• Hannah Phillips

The Week in Politics


The ABC loves talking about itself but this week everyone else joined in the conversation.

However, in typical fashion, many of the commentators have managed to get the wrong end of the stick.


On Monday various ABC talking heads lined up to condemn dismissed Managing Director Michelle Guthrie for not defending the ABC.

Jon Faine told Fairfax Media: “The first time I met her I thought she was very charming. She was clearly very smart. But [by] the expiration of the first year it became clear she was only interested in a very small parts of what the organisation did.

“She would not take on her role as a champion for this organisation. It’s an astonishing fail on her part.”

On Wednesday it transpired that Michelle Guthrie had staunchly defended ABC personalities Emma Alberici and Andrew Probyn in the face of demands by ABC Chairman Justin Milne that they be dismissed.

Unfortunately Mr Milne had left a trail of emails so his position quickly became untenable.

By Thursday Mr Milne was gone. Mr Milne’s actions were the subject of two enquiries, one by the head of the Department of Communications Mike Mrdak and the other by a Senate committee.

These could have been embarrassing for the government, particularly during the Wentworth by-election.

On Thursday morning the ABC board requested that Mr Milne stand aside while enquiries were conducted.

Instead he decided to resign “in order to avoid a firestorm.”

Scott Morrison was relieved.

He tweeted on Thursday: “ABC Board and Chairman have made the right call. Time for the ABC to resume normal transmission, both independently and without bias. That is what Australia’s taxpayers pay for and deserve.”

In a formal statement issued by Mr Milne, he said: “Following a discussion with the ABC Board this morning, I have come to the conclusion that the best interests of the ABC will be served by offering my resignation as Chair.

“The Board met this morning and proposed that I stand aside for the duration of the proposed inquiries into matters raised in the media. It was my suggestion that I resign as it is plain the organisation needs to get past this issue.

“I have never been directed by any Member of Parliament to seek the sacking of an ABC staff member, nor have I ever directed ABC management to sack a staff member. I have only ever acted with the interests of the ABC at heart. I have always and continue to respect editorial independence as a bedrock principal of the ABC.”

This has not been enough to persuade Labor and the Greens not to hold an enquiry into political interference with the ABC.

They believe there is a smoking gun that will show that Malcolm Turnbull’s office leant on Justin Milne to call for the sacking of Alberici and Probyn.

John McDonnell

From the Gallery • Strawberry Fields Forever: Prime Minister Scott Morrison continued his strawberry-led political recovery on Thursday when he made a flying visit to a strawberry farm on the Sunshine Coast. On his way to a meeting with the owners he stopped to buy a three dollar punnet of the fruit presumably to be used when Jen whips up a pav at Kirribilli House this weekend. At his press conference ScoMo proudly pointed out that the farm he was visiting, Ashburn Farms, had sold three times as many strawberries as usual last weekend so the needle scare is having a perverse effect. The PM praised Australians for getting out and buying “strawberry slurpees” saying there were no people like Australians for helping out in a time of need. Meanwhile Andrew Laming has made a plaintive call for support for the rockmelon industry, which he says has seen six people die from listeria after eating the fruit and a consequent drop off in consumption. There are differences between the strawberry sabotage and the infected rockmelons which all came from a single farm in the NSW town of Griffith which was quickly identified. And of course rockmelons don’t go well on a pav but they do make a pretty good slurpee.

• Where is Tony Abbott? Dozens of protestors turned up at Middle Harbour Yacht Club on Wednesday night to surprise Tony Abbott and to let him know what they think of his views on climate change. The only problem was that he wasn’t there. In fact if they had stayed at home they could have seen him being interviewed by his former chief of staff, Peta Credlin, on her ‘Sky News’ programme. During the interview he was very clearly situated in the middle of the Northern Territory bush. Still Mr Abbott wasn’t having it all his own way in the Territory. While he was talking to school kids at Yirrkala they asked him what sort of car he had. When he replied a Ford Territory they told him it was “gammon” which means rubbish. Things got worse at Borroloola where the local community made it plain that they wouldn’t talk to the former Prime Minister even though he had gone out of his way to praise Labor Senator Malarndirri McCarthy who is a Borroloola woman. It must have been a tough reception because one of the elders said “he will be having nightmares tonight.”


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