In an interview with Leigh Sales for ABC’s 7.30 about his resignation, Milne said: “There was absolutely no interference in the independence of the ABC by the government. Nobody from the government has ever rung me and told me what to do in relation to the ABC. Nobody ever told me to hire anybody or fire anybody or do anything else.”
Fairfax Media yesterday reported that Milne had emailed former managing director Michelle Guthrie to sack Alberici on May 8.
Milne agreed that he’d had conversations about Alberici with Guthrie and other colleagues at ABC, but said he’d never instructed anyone to be sacked.
He said: “The role of the chairman, as defined by the Act, is to look after the corporation, its longevity… and in particular look after and be responsible for its editorial independence and accuracy. When there is an issue of editorial independence and accuracy, it’s appropriate for the chair to be involved.
“Yes, we had conversations about that. We had conversations with multiple people. Those are the sorts of swirling conversations where essentially managers and the chair in that particular time were trying to decide, what shall we do here?
“I have never sent an email to Michelle Guthrie or anybody else, which says, ‘You must sack Emma Alberici or Andrew Probyn or anybody else.’ This is a piece of an email that I haven’t seen but, nevertheless, it’s a piece of email that has been taken out of context from a conversation, which was confidential.
“I have never provided instructions that anybody should be sacked.”
Milne resigned as the ABC chairman after the organisation’s board held a meeting about his future this morning (https://mediaweek.com.au/justin-milne-resigns-as-abc-chairman/).
Milne revealed that the board suggested he stand aside from his role for the duration of the investigation launched by the government into interference in ABC editorial independence. However, he took the decision to quit because “there is pressure on the organisation”.
He said: “My aim has been to look after the interests of the organisation. It’s clearly not a good thing for everybody to be trying to do their job with this kind of firestorm going on so I wanted to provide a release valve.”
Milne’s full interview with Leigh Sales will air tonight on 7.30.