Chairman of Australian public broadcaster quits over political interference claims

Arturo Kim
September 30, 2018

The chairman of Australia's public broadcaster has resigned after allegations that he compromised its independence by calling for the removal of a senior journalist because of pressure from the government.

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

Milne had directed Guthrie to fire ABC chief economics correspondent Emma Alberici.

"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".

Mr Fifield dismissed suggestions his complaints carried significantly more weight given they came from the minister responsible for the ABC. "Get rid of her", Milne wrote to Guthrie, according to Fairfax Media.

Both the Greens and Labor have placed their support behind a Senate inquiry into political interference at the ABC, saying that it's important that any investigation into potential government interference at the ABC must be independent.

On Monday, Mr Milne said during an interview on the ABC News channel that Ms Guthrie's employment with the ABC had been "terminated".

The ABC board was meeting at noon today to decide who will be the acting chairman.

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The Australian has reported that the board has requested that Milne take leave while a government inquiry investigates whether he tried to fire two political journalists.

Reports that Milne, a former business partner of ex-prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, sought to remove journalists behind those stories, prompted wide outrage on Wednesday leading to staff protests across the country.

On Thursday, Milne, a former executive at Australian telecom giant Telstra, described the recent reports as a "firestorm" and said he chose to quit because he "wanted to provide a release valve" for the network.

"Yes, I have had questions about it, but they are the same questions that Australians have asked", he said.

Milne said he had quit on Thursday for the good of the organization.

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". "But center-left governments have also complained of unbalanced reporting in the past".

In departing, Milne denied any government interference, and said he was leaving to "provide a release valve" for the "firestorm" stirred up by the reports.

Mr Turnbull also admitted he had some tricky conversations in NY when asked about why he was no longer prime minister.

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