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McGrath voted off Press Council

GetUp! deputy chair Carla McGrath has been voted from her position on the Australian Press Council following conflict of interest concerns which ultimately found her to be “incompatible” with the role.

More than 75 per cent of the members present at today’s general meeting of the council voted for her removal from the position before the end of her term, per the constitution. Specific numbers and individual decisions are not made public.

The Press Council was forced into a vote following Ms McGrath’s refusal to resign at the previous meeting in May.

Press Council chairman Neville Stevens supported the decision, saying: “I believe this is the best outcome in a very difficult situation”.

The appointment of Carla McGrath sparked months of controversy for the Australian Press Council. Photo: Supplied

Ms McGrath was hired by former APC chairman Professor David Weisbrot as a commitment to the council’s diversity efforts.

Mr Stevens acknowledged that her perspective was valuable but not enough to allow her to continue as a representative.

“Carla McGrath, as a respected member of Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community, would have brought an important perspective to the work of the council. While the council is committed to increasing diversity among its members, there is an overriding need for it to be independent and to be seen to be independent,” Mr Stevens said.

Professor Weisbrot eventually resigned from the role due to the intense scrutiny placed upon the organisation following the appointment.

The Australian’s editor-in-chief Paul Whittaker welcomed the decision.

“The chairman and the Council have taken the only sensible course of action they could have to restore the Council’s credibility as it is ridiculous that the deputy chair of GetUp! was ever appointed in the first place,’’ Mr Whittaker said.

“How anyone, including current members of the Council, could have thought that appointing a leader of a strident left-wing political activist organisation to an independent press watchdog would be acceptable is beyond belief.’’

In the week following Ms McGrath joining the Press Council, News Corp Australia’s national masthead The Australian vowed to reject any adjudication she participated in. All of the publisher’s metro mastheads also joined the boycott. At the time, Mr Whittaker called the appointment “a mockery”.

During her time on the council, Ms McGrath did not partake in an adjudication.

At the time of her appointment, Ms McGrath said she could foresee no conflict between the two roles.

“We don’t know how that relationship will play out until I attend my first meeting, but certainly GetUp! has an important role in the public accountability structure for the media and I don’t feel those two roles are in conflict,” she said.

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