News National Former ABC chair Justin Milne appears before inquiry

Former ABC chair Justin Milne appears before inquiry

Former ABC chairman Justin Milne appears before Senate estimates at Parliament House in Canberra on Friday. Photo: AAP
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Former ABC chair Justin Milne has denied any responsibility in undermining public trust in the national broadcaster at a Senate inquiry in Canberra.

Mr Milne, the first to appear before the inquiry on Friday at 8.30am, continued to shift the blame for the saga that has engulfed the ABC this year to sacked managing director Michelle Guthrie.

“I take responsibility for terminating Ms Guthrie, and her subsequent actions since have led to this firestorm, that’s for sure,” Mr Milne told the inquiry.

Ms Guthrie says the ABC board has never explained its reasons for her sacking.

Mr Milne also said he would not identify past and present employees who he spoke to before sacking Ms Guthrie.

“I talked to a number of her direct reports, I talked to people deeper in the organisation and I talked to people who had left the organisation,” he said.

“It was a great honour to serve as the ABC chairperson.

“I resigned, not as a concession of any wrongdoing, but because of the media storm which followed the leaking of an out-of-context email,” he said.

Mr Milne said Ms Guthrie was sacked from her high-profile position in September due to “poor leadership skills leading to a loss of confidence and trust in her”.

He also emphatically denied inappropriate conduct allegations levelled against him by Ms Guthrie in a written submission to the committee.

“I have never referred to Ms Guthrie as ‘the missus’.

“I acknowledge that I have used the terms “chicks” but never as a pejorative or in a denigrating manner,” he said.

Despite a long-standing friendship with Malcolm Turnbull, Mr Milne says the former prime minister never requested anything of him in his role as ABC chair.

He said he counted Mr Turnbull “as a friend” but he was a “very busy person who has many friends and many acquaintances”.

He said he was “just one of many people that he knows”.

Mr Turnbull did not raise concerns about Triple J moving the date of their Hottest 100 countdown, or his alleged displeasure of ABC political reporter Andrew Probyn.

“(Mr Turnbull) never suggested anything like that to me, by implication or otherwise,” Mr Milne said.

“I don’t know any of the staff at Triple J to contact them. I have zero memory of ever discussing (the Hottest 100) with Triple J staff.”

-with AAP