ABC denies sacking Antoinette Lattouf and attempts to have termination case thrown out | Australian Broadcasting Corporation

The ABC has claimed it did not sack the journalist Antoinette Lattouf from her casual radio role, paving the way to attempt to have her termination case thrown out.

It comes as pressure mounts on the broadcaster’s management, with union members passing a vote of no confidence in the managing director, David Anderson.

On 15 January, the broadcaster filed its defence in the Fair Work Commission (FWC), in which it asserted Lattouf’s employment was terminated on 20 December, and took effect the same day.

The ABC claimed Lattouf was warned about posting on social media about controversial topics before she was dismissed from her role. The ABC also objected to Lattouf’s claim her firing was unlawful, writing “with respect, the application is fundamentally and entirely misconceived”.

Lattouf has claimed unlawful termination on the grounds of “political opinion or a reason that included political opinion” and later expanded the claim to include race due to her Lebanese heritage. She is seeking a detailed public apology and compensation for harm to reputation and for distress and humiliation. She will also seek an order that the ABC offer her a commensurate role back on air.

In its submission, the ABC wrote it decided “not to require” Lattouf to perform the last two of her five shifts as a casual presenter of Sydney’s Mornings because she had “failed or refused to comply with directions that she not post on social media about matters of controversy during the short period she was presenting”.

The ABC later advised Lattouf’s lawyer, Josh Bornstein, that it was now claiming it did not terminate her employment and she was not entitled to make an unlawful termination application.

The ABC flagged it would ask the FWC to dismiss Lattouf’s case after mediation last week in the unlawful termination case reached a stalemate.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the ABC said it was “clear on the evidence provided in the ABC’s response to Lattouf’s claim that she had not been terminated”.

“The jurisdictional objection was formalised as soon as it became clear the matter had not resolved,” they said.

The ABC also said it would be filing its jurisdictional objection to the claim on Monday. “If the ABC is successful in its application the unlawful termination claim will not proceed,” the spokesperson said.

The FWC said there were “not currently any updates to provide” in response to questions over whether the ABC had requested the case to be dismissed.

Bornstein described the public broadcaster’s latest stance as “very strange”.

Lattouf was hired by the ABC to fill in on Sydney’s Mornings radio slot as host for a week from 18 December.

She was told by the acting station manager Mark Spurway on 20 December that she was “sounding great” and the audience was “responding very well”.

The same day, she was summoned to a meeting with senior management and told she was terminated immediately because she had reposted on Instagram a post from Human Rights Watch that said: “The Israeli government is using starvation of civilians as a weapon of war in Gaza.”

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The ABC covered the claim at the time, as Lattouf noted in her submission.

Lattouf said the ABC’s claim she was not terminated was “a taxpayer funded legal game of recent invention”.

“If I wasn’t sacked, what was it? I’m keen to hear all the creative euphemisms that will be used to try and explain this backflip to me,” she said.

At a meeting of more than 200 of the ABC’s union members on Monday, members alleged leaders at the ABC had failed “to defend the integrity of the ABC and staff from attacks”.

In its adopted statement, staff told management if it didn’t begin to address the “ongoing crisis” by next Monday, further action would be considered.

Anderson issued a statement after the union meeting, saying he was proud of the ABC’s journalism and its journalist.

“On behalf of ABC staff and in the interests of the Australian public, I have and will continue to robustly defend the work of our journalists, who often face significant external pressure themselves,” Anderson said.

“Any suggestion I would not defend our position when external pressure is applied – regardless of where that pressure is coming from – is offensive and incorrect.”

Anderson said he had “listened to and heard the concerns” of staff and would meet with them in the coming weeks.

The acting chief executive of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance, Adam Portelli, said staff had felt unsupported by the ABC’s senior management when they had been criticised or attacked.

“The message from staff today is clear and simple: David Anderson must demonstrate that he will take the necessary steps to win back the confidence of staff and the trust of the Australian public,” he said.


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