The scandal around the awarding of a secret $60,000 scholarship to the Prime Minister’s daughter has taken a sensational new turn this evening, with revelations Tony Abbott has been named as a respondent in a legal action against the private college.
The story, broken by Fairfax media, reveals that former Whitehouse Institute of Design teacher Melletios Kyriakidis – one of Frances Abbott’s teachers at the college – is suing his former employer for constructive dismissal and being discriminated against for his political beliefs.
The Herald reports that in addition to the Whitehouse Institute, Mr Abbott is one of four people named in the action, due to be heard at a private conciliation hearing at Fair Work Australia on Tuesday.
Fairfax media also reveals that Mr Kyriakidis taught Frances Abbott over her three year degree, and believed there were at least 10 other students more deserving of a scholarship.
Mr Kyriakidis was named by The Australian newspaper over the weekend as being involved in a ‘plot’ with former colleague Freya Newman and New Matilda to bring down the Prime Minister through his daughter.
He told Fairfax media that Frances Abbott was both “a lovely person” and a “hard-working high achiever” but said “there were a lot more people more deserving [of a scholarship]”.
“… I could name 10 people more deserving either for merit or financial need or both,” he told Fairfax media.
Mr Kyriakidis also told Fairfax that he was “morally outraged” at Frances Abbott having 90 per cent of her tuitions fees waived.
“If you are going to put a budget out there and say you all have to do it tough, you have to lead by example,” Mr Kyriakidis is quoted as saying.
Mr Kyriakidis confirmed to Fairfax that he leaked information to the press.
The Herald further reports: “On May 20, Mr Kyriakidis swapped emails with another staff member, Freya Newman, who has been charged with hacking into computer records. Mr Kyriakidis maintains he was never involved in accessing records illegally and Ms Newman declines to comment.
“Mr Kyriakidis admitted that while still working for the Whitehouse Institute he emailed journalists and politicians on May 14 urging them to investigate Ms Abbott’s fees being waived.”
The Herald quotes Whitehouse chief executive Ian Tudor maintaining that the scholarship was awarded on merit. Mr Tudor also took aim at Mr Kyriakidis for commenting in the media about Whitehouse students.
“We are appalled that a teacher would actively seek to comment publicly on the comparative academic merit of a former student merely to justify his own behaviour,” Mr Tudor told Fairfax.
Mr Kyriakidis is being represented by Harmers Workplace Lawyers, the Sydney law firm which that acted for James Ashby in his sexual harassment case against former federal Speaker Peter Slipper.
In May, New Matilda revealed documents and testimony that cast serious doubt on claims by the Prime Minister that his daughter’s secret $60,000 scholarship had been awarded on the basis of merit.
Mr Abbott has never declared the scholarship in his parliamentary interest’s register, despite using the register to record gifts to Frances of negligible value, such as free tickets to marketing events.
The story revealed that Frances Abbott was pursued by Whitehouse because Abbott family friend and chairman of the college, Les Taylor, became aware Frances was planning to study at rival school Billy Blue.
Documents obtained by New Matilda revealed that Whitehouse made repeated attempts to contact Frances, and the scholarship was awarded after a single meeting with the college owner Leanne Whitehouse.
Contrary to claims by Whitehouse that Frances was awarded the ‘Chairman’s Scholarship’, the documents obtained by New Matilda reveal the scholarship was recorded as the ‘Managing Director’s Scholarship’.
Whitehouse has refused for months to detail any other occasions when the Managing Director’s Scholarship has been previously awarded, and it has refused to explain why Frances Abbott’s scholarship was kept secret from other students and even senior staff.
It has since emerged that Ms Abbott also won a job at Whitehouse after completing her studies, and is now employed at the Melbourne campus. Documents obtained by New Matilda reveal a staff register recorded no role for Ms Abbott’s position.
New Matilda will be publishing fresh revelations about Whitehouse Institute’s scholarship process in our Sunday evening digest.
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