It comes after Mr Paul Fletcher wrote to Ms Buttrose on Tuesday demanding the board explain how the episode titled “Inside the Canberra Bubble” was in the public interest and complied with its obligation to produce accurate and impartial journalism.
The ABC is yet to respond to the allegations levelled by Mr Fletcher in the letter, including that the mix of people interviewed for the program were “overwhelmingly weighted towards those either politically hostile towards the Liberal Party or personally hostile towards or motived by animus against the Ministers.”
The episode, which aired on November 9, exposed an extramarital affair between Population Minister Alan Tudge and his then-media adviser Rachelle Miller in 2017. It also alleged Attorney-General Christian Porter had been witnessed “cuddling and kissing” a female Liberal staffer at Public Bar in Canberra, which he has denied.
In a statement on Wednesday, the broadcaster rejected allegations, first reported by The Australian, that it had used private investigators to covertly tail the ministers as part of its investigation for the program.
“We do not use private investigators,” the ABC said in the statement.
Mr Porter confirmed in an interview with Perth’s 6PR radio that the government had issued further questions to ABC managing director David Anderson as to whether he and Mr Tudge were subject to surveillance.
Asked whether he believed he had been monitored by private investigators, Mr Porter said: “Look, how would I know?”
“I’d be interested to see what the managing director of the ABC’s answer to these questions that have been put through the Senate process will be in due course. I don’t have answers to them,” Mr Porter said.
The broadcaster asserted earlier on Wednesday that it had not yet received questions following a report in The Australian that Liberal Senator Sarah Henderson had lodged the questions to the Senate Communications committee on Tuesday night.
“These questions have not yet been received by the ABC; they appear to have been sent to The Australian first,” the ABC’s statement said.
The broadcaster also stood by its decision to report the Four Corners episode.
“We invite the public to watch the story and decide for themselves on the import of the issues it raises,” the ABC said in the statement.
“The ABC stands by its journalistic independence and right to report without fear or favour on matters Australians have a right to know about.”
Lisa Visentin is a federal political reporter at The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, covering education and communications.
Zoe Samios is a media and telecommunications reporter at The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.