Chairman ousted as Australia's public broadcaster hit by politics scandal
Sep 28, 2018, 01:57
The chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Corp. resigned on Thursday over allegations that he pressured the independent national broadcaster to fire two political journalists because the ruling conservative government disliked them.
How the dust settles remains to be seen, but the events are the culmination of rising political temperatures regarding the role and performance of the publicly owned ABC, which although it enjoys statutory independence from government has been under pressure for its perceived left-leaning political bias.
"Nobody ever told me to hire anybody, fire anybody or do anything else". He said he never used the term "babes", but did sometimes call people he liked "chicks" in order to relax them.
Justin Milne is a friend of former PM Malcolm Turnbull
Ms Wong said despite Mr Turnbull's claims, it appeared Mr Milne spoke with the former prime minister and a Liberal minister before seeking to have a journalist sacked.
"My aim has been to look after the interests of the corporation", Mr Milne told the ABC, confirming he would step down. "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".
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.
The nearly century-old Australian Broadcasting Corporation is incredibly popular Down Under, with polls showing it is not just the most trusted news organization in the country, but also seen as a national treasure.
The scandal has damaged the credibility of both the governing coalition and the ABC, which is government-funded but is required by law to operate independently of party politics.
It follows revelations Milne told Guthrie to sack high-profile presenter Emma Alberici and political editor Andrew Probyn - and also tried to intervene on other editorial matters - following complaints from former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull.
"[The Government] hate her", Mr Milne is reported to have said to Ms Guthrie, adding "Get rid of her".
His denial, however, paled in comparison to a News Limited splash which claimed Mr Milne had phoned Ms Guthrie instructing her "to shoot" political editor Andrew Probyn.
On Monday, which now seems so long ago, the former ABC staff-elected director Matt Peacock observed that for all her faults, Guthrie did at least stand up for the ABC's independence.
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull holds his final news conference before leaving Parliament in Canberra on August 24. "My concern has been on the accuracy and impartiality of reporting", Mr. Turnbull told reporters. "We need to save the ABC - not Emma", Milne said, according to Fairfax.
Mr Turnbull said the question of whether Mr Milne should resign was "a matter for him".
"Today, the Australian public has asked to be reassured that the ABC's independence is protected", Mr Morris wrote.
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