ABC chairman Justin Milne quits following attempts to seek sacking reporters

30 September, 2018, 12:42 | Author: Angel Logan
  • Justin Milne resigns from ABC chairman role

The chairman of Australia's public broadcaster has resigned after allegations that he compromised its independence by calling for the removal of a senior journalist because of pressure from the government.

Sources at the ABC said employees had made it clear to board members on Thursday that ABC staff were so angry they were prepared to walk off the job in protest if Milne did not resign.

On Monday, ABC managing director Michelle Guthrie was sacked from her A$900,000 (US$653,000) a year job half way into her five year term supposedly due to her "management style" and lack of engagement with staff.

Mr Milne on Thursday told the ABC the crisis had been a "firestorm" and said he "wanted to provide a release valve".

"Having met with the prime minister this afternoon, I have asked the secretary of the Department of Communications and the Arts to undertake an inquiry to establish the facts in relation to today's media reports surrounding the ABC", he said.

The government has announced an inquiry into the allegations of improper intervention by Mr Milne, who is a former business partner of Australia's ex-prime minister Malcolm Turnbull.

"They [the government] hate her", Mr Milne wrote.

"It is important for the community to have confidence in the ABC and its independence", said minister Mitch Fifield.

Asked by ABC host Leigh Sales whether he had crossed a line through his attempted interventions, Mr Milne said it was not his role to be a "wall" between politicians and the editorial team.

There are also reports that Mr Milne attempted to prevent the Triple J radio station from moving it's Hottest 100 countdown, citing the reaction of then Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in his reasoning.

He said in regards to accuracy, the ABC "failed" in a number of occasions in recent times.

The ABC found nine errors in a news article by Alberici on the government's corporate tax policies, and significantly rewrote her analysis piece on the same topic.

It was alleged that Milne had called on Guthrie to fire the chief economics correspondent, Emma Alberici, who had been critical of the government, and the political editor, Andrew Probyn.

With the conservative Liberal-National coalition government in power in Canberra since 2014, many in the government and their supporters believe that the ABC's agenda is to subvert and embarrass the government and campaign for its electoral defeat.

On Monday, Mr Milne said during an interview on the ABC News channel that Ms Guthrie's employment with the ABC had been "terminated".

News Corp., citing ABC board documents, reported Milne told Guthrie in a June 15 telephone conversation that Turnbull "hates" Probyn and: "You have to shoot him".

Both sides of politics say they expect more will be revealed about Ms Guthrie's sacking, with Labor eager to investigate the subject at Senate estimates.

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