Regional Voices added to ABC Board
Western Australia had a win last week when Federal Communications Minister Mitch Fifield trusted his instincts and appointed Vanessa Guthrie to the board of the ABC.
Dr Guthrie’s name is well-known throughout the Goldfields – she is the chairwoman of the Minerals Council of Australia and, until recently, served at the helm of Toro Energy as the company built the foundations of its proposed uranium mine in Wiluna.
The Minister’s decision raised a few eyebrows on the east coast, considering Dr Guthrie’s name was not on the list of final recommendations made by the Nomination Panel for ABC and SBS Board Appointments.
But he deserves praise for not only having the courage to back an extremely credible candidate, but making a concerted decision to disregard a group of nominees that would have exacerbated the disproportionate metropolitan, eastern-state focus that currently exists on the ABC board.
Dr Guthrie has an impressive resume and is a strong advocate for regional Western Australia.
She was the first woman in the state to be appointed manager of a mine and has actively spoken out against city-based criticism of the resources industry.
It would be remiss of me to question the credentials of the other candidates, but the Minister underlined the basis for Dr Guthrie’s appointment last week: “In making appointments, the government has been conscious of the need to ensure a balanced geographic and gender representation on the board.”
Five of the eight candidates recommended to the Government were from New South Wales, which already has a strong representation on the ABC board and is home to the national broadcaster’s headquarters.
Not one candidate put before the Minister was from WA.
Dr Guthrie’s appointment to the board coincided with that of Queensland rural leader and cattle farming businesswoman, Georgina Somerset.
The ABC continues to be funded by the taxpayer – we are all indirectly paying for the service it delivers across the nation.
It is therefore appropriate that the ABC’s senior management represents all Australians, not just those clustered in the major cities, to ensure that service is in line with the true national interest.
As a regional MP with an electorate supported so heavily by the mining industry, I’m pleased the Minister exercised his judgement and made a decision that, in my opinion, is positive Western Australia.
Dr Guthrie’s voice will be one of several on the ABC board, but it is a voice that will carry decades of experience from both regional Western Australia and the resources industry.