Pressure mounts on ABC chairman Milne to quit as Senate inquiry looms

Charlene Craig
September 30, 2018

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), one of the country's largest media organizations, is publicly funded by the government but meant to be politically independent and unbiased.

ABC chairman Justin Milne has fallen on his sword over his attempts to seek the sacking of ABC reporters whose work had been criticised by the Federal Government.

"You have to shoot him", Mr Milne said in a conversation with the corporation's managing director, Michelle Guthrie.

Milne's resignation follows accusations that he asked Guthrie for two ABC journalists, Emma Alberici and Andrew Probyn, to be dismissed.

"My concern has been purely about the accuracy and impartiality of news and current affairs reporting on the ABC". "Get rid of her", Milne wrote to Guthrie, according to Fairfax Media.

"It is important for the community to have confidence in the independence of the ABC".

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The ABC Board held an urgent meeting yesterday afternoon.

Turnbull, who has lived in NY since he was ousted as prime minister on August 24, said on Thursday that while he had complained about the two reporters' journalism, he had never asked for them to be fired.

Staff in Brisbane unanimously voted for Milne to resign.

Meanwhile, the Morrison government has ordered the communications department to investigate the allegations levelled at Milne.

NetComm Wireless chief executive Ken Sheridan said he was not in a position to comment on the issues concerning Mr Milne at the ABC, but said, "we are very pleased to have Justin on our board as chairman". "Nobody from the government has ever rung me".

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

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"I would hope that media organisations in Australia take equally seriously questions of fact that are raised regardless of who raises them", he said.

Acting center-left opposition leader Tanya Plibersek, demanded an fully independent investigation into what happened.

Mr Milne, who resigned on Thursday, is also the chairman of two ASX-listed companies - accounting software giant MYOB and communications technology business NetComm Wireless.

ABC staff have asked whether the chairman damaged the corporation's editorial independence.

Former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has confirmed he expressed his severe disapproval over the ABC's recent editorial standards but denied calling for the metaphorical heads of several of its highest-profile journalists, amid one of the most significant leadership crises to ever face the public broadcaster.

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