The ABC’s acting managing director David Anderson has revealed the size of the broadcaster’s settlement with sacked boss Michelle Guthrie.
Ms Guthrie sued the public broadcaster after her contract was terminated in controversial circumstances last year, just halfway through her five-year term.
That lawsuit was settled out of court on Friday for a confidential amount.
Speaking to a Senate inquiry today, Mr Anderson was compelled to reveal the details. He said there had been “toing and froing” before both parties agreed on a figure.
“The gross amount of that settlement claim is $730,000. That’s the gross value. There are no other attachments, no other elements to that,” he said.
The $730,000 settlement comes on top of a $912,000 payout Ms Guthrie received when she left the ABC — which means her total compensation is now a whopping $1.64 million.
RELATED: Ita Buttrose appointed new ABC chair
Yesterday we learnt the ABC had scrapped an investigation into allegations of political interference at the broadcaster because Ms Guthrie did not want to take part.
It was an investigation she sparked.
A few days before she was dismissed, Ms Guthrie handed the ABC’s board an 11-page dossier on Justin Milne, who was chair at the time. It alleged he had encouraged her to fire journalists after senior government figures took issue with their work.
Mr Milne denied the claims, but resigned three days after Ms Guthrie left, because excerpts of the dossier were made public.
In one of the leaked emails, Mr Milne told Ms Guthrie she should “get rid of” Emma Alberici.
“They fricken hate her. She keeps sticking it to them with a clear bias against them,” Mr Milne wrote.
“We are tarred with her brush. I just think it is simple. Get rid of her. My view is we need to save the corporation not Emma.”
Last week Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced media veteran Ita Buttrose would replace Mr Milne as chair of the ABC’s board.
“Australians trust Ita. I trust Ita. And that’s why I’ve asked her to take on this role,” he said.
In a clear allusion to her predecessor, Ms Buttrose promised to protect the ABC’s editorial independence.
“I’m a passionate believer in the independence of the ABC and I will do everything in my utmost power to make sure it remains that way,” she said.
“It’s not only the ABC that gets complaints from politicians. I’ve copped plenty of complaints from politicians in previous roles, especially when I was editor-in-chief at News Limited.”
She brought up the need for a managing director and chair to work well together — something that obviously didn’t happen with Ms Guthrie and Mr Milne.
“I think my most important role is to restore stability to the management of the organisation, to reassure the staff that life will go on as usual and to reassure the board, who’s also gone through a period of unrest, that it’s time to get the ABC functioning again with proper, stable management and good, frank discussion between the chair and whoever is the managing director,” Ms Buttrose said.
“If there’s not a close relationship between the chair and the managing director, you cannot make an organisation work efficiently and well.”
Ms Buttrose said there would be an “open field” of candidates to become the new managing director, and that would include Mr Anderson, who has been acting in the role since Ms Guthrie left.
“I know that the acting managing director has applied, but the applications for the role do not close until March 1,” she said. Her comments were made on February 28.
“So therefore we’ll have to look at his credentials in line with all the other people who have applied. I’m assuming there are quite a few.”
Her appointment came after a five-month search for Mr Milne’s replacement, which cost taxpayers more than $160,000.
Ms Buttrose was not on the shortlist of candidates eventually recommended to the government by an independent panel, but the Prime Minister said all the usual processes for appointing a new chair were followed.
He pointed out that there were no female candidates at all on the shortlist.
“Where I feel that the recommendations that were made to me don’t meet the standards or the requirement that we have, then we’re at liberty to make a further nomination,” Mr Morrison said.
Ms Buttrose, 77, has enjoyed a long and illustrious career in the media, which started when she became a copy girl at the Australian Women’s Weekly at the age of 15.
She launched the magazine Cleo in 1972, was editor of the Australian Women’s Weekly a few years later, and went on to become the first woman to edit a major Australian newspaper.
She was named Australian of the Year in 2013 for her work raising awareness of public health issues.