ABC Chairman Justin Milne Resigns
Justin Milne has resigned as Chairman of the ABC.
ABC chairman Justin Milne has resigned after reports he demanded journalists be sacked because the government didn't like their stories.
Milne said in a statement that "the best interests of the ABC will be served by offering my resignation" but denied claims he had been pressured by government to have journalists fired.
"The Board met this morning and proposed that I stand aside for the duration of the proposed inquiries into matters raised in the media. It was my suggestion that I resign as it is plain the organisation needs to get past this issue," he said.
"I have never been directed by any member of parliament to seek the sacking of an ABC staff member, nor have I ever directed ABC management to sack a staff member."
Fairfax reported he pressured then-managing director Michelle Guthrie to sack economics correspondent Emma Alberici after she had written stories critical of the Turnbull administration's tax cut policy.
On Thursday, just hours before he resigned, Fairfax reported Milne had also pushed to have ABC political editor Andrew Probyn fired too.
“They [the government] hate her,” Milne reportedly wrote in an email about Alberici on May 8, according to Fairfax.
"You have to shoot him," Milne said of Probyn.
Milne has given an interview to ABC's 7.30 program, which will air on Thursday night.
"Clearly there is a lot of pressure on the organisation, and as always, my interests have been to look after the interests of the corporation," Milne told ABC journalist and 7.30 program host Leigh Sales in the interview.
"It's clearly not a good thing for everybody to be trying to do their job with this kind of firestorm going on."
Milne claimed there "was absolutely no interference in the independence of the ABC by the Government... Nobody from the Government has ever rung me and told me what to do in relation to the ABC."
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the resignation was "the right call."
It comes just a day after the federal government announced an inquiry into the ABC.
On Thursday, the ABC's union members in Sydney unanimously passed a motion calling for an independent investigation into Milne's emails, and for Milne to stand aside as chairman while that occurs.
"The idea behind the investigation is to secure the editorial independence of the ABC from top to bottom," read part of the motion.
The MEAA union, which represents journalists, has called for a full public inquiry into Milne and alleged interference in the ABC's independence.
"This is not a one-off attack on the ABC’s independence, but is the culmination of years of inappropriate external meddling in the ABC’s affairs," the union said in a statement.
"MEAA and ABC staff will continue to lobby the board, senior management and political decision makers to armour plate the independence of the institution which is so trusted and beloved by Australians. Both the incoming chairperson and the board of directors must declare their unequivocal support for the independence of the ABC."
The reported email was slammed by many high-profile journalists and media commentators both inside and outside the ABC, with criticism that the supposedly independent public broadcaster was being influenced by government. One ABC reporter called the claims "chilling".
More to come