Kirstin Ferguson, endorsed by Prime Minister Scott Morrison as the ABC’s deputy chairperson, has refused to detail what she knew about the emails that led to the firing of managing director Michelle Guthrie.
“I think this is something that will all come out in the departmental inquiry,” said Dr Ferguson during a Friday interview with ABC-TV’s Kathryn Robinson.
“It is difficult for me to go through that in detail which I hope you can appreciate,” she said.
Dr Ferguson also insisted she has no connection to the federal government and won’t be interfering with the independence of the national broadcaster.
“I don’t have a relationship with government. I am looking forward to working with them as an important stakeholder but alongside so many other stakeholders.
“But first and foremost are employees of the ABC and reassure them their interests are at heart for us,” she said.
Dr Ferguson, an independent company director and former Air Force officer, will become the ABC’s acting chair should Governor General Peter Cosgrove accept Mr Morrison’s recommendation, announced on Friday.
He said it was “very necessary” for the ABC to restore stability and “normal transmission as quickly as possible” following the resignation of ABC chairman Justin Milne on Thursday and shock sacking of Ms Guthrie on Monday.
Dr Ferguson, who has been an ABC board member since 2015, expressed her admiration for the public broadcaster following Mr Morrison’s nomination which will be formally relayed to Mr Cosgrove on Friday for consideration.
“I just love the ABC so much, I am just honoured to take it on,” she told the ABC, saying the new role is a “massive responsibility.”
Dr Ferguson said she is “focused only on the ABC” and maintaining its independence.
ABC sources labelled Dr Ferguson an “exemplary board member”, The Guardian reported.
The Queensland University of Technology Business School adjunct professor has sat on several private company and government boards and is also a mentor with the Science & Technology Superstars of STEM program and chairs the Women’s Agenda Leadership Awards.
She also launched the ‘CelebratingWomen’ global social media campaign to combat the denigration of women online and authored the book Women Kind: Unlocking the Power of Women Supporting Women.
The Opposition’s communication spokesperson Michelle Rowland said there should be a bi-partisan approach to find a permanent ABC chairperson.
“We’ve see the Liberals attack and undermine the ABC’s independence – this appointment is too important and shouldn’t be used by them to run their anti-ABC agenda,” Ms Rowland said.
Mr Morrison said the appointment process is “rigorous” and not as simple as “whacking a few names together and making a decision”.
“There is quite a process in place that needs to be followed. It will make recommendations to the government and the government will take things from there,” he said.
Senior Labor frontbencher Anthony Albanese described the current state of the ABC as a “mess”.
“Board members who can’t do their job should be considering their position,” Mr Albanese told the Nine Network on Friday.
“What the board needs is people on it who will stand up for the independence of the ABC. It is critical that it be a public broadcaster, not a government broadcaster.”