Australian TV chief quits after demanding journalist be sacked for upsetting PM

Former ABC managing director Michelle Guthrie

Former ABC managing director Michelle Guthrie

The board held an urgent meeting on Wednesday afternoon and afterwards Mr Milne said he meant to stay on as chairman.

"My aim, has been to look after the interests of the corporation".

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. "Nobody ever told me to hire anybody, fire anybody, or anything else".

"Absolutely 100% not", he said.

"I know that's the sort of narrative that's been running in the papers but that absolutely never happened".

When Prime Minister Scott Morrison was treasurer in May, he dedicated $1.12 billion to the ABC for the 2018/19 financial year.

Staff in Sydney called for Mr Milne to stand down from his chairman role until an investigation concluded.

Earlier, Morrison had described the interference allegations against Milne as "pretty serious" and "very concerning".

The Labor opposition went further, saying it no longer had "confidence" in his leadership and describing his position as "untenable".

"It's clearly not a good thing for everyone to be trying to do their job with this kind of firestorm going on so I wanted to provide a release valve", Milne told the ABC.

Mr Milne said there was no political interference from the government in his decisions.

The former Telstra executive admitted his concerns were partly driven by his desire for the ABC to secure $500 million in funding for Project Jetstream, a major digital transformation project which was being discussed with the government.

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".

"I have always respected the independence of the ABC".

The nearly century-old Australian Broadcasting Corporation is incredibly popular Down Under, with polls showing it is not just the most trusted news organization in the country, but also seen as a national treasure.

The ABC's former chairman, Justin Milne, has propelled himself from obscurity to infamy in just four days.

"But, at no stage, and in no way, shape or form, have I ever sought to involve myself in staffing matters in the ABC, nor, for that matter, am I aware of any member of the Government who has sought to do so". Mr Milne indicated he "would be cooperating", Mr Fifield said.

The ABC Act does not specify a preference for directors with business experience.

"Your bosses are the Australian people", he wrote on Twitter on Thursday.

The former chairman denies this.

Media mogul Rupert Murdoch (L) and then Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull (C) in a 2016 file photo.

Justin Milne, chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), said he would resign after widespread anger from staff, labour unions and lawmakers.

The ABC board sacked Ms Guthrie on Monday, triggering a week of damaging fallout.

Another report in News Limited publications claimed Mr Milne had ordered the sacking of the ABC's political editor, Andrew Probyn.

Mr Turnbull says he did not ask for specific reporters to be axed.

"That is not right". According to the act, the board's duties include ensuring the functions of the ABC are performed efficiently, maintaining the integrity of the organisation, and ensuring news reporting is accurate and impartial.

"Accuracy is critically important and I have to say".

The minor Greens Party has called for a Senate inquiry into the entire ABC board, not trusting a government inquiry into the government's potential involvement in the scandal.

They will likely have the numbers to establish an Upper House inquiry with the support of some crossbenchers.

"The ABC is not the propaganda arm of the Liberal party of Australia".

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