The good and bad of board appointment processes

It’s not often the words Carlton Football Club have been used in a positive sense these past six or so months, just as things seldom get cloudy and a tad inclement for the ‘beautiful one day, perfect the next’ sunshine state of Queensland.

But that has seen a change in recent times, at least in the world of governance and more particularly when it comes to the processes followed when making board appointments.

When female director and Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins resigned from the Carlton board in July citing the increased demands of her commissioner role which made it impossible to do justice to both positions, the Carlton Football Club decided that, as an AFL football club, they needed to retain the board’s gender diversity.
They, however, went a significant step further. They spelt out that the ideal person they wished to appoint was someone with the skills and abilities to match the current and strategic needs of the footy club into the future.

Enter Patty Kinnersly, a respected CEO with ample strategic and financial experience. But more than that, she represents and has great knowledge of something that the AFL – in fact, all male-dominated sports – is desperately trying to address: the scourge of domestic violence.

The Blues have certainly kicked a goal with Ms Kinnersly’s appointment as her organisation, Our Watch, leads the way in driving cultural and behavioural change against domestic violence.

While dishing out bouquets to Carlton, I’m afraid it’s brickbats for the Palaszczuk Government up north after the state’s corruption watchdog, the Crime and Corruption Commission, slammed Mark Algie’s appointment to the Energy Queensland board but fell short of laying corruption charges.

What particularly irked and led to howls of ‘jobs for mates’ was that Mr Algie had not formally applied for the position but had relied on a powerful and influential Electrical Trades Union boss to forward his CV to the Energy Minister’s private email. To compound the act, it was sent after applications had closed.

I must stress two things: Labor is no orphan as the Libs have been equally adept at a little you-scratch-my-back-and-I’ll-scratch-yours; and governments as the owner and stakeholder are quite entitled to make board appointments.

My issue is not with the practice per se; rather it is that governments don’t seem to live by the same standards that are expected in the private sector, particularly commercial entities and listed companies.

These standards are imbedded in transparency and good governance. They revolve around fastidiously seeking the skills and diversity that, after an equally painstaking analysis of the strategic direction of the organisation, best match its immediate and future requirements.

That’s where the Carlton Football Club kicked a goal and the Queensland Government went out of bounds on the full by seemingly choosing the rather crude course of rewarding someone they had either known for a long while or had at some point done the right thing by the party.

Until next time,
Kate

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