Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Yet another example of the Abbott sense of entitlement?

Tony Abbott, Frances Abbott with founder of the Whitehouse Institute of Design Leanne Hope Whitehouse
(Sole director of Whitehouse Institute Pty Ltd & Whitehouse Investments Australia Pty Ltd)
Photograph from The Sydney Morning Herald 21 May 2014

The Guardian 21 May 2014:

Les Taylor, the chairman of the Whitehouse Institute of Design board of governors, personally recommended the prime minister’s daughter for a $60,000 design degree scholarship, and has also made donations of more than $20,000 to the state and federal Liberal party.

Frances Abbott was only the second recipient of the "chairman's scholarship", according to the institute's chief executive.

Guardian Australia revealed that Frances Abbott received the scholarship from the private higher education institute in 2011. Taylor told Guardian Australia he had “put her name forward” for the award but declined to say how much the scholarship was worth.

Taylor told Guardian Australia that, as chairman of the board of governors, “I’m entitled to make a recommendation … I’ve got the right to say [if] they’d do very well at Whitehouse.

“I knew she’d do well,” Taylor said, “And she’s flourished [at the institute]. I put her name forward as I thought she’d be suitable … she’s gone from strength to strength.”

Taylor later told Fairfax Media: ‘‘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’.’’

Taylor told Guardian Australia he could not recall if he had recommended anyone else for the scholarship that year, but confirmed it was not offered to students every year. Taylor said he did not “get involved” with the appraisal process for the scholarship, which was completed by academic staff. It is unclear whether any other students were considered for the scholarship in 2011.

The institute states on its website that it “does not currently offer scholarships to gain a place into the Bachelor of Design” – a cache search on the website indicates this has been the same since 2011.

The institute's chief executive, Ian Tudor, told Guardian Australia the "chairman's scholarship" was issued "occasionally" and that Frances Abbott was only 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," Tudor said. 
He said the institute awarded "various types" of scholarships, despite the statement on the website. 

A spokeswoman for the prime minister confirmed that Frances Abbott was a recipient of a scholarship at the institute and said it was awarded as a result of her "application and art portfolio".

She said disclosure of the scholarship by the prime minister on the parliamentary register of interests was "not required".

"Under the Statement of Registrable Interests, a scholarship is not a gift, it is an award based on merit and disclosure is not required. If alternative advice is provided, Mr Abbott will meet the amended requirements," the spokeswoman said.

"Frances 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 Taylor had known the prime minister "for many years and when in opposition, he received clothing from him as a gift"….

New Matilda 21 May 2014:

In February of this year, Frances Abbott – the Prime Minister’s middle daughter – completed a three-year Bachelor of Design course at the Whitehouse Institute of Design.
New Matilda can reveal that the Prime Minister’s daughter paid just $7,546 for the $68,182 degree.
The news come on a day where thousands of students in six capital cities around the country marched to express their outrage at an Abbott Government budget which see some university fees rise by more than 100 per cent.
Documents obtained by New Matilda also challenge claims by the Prime Minister that his daughter’s scholarship was won on merit.
Rather than an exhaustive application process, Ms Abbott, aged 22, was offered the ‘Managing Director’s Scholarship’ at her first and only meeting with the owner of the Institute, Leanne Whitehouse.
The Institute declined to nominate any other occasion when the scholarship has been awarded, and did not address a lengthy list of questions submitted by New Matilda early this morning.
Whitehouse insiders have claimed the scholarship was kept secret, even from many senior staff…..
Ms Abbott was awarded her scholarship before the school year began.
The Whitehouse website does not list the Managing Director’s Scholarship on its awards page, despite the fact it is by far the largest scholarship awarded by the school.
There also appears to be some confusion about the name of the scholarship – Leanne Whitehouse told Guardian Australia today it was called the ‘Chairman’s Scholarship’. But internal documents repeatedly refer to it as the ‘Managing Director’s Scholarship’.
An account of how Frances Abbott came to be a student at Whitehouse, provided to New Matilda by a staff member, casts further doubt on the claims by the Prime Minister that her appointment was based entirely on merit.
The source told New Matilda that Frances Abbott was approached by Whitehouse Chairman of the Board - and friend of the Abbott family - Les Taylor, after Taylor became aware that Frances was looking to complete a degree with a competing design school.
“Les Taylor knew the Abbott family. [Frances] wanted to do something related to creativity and styling. She was going to go to one of our competitors. I think it was Billy Blue [a design school in North Sydney],” the source told NM.
“Leanne got the Chairman of the Board [Taylor] to tell [Frances] she had the offer of a scholarship.”
A few years later, in the run-up to the 2013 federal election, Ms Whitehouse became increasingly excited at the prospect of a Liberal win, the staffer said.
“She said to me something like, ‘Do you know what this could mean to Whitehouse if [Abbott] gets in?’ 22 May 2014:

FORMER classmates of Tony Abbott’s daughter are furious that she was awarded a $60,000 design degree scholarship.
The Prime Minister defended his daughter Frances yesterday after it was revealed she won a $60,000 scholarship in 2011 to Sydney’s elite Whitehouse Institute of Design, whose chairman Les Taylor is a longtime friend of Mr Abbott and a Liberal Party donor.
Chad Mason, 20, studied for the $68,000 Bachelor of Design in styling and creative direction with Frances in 2011 and said her being awarded the scholarship was “beyond a joke”.
“Having studied in the same classes alongside Tony Abbott’s daughter … I can assure you that there were no scholarships awarded to any other students in our cohort, and I can definitely say that I studied with some extremely talented people who were more deserving of a $60,000 scholarship,” Mr Mason said….

