In May 2014, Freya Newman disclosed a secret scholarship awarded in 2011, to the newly elected Australian Prime Minister, Mr. Abbott’s daughter, Frances.
On 15th January 2014 the APS whistleblowing scheme was replaced by the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2013 (PID Act).
So when does it become a conflict of interest, when an Australian Prime Minister is linked to an obvious political donation, and that donation is not presented to the Australian Tax Office via the appropriate; ‘Financial Disclosure Document for Donors to Political Parties(Source).’ form, in this case, via the Whitehouse Institute that made the ‘scholarship’ available to the daughter of their preferred LNP candidate, Australia’s future Prime Minister?
“Section 305B(3) of the Corporations Act 2001requires that where a person makes donations totalling more than $12,400 to the same political party during the 2013-2014 financial year, each donation made must be disclosed (Source).”
So it must be asked if the Whitehouse Institute did not submit their ‘Donor to Political Party Disclosure Return form’, should they be audited by the ATO?
“It is mandatory under s.316(2D) for the AEC to investigate a gift or disposition of property of $25 000 or more to a registered political party or candidate (Source).”
The $60,000 scholarship donated to the now Prime Minister Mr. Tony Abbott’s daughter Frances is a substantial amount that far outweighs the $12,400 mandatory amount required to be declared to the ATO. Although the scholarship was awarded in 2011, it was awarded by a Liberal donor, the Whitehouse Institute, and friend to the Abbott family, who recommended Mr. Tony Abbott’s daughter for a $60,000 scholarship, a scholarship that they say they do not offer at the institute (Source).
“ In the case of donations received from a trust or foundation, the title and description of the trust or foundation, along with the names and addresses of the trustees must be disclosed (Source).”
Located at the Whitehouse Institutes ‘Awards and recognitions’ website, is a complete listing of students who have been honoured for their excellence, Miss. Frances Abbott is not listed (Source). Class mates of Miss. Frances Abbott at the Institute say that they have never heard of, nor vied for a Chairman’s scholarship offered by the institute.
Although in opposition at the time, Mr. Tony Abbott did not declare the award in his parliamentary filings.
When, and how, does the receiving politician declare their donors and donation amounts?
“For donations received that meet the criteria for disclosure required by section 305B(3A) the following details must be disclosed:
• Full name and address details of the person or organisation from whom the donation was received.
• The date each donation was received.
• The value or amount of each donation (Source).”
Although Prime Minister Tony Abbott does not refer to his daughter’s scholarship as a gift, the scholarship was gifted to Miss. Abbott by a long time Liberal party political donor, Les Taylor, chairman of the board of governors of the Whitehouse Institute of Design (Source). Under Australian law;
“It is mandatory under s.316(2D) for the AEC to investigate a gift or disposition of property of $25 000 or more to a registered political party or candidate.”
In 2011 the Whitehouse Institute of Design have stated that they did not offer an open or selective scholarship and yet Miss. Frances Abbott received a $60,000 scholarship from the Institute. The now Prime Minister, the then Opposition leader, Mr. Tony Abbott denies that the scholarship endowed upon his daughter by the Whitehouse institute, was a gift.
So, if the scholarship was not a gift and it was not a scholarship, was the $60,000 windfall a donation from the Whitehouse Institute, or even an incentive by the Institute to benefit Miss. Frances Abbotts fathers future aims? Whatever the $60,000 nonexistent scholarship donation was for, the ATO should, and must, investigate according to Australian Law and with complete impartiality.
“The AEC has powers under section 316(3) of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 (the Act) to undertake investigations of contraventions, or possible contraventions, of the disclosure offences listed in section 315 of the Act. Reflecting the different nature of such an investigation compared to a compliance review undertaken under section 316(2A), section 316(3) has wider and stronger powers including allowing the AEC to demand evidence from third parties (Source).”
The most appalling aspect of this political wrangling is the life a young Australian who stepped forward and exposed the above acts. Whist she fights for her rights in the courts, Miss. Frances Abbott moves on with hers.
The defining line between Miss. Freya Newman’s ability to be declared a whistleblower is the fact that the Whitehouse Institute is a private school. If the Institute was public, then Miss. Newman would be open to protections under Sect 4.17 of the Whistleblowing Act. 2014.
The Act aims to;
• Encourage and facilitate disclosure of information by public officials about suspected wrongdoing in the public sector
• Ensure that public officials who make public interest disclosures are supported and protected from adverse consequences
• Ensure that disclosures by public officials are properly investigated and dealt with (Source).
