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Justin Milne resigns from ABC chairman role

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Justin Milne resigns from ABC chairman role

The chairman of Australia's public broadcaster resigned today after it emerged that had he asked the managing director to "shoot" a senior political journalist whose reporting displeased the government.

The ABC Board is meeting to decide who will be the acting chairman.

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.

Media reports have since alleged that Milne, who is responsible for maintaining ABC's independence, had unsuccessfully pressured Guthrie to fire political editor Andrew Probyn and chief economics correspondent Emma Alberici to prevent potential cuts in government funding.

On Thursday, Milne, a former executive at Australian telecom giant Telstra, described the recent reports as a "firestorm" and said he chose to quit because he "wanted to provide a release valve" for the network.

"Nobody from the government has ever rung me and told me what to do in relation to the ABC".

The chairman 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.

Guthrie, who says she is considering her legal options, was seen by staffers who spoke to Asia Times as a weak and ineffective leader and a poor advocate for the organization in Canberra, even though this week's revelations show that she did push back against the political interference of her chairman.

And the lean to the left didn't end there, with author Deanne Carson featuring on an ABC News segment in May arguing parents needed to ask their babies for consent to change their nappies.

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"It's a matter for every high office holder to continually assess whether they retain the capacity to effectively discharge the duties of their office", he said.

On Monday, which now seems so long ago, the former ABC staff-elected director Matt Peacock observed that for all her faults, Guthrie did at least stand up for the ABC's independence. Fifield also denied trying to sack anyone in the ABC.

"My concern has been on the accuracy and impartiality of news reporting".

Guthrie's departure will not be mourned by many ABC staff, whose disengagement was given as a reason for her sacking, but staff anger turned and mobilized quickly against Milne when his private emails were published.

The communications minister's comments came after a similar denial from former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull.

But he rejects asking for specific reporters to be axed.

"The bottom line is I've never called for anybody to be fired", he told reporters in NY.

The Greens and Labor are seeking a Senate inquiry into allegations of political pressure on the ABC, saying the internal departmental probe could not be relied upon to uncover the full story. "We need to save the ABC - not Emma", Milne said, according to Fairfax.

"The ABC is not the propaganda arm of the Liberal party of Australia". He opposed the move because it offended his friend, the then prime minister Malcolm Turnbull.

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