Abbott’s captain’s call should face Senate scrutiny

Federal Labor yesterday called for SBS Chairman Nihal Gupta to appear before Senate Estimates and explain why he is up to the job of SBS Chairman given his only qualification for the job seems to be that he is a Liberal Party donor.

Tony Abbott made a ‘Captain’s Call’ last year and overruled Malcolm Turnbull to appoint Nihal Gupta as SBS Chairman. Like a lot of other ‘Captain’s Calls’, this one has been questionable from the start.

Mr Gupta’s appointment followed the Government’s decision earlier in 2014 to throw out the convention of an independent nominations panel for SBS board appointments and instead appoint former Liberal Party Deputy Leader Neil Brown and conservative commentator Janet Albrechtsen to the nominations panel.

In relation to Mr Gupta, the nominations panel said:

Mr Gupta was selected because he possesses strong business and commercial acumen, particularly in the area of fast evolving technology.

In his press releases dated 17 October 2014, Malcolm Turnbull said Nihal Gupta would be a “real asset” to the SBS. He said:

Mr Nihal Gupta is currently the Managing Director of Digital Electronics Corporation Australia and has a strong background in business and commercial sectors, particularly in relation to technology and consumer electronics.

However an investigation by The Australian over the last few months has revealed that Mr Gupta’s experience is not what Malcolm Turnbull would have us believe.

On the same day that Tony Abbott used another of his now infamous ‘Captain’s Calls’ to appoint Prince Phillip as a Knight, the Australian wrote:

Questions about Mr Gupta’s work history have arisen since he was appointed SBS chairman in October. There is significant industry criticism over the government’s decision to fill the role with a political appointee who has limited experience in the media and in running a large corporation with more than 1000 employees.

On the 9th of February the Australian went further:

His two main business credentials highlighted in the Federal Government press release announcing his appointment are that he was Managing Director of Digital Electronics Corporation and was Chairman of JCurve Solutions.

The Australian has revealed he is the sole consultant at Digital Electronics Corporation and his company has no employees, premises, warehouses or distribution assets.

It is time for Mr Gupta to come before the Senate and explain this, as well as why he thinks he is up to the job of SBS Chairman.

Malcolm Turnbull should be reviewing this ‘Captain’s Call.’

If he won’t, the Senate will.