Pedestrian Daily 22 May 2014:

Student #1: We always knew that they were playing favourites. We always knew that Les Taylor was a friend of the Abbott family. Leanne [Whitehouse, owner, founder and Managing Director of the Institute] loved to say how Tony Abbott's daughter was attending Whitehouse. So it became a very good talking point for her, I believe. It looked good for Whitehouse to have Frances there.

Student #2: No not really. When it first came out that Frances was Tony Abbott's daughter I feel like even some of the teachers were surprised that they were related.  
Student #3: No, not at all. I guess with Whitehouse because the classes are a lot smaller a lot of the students had personal relationships with the faculty. But not to the extent that is obviously was with Fran. I think with Leanne it was more about the prestige of having Fran there than it was about the quality of her work or creativity.  

The Sydney Morning Herald 23 May 2014:

Because Frances indubitably did receive that scholarship because of who she is not because of her extraordinary ability, above and beyond all her fellow students.  That is my solid opinion. I came to it because I know that she will have been gifted, smiled and enveloped in a swaddling of gratuitous entitlements ever since her father began climbing the political power beanstalk….
This scholarship does appear to have spontaneously materialised almost exclusively because of Frances’ DNA rather than her portfolio and that, to my mind, was an awful thing to do to her. If it was a gratuitous hand-out, then it was an insult to her fellow students by the Whitehouse Institute of Design.
And her father should have foreseen that this could hurt Frances as much as him and he should have declined or declared the scholarship, just to be safe. If not for himself, for his daughter’s reputation. 
Poor kid. It’s one of those first-world, one percenter sort of problems that come from privilege and wealth. Not something my feral five will probably ever have to encounter. Lucky them. 

New Matilda 24 May2014:

The Whitehouse Institute of Design has labeled claims published in New Matilda overnight that owner Leanne Whitehouse lobbied Prime Minister Tony Abbott in front of 400 people as “ridiculous”, describing her comments to Mr Abbott about red tape as “teasing”.

New Matilda 24 May 2014:

The Prime Minister’s daughter was hand-picked to help lobby a federal government regulator for course accreditations worth potentially millions of dollars on the basis of her “merit” as a student, a prestigious Sydney design college has confirmed….
Leaked documents obtained by New Matilda reveal that late last year, Ms Abbott was one of just a handful of students from more than 400 put forward by Whitehouse to be interviewed by assessors from the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency. TEQSA is the federal government regulator responsible for approving or denying an application from Whitehouse to launch a new Masters of Design course, and the re-accreditation of existing courses.
That application was ultimately successful. Ms Abbott has since moved to Melbourne to enroll in the course, securing a job at Whitehouse’s Melbourne campus while she waits for it to begin later this year. Ms Abbott appears to be the only one of 74 employees with no defined role, according to leaked documents….
In the latest twist, assessors from TEQSA visited the Sydney campus of Whitehouse in November 2013 - two months after the Prime Minister won office - to view the facilities, and to interview staff and students selected by Whitehouse.
Ms Abbott was one of eight students from a body of more than 400 chosen to be interviewed.
An internal Whitehouse document obtained by New Matilda, titled ‘TEQSA Staff & Student profiles’, provides assessors with detail about their experiences at the prestigious design school.
In her profile, Ms Abbott heaps praise on the Whitehouse Institute and describes her experience at the school as “life-changing”.
“This year has been a whirlwind experience for me,” Ms Abbott wrote.
“I thought that it was going to be life changing and it has been, although for all the reasons I didn’t expect.
“Through completing my major project, I am beginning to understand what I want to do. Many opportunities have emerged, and doors have opened.
“I am currently reflecting on my creative practice, and looking forward to the future – including working with the many talented creative I have met in the past few years.”
New Matilda makes no assertion that Ms Abbott's comments were not genuine, nor that she was not a student of merit. However the Whitehouse Institute declined to comment on the appropriateness of the Prime Minister's daughter being put forward, nor would it comment on claims from Whitehouse insiders that assessors were not informed Ms Abbott was attending the design school on the secret $60,000 scholarship….

Pedestrian Daily 27 May 2014:

Though both the Prime Minister's office and the Institute themselves have been adamant that Ms Abbott's scholarship was awarded on merit through a non-advertised and discretionary scholarship known as the Chairman's or Managing Director's scholarship, questions have been raised about the nature of that so-called "merit" due to the fact that the scholarship was kept secret from students and most high-level staff at the school, and was not advertised before its awarding, nor announced afterwards. In fact, it seems that in the entire history of the school, the scholarship had only ever been awarded once before. Despite questioning, the school refused to disclose who that other recipient was.

And, as it turns out, there seems to be a very good reason that they're preferring to be tight-lipped on that one. Speaking with Studio 10, New Matilda's editor Chris Graham revealed that the only other recipient of the scholarship was Billy Whitehouse. That surname is not a coincidence, as she is the daughter of the Leanne Whitehouse, the founder and owner of the Whitehouse Institute.

So while every other student who attends the institute leaves there with an initial HECS Debt of some $68,000 - a debt that will increase at a far more rapid rate thanks to the re-aligning of University fee interest rates set forth in this year's budget - the two students who receive a doggedly clandestine free ride are the daughter of the school's owner and the daughter of the Prime Minister.

Awarded on "merit." Yeah, righto.

Montage of Tony Abbott & family on the campaign trail

Memo to Frances Abbott,
You agreed to actively campaign on behalf of a high-profile political relative and this is what happens.
Your life comes under regular scrutiny and, matters you would perhaps like to keep private go global.
You are not a victim of this media focus - you were an adult when you courted attention and very obviously enjoyed the spotlight.
You became a 'public' figure by consent.
 You cannot complain if you don't like the form this attention takes post-election.


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