Australian Communication Minister Demands the ABC Chair and Its Board Explain Its Decision

Australian Communication Minister Demands the ABC Chair and Its Board Explain Its Decision
Minister for Communications Paul Fletcher speaks during a press conference following a tour of the Sydney Coliseum Theatre at West HQ on June 25, 2020 in Sydney, Australia. (Matt Blyth/Getty Images)

ABC chair Ita Buttrose isn’t about to lose her job at the public broadcaster, although the federal government is awaiting an explanation over what it considers a controversial program.

Last month Communication Minister Paul Fletcher demanded the ABC chair and its board explain its decision to air a program questioning the behaviour of two senior government politicians.

The letter outlined the government’s grievances with the Four Corners investigation into Alan Tudge and Christian Porter.

A response is due on December 14.

“I certainly have no intention of sacking the chair of the ABC,” Fletcher told ABC television’s Insiders program on December 13.

“She does an important job.”

But he said it was entirely appropriate that the board and the chair answer questions about their responsibilities.

“When I receive her response, I will give it the careful consideration that it deserves, and I do expect a serious and substantive response from one of the most serious and substantive figures in the Australian media landscape,” Fletcher said.

In his letter, Fletcher pointed to the ABC’s code of practice outlining its duties to be accurate and impartial, as well as being willing to correct errors and clarify ambiguous or misleading information.

The minister says intruding into the private lives of the ministers must be proportionate in the circumstances.

The program revealed Tudge had a consensual affair with former staffer Rachelle Miller, who subsequently made a formal bullying complaint against him.

Attorney-General Porter has denied accusations of any wrongdoing saying the 2017 incident canvassed on the program involved nothing more than having a drink with a woman in a bar.

Allegations against the two ministers pre-dated changes to the ministerial code of conduct made by former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, which banned sexual relations with staff.

By Colin Brinsden in Canberra