SUBJECT: Allegations regarding political interference at the ABC involving Chairman Justin Milne.
PRESENTER: First to the shocking new controversy for the ABC, with the Chairman now being called on to resign over allegations of political interference at the public broadcaster. It was only on Monday that Justin Milne announced the sacking of the ABC’s Managing Director. Now the pressure is on him to step down over allegations he asked for a senior reporter to be dismissed following a complaint from the then Prime Minister. Fairfax Media has published an email it said Mr Milne wrote to the now former Managing Director Michelle Guthrie, telling her to sack senior journalist, Emma Alberici. The email hasn’t been verified and the ABC’s Acting Managing Director is downplaying reports of political interference. But federal politicians are demanding answers. As Thomas Oriti reports:
THOMAS ORITI: Meanwhile the Federal Opposition is demanding a ‘please explain’ from Justin Milne.
MICHELLE ROWLAND, SHADOW MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS: I thought this article showed an extraordinary set of circumstances.
ORITI: Communications spokeswoman, Michelle Rowland, called the Chairman this morning. She says the conversation was cordial but didn’t last long.
ROWLAND: While I’m not going to go into the details of the conversation, I can say that Labor is not satisfied with the response and we believe there are serious questions to be answered.
ORITI: As to what they are:
ROWLAND: I think there needs to be answers provided as to whether or not the ABC’s independence has been compromised. I think it needs to be verified as to the veracity of some of the reporting that’s been made in the Fairfax press. And, as I say, if these reports are true, it is an extraordinary situation in which the independence and integrity of the ABC, which is the most trusted news organisation in Australia, that risks having been compromised.
ORITI: Her colleague, veteran Labor Senator, Doug Cameron, is calling for Justin Milne to step down.
SENATOR DOUG CAMERON: It’s clear that the Chairman Milne was operating on the say-so of the former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. The Chairman and the Board have got a responsibility to act independently. I think it’s quite clear that Milne has not done that, and I think he should go.
ROWLAND: If the story is true, then I think there is a strong case for considering his position.
ORITI: Michelle Rowland says his position appears untenable, if the Fairfax article is correct.