Firm highlights ‘lasting consequences’ following sacking of ABC MD Michelle Guthrie - Lawyers Weekly

An Australian law firm has opened up on the firing of ABC managing director Michelle Guthrie, saying the dismissal should have lasting consequences for employment law cases going forward.

McDonald Murholme has responded to news of Ms Guthrie being terminated from her top job at the ABC earlier this week.

The highly publicised dismissal has made headlines this week, with the ABC forced to reveal private information about the lead up to the termination. A result of this, according to McDonald Murholme managing director Alan McDonald, is that the ABC have “exposed themselves to potential legal recourse for terminating her employment unlawfully”.

Mr McDonald added the dismissal “should have a lasting impact for employment law cases”.

“Guthrie was dismissed midway through a valuable five-year contract because it is alleged that Malcolm Turnbull’s close friend who he had appointed head of the ABC appears to have tried to force his CEO (Guthrie) to sack journalists because of their political opinion, referring to one journalist Emma Alberici ‘the government hates her’,” Mr McDonald said.

“The matter is extremely serious because if proven that would be a breach of the ABC’s Charter by Turnbull and the head of the ABC.

“This runs to the heart of our democracy. It could demonstrate that people who are rich and very powerful are prepared to use their wealth and power wrongfully.

“However, none of this would have been apparent had there not been a discussion on email which was later released. So serious is the matter that Turnbull has sought to justify his conduct by sanitizing his version of events in statements from New York.”

Mr McDonald explained that because Ms Guthrie is a high profile public figure, the ABC has been forced to open up about the dismissal. In doing so, an email trail has been produced which has demonstrated the behind the scenes manoeuvres, he said.

“The real reasons behind the dismissal appear to be highly political,” he added.

“The emails might show that the dismissal was unlawful, some people even want the chairman of the board to resign.

“Obviously there is usually an email trail leading to the dismissal of a senior employee.

“Unless the courts have access to that email trail to determine the lawfulness of the dismissal is not possible. However, in too many cases the email trail is not produced and employees lose out as a result.”

Reference: ‘Firm highlights ‘lasting consequences’ following sacking of ABC MD Michelle Guthrie’, Lawyers Weekly, Friday 28th September 2018.