10 Aug 2014

Support Grows For Freya Newman Over Whitehouse affair

By Chris Graham
Frances Abbott, Tony Abbott and Whitehouse owner Leanne Whitehouse.
Frances Abbott, Tony Abbott and Whitehouse owner Leanne Whitehouse.

The Australian newspaper’s stock-in-trade smear of a young woman at the centre of a leak investigation appears to have backfired. Spectacularly. Chris Graham reports.

A week ago, most Australians had never heard of Freya Newman. Now, courtesy of a week-long smear campaign by The Australian newspaper, the 20-year-old Sydney media student is on everyone’s lips.

Ms Newman has been charged with unauthorized access of computer data over the alleged leaking of details about a secret $60,000 scholarship awarded to the daughter of the Australian Prime Minister, Frances Abbott, by the private Sydney-based college, Whitehouse Institute of Design.

Ms Newman faces up to two years in jail if convicted of the offence, a reality that appears to have polarized thousands, angered that the focus is on the alleged messenger, rather than the message.

Ms Newman is studying communications at the University of Technology, Sydney, and is the women’s officer for the UTS Student’s Association. She has refused to comment on the matter since The Weekend Australian claimed to uncover her role in a ‘plot’ last week to damage the Prime Minister via his daughter.

The Australian has also accused this publication - and this writer - of being part of that ‘plot’.

On Friday, the Student Representative Council at crosstown rival Sydney University voted in favour of a “motion of solidarity” for Ms Newman, which may extend to financial support for any legal battle.

There is also growing support online for Ms Newman, with the launch of a Facebook page and an online petition at Change.org.

This afternoon, the Facebook page – Free Freya Newman -   had attracted almost 2,000 followers, and hundreds of posts in support, including offers to contribute to a ‘fighting fund’ for Ms Newman.

The change.org petition has also attracted almost 2,000 supporters at the time of press, and is seeking 50,000 signatures in total.

The petition is headed ‘Stop the pursuit of Freya Newman for leaking documents about Frances Abbot's (sic) scholarship and enshrine the freedom of the press in the Australian constitution’. And the mood at Change.org appears to be one of simmering anger.

The petition reads: “In the last year we have seen many calls for people like Edward Snowden to be charged with treason, Chelsea Manning being sentenced to 35 years for the military documents leak to Wikileaks and now this.

“This shows how quickly it has gone from chasing down people who leak information with international political consequences to chasing down those who make life for our leaders politically inconvenient.

“We aren't at the top of a slippery slope, we're already flying down it head first.

“This is a call for the Australian Government to not only stop the pursuit of Freya Newman, but also to enshrine the freedom of the press in the Australian constitution.”

The clear message from those signing the petition is that authorities should focus their attention on the actions of the Prime Minister, rather than Freya Newman.

Paul Turner from Moonta writes: “When injustice becomes law, resistance becomes duty. Pursue the corruption inherent in our government, not those brave enough to expose it.”

Ailsa Turrell of Kambah in the ACT writes; “The PM is clearly in the wrong on this and she has simply released the information which he should have declared.”

Ben Andrews from Mt Barker in South Australia writes: “This is the government trying to get back at a person who brought to light the Prime Ministers corruption.”

Gregory House from Australia writes: “Whistle-blowers are a vital part of our democracy we need to protect those Aussies who bravely step forward to report abuse, fraud and corruption.”

Cassie Lynch from Australia writes: “That information about Frances Abbott's sneaky scholarship was important for the public to know.”

The matter is likely to continue its strong run in the media news cycle next week, with Prime Minister Tony Abbott named in a legal action to be heard by the Fair Work Commission on Tuesday.

One of The Australian’s other alleged ‘co-conspirators’, Mellitios Kyriakidis has named the Prime Minister in an adverse action he is bringing against the Whitehouse Institute.

Mr Kyriakidis revealed to Fairfax media on Friday that he was pursuing Whitehouse over treatment he alleges was unfair, and he’s named the Prime Minister and three other people, along with Whitehouse, in the action. He is being represented by Harmer’s Workplace Lawyers.

He also told Fairfax media he could name at least 10 students who were more deserving of a scholarship than Frances Abbott.

Documents obtained by New Matilda earlier this year reveal that Ms Abbott was awarded the scholarship after a single meeting with the college. Testimony by Whitehouse insiders revealed that Frances was pursued by the college after it became known she was considering studying at rival Sydney college Billy Blue.

The chairman of Whitehouse, Les Taylor, is a close friend of the Abbott family, and is listed in Tony Abbott’s parliamentary interest’s register as having provided several gifts.

Mr Abbott’s register, however, contains no record of his daughter receiving the secret $60,000 scholarship, despite numerous entries detailing small gifts and advantages Ms Abbott gained, such as flight upgrades and free tickets to events.

