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Restructure of ABC Board.

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Senator the Hon Helen Coonan Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate

Media Release

Media Contact: Jane McMillan 0438 690 305

019/06 24 March 2006

Restructure of ABC Board

The Board of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) will be restructured to improve corporate governance at the national broadcaster, the Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, Senator Helen Coonan announced today.

The staff-elected Director position on the ABC Board will be abolished and legislation to give effect to this change will be introduced as early as possible.

Unlike the other national broadcaster - the Special Broadcasting Service (SBS) - the ABC Board includes a director appointed through a staff election process.

This is an anomaly amongst Australian Government agency boards that has given rise to concerns about conflicts of interest and the effective functioning of the ABC Board, including maintaining the confidentiality of Board deliberations.

“As the staff-elected Director has been elected by staff rather than appointed, there have been claims that the position creates uncertainty about accountability.

“However, there is a clear legal requirement on the staff-elected Director that means he or she has the same rights, duties and obligations as the other Directors, including to act in the interests of the ABC as a whole.

“The Government is of the view that there should be no question about the constituency that ABC Directors are accountable to,” Senator Coonan said.

“Therefore, to ensure the efficient functioning of the ABC Board, the staff-elected position will be removed. This change is in line with modern principles of corporate governance and will also provide more consistency in governance arrangements for Australian Government agencies.”

The term of the current staff-elected ABC Director, Ms Ramona Koval, expires on 14 June 2006. The ABC has already commenced arrangements with the Australian Electoral Commission for the election of a new staff-elected Director.

Introduction of legislation as soon as possible will ensure that this change will come into force before the next staff-elected Director takes up their position, should anyone nominate. Until the legislation is passed, the election process must continue.

The Government currently has under consideration candidates to fill the two existing vacancies on the ABC Board.