Guthrie accuses Milne of 'inappropriate touching' in explosive investigation

Josh McDonnell
By Josh McDonnell | 13 November 2018

Former ABC managing director Michelle Guthrie has accused former chairman of the public broadcaster, Justin Milne, of "touching her inappropriately" at a function this time last year.

“Inappropriate touching is the best description of it. I felt icky. It was unprofessional and inappropriate," Guthrie told ABC's 4Corners last night, in a special investigation into the relationship between the two and the incidents that led to both departing the public broadcaster.

Declining to comment further, Guthrie added that she had made the incident known to the ABC board prior to her being removed from the MD role earlier this year.

Milne stated he was "dumbfounded" when he was made aware of the accusations brought against him and strongly denied any wrongdoing.

“I think she meant that [claim] to have a sexual innuendo about it, which I can’t possibly for the life of me understand why she would say that,” he said.

“She outlined a number of allegations and you’re going to have to forgive me for not going into them chapter and verse, except to say that I never, ever behaved in any inappropriate way with Michelle."

The program also examined the fallout of the chaotic week surrounding the firing of Guthrie, which ultimately led to Milne stepping down after an email leak revealed he attempted to use his authority to oust chief economics correspondent Emma Alberici.

In response to the 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.

Despite the leaks, Milne claims that Guthrie had been part of the conversation about "external career development opportunities" for Alberici, which he admitted was "silly corporate euphemism for firing her".

Guthrie denied involvement but admitted there had been conversations with the ABC's HR and legal team to determine if there were grounds to terminate Alberici.

“There was this real sense that we needed to please the government and that the government had expressed, as we know, a number of complaints around Emma’s reporting, and that we needed to placate the government,” Guthrie said.

Following her sacking from the public broadcaster, Guthrie said she would sue the ABC and Milne for wrongful termination.

“As I keep saying up until today, I still don’t know why I was fired from the ABC,” she said.

The 4Corners episode was also one of the highest viewed programs of the evening, drawing in 719,000 metro viewers.

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