ABC Chairman Justin Milne Resigns After "Firestorm" Of Alleged Interference

ABC Chairman Justin Milne Resigns After

ABC Chairman Justin Milne Resigns After "Firestorm" Of Alleged Interference

Australia's national broadcaster has lost both its chairman and managing director in less than a week, amid staff protests over concerns of government interference in its editorial independence.

The ABC Board is meeting to decide who will be the acting chairman.

Communications Minister Mitch Fifield has announced his department secretary will run an inquiry into the matter and report as soon as possible.

Fairfax Media reports allege that while still prime minister, Mr Turnbull called Mr Milne to complain about a report on the government's company tax cuts produced by chief economics correspondent Emma Alberici, which he claimed was full of inaccuracies. Motions were passed calling for Milne to step down while an independent investigation determined whether he really did pressure Guthrie into firing Alberici and Probyn.

But the Labor opposition party said the government had "bullied" Mr Milne and interfered with the ABC's independence.

"It's clearly not a good thing for everybody to be trying to do their job with this kind of fire storm going on, so I wanted to provide a release valve", Milne told the ABC in a television interview. "Nobody (from the government) ever told me to hire anybody, fire anybody, or do anything else", he told the ABC's current affairs program 7.30.

After an emergency board meeting held without Milne, the ABC board thanked him for his "experienced leadership" and said it was "grateful for his willingness to put the ABC first in coming to his decision to resign".

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On Thursday, it was also revealed he asked Ms Guthrie to sack the public broadcaster's political editor Andrew Probyn, saying "you have to shoot him", due to government complaints about the reporter.

Guthrie, who says she is considering her legal options, was seen by staffers who spoke to Asia Times as a weak and ineffective leader and a poor advocate for the organization in Canberra, even though this week's revelations show that she did push back against the political interference of her chairman.

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.

But on the positive side, it's just possible that he has opened up a discussion that's sorely needed about the independence of the ABC and the pressures that work to undermine it.

"Absolutely 100% not", he said. "My concern has been on the accuracy and impartiality of reporting".

The communications minister's comments came after a similar denial from former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull. 'The bottom line is I've never called for anybody to be fired, ' Turnbull has said of the ABC scandal.

Speaking in New York, Mr Turnbull defended complaining about ABC "inaccuracies" but strongly denied asking for any reporters to be sacked. Milne and Turnbull are friends of long standing. A quick glance at the CVs of the ABC's board of directors indicates that they are drawn overwhelmingly from the highest echelons of corporate Australia. My view is we need to save the corporation not Emma.

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