ABC's Board Scandal and Government Manipulation
Global Times (环球时报)
28 September 2019

The following is an article published by the PRC state-owned tabloid Global Times (环球时报) that comments on the recent ABC board scandal:

Chairman of Australia’s avowedly independent news media organization resigns over suspected government manipulation

Justin Milne, chairman of the Board of Directors of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), announced his resignation on the 27th (of September) because of the alleged order to dismiss a reporter to please the government. Three days earlier, he had dismissed Michelle Guthrie, the general manager and editor-in-chief of ABC and then revealed that the company had been pressured by the government to do so. Suspicion of government manipulation of the avowedly independent media organisation has caused dissatisfaction among ABC employees and the Australian public.

Guthrie’s dismissal was announced on the 24th. Subsequently, Australia’s Fairfax Media revealed that in May this year, Milne asked for the dismissal of two reporters in an email to Guthrie because the Australian government did not like their reports. Milne reportedly cited economics correspondent Emma Alberici and said “they hate her… Get rid of her. We need to save the Australian Broadcasting Corporation… We can’t be sure that they (the ruling coalition) will lose in the next election.” The incident caused widespread protests from ABC employees. The media organisation is Australia’s national broadcasting corporation which is operated by public funds, but should be independent and not involved in party politics. The Australian government also announced that it will investigate political interference.

However, Milne denied the existence of government intervention and denied that he had written to Guthrie to ask for the dismissals. But Milne admitted that he had a confidential conversation with Guthrie. Milne believes that his resignation at this time will serve as a “decompression valve” in the current storm, dispelling criticism of the ABC. Now there are vacancies in two major positions in the ABC and the company is in an unprecedented crisis.

Turnbull, who had been a business partner of Milne, also made clear that he had not asked for any reporters to be dismissed, saying that he only worried about the accuracy and fairness of the report. Australian Prime Minister Morrison then issued a tweet welcoming Milne’s resignation, saying that “it is time for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation to resume normal broadcasting”. However, the Australian opposition Labour Party will still launch an independent parliamentary investigation to find out whether there was government intervention behind this serious incident.

At present, the two journalists who are unpopular with the government have not been fired, but the impact of this incident on the ABC is very bad. The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) stated that ABC is regarded as Australia’s most respected media and has an important place in all aspects of the country. But its “independence” has provoked controversy for some time. Conservative politicians and commentators believe that it has left-wing tendencies and want to cut its budget. CNN said that the current government has often criticised ABC’s reporting as “inaccurate” and biased.

The ABC has previously done a lot of anti-China reports. In June last year, it broadcast a large-scale program accusing China of infiltrating Australia, interfering in its domestic affairs and jeopardising its national security through Chinese-Australian businessmen and international students. However, Turnbull then went so far as to pander to this misleading report, saying that it “educated” China to respect Australian sovereignty.

Translation by: Chris R. Lanzit, NAATI Certified Professional Translator (Chinese-English), NAATI Practitioner ID: CPN0BC84W

Date of translation: 2 October 2018

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