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Issue #1843      October 10, 2018

Need for independent inquiry into ABC meddling

The Community and Public Sector Union says the resignation of ABC chairman Justin Milne has underlined the need for an independent inquiry into political interference at the national broadcaster.

Milne tendered his resignation last week, four days after the ABC Board announced the surprise sacking of ABC Managing Director Michelle Guthrie.

Pressure had been mounting on Milne over reports he had ordered Guthrie to sack two senior ABC journalists because the Coalition government “hated” them.

CPSU ABC section secretary Sinddy Ealy said: “CPSU members working at the ABC had publicly called for Justin Milne’s resignation and we believe this was a necessary step to begin repairing the damage from what’s been an enormously traumatic week for ABC staff.

“But this resignation won’t provide a ‘release valve’ as the departing chairman has claimed unless there is also a fully independent inquiry into the level of political interference at the ABC.”

“We need a forensic examination, not mere denials from the outgoing chairman and Coalition politicians to have confidence that the ABC is being allowed to operate in the interests of Australians not in the interests of the Liberal Party. Milne’s denial of interference rings hollow, particularly when he hasn’t adequately responded to reports he demanded that senior journalists were sacked.”

The union said that Justin Milne and Michelle Guthrie both failed the ABC and the Australian public with such public squabbling, but are far more concerned at the ongoing attacks on the ABC by the Liberal Party and the Morrison government. The broadcaster has been devastated by Budget cuts and it now appears the government has used its funding powers as leverage to improperly influence the ABC’s operations. That is a deeply disturbing possibility and a probe reporting directly to Communications Minister Mitch Fifield was not going to resolve this.

“The suggestion that an ABC chairman would order the sacking of senior journalists because the government of the day hates them marks a disturbing low point,” Ealy said. “It is the fiercely protected independence of the ABC that makes it the most trusted news source in Australia, and all ABC Board members must be upholding that standard not interfering at the direct or implied direction of the Morrison government or anyone else.

“The CPSU believes David Anderson is a good choice to lead the ABC through what was already a challenging period, and will be pushing for a Chairman who is similarly committed to the broadcaster and not compromised by political or other considerations. The ABC’s future leadership must put the national broadcaster, its hardworking staff and of course the Australian public first.”

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