ABC chair Ita Buttrose (Image: AAP/Dan Peled)

ABC chair Ita Buttrose has opened fire on the federal government in the biggest contretemps between the two organisations since the Iraq war, demanding a Senate inquiry into the ABC's complaints-handling process be axed, terming it "an act of political interference designed to intimidate the ABC and mute its role as this country’s most trusted source of public interest journalism".

Buttrose's extraordinary statement uses language stronger than that of any recent ABC chair to attack an inquiry initiated by Liberal backbencher Andrew Bragg, the former retail superannuation spinner who has developed a record of attacking media outlets that don't hew to the Coalition line.

"Once again, an elected representative has chosen to threaten the ABC’s independence at the expense of the integrity of this irreplaceable public service," Buttrose said. "Any incursion of this kind into the ABC’s independence should be seen by Australians for what it is: an attempt to weaken the community’s trust in the public broadcaster."