This evening, New Matilda will reveal additional details about the Whitehouse Institute’s scholarship program, via our 6pm Sunday digest.

* New Matilda is almost entirely funded by reader subscriptions. You can help us continue our work by subscribing here. 

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This user is a New Matilda supporter. PAW
Posted Sunday, August 10, 2014 - 16:39


Thanks for keeping us all updated on this issue.

Posted Sunday, August 10, 2014 - 16:55

Good work, New Matilda! Keep us posted!

Posted Sunday, August 10, 2014 - 17:16

A plot to damage the Prime Minister - why would anyone want to that to such an honest forthright guy ?

Kaye Makovec
Posted Sunday, August 10, 2014 - 17:53

Politics is a culture of entitlement without responsibility and they need to realise their Salary and Entitlements are paid for by other people.

Not just the people who voted for them, or the IPA and BCA, or even those who think they pay the most tax so should have the most say, but the greater number of the 'common man' they show such contempt for.

This user is a New Matilda supporter. RossC
Posted Sunday, August 10, 2014 - 17:54

Great to see people getting on board to support Freya. I've signed the petition and I urge others to do so also.

This whole investigation-into-Freya thing, and the resulting cascade of developments that now continues to unfold is classic Tony Abbott and his supporters - the investigation into Freya was a blind counterpunch thrown in anger, with no thought about how it all may end.  

Here is a simple message to Tony : it's not going to end with Freya. It's going to end with you.

It'll be stressful for Freya in the short term for sure, but it sure looks like, rather than shutting the story down, these ongoing actions and the commentary flowing around them will give the story all the additional oxygen it needs to bring disaster on Tony in particular, with young Frances as collatoral damage.

Tony is a bully. I hate bullies. His support will wane and wane.

Take heart Freya, your support will continue to grow by the hour. 

How it is possible that in 2013 Australia managed to vote in a government with:

(1) an ideologically straitjacketed, strategically flat-footed, antisocial leader who is trapped in the dark ages, who now appears to have been almost carelessly corrupt,

(2) an alternately cigar-chuffing and whingeing treasurer who is hell-bent on talking down Australia's otherwise strong economy to prove an ideological point and as an excuse to deliver another kick to the poor (while meanwhile writing some premature memoirs about his 'greatness', going on early tropical-island holidays, fawning to the mega-rich, and whining that 'nobody loves me'),

(3) an employment minister who doesn't understand employment and is all set to create a destitute underclass in our society (and who moonlights as a 1950's-style medical commentator and preacher of fundamentalist chrisitan values on the side),

(4) a stumbling, blustering Attorney-General who is willing to make laws about things he clearly know's nothing about, like electronic metadata storage, as well as laws about things he certainly does understand, like bigotry, and

(5) an education minister who aspires to dismantle Australia's tertiary education system structure, burdening poor students with massive depts, and

(6) a health minister who is on a mission to dismantle Australia's successful and WORLD FAMOUS public health system,  and

(7) a minister for social services who's main interests seemingly revolve around delivering opening speeches to wacky conservative religious gatherings that (fortunately) will only ever be of interest to a tiny minority of Australians and

(8) a minister for the environment who pursues environmental policies at odds with the entire WORLD of expert scientific and economic opinion, and

(9) more, but its all just too depressing to keep listing them.

How was it possible to gather together so many useless, gormless, self-entitled knob-ends into one place and then give them some of the most influential jobs in the whole frikkin' country?   

This isn't just stupid. It's WORLD CLASS stupid.

At last, Australia leads the world at something.   

Take a good look America. This could be you if your Tea Party loonies have their way. Think about it.


Posted Sunday, August 10, 2014 - 18:13

I thought that we now had laws protecting WHISTLEBLOWERS. This young person IS just that and so must be protected. Can we ask retired ALP QCs to offer pro bono help???

Posted Sunday, August 10, 2014 - 18:30

RossC that is a fantastic summary.  Except you forgot the minister for women.

This user is a New Matilda supporter. RossC
Posted Sunday, August 10, 2014 - 18:37


Posted Sunday, August 10, 2014 - 19:44

I don't disagree with a word you say Ross C, however unfortunately they (Australia) did (vote in this government). Most would know with the help of News Limited & to a lesser extent Fairfax Press (who these days seem to have realised the error of their ways). Which probably tells you something about "middle Orstraya". The unfortunate thing is that the Press Council is a self regulatory body - that most know doesn't work. A simple thing that I think would go someway to recifying the penchant of the likes of the Oz spreading mis-information and at times outright lies is a law or some kind of satute that requires them to run the "apology" for such when they are found out in the exact same position / font size etc as the original offending statement / article - instead of back with the lost dogs, missing cats and hookers for hire.

Posted Sunday, August 10, 2014 - 20:30

Thanks New Matilda.

Best wishes Freya.

Posted Sunday, August 10, 2014 - 23:36

No doubt Hedley Thomas will be onto this next week.

