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Guthrie didn't flag political interference: ABC board


ABC board directors say they weren’t aware the broadcaster’s ex-managing director Michelle Guthrie was concerned about attempts at political interference until she handed them a dossier of allegations.

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But the testy relationship between Ms Guthrie and former chair Justin Milne was evident, some directors have told a Senate inquiry in Sydney.

“I was aware that they had a declining relationship, but over a range of issues,” acting chair Dr Kristin Ferguson said today.

The inquiry is investigating Guthrie’s allegations of interference, which came to light after the ABC board sacked her halfway through her five-year term in September.

That came just three days after Guthrie handed the board an 11-page dossier containing references to email and phone exchanges between her and Milne.

She alleged he pressured her to fire two journalists as the government had taken issue with them.

Milne denied the claims, but resigned as chair a few days after Guthrie’s departure, when excepts of the dossier were leaked.

Ferguson says the dossier was “new information to her”.

Milne had taken a view on some issues at board meetings that reflected the federal government concerns, she said.

That included him taking issue with youth-focused radio station Triple J changing the date of its Hottest 100 from Australia Day.

But in such cases, the board had “robust” discussions and ended up backing the view of ABC management, Ferguson said.

“Every board, not just this board, have diverse views,” she said.

“On each occasion the board has followed our duties, we’ve taken them very seriously.”

Fellow ABC director Donny Walford said she knew about tensions between Guthrie and Milne, with Guthrie concerned Milne was getting “too close to the day-to-day operations of the business”.

But Guthrie hadn’t flagged interference issues, she said.

“The first time I heard her talk about that was after her termination.”

The latest hearings come after Guthrie and the ABC on Friday reached a resolution in a federal court case she brought against them.

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