ABC secrecy on David Anderson contract extension raises disclosure concerns

Opposition communications spokesman David Coleman.Credit: Alex Ellinghausen

The ABC board wrote to the government for approval of the decision, and Rowland approved it in April.

Coleman on Thursday said the secrecy around Anderson’s reappointment raised questions about the government’s commitment to transparency.

“The Albanese government claims to be committed to transparency – so why didn’t Minister Rowland ever mention this appointment?”

The search for Buttrose’s replacement as chair will begin shortly and will be overseen by the panel that nominates members for the ABC and SBS Boards, which is based in the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.

While a headhunting firm is expected to be involved in the search, it is the nomination panel that ultimately will provide a shortlist of at least three names to Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.


ABC staff were not made aware of the decision to reappoint Anderson until it was reported on Wednesday, multiple staff told this masthead, despite widespread knowledge his contract was in its final year.

“There was no discussion, but no one is uptight about it,” one senior staff member said.

In contrast, a high-profile on-air personality at the broadcaster called the secrecy of the decision “extraordinary”, particularly against the backdrop of the ABC expecting transparency from other publicly funded organisations.

ABC viewers, readers and listeners “deserved to know”, they said, as well as MPs, as Anderson appeared before a Senate Estimates hearing on May 24, weeks after the government had approved the board’s proposal.

Rowland in mid-April approved the decision to extend Anderson’s contract, at which point the board looked vastly different to its current make-up. The decision was made before Laura Tingle joined the board by winning the staff vote on March 31 to become the new internally elected director. Tingle replaced Dr Jane Connors, whose term ended on April 30.

The decision to reappoint Anderson was also voted on before the government decided not to renew the term of board member Joseph Gersh, which ended on May 10. The vote came after Fiona Balfour stood down from her position in February, following pressure from Buttrose.

Multiple staff said the decision to reappoint Anderson made sense. He was a well recognised figure who “knows how the place works”, one staffer said. Another noted the secrecy of the reappointment was confusing as the decision to extend the contract was generally uncontroversial.

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