Posted Monday, August 11, 2014 - 16:32

Rozz C    I liked your list of ministers and their respective demerits.

I think you missed one who will surely be remembered well after this government is gone -- even as far out as 2050 provided we sheet home his responsibility for his con trick on future business and communications.   Welcome to Turnbull's Folly as his NBN lite should be  called.

The con trick of having the NBN progressive (Labor version) now criticised for not having a Cost Benefit Analaysis (CBA)  when his own left out the problem of Copper wires still in place over the years ahead.   Not taken into accountr because the cost  was too difficult to predict - precisely why his solution is phoney and  probably already out of date. His cost benefit analysis is a fraud.

The best and long term cheapest engineering cost is to do something propperly in the first p[lace and use the very latest technology as was used for the Overland Telegraph Line from Adelaide to Darwin to the rest of the world in  the 1800's , the Sydney Harbour Bridge

(who could have predicted in  a CBA that so many vehicles would be privately owned on the North Shore in the years ahead)   the the Sydney Opera House    Who could have predicted its pull on tourism and all the other benefits to the arts.

Over all we did something propperly and it started to show in our confidence of doing things that the world could admire

Instead of getting a nation building infrastructure that even if it blew out to 50 billion would be worht every cent we are getting a mickey  mouse NBN  that will cost many billions to fix if it doesn't have to start all over  again.

Turnbull's Folly an out of date internet service coming to a box near you some time in the next decade an out of date already..     Hope your copper line does not lie in water as it does fn our street from my place down hill


Posted Tuesday, August 12, 2014 - 02:09

Where was Ross C's  faux outrage when the previous inept govt held higher office.

Hypocritically it was MIA

This user is a New Matilda supporter. RossC
Posted Tuesday, August 12, 2014 - 14:31

Re 'MIA' purejuice. Unsurprisingly, your inability to do even basic research before mouthing off is letting you down.

but don't stop now. I'm enjoying it immensely!

This user is a New Matilda supporter. aussiegreg
Posted Sunday, August 17, 2014 - 05:49

Well done New Matilda, and good luck Freya!

This is one of those rare instances where currying favour with the politically powerful involves making them think they are not getting a gift, hence Abbott paradoxically being correct in not declaring something he was meant not to see as a gift.

He will be much better disposed towards Whitehouse (and its pleas for government funding of private tertiary institutions a.k.a. RTO's) if he believes that they have recognised the genius of his daughter in granting her a scholarship on merit!

This user is a New Matilda supporter. RossC
Posted Monday, August 18, 2014 - 22:21

You know what aussiegreg? You might even be right. Only a complete moron would be able to conclude that a massive, secret, scholarship awarded only on condition of acceptance could possibly represent 'merit' of any imaginable kind. Or that being subsequently rewarded a non-existent job not even applied for (thanks for that killer line fightmumma) would be the next logical career step.

But then you have to consider that tony is an a-grade moron.

the trouble for tony abbott is that, when it comes to breaking the law, ignorance (and stupidity) is no defence.

This user is a New Matilda supporter. aussiegreg
Posted Tuesday, August 19, 2014 - 14:18


I'd be careful presuming that the odious Abbott is "an a-grade moron" – I suspect that's exactly what he hopes his opponents will think, right up to the point he wins the next election on the back of whatever comes out of various royal commissions about the Labor Party.

Remember that not only was he a Rhodes Scholar, but he used that scholarship to get a postgraduate degree from Oxford, a university not known, even today (unlike universities in Australia), for handing out even bachelor degrees to people who are a-grade morons. 

And that despite spending most of his time involved in extracurricular activities like student politics and sport, a habit he brought over from his time getting bachelor degrees in both economics and law from the University of Sydney (at a time when it, too, was not prone to giving out degrees to people who lacked the aptitude and/or didn't do the work, unlike today).


This user is a New Matilda supporter. RossC
Posted Wednesday, August 20, 2014 - 08:28

Ah yes aussiegreg. Tony's driven clever enough to be well educated. He's just not smart. There's your problem.

Posted Wednesday, August 20, 2014 - 09:27

I think anyone who thinks Abbott is a fool just because of his stupidity as a person will get it wrong.

Abbott has the cunning of a river rat in a flood, though somewhat less attractive.

Our problem is that he isn't the prime minister, Peta Credlin is, he is just the eyes and ears of Brian Loughnane, well known supporter of ICAC, via Ms Credlin.

Two word slogans now, after 3 word slogans last round. The question is, are we as a country stupid enough to put him back in? I hope not but I'm not holding my breath.

I spoke to a woman I consider relatively intelligent yesterday and her view was we need LNP in because ALP just spend all the money. Of course that is part of the age of entitlement, but seriously, it wouold be great to find a liberal occasionally who thinks beyond their little square. It's a fucking country for gods sake, not a company with an annual report.