In September, it was revealed that Mr Milne told Ms Guthrie to sack journalists the government didn’t like, leading to the ex-chair’s resignation and a government inquiry into political interference at the ABC.
One of the journalists Mr Milne encouraged Ms Guthrie to «get rid of» was chief economics correspondent Emma Alberici, who on Thursday said Ms Buttrose was an «exemplary» appointment.
«She’s got an incredibly solid background in the media, which is more than you can say for many [past] ABC chairs and indeed the [commercial] broadcasters,» Alberici said.
«Because she’s a woman there are questions around her eligibility and her competency … She was on a talk show. So what? Eddie McGuire used to host a game show. I don’t recall anyone questioning Eddie McGuire’s ability.»
Barrie Cassidy, host of flagship political program Insiders, said staff at the ABC’s Melbourne newsroom were comfortable and even excited about the pick.
«I think she’s regarded, based on my conversations in the building, as someone with a substantial media background. And that has been missing since [former managing director] Mark Scott. And she’s a very tough and independent individual,» Cassidy said.
«I’m fairly sure it will be Ita’s way or the highway.»
The political veteran said there was some concern about the government disregarding the shortlist presented by the panel.
«Then again, others would argue they had good reason to ignore it,» he said, observing that the panel’s list was all men.
The arms-length recruitment and nomination panel process was introduced by Labor in 2010 in a bid to de-politicise appointments. The government is under no legal obligation to pick from the list.
The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age revealed on Monday Ms Buttrose was the government’s pick.
At the announcement of her appointment on Thursday, Ms Buttrose confirmed she had not participated in the recruitment process but said she was honoured to be invited to lead the organisation and it was «time to get the ABC functioning again».
«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.
Ms Buttrose, 77, famously edited Cleo and the Australian Women’s Weekly in the 1970s and was editor-in-chief of The Daily Telegraph in the 1980s. She has recently appeared as a co-host on Nine’s Today Extra program following other hosting roles at Network Ten.
«Australians trust Ita. I trust Ita and that’s why I have asked her to take on this role,» Mr Morrison said.
He said the reason for her success in media was that she had had put her audience first.
«And you know what? That’s what the ABC needs to do too.»
«I think she sounds great but it does concern me that at the the end of day due process can be overridden,» said Kumi Taguchi, a presenter on ABC News.
Paul Barry, host of Media Watch, said he was heartened by Ms Buttrose’s comments about the ABC’s independence and she had shown her ability to stand up to strong men in the past when working for media moguls Kerry Packer and Rupert Murdoch.
«I think she could be really good. It’s an inspired choice,» Barry said.
ABC board director Joseph Gersh said he was «looking forward to working with her».
«[The appointment] seems to have been well received,» he said.
Fergus Hunter is an education and communications reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.
Jennifer Duke is a media and telecommunications journalist for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.