Mr Morrison’s comments appear to be an endorsement of Ms Buttrose, who would need the Prime Minister’s approval before her nomination can be considered by cabinet.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten agreed that Ms Buttrose was a «lovely person, very respected», but criticised the government for what he characterised as interference in the selection process.
«[The government] makes it look like the process is above board, now what we’ve seen is Ita Buttrose’s name has risen, her name has risen to be chair of the ABC because the company the government contracted couldn’t even get the process right.»
«Now we’ve got more political interference.»
Ms Buttrose would beat out the four men included in a final shortlist presented to the government, including former Fairfax Media chief executive Greg Hywood, former News Corp chief executive Kim Williams, Film Victoria president Ian Robertson, and Gilbert + Tobin managing partner Danny Gilbert.
Shadow communications spokeswoman Michelle Rowland would not comment on reports that Ms Buttrose was the frontrunner to become ABC chair.
Greens communications spokeswoman Sarah Hanson-Young took the same line as Mr Shorten.
«Ita Buttrose is clearly a strong candidate for the position, however the current mess at the ABC is a result of exploiting board appointments. This cannot be allowed to continue,» she said.
Independent senator Tim Storer said that because Ms Buttrose was not on the original shortlist, she would be «seen through the prism of her partisan appointment».
«Ita Buttrose may well be ‘an extraordinary Australian’ as Scott Morrison suggests, but the manner of her appointment will undermine her ability to stand up to threats to the ABC’s independence and integrity.»
Peter Ryan, senior business correspondent at the ABC, warned on Monday that Ms Buttrose’s appointment would be controversial given she wasn’t on the supplied shortlist.
«While Ita Buttrose would be a popular choice, her appointment would still be controversial given that her name was not included after a global search by the headhunters Korn Ferry,» he said.
Media Watch host Paul Barry was surprised the government was casting the shortlist aside.
«Seriously? Is the government really going to ignore the selection panel’s advice again and appoint Ita Buttrose to ABC chair, when she’s not even on the short list?» Mr Barry wrote on Twitter.
Most recently, Ms Buttrose has co-hosted morning TV on Nine’s Today Extra, and Network Ten’s Studio Ten. She has been a News Corp and Australian Consolidated Press director, and was president of the Chief Executive Women organisation.
The ABC chair position became vacant in September after emails revealed Mr Milne had encouraged Ms Guthrie to sack the ABC’s chief economics correspondent Emma Alberici for «sticking it» to the government.
Alberici wrote an article on the government’s plans to cut the corporate tax rate, which was amended following editors’ concerns it breached the ABC’s rules of impartiality.
Mr Milne also reportedly suggested Ms Guthrie dump political editor Andrew Probyn, saying «you have to shoot him» after the government complained about Probyn’s coverage.
Max is a journalist at The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.