Former ABC chairman Justin Milne and former ABC managing director Michelle Guthrie. Picture: AAP/ABC/Four Corners
Former ABC chairman Justin Milne and former ABC managing director Michelle Guthrie. Picture: AAP/ABC/Four Corners

Milne reveals why ABC sacked Guthrie

Explosive new details about former ABC managing director Michelle Guthrie's sacking have emerged as an inquiry into political interference in the ABC gets underway in Canberra today.

Former ABC chairman Justin Milne has revealed Ms Guthrie was sacked in part after a leadership test where she demonstrated an "extremely poor and unexpected" result.

In a written submission before appearing at the inquiry this morning, Mr Milne said Ms Guthrie scored in the fourth percentile for "integrity" in the test, "meaning only four per cent of people scored below her and 96 per cent scored above" and her score for parameters such as "autocracy, arrogance, criticism and distance" was in the 90th percentile, meaning only 10 per cent of people scored more than her.

Mr Milne said Ms Gurthrie was given an opportunity to discuss her leadership style in mid-July but was "unwilling to change".

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"Ms Guthrie also expressed the view that she was not liked by her team as a result of her being a 'change agent'. It is my view that whilst people are sometimes resistant to change, this is not an excuse to be a poor leader with an inability to engage with her staff," he wrote.

In his submission, Milne also addressed claims he behaved inappropriately towards Guthrie, saying: "I emphatically and unequivocally deny that I have inappropriately touched Ms Guthrie."

"I have never had any inappropriate contact with Ms Guthrie and note that she has not provided any evidence or identified any witnesses that are able to corroborate her allegation."

He added that while he had used the term "chicks" to describe women, it was "never as a pejorative or in a denigrating manner".

He also denied ever calling Ms Guthrie "the missus".

On the claims of political interference, Mr Milne said: "I have never allowed any politician or government body to influence or attempt to influence my role as Chairperson of the ABC and unequivocally reject any and all allegations of political or government influence, attempted or otherwise with the ABC."

"I have exercised my own judgment in the discharge of my duties as Chairperson of the ABC in the pursuit of the best interests of the ABC, its employees and the Australian public at all times and have acted with the complete support of the Board at all times."

Appearing before the Senate inquiry this morning, Mr Milne said he still considers that sacking Ms Guthrie was the "right step to take".

He said the ABC board considered the move for three months.

Mr Milne resigned as ABC chairman in late September after a firestorm over claims he directed former ABC managing director Michelle Guthrie to sack reporters Emma Alberici and Andrew Probyn after complaints from the then-Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. He stepped down just days after Ms Guthrie was sacked.