SUBJECT: Resignation of ABC Chairman Justin Milne.
ELANOR HALL: Labor's communications spokeswoman is Michelle Rowland and she joins us now. Michelle Rowland, first your reaction to this decision by Justin Milne to resign as Chairman?
MICHELLE ROWLAND, SHADOW MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS: Well, this morning, I made it clear that Labor did not have confidence in the Chairman, and the result today I think reflects the amount of public sentiment which is also in that vein; that the public had lost confidence, that the ABC staff had lost confidence and I think that the resignation is reflective of that.
HALL: Justin Milne has resigned but he says he did not write an email that said the government hated anyone or provide instructions that any reporter should be sacked. What do you make of that?
ROWLAND: These are matters that should be tested transparently and in the public’s interest, which is why we have called in Labor for this Senate to have an inquiry into political interference because of course, it is not just one isolated instance here. There are continuing reports and allegations of other aspects of political interference that need to be tested.
HALL: So, even though he’s resigned, you still want this Senate Inquiry to go ahead?
ROWLAND: Absolutely because we need to understand that the genesis of this is political interference and interference doesn't exist simply by the existence of the Chairman. It exists because someone either has exerted - overtly or covertly - some form of interference in this matter and they are the allegations that need to be tested.
HALL: It appears evident that the entire Board was given information about these allegations last week. Should the Board have taken action then against Mr Milne as soon as they knew this?
ROWLAND: The Board has obligations under the ABC Act to act with independence and integrity, and Mr Milne is clearly one of those people required to act in that way. So, what we are talking about here not only applies to Mr Milne, but also to the actions of the Board and Labor believes that the public expects no less than a full and transparent inquiry into what has gone on, what has been the role of the Liberal Government in this matter, and what is the veracity of this allegation - but also other allegations that have been made - about political interference.
HALL: And do you think there needs to be a further clear out of the ABC Board?
ROWLAND: I think that's the reason why we need to have this inquiry because that will provide substantive information that goes precisely to these matters. And let's not forget in all of this: this is about Australian citizens. They are the stakeholders in the ABC, they have a right to know what is going on, and trust and confidence in the ABC is paramount for a public broadcaster.
HALL: What about the suggestions that we've just been hearing from Andrew Fowler about an independent Board that is appointed in a way that is clearly removed from government. Would you support that?
ROWLAND: Well, clearly I think that this episode as it continues points to the public needing to have confidence in the ABC and if the Board appointment process is one of those, then certainly that's one that should be examined.
HALL: Michelle Rowland, the Labor Communications spokeswoman, thanks so much for joining us.