Thursday 31st of July 2014

the new age of entitlement ....

the new age of entitlements .....

The chairman of a Sydney design college has insisted he had no part in awarding a prestigious scholarship to Frances Abbott, the daughter of Prime Minister Tony Abbott, but conceded he "probably" mentioned she would be a good candidate for it.

Les Taylor, a noted Liberal Party donor and long-time friend of Mr Abbott, is the chairman of the board of governors of the Whitehouse Institute of Design.

On Wednesday, he said he had no part in awarding a scholarship to Ms Abbott, worth a reported $60,000.

‘‘I probably did say to someone at Whitehouse ‘Frances is a nice girl or something, good family, works hard, I reckon she’d do well’,’’ Mr Taylor told Fairfax Media on Wednesday.

Mr Abbott confirmed through a spokeswoman on Wednesday that his daughter had received the scholarship, but said he was not required to disclose it as it did not constitute a gift.

She said Frances Abbott was awarded a scholarship from the institute in 2011 ‘‘based on her application and art portfolio’’.

‘‘Under the Statement of Registrable Interests, a scholarship is not a gift, it is an award based on merit and disclosure is not required,’’ the spokeswoman said in a statement.

‘‘If alternative advice is provided, Mr Abbott will meet the amended requirements.’’

Members of the House of Representatives are required to declare gifts to themselves, their spouses and dependent children when they are worth more than $300 and come from non-official sources.

But the guidelines say gifts from family members or personal friends "need not be registered unless the member judges that an appearance of conflict of interest may be seen to exist".

The spokeswoman said Ms Abbott had graduated with distinction-level results from Whitehouse in December 2013.

"She has since moved to Melbourne where she works for Whitehouse as a teacher's aide and hopes to study for her Masters later this year," the spokeswoman said.

Institute chief executive Ian Tudor said the chairman’s scholarship was awarded ‘‘occasionally’’ and that Ms Abbott was its second recipient.

‘‘I understand that the selection of Frances was done at arm's length from the chairman by the owner, founder and Managing Director of the Institute, Leanne Whitehouse,’’ Mr Tudor said by email from Indonesia.

The Prime Minister's spokeswoman said Mr Abbott had known Mr Taylor for many years and received clothing from him as a gift when in opposition.

"While gifts from personal friends do not require disclosure, for the avoidance of doubt, Mr Abbott elected to declare the clothing."

"While the exact cost of the gifts were not known, it was clear they were higher than the $300 threshold and were appropriately disclosed with Mr Abbott providing all the information required by an opposition member," the spokeswoman said.

On its website, the institute says it "does not currently offer scholarships to gain a place into the bachelor of design,’’ but ‘‘at the discretion of Whitehouse, a scholarship for further study may be offered during the academic year to students who have formally commenced their studies and show exceptional ability and dedication’’.

Famous for its fashion design course, the private Surry Hills design college, helmed by Leanne and Billie Whitehouse, also specialises in interior design and styling and has a small student body.

For her final presentation, Frances Abbott, whose work went on show to the public at a VIP reception on December 2, presented a ‘magazine’ she had created and produced, its pages filled with photo shoots, editorial content and product shots.

The college is currently celebrating its 25th year and alumni include celebrity stylist Pip Edwards.

NSW Election Funding Authority records show Mr Taylor donated more than $12,000 to the NSW Liberal Party between 2007 and 2010, and spent an additional $9000 at tribute dinners for former Liberal leaders John Howard and Brendan Nelson.

Greens senator Lee Rhiannon said the award of the scholarship raised ‘‘serious questions about ethics and conflicts of interest’’.

“Les Taylor, chairman of the Whitehouse Institute of Design, which provided the Prime Minister’s daughter with a fee-free education, has donated more than $12,000 to the NSW Division of the Liberal Party,” Senator Rhiannon said.

“These donations were flowing into the Liberal Party at the same time it was developing policy to publicly fund private higher education providers such as the Whitehouse Institute of Design.

“Mr Abbott should now reveal if he was lobbied by the chairman of the Whitehouse Institute of Design, Mr Les Taylor, to open up federal government funding to private higher education providers.’’

Senator Rhiannon said the Greens would use Senate estimates hearings next month to ask questions about the accreditation of a number of courses offered by the Whitehouse Institute of Design by the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency.

Mr Taylor said he could not recall ever discussing ‘‘anything of substance on higher education policy’’ with Mr Abbott.

In the federal budget, the government announced that from 2016 it would for the first time extend direct government funding to private colleges.

