Chairman resigns at Australian broadcaster ABC amid 'firestorm' after managing director sacked

Larry Hoffman
September 30, 2018

The chairman of Australia's public broadcaster resigned on Thursday after allegations he appeared to bow to government pressure when he called for the removal of a senior journalist.

ABC chairman Justin Milne says Ms Guthrie's relationship with the government was a factor but there had been no government pressure.

Justin Milne resigned his post as the head of the independent, government-funded network after "his board turned against him and staff threatened to walk off the job", The Sydney Morning Herald reports.

In a statement released by Mr Milne, he failed to comment on whether or not the Fairfax reporting was accurate and instead gave a cookie cutter response about the integrity of the board managing the ABC.

"It would be naive not to understand that the relationship between the government and the ABC is a hard one", he said.

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

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. 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. "Nobody ever told me to hire anybody, fire anybody, or anything else". 'The bottom line is I've never called for anybody to be fired, ' Turnbull has said of the ABC scandal.

Guthrie's firing and Milne's resignation leaves an unprecedented leadership vacuum at the top of the ABC.

Acting center-left opposition leader Tanya Plibersek, demanded an fully independent investigation into what happened.

Milne said then the board's decision was made in the "long-term interests of our own people and the millions of Australians who engage with ABC content every week".

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. "You don't want your chairman to hold such a dim view of you and your journalism", she said.

When asked if Mr Milne could remain as chairman, former ABC managing director David Hill told ABC News Channel "sadly, I think not". "My concern has been on the accuracy and impartiality of reporting", Mr. Turnbull told reporters.

Meanwhile, the Morrison government has ordered the communications department to investigate the allegations levelled at Milne.

However, he added, "the idea that the government has somehow got some list and is telling the ABC who should work there and who shouldn't - that's complete rubbish".

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