Australia

Justin Milne denies Michelle Guthrie’s 'inappropriate touching' accusation

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The ABC's former managing director Michelle Guthrie has told Four Corners she made an informal complaint against former ABC chair Justin Milne over harassment.

Sacked ABC managing director Michelle Guthrie has claimed the man who orchestrated her firing inappropriately touched her at a board dinner almost a year earlier.

Ms Guthrie, speaking for the first time since she was fired in September halfway through her five-year-term, told the ABC's Four Corners on Monday then-chairman Justin Milne touched her in an inappropriate way in November 2017.

But she declined to further detail the alleged behaviour at an ABC board dinner in Sydney.

"I felt icky," she told Four Corners.

"It was unprofessional and inappropriate."

Mr Milne emphatically denied the claim.

"I never, ever behaved in any inappropriate way with Michelle. I had no reason to whatsoever, and I didn't," he said.

Former ABC managing director Michelle Guthrie.
Former ABC managing director Michelle Guthrie.
AAP

Mr Milne said the managing director's executive coach raised the allegation with him before the board decided to undertake a "preliminary investigation" and deputise another board member to speak with Ms Guthrie.

Ms Guthrie claims the board member told her that she should work it out with Mr Milne and was trying to force her to quit.

"It was absurd," she said.

The board denies Ms Guthrie's version of events.

The program also revealed senior executives at the ABC rated Ms Guthrie extremely low on a range of professional criteria during an evaluation exercise in April.

Despite scoring three out of 100 for integrity and being marked poorly for leadership and interpersonal intelligence, Ms Guthrie said she wasn't distressed.

"The key thing for me was: what's my action plan to deal with that and how do I work with the leadership team?"

The former media lawyer and Google and Foxtel executive was shown the door, with the ABC board saying her ongoing leadership was not in the broadcaster's best interests.

Justin Milne and Michelle Guthrie at an ABC public meeting.
Justin Milne and Michelle Guthrie at an ABC public meeting.
AAP

Ms Guthrie began legal proceedings over her dismissal by filing papers with the Fair Work Commission ombudsman in October despite her contract stating she could be sacked without cause.

Mr Milne was forced to quit his chairman's post just days after Ms Guthrie was sacked after it was revealed she had told the ABC board he had asked her to sack two journalists because the federal government didn't like their reporting.

A communications department inquiry has since found there was no pressure from the coalition on the ABC to sack journalists.

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