Justin Milne 'never sent' email calling for journalists' sacking

Justin Milne 'never sent' email calling for journalists' sacking

Justin Milne has resigned as chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Corp. "There was absolutely no interference in the independence of the ABC by the government", Milne told the ABC.

Milne came under fire due to this week's sensational sacking of Guthrie, just halfway through her five-year-long contract.

The ABC is funded by the government but is an independent body.

Speaking at a Queensland strawberry farm hours before Mr Milne resigned, Mr Morrison said the facts of the matter needed to be determined "before anybody races off on anything here". My aims have been to look after the interests of the corporation.

In an interview with ABC's Leigh Sales, Milne said he stepped down as a "release valve" for the organisation, and again denied any wrongdoing amid the "firestorm" of allegations.

Milne's resignation has provided some resolution.

Mr Milne confirmed the ABC board had meant to ask him to step aside while an investigation was conducted into his conduct, but said he had instead chose to quit.

Communications Minister Mitch Fifield had initially declined to act but later announced an inquiry into allegations of misconduct against Mr Milne.

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Minutes after Scott Morrison spoke, Labor's shadow communications spokesperson Michelle Rowland declared the opposition believed the chairman should step down. Paul Murphy, chief executive of the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance, labelled it a "whitewash" and called for a full public inquiry. "The rest of the board need to consider their positions", she told the ABC on Thursday.

Mr Conroy said the ABC had made a series of questionable programming decisions.

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

It has several pieces of legislation before the parliament that seek to undermine the ABC's role or change its editorial charter, some at the behest of Pauline Hanson's One Nation. With this ongoing enmity, the government has cut the ABC's total operating budget by A$254 million (US$184.3 million) since 2014, forcing around 1,000 redundancies in the process.

The ABC Act does not specify a preference for directors with business experience. She was criticized for her management style and told that her relationships with government "could have been better". It was an astute observation, given that independence has become the dominant theme of this unedifying week. Ministers have made direct appointments in recent years ignoring the recommendations of an independent panel. On another story about innovation, the ABC issued a minor clarification but otherwise rejected the government's complaints. "The board is also responsible for ensuring that the gathering and presentation of news and information is accurate and impartial, according to recognised standards of journalism, and that the ABC complies with legislative and legal requirements".

The alleged emails sparked a chain reaction that reverberated in ABC newsrooms around the country.

But the disruption won't have been in vain if more awareness emerges about the fragility and importance of the ABC's editorial independence.

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