ABC staff in Sydney stopped work today to unanimously pass a motion calling for an independent investigation into Chairman Justin Milne, and for him to stand aside for the duration.
More than 300 ABC staff packed in over two floors for the lunchtime crisis meeting in Sydney.
The action follows reports told former managing director Michelle Guthrie to sack presenter Emma Alberici after former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull sent a list of grievances about Alberici’s reporting.
“We can’t have this coming from the board,” senior ABC journalist Stephen Long said.
“If the chairman thinks this is an appropriate thing to do, the chairman does not understand his role.”
Crisis meetings were also being held at ABC headquarters in Melbourne and Brisbane at lunchtime on Wednesday.
In Brisbane, staff took their demands further calling on Mr Milne to “immediately resign” if it’s found reporting on a damning leaked email he sent to former ABC boss Michelle Guthrie is true.
An email sent to ABC staff today from the ABC house committee said: “We need to send a message that it is not okay for the chairman of the board to bow to political pressure about ABC coverage.
“This is vital to the ABC’s independence and our ability to report fearlessly and independently.”
In a statement this morning, Milne 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.”
The Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance has called for Mr Milne to resign, with chief executive Paul Murphy saying the “deeply disturbing” revelations showed “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”.
Deputy Labor leader Tanya Plibersek has also entered the conversation, saying any government pressure on the ABC to sack Alberici would be a “shocking abuse of power”.
“If it is true that the government or the prime minister himself have pressured the ABC to get rid of reporters whose reporting they don’t like that is a shocking abuse of power,” she told reporters this morning.
“One of the things Australians love and treasure about their ABC is its integrity and independence. It’s the most respected news organisation in Australia and it can only maintain that integrity and independence with the support of its board and an absolute refusal to buckle to political interference.”