The two most senior people in the ABC have delivered vastly different versions of their falling out over claims of political interference from the Turnbull government, including warnings that a journalist be shot for his work.
Justin Milne, the broadcaster’s former chairman, and Michelle Guthrie who was sacked as managing director, used a Senate hearing yesterday to explain their views on how the ABC and its upper echelon splintered this year.
The hearing was called because of claims of political interference that included accusations Mr Milne argued that because then prime minister Malcolm Turnbull hated the ABC’s political editor Andrew Probyn, Ms Guthrie should “shoot him”.
Probyn, a former Federal political editor for The West Australian, and the ABC’s chief economics correspondent Emma Alberici, have been at the centre of interference allegations. Mr Milne said it was simply not true he had made the comments about Probyn, accusing Ms Guthrie of writing a “script”.
But Ms Guthrie said she had taken notes of the conversation, which was at 4pm on June 14.
“There absolutely was a conversation on the 14th of June at 4pm where he discussed Mr Probyn in a very aggressive … manner,” she said. “It absolutely happened.”
Mr Milne did not reject that he had written an email in which he said the Government “frigging hate” Alberici.
He denied he had been told of the Government’s hatred towards her, instead saying it was the “zeitgeist”.
“It was from hearing what the prime minister says on the floor of parliament, from reading the papers,” he said.
Mr Milne said the decision to end Ms Guthrie’s tenure was because of her poor management of the broadcaster.
Ms Guthrie said she remained “devastated” over the decision.
ABC board member Joseph Gersch, who discussed the reasons behind Ms Guthrie’s sacking in a private hearing with the committee, said the allegations of political interference were new to him when made by the former managing director.
He said the “serious” allegation was separate to the “serious and substantial reasons” for Ms Guthrie’s sacking.