Chairman of Australia’s Public Broadcaster Resigns Over Independence Scandal

September 27, 2018 Updated: September 27, 2018

SYDNEY—The chairman of Australia’s public broadcaster resigned on Sept. 27 after allegations he appeared to bow to Turnbull government pressure when he called for the removal of a senior journalist.

Justin Milne, chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), said he would resign after widespread anger from staff, labor unions and lawmakers.

“My aim, has been to look after the interests of the corporation. 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,” Milne told the ABC.

Milne’s departure comes just days after the ABC sacked former managing director Michelle Guthrie. The ABC said Guthrie was dismissed amid concerns about her leadership style.

The ABC is funded by the government but is an independent body.

But leaked emails from Milne appeared to suggest funding could be jeopardized if the ABC did not remove a senior journalist who had angered the government through her coverage of its corporate tax policy.

“We are tarred with her brush. I think it’s simple. Get rid of her,” Milne allegedly wrote in the email published by The Sydney Morning Herald on Sept. 27.

Australia’s center-right to right wing Coalition government has traditionally been at logger heads with the ABC, which it perceives as being left wing, with the relationship souring further this year following a funding cut.

The Morrison government said it would conduct an internal investigation.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison denied his liberal progressive predecessor Malcolm Turnbull sought to influence the ABC.

“If they make mistakes and it’s alright for people to call them out on that,” Morrison told reporters in Beerwah, 75 kms (46.6 miles) north of the Queensland’s state capital Brisbane.

“But the idea that the government has somehow got some list and is telling the ABC who should work there and who shouldn’t. That’s complete rubbish.”

By Colin Packham

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