Politics

So, The Government Tried To Have An ABC Journalist Fired After She Wrote Critical Stories

Malcolm Turnbull's hand-picked ABC chairman tried to "get rid" of a female journalist.

ABC chairman Justin Milne asked for high profile journalist Emma Alberici to be fired after the government repeatedly complained about Alberici’s conduct, emails leaked to Fairfax show.

The leak comes after former managing director Michelle Guthrie was fired on Monday, capping off weeks of tension within the ABC’s upper management.

Emails uncovered by Fairfax show that Milne, who was appointed by former PM Malcolm Turnbull, wanted Alberici fired because “they [the government] hate her”.

“We are tarred with her brush. I think it’s simple. Get rid of her. We need to save the ABC – not Emma. There is no guarantee they [the Coalition] will lose the next election.”

Alberici caused controversy earlier in the year with a story on corporate tax that led to former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull’s office lodging an official complaint. After an internal investigation, it was revealed that her story contained nine errors or omissions of fact. Other complaints have been lodged with the ABC by the Coalition government, including one recently about the broadcaster’s Super Saturday by-election coverage.

Alberici, who is the ABC’s chief economics correspondent, responded on ABC radio this morning.

“It’s disappointing if true, obviously,” she said. “I just think it really undermines the independence of the ABC and that’s certainly why I work there.”

Also on ABC radio this morning, former ABC chairman James Spigelman said that the request by Milne to fire Alberici was inappropriate.

And the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance — the union that supports journalists — has called for Milne to resign if the reports are true.

“Mr Milne has no understanding of editorial independence, proper complaints handling processes, or the appropriate distance a board chair needs to keep from staffing matters,” the union said in a statement.

Greens communications spokesperson Sarah Hanson-Young has called for Milne’s sacking this morning as well.

“Mr Milne’s position is untenable. As the chair of an organisation that is supposed to be independent of government, Milne has shown he can’t be trusted with the ABC,” she said.

“There can be no more serious breach than the apparent demand that a journalist be sacked at the behest of the Prime Minister of the day.”

Alberici has also found a surprise ally in this morning’s fallout: conservative anti-ABC commentator Andrew Bolt has defended Alberici in a column today and called for Milne’s sacking.

In response to the leaked email, the ABC board said that it takes their editorial integrity seriously.

In a separate statement, Milne himself said:

“The job of the ABC Board is to independently govern the Corporation, protect its best interests, ensure that it is well funded, well managed, and that our content is of the highest standards.”

”That is precisely what the board has done and will continue to do. I do not propose to provide a running commentary on the day to day issues which arise as we carry out our duties,” he continued.

Yesterday, Guthrie said she would consider legal avenues after the board fired her.

“While my contract permits the board to terminate my appointment without cause and with immediate effect, I believe there is no justification for the board to trigger that termination clause,” Guthrie said in a statement after the firing.

“At no point have any issues been raised with me about the transformation being undertaken.”

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