News National Scrutiny over Abbott’s daughter’s scholarship

Scrutiny over Abbott’s daughter’s scholarship

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Tony Abbott is under scrutiny after his daughter Frances received a $60,000 scholarship from a prestigious design institute chaired by his close friend and Liberal Party donor, Les Taylor.

Mr Abbott has not declared the Whitehouse Institute of Design scholarship on his pecuniary interest register, despite previously declaring other matters relating to his children such as trips, accommodation and tickets to sporting events.

MPs are required to disclose gifts above specified threshold limits with extra requirements for ministers where a gift is retained.

The prime minister’s office said Mr Abbott has known Les Taylor, the chairman of the Whitehouse Institute, for many years and when in opposition he received clothing from him as a gift.

The pecuniary interest register shows Mr Abbott received suits from Mr Taylor in February 2012 and April 2013.

“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,” Mr Abbott’s spokeswoman said.

Frances applied to study at the institute and based on her application and art portfolio she was awarded a scholarship in 2011.

Mr Abbott’s spokeswoman said that under the Statement of Registrable Interests, a scholarship is not a gift “it is an award based on merit and disclosure is not required”.

However, she added that if the prime minister received alternative advice he would “meet the amended requirements”.

Mr Taylor has insisted that he had no part in awarding the scholarship to Frances Abbott, although he admitted he “probably” mentioned she would be a good candidate.

“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.

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 degree later this year.

The institute’s website states: “Whitehouse does not currently offer scholarships to gain a place into the Bachelor of Design.”

However, it says that “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”.

The institute is likely to benefit from the federal government’s changes to subsidies, which previously did not cover private colleges.

Mr Abbott attended last year’s graduation ceremony at the institute in support of Frances and gave a speech praising its work.

Comment was being sought from the Whitehouse Institute.

-with AAP

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