Despite resigning as ABC chairman yesterday, Justin Milne has warned the public broadcaster can’t afford to continue to antagonise the government that pays its way.
A composed and contrite Milne appeared on the ABC’s 7.30 last night to defend Monday’s sacking of managing director Michelle Guthrie and defend allegations he’d also tried to have senior ABC journalist Emma Alberici sacked because the government “hated her”.
Milne telling Leigh Sales: “On one hand the government provides the funding and on the other the ABC is supposed to be independent of the person providing the funding.
“But you cannot go around irritating the person whose giving you funding again and again if it’s over matters regarding impartiality and accuracy.
“And what happened in those situations is we, the ABC, found that we were not accurate or impartial,” he said.
Regarding the email he apparently sent Guthrie calling for Alberici’s head, Milne said it was “taken out of context” and was a “confidential conversation and a conversation you would expect should be had.”
Milne added: “What do we do about this? That was what that conversation was but I have never provided instructions that anybody should be sacked.”
The ABC, and Milne in particular, are now being accused of colluding with the then Turnbull government to remove journalists who report unfavourable stories.
Fairfax Media are today reporting that they are in possession of Milne’s offending email that Guthrie posted in a document to the ABC Board, just days before she was sacked.
The email apparently read: “After two glasses of red of course there’s an agenda. They fricken hate her. She keeps sticking it to them with a clear bias against them. We clear her as ok. We r tarred with her brush. I just think it’s simple. Get rid of her. My view is we need to save the corporation not Emma. There is no g’tee they will lose the next election [sic].”
Following an ABC investigation, Alberici’s reporting was found to include nine errors in relation to her reporting on tax policies, while another article about innovation required a a minor clarification.
Yesterday, the former prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, told reporters in New York that he’d never told Milne to sack Alberici. “We did complain about the very poor standards of journalism, and lack of accuracy of journalism shown on a number of occasions by ABC journalists,” he said before adding, “I gave no instructions to the ABC chairman (Milne) on any matter.”