Malcolm Turnbull denies calling for ABC sackings

by Garry Watts September 28, 2018, 1:57
Malcolm Turnbull denies calling for ABC sackings

The chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Corp. resigned on Thursday over allegations that he pressured the independent national broadcaster to fire two political journalists because the ruling conservative government disliked them.

The government has announced an inquiry, to be conducted by Mike Mrdak, secretary of the Department of Communications and the Arts.

Milne's departure comes just days after the ABC sacked former managing director Michelle Guthrie.

Milne, who was appointed by the conservative government a year ago and is a friend of former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, said he had quit for the good the corporation.

Milne strongly denied on Thursday that he had attempted to interfere in the ABC's editorial independence.

The government has denied pressuring the broadcaster over its staff.

"I have only ever raised with the ABC matters in relation to facts in reporting".

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the board and Mr Milne made the right call.

Another report in News Limited publications claimed Mr Milne had ordered the sacking of the ABC's political editor, Andrew Probyn.

Guthrie, who says she is considering her legal options, was seen by staffers who spoke to Asia Times as a weak and ineffective leader and a poor advocate for the organization in Canberra, even though this week's revelations show that she did push back against the political interference of her chairman.

Weather Authority: Rain showers likely on Tuesday
Temperatures will cool by a few degrees Wednesday and Thursday with overnight lows reaching the 60s Thursday and Friday mornings. Wednesday will be mostly cloudy and warm (the mercury could hit 77 in Boston) with a chance of showers and thunderstorms.

As Marcus Strom, president of the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance, told ABC News, the staff deserve better and are sick of being treated like "political footballs". He said he never used the term "babes", but did sometimes call people he liked "chicks" in order to relax them.

The ABC's board selects the managing director, while the governor general of Australia appoints the board and chairman at the recommendation of the government.

The former Telstra executive admitted his concerns were partly driven by his desire for the ABC to secure $500 million in funding for Project Jetstream, a major digital transformation project which was being discussed with the government.

"What happened in that particular area was that we, the ABC, found that we were not accurate nor impartial".

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull holds his final news conference before leaving Parliament in Canberra on August 24.

Mr Turnbull says he did not ask for specific reporters to be axed. According to the act, the board's duties include ensuring the functions of the ABC are performed efficiently, maintaining the integrity of the organisation, and ensuring news reporting is accurate and impartial.

From New York, Turnbull denied that he sought to fire specific journalists, saying that he had only ever anxious about poor reporting standards rather than bias.

The minor Greens Party has called for a Senate inquiry into the entire ABC board, not trusting a government inquiry into the government's potential involvement in the scandal. He opposed the move because it offended his friend, the then prime minister Malcolm Turnbull.

"Today, the Australian public has asked to be reassured that the ABC's independence is protected", Mr Morris wrote.

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