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17 Dec

ABC chair Milne quits over ‘firestorm’

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Justin Milne during the ABC Annual Public Meeting in Sydney earlier this year. Photo: AAPOutgoing ABC chairman Justin Milne quit because the controversy around his role was putting pressure on the national broadcaster.

He says he “absolutely 100 per cent” safeguarded the independence of the ABC, and no one from the government asked him to sack any specific journalists.

The Communications Department boss is investigating reports Mr Milne asked former managing director Michelle Guthrie to fire senior journalists Emma Alberici and Andrew Probyn because the government didn’t like their reporting.

The ABC board met on Thursday morning without Mr Milne and asked him to step aside while the investigation is completed.

“I said ‘well I think actually I should resign because clearly there is a lot of pressure on the organisation’,” Mr Milne told the ABC on Thursday.

“My aim has been to look after the interests of the corporation. And it’s clearly not a good thing for everyone to be trying to do their job with this kind of firestorm going on so I wanted to provide a release valve.”

An email has shown Mr Milne asked Ms Guthrie – who was herself sacked on Monday – to fire Ms Alberici in May.

“They (the government) hate her,” he wrote in an email to Ms Guthrie obtained by Fairfax Media.

Mr Milne is also said to have ordered Ms Guthrie sack Mr Probyn by telling her “you just have to shoot him”, because Mr Turnbull hated the journalist.

Mr Milne said no one from the government asked him to sack anyone.

“There is absolutely no interference in the independence of the ABC by the government,” he said.

“Nobody from the government has ever rung me and told me what to do in relation to the ABC.

“Nobody ever told me to hire anybody, fire anybody or do anything else. They absolutely didn’t.”

The board is meeting again in Thursday to decide who will be acting chair.

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