The chairman of Australia's public broadcaster has resigned after allegations that he compromised its independence by calling for the removal of a senior journalist because of pressure from the government.
The ABC board met today without Milne and asked him to stand aside.
An open all-staff meeting was called at the ABC's Ultimo headquarters - which was described as "the most important" in nearly two decades - where a resolution calling for an independent inquiry into the matter was passed unanimously.
Sources at the ABC said employees had made it clear to board members on Thursday that ABC staff were so angry they were prepared to walk off the job in protest if Milne did not resign.
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Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the board and Mr Milne made the right call.
Fun times at Aunty.
The government on Wednesday ordered a communications department investigation into the published allegations that Mr. Milne had pressured Ms. Guthrie to fire the two journalists, warning she was "putting the future of the ABC at risk" and jeopardizing 500 million Australian dollars (360 million) in government funding the chairman wanted for his pet project to digitize the broadcaster.
He said he did not remember telling Ms Guthrie to "shoot" political editor Andrew Probyn, but conceded raising "the Probyn issue" with the ABC's senior leadership team, which includes news director Gaven Morris and editorial director Alan Sunderland.
This chaotic week has exposed the increasingly politicised climate in which the ABC now operates and the inconsistencies in the government's narrative about the independence of the national broadcaster.
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"If Mr Milne is incapable of answering some of the very serious questions that go to his role of being independent and acting with integrity in this role, certainly his position as chairman should be considered untenable", she said. "Like most members of parliament, I have, on occasion, raised with the ABC issues of facts in reporting, as indeed I've done with commercial media organisations", Mr Fifield told reporters in Melbourne. He said he never used the term "babes", but did sometimes call people he liked "chicks" in order to relax them. "My concern has been on the accuracy and impartiality of reporting". "There was absolutely no interference in the independence of the ABC by the government", Milne told the ABC.
Beyond the reports suggesting that Milne wanted to fire both Alberici and Probyn, Fairfax has reported that Milne referred to Guthrie as "the missus" to staff, and spoke of women as "chicks" and "babes".
Media mogul Rupert Murdoch (L) and then Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull (C) in a 2016 file photo.
Speaking in New York, Mr Turnbull defended complaining about ABC "inaccuracies" but strongly denied asking for any reporters to be sacked. "The bottom line is I have never called for anybody to be fired", Mr Turnbull told reporters in NY.
"The ABC is not the propaganda arm of the Liberal party of Australia. We need to save the ABC not Emma", he added. Milne was appointed by Turnbull and the pair are long-term friends.
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