ABC chairman Milne refuses to step down as Coalition launches inquiry

Josh McDonnell
By Josh McDonnell | 27 September 2018
Justine Milne and Mitch Fifield

ABC chairman Justin Milne has refused to step down from his role, refuting any wrongdoing or political interference as part of the Emma Alberici email scandal.

In response to claims of political interference by the Government and senior ABC board members, the Coalition and Minister for Communications and Arts Mitch Fifield have launched an inquiry into actions within the public broadcaster.

Yesterday's news that Milne had sent an email to recently sacked ABC MD Michelle Guthrie, calling for the removal of the broadcaster's chief economics correspondent Emma Alberici, sent shockwaves through the media industry.

The email stemmed from a complaint by ex-Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull regarding Alberici's recent political coverage.

In response, hundreds of ABC staff walked out of its Ultimo, Sydney headquarters as calls for Milne to stand down reached boiling point.

“The job of the ABC Board is to independently govern the Corporation, protect its best interests, ensure that it is well funded, well managed and that our content is of the highest standards," Milne stated in response.

"That is precisely what the Board has done and will continue to do. I do not propose to provide a running commentary on day to day issues which arise in pursuit of our duties.”

Fifield himself became embroiled in the matter, when issues were raised around what level of involvement the Government had in the reporting of ABC News journalists.

"From time to time, I have raised factual errors in ABC reporting, but have always respected the legislated operational and editorial independence of the ABC," a statement from Fifield's office read.

"I have never involved myself in staffing matters, nor am I aware of any member of the Government who has sought to do so."

The new follows what has been a controversial week for the public broadcaster, after it was revealed Guthrie had been pushed out of her MD role by the board, after only completing half of her five-year contract.

Since then, a "devastated" Guthrie has revealed she is considering her "legal options", going so far as to appoint the lawyer responsible for leading the case against former Seven West Media executive assistant Amber Harrison.

Guthrie, who had been with the broadcaster since 2015, has been replaced by the current director of entertainment and specialist, David Anderson, until a replacement can be found.

It had been rumoured that tension between Milne and Guthrie was causing major issues within the broadcaster, with both higher-ups clashing on multiple issues, according to The Australian.

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