Published: Sun, September 30, 2018
Global Media | By Derrick Guzman

ABC staff demand chairman step down pending political interference investigation

ABC staff demand chairman step down pending political interference investigation

Outgoing ABC chairman Justin Milne has denied he called for journalists to be sacked and says he stepped in over articles that "were not accurate nor impartial".

Milne's resignation comes after Communications Minister Mitch Fifield told a press conference that Milne should have a think about whether to stay in the job.

An urgent board meeting to determine ABC chairman Justin Milne's fate will be held today but this time he will not be present at the meeting, the ABC understands.

"The idea behind the investigation is to secure the editorial independence of the ABC from top to bottom", the motion reads according to the journalists union the MEAA.

The scandal has damaged the credibility of both the ruling conservative coalition and the ABC, which is government-funded but is required by law to operate independently of party politics.

The former Telstra executive admitted his concerns were partly driven by his desire for the ABC to secure $500 million in funding for Project Jetstream, a major digital transformation project which was being discussed with the government. "In fact, I feel that the interests of the ABC have always been utmost in my mind and, just to get it on the record for you, there was absolutely no interference in the independence of the ABC by the government".

Board members had already been made aware of Milne's directives to Guthrie in a document she prepared for the board after she was asked to resign as managing director on September 13.

"They [the government] hate her", he wrote in an email to Ms Guthrie obtained by Fairfax Media. Get rid of her.

"Nobody from the government has ever rung me and told me what to do in relation to the ABC", he said. "There is no g'tee they will lose the next election [sic]".

Guthrie's departure will not be mourned by many ABC staff, whose disengagement was given as a reason for her sacking, but staff anger turned and mobilized quickly against Milne when his private emails were published.

"The operations of the ABC are entirely matters for the board and management of the ABC, which, by law, the Minister does not have a role in", he said.

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

Guthrie was abruptly sacked on Monday and has expressed she is looking into her legal options.

There are also reports that Mr Milne attempted to prevent the Triple J radio station from moving it's Hottest 100 countdown, citing the reaction of then Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in his reasoning.

Turnbull and his supporters have openly claimed that media mogul Rupert Murdoch said that "Malcolm had to go" in a comment which allegedly spurred an editorial campaign to remove him across News Corporation's mastheads.

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