Communications minister Mitch Fifield reportedly knew former ABC managing director Michelle Guthrie was to be sacked weeks prior to it happening.
The admission came while Fifield was speaking to the Senate this morning, however, the minister added he was unaware ex-ABC chair Justin Milne was pushing for two senior journalists to be fired.
Speaking to the Senate, Fifield said: “Let me be clear, prior to these media reports I was not aware of the allegations of encounters between the former managing director and the former chair in relation to staffing matters.
“I have never in any way, shape or form sought to involve myself in staffing matters, nor am I aware of any current or former member of the government seeking to do so.”
“The then-chair spoke to me in Canberra on September 12 to advise that the board no longer believed the managing director was best placed to lead the organisation,” Fifield said.
“He further advised that he would be conveying this to the managing director on behalf of the board the following day.
“Although not sure where this matter would land, he hoped that a mutually agreeable path could be found. I indicated to the chair that I respected the managing director’s position was, under the legislation, a matter for the board.
“Given the uncertainty as to how this would conclude, and out of respect for the privacy of the managing director, I undertook to not further convey that information at that time.”
In response, Labor senator Deb O’Neill said: “What [Senator Fifield] attempted this morning is to come in here and wipe the blood off his hands for all the damage that he’s done to the ABC,” .
She added Fifield was “cleaning up after the scene of the crime of constant and persistent attacks on our national broadcaster”.
The ABC has declined to make a comment on the matter.
Guthrie was sacked by the ABC board in the last week of September, following a reported stoush between her and then ABC chair Justin Milne after Milne recommended senior journalist Emma Alberici be fired for negative government reporting.
Justin Milne then resigned a week later.
The ABC has now appointed an “external, independent expert advisor” to look into claims made by Guthrie prior to her exit.
Just days before she was given the boot, Guthrie sent a letter to the ABC board asking they investigate a number of confidential claims which will now be looked into by the board.