Mr Newman, who was also chairman of former prime minister Tony Abbott’s business advisory council, said the criticism was not about the choice of Ms Buttrose specifically, whom he described as intelligent, experienced and well-known.
«It’s not a reflection on Ita Buttrose. It’s got nothing to do with her … It’s about transparency, it’s about integrity, it’s about fairness,» he said.
He called it a «bad look» and meant people participating in the recruitment process were wasting their time.
After an international search by recruitment firm Korn Ferry, the independent panel’s shortlist consisted of former Fairfax Media chief executive Greg Hywood, former News Corp chief executive Kim Williams, Holding Redlich national managing partner Ian Robertson, and Gilbert + Tobin managing partner Danny Gilbert.
Ms Buttrose, 77, famously edited Cleo and the Australian Women’s Weekly in the 1970s and was editor-in-chief of The Daily Telegraph in the 1980s. She has recently appeared as a co-host on Nine’s Today Extra program following other hosting roles at Network Ten.
She has also been a director of News Limited and Australian Consolidated Press and was the president of the Chief Executive Women organisation.
Cabinet has approved her nomination and an official announcement is expected on Thursday.
The arms-length nomination panel process was introduced by Labor in 2010 in a bid to de-politicise appointments at the ABC and SBS. The government is under no legal obligation to pick from the list provided by the panel.
«The government is undertaking a process to appoint the ABC chair. An announcement will be made in due course,» a government spokesman said.
The need for a new chair follows the high-profile departure of Justin Milne and managing director Michelle Guthrie late last year.
Several board members filed their defence against Ms Guthrie’s adverse action case on Tuesday in the Federal Court. The board members and broadcaster have denied contravening the Fair Work Act.
An early candidate for the chair role who wished to remain unnamed told The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age that they were not surprised it was a «political» appointment.
Another person who was considered described Ms Buttrose as a great choice but said it was frustrating to spend time applying and being interviewed to then have the process set aside by the government.
Mr Morrison has confirmed Ms Buttrose was not recommended by the panel and that there were no women on the shortlist.
Labor has demanded it be «genuinely consulted with reasonable notice», with the legislation mandating consultation with the opposition leader.
Mr Morrison told ABC radio that the government would comply with the legislation but said Labor was «over-assuming on what that entitles them to».
The opposition is unlikely to publicly criticise Ms Buttrose as a choice although one Labor source observed her involvement with the Liberal Party over the years, including attendance at political fundraisers and support for Liberal preselection candidates.
In 1993, Liberal leader John Hewson selected her to be one of six «special advisers» to the prime minister in the case of a Coalition victory.
Fergus Hunter is an education and communications reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.
Jennifer Duke is a media and telecommunications journalist for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.