ABC chairman under pressure to resign

UPDATED | ABC chairman Justin Milne is under pressure to resign after he demanded senior journalist Emma Alberici be sacked to appease the Coalition government.

Sep 26, 2018, updated Oct 18, 2018
ABC chairman Justin Milne with then managing director Michelle Guthrie at the ABC Annual Public Meeting in February. Photo: AAP/Joel Carrett

ABC chairman Justin Milne with then managing director Michelle Guthrie at the ABC Annual Public Meeting in February. Photo: AAP/Joel Carrett

Labor is demanding a full explanation about the “extraordinary” situation, while the Greens and journalists’ union both argue Milne should stand down.

“We need to be very confident that the integrity and the independence of the ABC is protected,” Deputy Labor Leader Tanya Plibersek said today.

Staff at the public broadcaster in Sydney have voted in favour of a motion calling for Milne to stand down while an investigation is carried out into his intervention.

I am inside the ABC staff meeting. They have passed a motion calling for an independent investigation and for Justin Milne to stand aside while that happens. Passed unanimously.

— Michael Koziol (@michaelkoziol) September 26, 2018

An explosive email has revealed Milne instructed former ABC managing director Michelle Guthrie to fire the broadcaster’s chief economics correspondent in May.

“They [the government] hate her,” he wrote in an email obtained by Fairfax Media.

“We are tarred with her brush. I think it’s simple. Get rid of her. We need to save the ABC – not Emma. There is no guarantee they [the Coalition] will lose the next election.”

Alberici has suggested the chairman may have a conflict of interest, because he is also chair of a company she has written about regarding corporate tax, which angered the Coalition.

Alberici said the instruction was concerning because her report – on the amount of tax some big companies had paid, or not paid – mentioned the company MYOB, which is chaired by Milne.

“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 today.

“I don’t think someone should be making recommendations on something if they have a conflict of interest or at least have an appearance of a conflict of interest.”

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Alberici said she had no conversations on the prospect of her being sacked at a board level or with Guthrie.

But there was a lot of misreporting about her story, Alberici said, and it’s concerning that the board could have been involved.

“There was a lot of mud hurled that shouldn’t have been. If the board got involved in that then, there is a problem and that is very upsetting,” she said.

Staff meeting underway at ABC now

— Joe O’Brien (@JoeABCNews) September 26, 2018

Milne issued a statement without directly responding to the Fairfax claims.

“The job of the ABC board is to independently govern the corporation, protect its best interests, ensure that it is well funded, well managed, and that our content is of the highest standards,” he said.

“That is precisely what the board has done and will continue to do. I do not propose to provide a running commentary on the day-to-day issues which arise as we carry out our duties.”

The Greens say he cannot be trusted and must stand down.

“Protecting the ABC from political interference is the most important responsibility of the chair,” Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young said.

The journalists’ union said if the reports of interference were correct Milne should immediately resign.


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