ABC chair says he never called for sacking

Share

Australia's national broadcaster has lost both its chairman and managing director in less than a week, amid staff protests over concerns of government interference in its editorial independence.

The resignation comes following an emergency meeting of the ABC board, for which Mr Milne was not present.

The government has announced an inquiry, to be conducted by Mike Mrdak, secretary of the Department of Communications and the Arts. Asked Thursday in an interview with ABC if his resignation was an acknowledgement of a failure to protect the network's independence, Milne responded: "Absolutely 100 percent not".

The outgoing chairman said his decision was driven by a need to protect the broadcaster's reputation and denied he had ever been pressured to sack reporters by members of the Turnbull or Morrison governments.

"And it's clearly not a good thing for everyone to be trying to do their job with this kind of firestorm going on so I wanted to provide a release valve", he said.

"Nobody from the government has ever rung me and told me what to do in relation to the ABC", he claimed.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on his official social media the ABC's board and its chairman had made the "right call".

Fun times at Aunty.

Separately, another publisher reports that Milne had also ordered the firing of ABC's political editor, Andrew Probyn, due to government criticism.

More news: High drama in Senate as Kavanaugh-Ford hearing nears
More news: David Smith: Combine Brexit and Labour for the scariest of nightmares
More news: Senate Judiciary Chairman Releases Kavanaugh Statement — GRASSLEY SPEAKS

He is now under pressure from all corners of the political spectrum, with Opposition Leader Bill Shorten interrupting his leave to declare the chairman's position was now "untenable", and Labor moving to establish a Senate inquiry into the alleged political interference.

And the lean to the left didn't end there, with author Deanne Carson featuring on an ABC News segment in May arguing parents needed to ask their babies for consent to change their nappies.

'They have dumbed down ABC's news and current affairs and gone for this lifestyle platform, ' he said.

Acting ABC managing director David Anderson said the ABC's independence was "paramount" and can never be compromised.

Senior members of the Coalition government have denied applying political pressure to the ABC leadership. According to the act, the board's duties include ensuring the functions of the ABC are performed efficiently, maintaining the integrity of the organisation, and ensuring news reporting is accurate and impartial.

Media mogul Rupert Murdoch (L) and then Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull (C) in a 2016 file photo. 'The bottom line is I've never called for anybody to be fired, ' Turnbull has said of the ABC scandal.

Mr Turnbull personally complained about Probyn to Ms Guthrie at a gathering prior to last year's AFL Grand Final, as Fairfax Media has reported.

Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young has called for the full ABC board to be overhauled to give the broadcaster a "fresh start". A quick glance at the CVs of the ABC's board of directors indicates that they are drawn overwhelmingly from the highest echelons of corporate Australia.

Milne and Turnbull are old friends, dating back to Turnbull's early 2000s internet venture OzEmail.

Share