The changes, which also extend support for TAFEs, and diploma and associate degree courses, will cost $820 million over three years. They follow a recommendation from a review of university funding by David Kemp, who was education minister in the Howard government, and Dr Kemp’s former advisor Andrew Norton.

Tony Abbott's friend linked to $60,000 scholarship for Frances Abbott at private college

 

the muck gets thicker ....

The Whitehouse Institute of Design courted the prime minister’s daughter Frances Abbott a number of times and gave her a scholarship during her first and only interview, raising more questions over whether the $60,000 scholarship should have been declared on Tony Abbott’s interest register, according to new revelations published by New Matilda.

The independent news site has reported leaked documents from the institute which show the precise amount, $60,636, Frances was awarded to complete her design degree. The chair of the institute’s board of governors, Les Taylor, is a personal friend of the prime minister and has made donations to the Liberal party.

Guardian Australia revealed on Wednesday that Frances had been the recipient of a “chairman’s scholarship” from the institution, with Taylor later saying he had recommended her personally. Taylor said he had no say in the selection process.

New Matilda reports that Taylor was tasked with courting Frances away from other institutions with the lure of a scholarship. It states that internal Whitehouse documents show that from December 2010 at least four attempts were made to contact Frances. A meeting with Whitehouse’s managing director, Leanne Whitehouse, eventually took place on 18 February 2011.

The report states that Abbott was offered the scholarship during that first meeting.

The New Matilda report raises more questions about the nature of the scholarship, which is not advertised on the Institute’s website and, according to the CEO of Whitehouse, Ian Tudor, is only granted “occasionally”.

The New Matilda documents describe the scholarship as a “managing director’s scholarship”, but it has been referred to by Leanne Whitehouse, Tudor, and Taylor as a “chairman’s scholarship”.

Tudor said on Wednesday that Abbott was only the second recipient of the award. He has not replied to detailed questions from Guardian Australia about the criteria for the scholarship, who else has won it, and whether it is open for public application.

A spokeswoman from the prime minister’s office initially said on Wednesday that disclosure of the scholarship was “not required,” but that if alternative advice was provided the prime minister would meet the amended requirements.

But the spokeswoman said later that further advice had been provided from the clerk of the House of Representatives, who said there were “no obvious provisions” that would require declaration of the scholarship.

The registrar of the parliamentary pecuniary interest registers, Claressa Surtees, told New Matilda the disclosure rules for parliamentarians did not provide a comprehensive list about what should or should not be disclosed.

“It’s not an exhaustive list of what is and isn’t required to be declared. Not all items are explicitly referred to in the [rules],” Surtees said.

“In relation to dependent children, there are only general statements about what might need to be declared.

“There’s nothing that talks about scholarships. The word ‘scholarship’ does not appear in the [rules].”

On Thursday, Abbott said in an interview on Channel Nine that his daughter’s scholarship was awarded on merit.

"I'm very proud of her; she's doing a fantastic job," he said.

"I've always said families should be kept out of the front line. That's the way I've always tried to run my political operation – that we play hard but fair. Families should be [left] out of it."

During Abbott’s 2013 election campaign, his daughters appeared frequently at his side. In an address to the Big Brother house, Abbott said: "If you want to know who to vote for, I'm the guy with the not bad-looking daughters."

Tony Abbott's daughter was courted for scholarship | World news | theguardian.com

some piglets are more equal than others...

Current and former students at the Whitehouse Institute of Design have reacted angrily to the revelation that prime minister Tony Abbott’s daughter Frances received an undisclosed scholarship of $60,000 to cover her tuition fees.

Four students – two of whom were classmates of Abbott’s – all said they did not know that the scholarship existed and raised questions over its fairness. Frances was only the second student to receive the award in its 25 year history.

On Wednesday, Guardian Australia revealed that Frances had received a chairman’s scholarship from the institution, with Les Taylor, chairman of the board of governors, later saying he had recommended her personally for the award. Taylor said he had no say in the selection process.

One former Whitehouse student who was in the same class as Frances for three years told Guardian Australia: “It just seems like a free ride and not a scholarship.”

The graduate, who did not want to be named, continued: “When it comes down to it everyone got in off their portfolio. Nobody else was offered a scholarship in any way, shape or form.”

Another former classmate said “There was absolutely no discussion of the scholarship between me or any of the other students while at Whitehouse.

“I don’t think it’s fair. What I think would have been fair is that if that scholarship was available for everybody to apply for it."

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/may/22/former-classmates-angry-scholarship-abbotts-daughter

Tough titties... Send your complaints to the institute and to Mr Abbott in triplicate... The Whitehouse Institute might have to go through the ICAC wringer, who knows...