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GetUp’s Carla McGrath declines request to resign from Press Council

After a “boycott” by The Australian and the resignation of chairman David Weisbrot, the Australian Press Council has asked member and GetUp activist Carla McGrath to resign.

The Press Council, which completed a review of potential conflicts of interests at its quarterly meeting, concluded McGrath’s external position as deputy chair of GetUp was “incompatible” with her role on the Council.

McGrath has hit back, arguing resignation prior to her three year tenure was ‘not necessary’.

McGrath was appointed to the council in May last year

McGrath was appointed to the Council nearly a year ago, as part of the APC’s efforts to “better reflect the Australian community”.

At the time former chairman, David Weisbrot, said she had “shone through the selection process”. McGrath had an extensive background in advocacy, working across organisations including BlakDance, Shared Path Corporation and the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples.

However one of her biggest advocacy roles was with GetUp,  a left-leaning political activist group.

Just one week after her appointment, The Australian pointed to McGrath’s involvement in raising funds to campaign against News Corp Australia’s publications and noted she had made fun of the major newspapers’ election coverage.

At the time, Paul Whittaker, editor in chief at The Australian, said the APC’s decision to appoint McGrath made a “mockery” of its role as an independent adjudicator.

“The Australian will not accept any adjudication finding that the GetUp deputy chair has participated in, as we have a reasonable apprehension of bias given the organisation’s strident political activism, including its campaigns against News Corp publications,” he said.

The boycott wasn’t a first for The Australian against the APC.

In 2015, former editor-in-chief, Chris Mitchell, vowed to remove his newspaper from what he described as the “activism” of The Australian Press Council, urging publishers to “reconstruct” the online and print watchdog.

But the boycott was the least of it. After weeks of coverage against the APC and McGrath, chairman Weisbrot resigned, citing ‘personal attacks’ and ‘misinformation’ following McGrath’s appointment.

Weisbrot stepped down in June following the scandal

Yesterday, chairman Neville Stevens said the Press Council had noted GetUp’s public position.

“The Council considered that the nature and extent of these activities result in a conflict between Carla McGrath’s interest as Deputy Chair of GetUp and her duties as a public member of the Council which is irreconcilable and likely to continue. This will inevitably give rise to the perception of a lack of independence of the Council itself,” Stevens said.

The Council will now take appropriate steps to remove McGrath in accordance with the Constitution. It should be completed by August.

But it added it would remain committed to increasing diversity among its public members and adjudication panel.

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