Though you would have to ask, if the scholarship was not on offer, as the students at the Institute have stated, and the Whitehouse Institute itself has stated that they do not offer Scholarships (Source), then why is Miss. Freya Newman being hounded through the courts so vehemently?
If the Chairman’s Scholarship was above board, then why with such a coveted scholastic achievement, would it be kept a secret? After all, Mr. Anthony Abbott’s Rhode Scholarship was proudly announced for the world to see, and read, via the University of Sydney in 1980(Source).
Miss. Freya Newman however, is not the only victim in this Scholarship scandal. Academic Mr. Kyriakidis is reported to have leaked details of the scholarship in September 2011 and after an investigation by the Institute, he was found to have breached student privacy. Mr. Kyriakidis resigned in June 2014 but has since made a complaint to the Fair Work Commission, stating that he was “constructively dismissed and discriminated against for his political beliefs (Source).”
Mr. Kyriakidis has brought the claim against the Whitehouse Institute and four other individuals including Mr. Abbott.
‘In an interview with afr.com, Mr. Kyriakidis said he was “morally outraged” by the waiving of Miss. Abbott’s tuition fees, particularly given the government’s plans to increase the cost of degrees. Mr Kyriakidis taught Ms Abbott over three years (Source).’
The Whitehouse guide makes no mention of Scholarships on offer at the Institute (Source), neither are any awards listed. To maintain a vibrant and competitive atmosphere at such an institution, unrestricted information as to the details of a chairman’s scholarship would guarantee scholastic conditions that would ensure a healthy and happy arena for the Institutes competitors. Even a hint that one student would be gifted a Chairman’s scholarship at the Chairman’s pleasure would elevate work standards in the secret hopes of winning.
There are many ways to award someone with such a valuable trophy; all are open and not secretive. Secrecy implies that there is something to hide, something not quite right. The Whitehouse Institute and the Abbott families reasoning’s for such secrecy surrounding the Chairman’s Scholarship just makes no sense at all. It just doesn’t add up, and whilst they keep their secrets, a young girl has been criminalised and is now facing jail time for informing the Australian public about information reflecting public officials and their suspected wrongdoing in the public sector.
In Australia we encourage our children to speak out when something is not quite right and especially not fair. Mr. Tony Abbott spouts the Australianism; ‘Fair Go’ when it suits his purposes, but not when it affects him, his family or friends.
“Tax specialist Bill Mavropoulos has analysed the facts and legislation and Prime Minister, Mr. Tony Abbott is likely in ‘serious contempt of the House of Representatives’ by not declaring his daughter’s scholarship (Source).”
PM Abbott made the following statement on the 21 May 2014 concerning his daughter’s acquisition of the Chairman’s Scholarship;
“The clerk of the House has further advised that there are no obvious provisions in the Members’ interests that would require the declaration of such a scholarship nor is there any reference in the more detailed notes provided to members for their guidance in making declarations that such scholarships need to be declared(Source).”
I would suggest following this link to the Independent Australia News website and read through the thorough legislative, parliamentary conflicts and conflations that Bill Mavropoulos has effectively covered if you are seriously interested in knowing more about this affair.
Penalty on breach
Page 148 of the ‘House of Representatives Practice’ states that any member who:
• knowingly fails to provide a statement of registrable interests to the Registrar of Members’ Interests by the due date;
• knowingly fails to notify any alteration of those interests to the Registrar of Members’ Interests within 28 days of the change occurring; or
• knowingly provides false or misleading information to the Registrar of Members’ Interests—
… shall be guilty of a serious contempt of the House of Representatives and shall be dealt with by the House accordingly(Source).’
The Parliamentary Privileges Act 1987 (Cth) at section 7 details penalties that can be imposed by the House including imprisonment and fine.
This topic has been thoroughly examined, and as for the fate of Miss Freya Newman, she is now sadly awaiting sentencing, dated for the 25th of November, 2014. She has a nation, possibly a world watching on in despair for her future. The worst thing to come from this sad a tale is that Miss. Frances Abbott appears to be so immune to reality that she does not recognise any wrong doing except for Miss Freya Newman’s. This became apparent, when after months of media attention and court cases, the only time Miss Abbott has spoken on the subject, was to accepted Miss Newman’s apology.
The Abbott government tells the Australian people “to not panic, but be vigilant, if you see something not quite right, report it (Source).” Well, Miss Freya Newman saw something not quite right and reported it and look what happened to her.