Govt rejects results of ABC political interference inquiry

The Morrison government has rejected the recommendations of an inquiry into allegations of political interference in the ABC.

Aug 09, 2019, updated Aug 09, 2019
Photo: AAP/Joel Carrett

Photo: AAP/Joel Carrett

In April, the Senate’s communications committee tabled a report into claims of political interference in the national broadcaster, making six recommendations.

The inquiry was sparked by the axing of managing director Michelle Guthrie and subsequent departure of chair Justin Milne last year.

Allegations of political interference emerged after the ABC’s board sacked Guthrie halfway through her five-year term in September 2018, with claims Milne had pressured her to sack journalists.

In its formal response tabled in parliament on Friday, the government did not support any of the six recommendations – rejecting four of them outright and “noting” the other two.

“The government is of the view that the legislated appointment process for ABC board appointments is adequate and does not require amendments to the (ABC’s legislation and regulations),” the response read.

Two recommendations relating to the prime minister consulting with the opposition leader on the appointment of the ABC board chairperson were rejected.

“The legislation requires that the prime minister engage directly with the leader of the opposition … before recommending a person to be appointed chairperson of the ABC. The form this consultation takes is ultimately a matter for the prime minister,” the government said.

A recommendation on board selection criteria to ensure at least two members have media experience, and allow for education experts to be considered, was rejected.

“The framework … has flexibility to address a particular lack of skills if required,” the government said.

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On the inquiry’s call for more stable funding for the ABC, the government noted the broadcaster was set to receive over $1 billion in 2019/20 and had been exempted from the government-wide efficiency dividend.

“The committee presented no evidence to support the majority report statement that the government has used funding as a lever to exert political interference in the ABC.”


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