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ABC board under pressure as acting chair announced

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UPDATED | ABC board member Dr Kirstin Ferguson has become the acting chair of the national broadcaster, while Labor is calling into question the entire board’s judgement.

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Prime Minister Scott Morrison believes Kirstin Ferguson can restore stability at the national broadcaster as its acting chair after recommending her for the job.

The prime minister today announced he had nominated Ferguson for the role of deputy chair, which made her acting chair after being later endorsed by the Governor-General.

“Kirstin will be able to step up into that role as recommended and I think restore some stability there which is very necessary,” Morrison told reporters in Sydney.

“It’s important that the ABC maintains its independence. It’s also important that the ABC maintains a very unbiased approach to how it reports things, that it gets it right and gets the facts right.”

Ferguson, who was appointed to the board on 2015, would remain acting in the job until a permanent chair is appointed.

She said the board of the national broadcaster has always had its best interests at heart, but accepts they must rebuild trust among Australians.

“Actions speak louder than words. We need to knuckle down now and really focus on the future of the ABC,” she told ABC TV on Friday.

ABC chairman Justin Milne quit on Thursday amid reports he called for journalists to be sacked because the government didn’t like their reporting.

The resignation came three days after former managing director Michelle Guthrie was fired, with the board claiming it was “not in the best interests” of the broadcaster for her to continue in the role.

Senior Labor frontbencher Anthony Albanese says there is a “cloud” hanging over the entire ABC board, as they only asked Milne to step down when allegations against him became public.

The former chairman has been accused of asking Guthrie to fire senior journalists Emma Alberici and Andrew Probyn because the government didn’t like their reporting.

“This draws a real question over the entire membership of the ABC board as it stands,” Albanese told reporters in Sydney.

He hoped the government had done due diligence before appointing Ferguson as acting chair.

The board includes South Australian executive coach Donny Walford.

Milne has denied demanding any journalist be sacked, but maintains he was entitled to intervene on issues of editorial accuracy and independence.

In one email to Guthrie, Milne reportedly said the government hated Alberici and the ABC should “get rid of her”.

Milne is also said to have ordered Guthrie sack Probyn by telling her “you just have to shoot him” because Turnbull hated the journalist.

The ABC board met without Milne on Thursday and asked him to step aside, but he resigned instead.

Labor has called for the appointment of a permanent chair to be a bipartisan process, and will join with the Greens in trying to initiate a Senate inquiry into the leadership issues.

Communications Minister Mitch Fifield has ordered his department secretary to run an inquiry into the broadcaster and report back within days.

Who is Kirstin Ferguson?

AFTER completing high school in Sydney, Ferguson began her career with the Royal Australian Air Force. She trained as a cadet in Canberra – where she graduated as dux for academic and military performance – whilst completing a Bachelor of Arts through the University of NSW.

AFTER training, Ferguson spent three years working as a Flight Lieutenant in Brisbane, where she also studied law at the Queensland University of Technology. She left the RAAF in 1998.

WORKED at law firm Norton Rose Fulbright in Brisbane for eight years, where she held a number of leadership roles.

SHE BECAME general manager at consulting company Sentis, focused on psychological services in the mining and resources sector. She went on to become the organisation’s chief executive before leaving in 2010.

SHE HAS since held a range of director roles on ASX 100, ASX 200, private company and government boards. She was appointed to the ABC board in 2015.

FERGUSON is also an Adjunct Professor at the Queensland University of Technology Business School.

SHE’S AN ADVOCATE of women in leadership, having authored the book Women Kind, and created a social media campaign in that vein (#CelebratingWomen).

– AAP

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