Prime Minister Tony Abbott has been named as a respondent in a workplace case involving the design school which provided his daughter Frances with a scholarship.
Academic Melletios Kyriakidis is taking his former employer, the Whitehouse Institute of Design in Sydney, to the Fair Work Commission alleging he was discriminated against for his political beliefs.
Mr Kyriakidis leaked news of Ms Abbott’s scholarship to the media and resigned in June after being investigated by the school for a privacy breach.
He has told Fairfax Media he had been “morally outraged” that Ms Abbott’s fees had been waived while her father’s government was trying to increase the cost of degrees through deregulation.
While he said Ms Abbott was a high achiever, there were others at the school with much greater financial need.
The former design institute staffer was also concerned Mr Abbott had not declared the $60,000 scholarship on his pecuniary interests register when it was awarded in 2011.
The prime minister said in an update to his parliamentary pecuniary interest register this week that he was receiving discounted legal services from the firm Seyfarth Shaw Australia.
While he did not specify it related to the Kyriakidis case, Mr Abbott wrote it pertained to “an action made pursuant to Part 3-1 of the Fair Work Act 2009”.
Seyfarth Shaw, which set up shop in Australia last year, has a reputation as a union-busting law firm in the US.
It is understood a confidential conference relating to the matter was held in Sydney on Tuesday.
Les Taylor, the chairman of the institute, has made donations to the NSW Liberal Party and has known the Abbott family for many years.
The institute has said the scholarship was given at arm’s length from the chairman and Ms Abbott received it based on the merit and quality of her portfolio and application.