Outgoing ABC chairman Justin Milne says no government MPs ever asked him to sack journalists because they didn’t like the broadcaster’s reporting.
He says he quit on Thursday because the controversy around him was putting pressure on the national broadcaster.
The Communications Department boss is investigating reports Mr Milne asked former managing director Michelle Guthrie to fire senior journalists Emma Alberici and Andrew Probyn because the government didn’t like their stories.
The ABC board met on Thursday morning without Mr Milne and asked him to step aside during the investigation.
“I said ‘well I think actually I should resign because clearly there is a lot of pressure on the organisation’,” Mr Milne told the ABC on Thursday.
“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.”
An email has shown Mr Milne asked Ms Guthrie – who was herself sacked on Monday – to fire Ms Alberici in May.
“They [the government] hate her,” he wrote in an email to Ms Guthrie obtained by Fairfax Media.
Mr Milne is also said to have ordered Ms Guthrie sack Mr Probyn by telling her “you just have to shoot him”, because Mr Turnbull hated the journalist.
“Nobody from the government has ever rung me and told me what to do in relation to the ABC,” Mr Milne said.
“Nobody ever told me to hire anybody, fire anybody or do anything else. They absolutely didn’t.”
First public comment from the Prime Minister on the ABC board’s decision to ask Justin Milne to step aside as chairman and his subsequent resignation. https://t.co/rvfX0lXQUP
— ABC Politics (@politicsabc) September 27, 2018
BREAKING: Justin Milne has resigned as chair of ABC.
— Sharri Markson (@SharriMarkson) September 27, 2018