ABC acting chair Dr Kirstin Ferguson backs board amid questions over editorial independence

A political appointment having been recommended by Morrison to the Governor General.

It appears Dr Ferguson makes her living sitting on Boards having sat on the ABC Board since 2015, having 10 years experience on the ASX100 and ASX200 boards.  Her current board appointments also include SCA Property Group Ltd, non-executive Director  of CIMIC Ltd, and a former CEO of a global consulting company operating in mining and resources services sector!

Many are in agreement with Paul Barry that the board needs an overhaul and the directors and chair must be transparent, merit-based and bipartisan. 

Of the 8 Board members (including Justin Milne prior to his resignation) 6 have careers in real estate and/or mining which perhaps would indicate where the ABC reporting restrictions have come from!

VIEW for details of the Board members:

ABC acting chair Dr Kirstin Ferguson backs board amid questions over editorial independence



Acting chair Kirstin Ferguson has used her first interview to back the ABC board, amid a growing chorus of discontent from staff over editorial independence.

Key points:

  • Dr Ferguson has stepped in after chairman Justin Milne resigned amid accusations he interfered with the ABC’s editorial independence
  • She refused to give specific details of board deliberations in a dramatic week at the national broadcaster
  • The broadcaster’s managing director Michelle Guthrie was sacked on Monday

Prime Minister Scott Morrison today recommended Dr Ferguson for the role.

She said she had never seen evidence of political interference in her three years on the ABC’s board.

“The board has put the ABC’s best interests at the forefront at every stage,” she said.

Senior ABC staff have been questioning the corporation’s board after managing director Michelle Guthrie was sacked on Monday, and chairman Justin Milne resigned on Thursday.

Mr Milne — a close friend of former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull — resigned after a litany of reports accused him of interfering in the broadcaster’s editorial independence.

Dr Ferguson said she would “not have the same problem” he did due to his close ties with former prime minister.

“I don’t have a relationship with Government. I am focused only on the ABC and independence,” she said.


“For a minister to expect that I’m going to do something differently or make any comment about editorial processes, they’re not going to get very far.”

Despite calls by some for the whole board to stand down, Dr Ferguson argued that was not what the ABC needed.

“If anyone does want to put the best interests of the ABC forward, that is not the right answer right now,” she said.

“The matter of who the Government might select to be board members is a question for them.”

*Dr Ferguson has sat on the ABC board since 2015, and is an experienced director with 10 years’ experience on the ASX100 and ASX200 boards as well as private company and government boards.

She was the creator of the social media campaign #CelebratingWomen, which saw her nominated for the Walkley Foundation’s Our Watch Award for best use of social media.

Mr Morrison this morning announced he had recommended her to the Governor-General for the chair position.

Opposition frontbencher Anthony Albanese said he hoped “due diligence has been done” over the appointment of Dr Ferguson.

“Because we know that there is a real cloud over all the ABC board members,” he said.

Mr Albanese said Labor would initiate a Senate inquiry into the board and expected the board members to be called before it.

Staff turn up heat on board

Fairfax Media published leaked emails which claimed to show Mr Milne ordered two of the ABC’s most senior journalists be sacked in reaction to Turnbull’s outrage about their work.

Ms Guthrie’s sacking — which she said left her “devastated” and considering her legal options — came as a surprise on Monday.

An urgent all-staff meeting was held at the broadcaster’s Ultimo headquarters on Wednesday, and a motion calling for Mr Milne to stand aside and for an independent inquiry to take place was passed unanimously.

Dr Ferguson refused to disclose when allegations of interference by Mr Milne were first brought to the board’s attention.

“I think this is something that will all come out in the departmental inquiry,” she said.

“We are grateful he [Mr Milne] resigned.”

Dr Ferguson disagreed with the suggestion that the Australian public had a right to know why Ms Guthrie was sacked.

“I think it is an unreasonable expectation. It is unfair on the person involved and I just won’t go there,” she said.

In the wake of the departures, 7.30 presenter Leigh Sales questioned the board’s judgment.

Leigh Sales


My Qs for the other members of the ABC Board, all of whom have so far remained publicly silent:
1. Why did they agree that Michelle Guthrie had to go?
2. Why, if they saw the “political interference” email/conversation records last week, did they not act until that became public?

Four Corners reporter Sophie McNeil — a former foreign correspondent — tweeted: “Chairman Milne is now gone but serious questions remain for the entire ABC Board.”

The ABC’s staff-elected director Jane Connors has sat on the board since May.

On Monday, Ms Connors said Ms Guthrie’s sacking was “in the best interests of the ABC”.

However, in an email to one staff member later in the week, Ms Connors described the subsequent headlines about Mr Milne as “distressing”.

*Paul Barry, who presents the ABC’s Media Watch program, said the board needed an overhaul and the directors and chair must be transparent, merit-based and bipartisan.

“It’s time for governments of all colours to stop stacking the board with their political or ideological mates,” he said.