain’s pick for the role.”
Work for Older Australians advocate Thora Thacklewaite said: “Ita Buttrose at 77 is an excellent choice. Well, at least our organisation thought so until we heard that she is Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s captain’s pick for the role.”
Despite the controversy over the Prime Minister’s choice of Ms Buttrose, Scott Morrison is set to make more “captain’s picks” before the coming federal election.
A source in the Prime Minister’s Office told The Bug Mr Morrison was keen to appoint a number of new faces to chair government-funded agencies on fixed five-year contracts as a means of influencing public policy even if the Coalition loses the election to Bill Shorten and the Labor Party.
“In coming weeks the PM will announce comedic actor Mark Mitchell (pictured) to chair the Special Broadcasting Service Corporation which operates SBS TV, SBS Radio, and SBS Online,” the source said.
“Popular fishing identity Rex Hunt will be named chair of the Australian Fisheries Management Authority and model and actor Lara Bingle will be named chair of the PM’s former employer, Tourism Australia.
“These are all his own choices and should be seen as excellent choices for each of their new roles. There’s also no conflicts of interest involved in any of them.
“The PM isn’t friends with any of them. As a marketing expert the PM simply recognises their expertise and public profiles, although he’s worked with Lara before, obviously.
“The only appointment we have had to ask him to rethink so far was his idea to have former NSW detective Roger Rogerson chair the Australian Institute of Criminology.
“That wasn’t because Roger wouldn’t be a good fit. It’s just that he’s not available to take up the job right now,” the source said.