SUBJECTS: Allegations regarding political interference at the ABC involving Chairman Justin Milne.
JOURNALIST: Does he need to resign?
MICHELLE ROWLAND, SHADOW MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS: There are some very serious questions that need to be answered by the Chairman of the ABC in relation to the reports that have come out this morning. If indeed it cannot be established that there was no political interference in this matter, or indeed if we have no clarity as to whether or not the independence or the integrity of the ABC has been upheld, then surely this position of the Chairman is untenable.
JOURNALIST: If it is established that there was political interference, does that concern you?
ROWLAND: It is of great concern to Labor whether political interference has occurred in the case of the ABC. As it appears today, we have seen reports, not only of one occasion, but now of several. And it is for that reason that Labor is calling for a Senate Inquiry into the Liberals’ political interference into the ABC; that this be undertaken as a matter of urgency.
JOURNALIST: If it is established that there was political interference, what do you think that says about the government?
ROWLAND: This demonstrates that this government is hollow when it comes to its so-called support for an independent and well-supported ABC. We know that under this government, under Abbott, Turnbull and Scott Morrison as Prime Ministers, we have seen relentless attacks on the ABC in terms of its budget and in terms of ideological attacks. And now we see these latest reports which certainly undermine what great trust the Australian people have in the ABC. That cannot be allowed to continue.
JOURNALIST: We saw staff meet, calling for the Chairman, in the interim, to stand aside while the inquiry takes place. Do you think that's a good idea? Should he stand aside right now?
ROWLAND: We don't have any clear answers still from the Chairman, nor from the government for that matter as to the voracity of the claims that are being made. The alternative is simply to let this fester. So again, Labor calls on the Chairman of the ABC to give full answers to these very serious allegations that have been made. If that is not forthcoming then certainly his position would need to be considered untenable.
JOURNALIST: Minister Fifield put out a release earlier today saying he is not aware of any government Ministers being involved in staff matters at the ABC. Is that your experience or have you heard stories of there being involvement?
ROWLAND: Well the statement that the Minister gave does not go to the specific issue in this instance. It is very clear that these are serious allegations. The Australian taxpayer has a right to know what is going on here. The ABC, as a trusted institution, deserves to know whether there is any concern that the ABC Act could have been contravened; that the independence and the integrity of the ABC may not have been upheld in this instance. So we are extremely concerned that for the most trusted media organisation in Australia, we do not have that trust eroded.
JOURNALIST: In your position, have you heard of what the ABC Chairman's next move might be?
ROWLAND: I'm not aware of the ABC Chairman's next move. I find it quite disturbing that the Chairman seeks to say that he will not be giving commentary on this matter as step by step progression, but indeed this raises even more questions about what the actual involvement was at a political level, what any reaction to that was, and indeed the overall voracity of the claims that have been made in the media today.