ABC Chairman, Justin Milne, has resigned this week amid claims of misconduct and unethical practice at work. The former chairman was accused of interfering with the broadcasting network’s editorial independence by conferring with then-Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, about staffing decisions.
Milne reportedly urged managing director, Michelle Guthrie, to sack two senior journalists because the government did not like them. Political editor, Andrew Probyn, and senior journalist, Emma Alberici, were at the heart of the claims, with Guthrie claiming that Milne called for the sacking of the two employees, telling her to “just shoot” Probyn. Guthrie was fired this week in a shocking move by the ABC, and is now considering legal action against the broadcasters.
Milne maintains that his resignation was not a confession of guilt. Rather, he claims it was in the best interest of the ABC for him to step down. Malcolm Turnbull has also spoken out against claims that he was involved in any staffing decisions within the ABC.
“The chairman of the ABC and the managing director of the ABC and the director of news at the ABC are talking to politicians, and other members of the public, presumably, all the time,” Mr Turnbull said at an event in NYC, where he is currently staying.
“But the decisions about staff or any other matters that are within the jurisdiction of the board, are taken by the board independent of government.”
Current Prime Minister Scott Morrison has praised Milne’s decision to step down, taking to Twitter to express his opinion.
“ABC Board and Chairman have made the right call,” the PM said in a Tweet.
“Time for the ABC to resume normal transmission, both independently and without bias. That is what Australia’s taxpayers pay for and deserve.”
A Senate inquiry is now being called for by Shadow Communications Minister Michelle Rowland. Rowland is suggesting that the government, namely former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, and Communications Minister Mitch Fifield, come forward for questioning into how much they knew about Guthrie’s sacking.
Amongst the claims, Milne is now being accused to referring to Guthrie as the “missus” in the workplace, and is said to refer to other female employees within the ABC as “chick” and “babes”. Milne has also denied these claims.
If a Senate inquiry is launched, it will look into the claims of undue political influence within the ABC.