Abbott daughter scholarship not declared

Australia's new Prime Minister Tony Abbott (C) poses for a group picture with his family including and daughter Frances (R).

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has declined to declare a scholarship provided to his daughter by an institute chaired by a friend and donor.

Tony Abbott's daughter Frances received a scholarship from a prestigious design institute chaired by a donor and friend of the prime minister.

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 Abbott 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".

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".

Whitehouse Institute chief executive Ian Tudor said the chairman's scholarship was occasionally awarded and Frances Abbott was 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," he told AAP.

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.

A check of the NSW Electoral Funding Authority register shows Mr Taylor has donated more than $20,000 to the NSW Liberal Party in the past six years.

Greens senator Lee Rhiannon said that in Senate estimates hearings next week she would pursue whether Mr Taylor and the Whitehouse Institute lobbied Mr Abbott to allow public subsidy of private colleges, as announced in last week's budget.

"The Greens have long called for donations reform to end the perception that political donations are linked to political decisions," Senator Rhiannon said.

Source AAP

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