Michelle Guthrie goes after ABC, launches lawsuit

Sacked managing director of the ABC, Michelle Guthrie, has filed a law suit against her former employer alleging it breached the Fair Work Act (2009). 

In the filing, launched at the Western Australia Registry of the Federal Court of Australia, Guthrie also lists former ABC chair Justin Milne as a separate respondent.

Guthrie appearing on the ABC back in 2015

Guthrie is being represented by law firm Johnson, Winter & Slattery, and is alleging dismissal in contravention of a general protection under the Fair Work Act (2009).

The ABC disputes the claims put forward in Guthrie’s filing and said she was let go simply because the board had lost confidence in her.

“The former ABC managing director, Michelle Guthrie, has brought proceedings in the Federal Court of Australia alleging she was subject to adverse action because, amongst other things, she had made complaints,” an ABC spokesperson said in an email to Mumbrella.

“This is not correct. Ms Guthrie was dismissed because the board had lost confidence in her. She was not dismissed because of any complaints she’d made.

“Ms Guthrise also alleges she could not be dismissed during her term. The Corporation disputes this is the case. Ms Guthrie’s termination was lawful.”

The ABC said its board stands by the decision to sack Guthrie and will defend the claims.

Since being let go half-way through her five-year term in September, Guthrie has alleged Milne engaged in “inappropriate touching” at an official event, which she raised with the corporation. She did not, however, file an official complaint. Milne denies the accusation.

Guthrie also allegedly complained about Milne’s interference in editorial matters, which he has previously denied.

Back in October, Guthrie lodged a claim with the Fair Work Commission, which attempts to reach agreements via mediation. If this fails, aggrieved former employees can launch court action.

When/ where it all went wrong: The Michelle Guthrie timeline


21 December: ABC names Google executive Michelle Guthrie as managing director

21 December: Incoming ABC MD signals desire to look at ‘all options’ for monetising content


29 October: ‘Equal digital life’ the new mantra to drive ABC content says managing director


7 March: ABC slashes 150-200 jobs, names new director of TV

12 June: Michelle Guthrie rejects accusations of being a ‘Murdoch-hatchet woman’ and ‘Google-ising’ the ABC

15 August: Government to undertake ‘competitive neutrality inquiry’ into ABC in exchange for One Nation’s support of media reforms

7 October: Whingeing about us isn’t a business model, ABC boss Guthrie tells commercial TV bosses

10 November: ABC rejects salary disclosures, claims it would give commercial competitors an ‘unfair advantage’

14 November: ABC to restructure around news, local and specialist content


9 February: As big as television in the 1950s – the ABC lays out plans for the next 20 years

18 February: ABC pulls corporate tax analysis for failing to meet ‘editorial standards’

30 April: ABC to axe 20 metro newsroom jobs as it restructures to adapt to ‘modern media environment’

4 May: ABC boss Michelle Guthrie ‘unreservedly’ apologises to Kevin Rudd following Cabinet Files coverage

9 May: Budget 2018: More bad news for ABC, major advertising campaigns on the horizon and ACMA asset sold off

10 May: ABC News boss Gaven Morris warns there is no more fat left to cut in wake of Budget cuts

1 June: ABC plans further redundancies to fund content and digital platform investment

4 June: Communications minister blasts ABC for repeating ‘Labor lies’

12 June: Bill Shorten vows to undo ABC’s $83.7m budget cuts should Labor be elected

15 June: Minister defends ABC funding freeze and efficiency reviews

18 June: Government denies ABC privatisation is on the agenda

19 June: Michelle Guthrie warns Australians will not tolerate the ABC becoming a political punching bag

27 June: ABC stands by Andrew Probyn despite conceding election reports needed more context

24 July: ‘Lack of a level playing field’: Media companies submit to ABC and SBS inquiry

13 August: Federal government launches ABC and SBS efficiency review

24 September: ABC managing director Michelle Guthrie in shock departure

Fired ABC boss Michelle Guthrie considers legal options, claiming ‘no justification’ for dismissal

26 September: ABC staff unanimously pass motion for chairman to stand aside

Calls mount for ABC chairman Justin Milne to resign

Communications minister Mitch Fifield denies involvement in ABC leadership debacle

Government to launch inquiry into interference at the ABC

Justin Milne rejects calls for him to resign as ABC chairman

27 September: Justin Milne resigns from ABC chairman role

4 October: ABC board appoints independent expert to investigate interference allegations

18 October: Michelle Guthrie launches legal action against the ABC

13 November: Former ABC boss Michelle Guthrie denies attempt to sack journalist and accuses Justin Milne of inappropriate touching


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