ABC scandal: Milne's other roles in the spotlight

Geneva Stokes
September 30, 2018

Justin Milne, chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), said he would resign after widespread anger from staff, labour unions and lawmakers.

Milne said his resignation did not signal that he had failed to uphold the editorial independence of the ABC and he denied anyone from the government had ever tried to influence him.

The ABC board sacked Ms Guthrie on Monday, triggering a week of damaging fallout.

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

"I found yes, MYOB was one of those companies that hadn't paid corporate tax and they were listed in my article", she told ABC radio.

Mr. Turnbull, who has lived in NY since he was ousted as prime minister on August 24, said on Thursday that while he had complained about the two reporters' journalism, he had never asked for them to be fired.

This follows a report that he sought to have chief economics correspondent Emma Alberici sacked after a backlash from the coalition government.

The day before his resignations, Milne fired Guthrie, ABC's first female managing director, saying that the board of directors had determined it was in the network's best interests to let her go.

During a staff meeting at the ABC's Ultimo office, hundreds of upset employees carried a motion (unanimously) asking for Mr Mile to stand down while an independent investigation into his alleged behaviour takes place.

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Prime Minister Scott Morrison welcomed Mr Milne's exit.

Pressure is now on Mr Milne to resign over the matter.

While public trust in the media is at an all time low, according to a 2017 poll by Essential Research, the ABC remains far and away Australia's most trusted media brand.

"The operations of the ABC are entirely matters for the board and management of the ABC, which, by law, the Minister does not have a role in", he said.

The ABC's board selects the managing director, while the governor general of Australia appoints the board and chairman at the recommendation of the government.

He said he did not remember telling Ms Guthrie to "shoot" political editor Andrew Probyn, but conceded raising "the Probyn issue" with the ABC's senior leadership team, which includes news director Gaven Morris and editorial director Alan Sunderland. "My concern has been on the accuracy and impartiality of reporting".

He denied there had been any interference by the government in the ABC. "The bottom line is I have never called for anybody to be fired", the former prime minister told reporters in NY.

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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