Budget 2014: Frequent Liberal Party Donor & Abbott Friend Gave PM’s Daughter $60,000 Scholarship; Abbott Admits Deficit Levy Is a Tax

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By Vittorio Hernandez | May 22, 2014 8:33 AM EST

Fresh from his winking controversy on Wednesday, embattled Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott would likely be criticised anew over an admission from his office that his daughter Frances received a scholarship worth $60,000 from the Whitehouse Institute of Design.


Candid shot of Tony Abbott and wife Margie (Reuters)

The chairman of the institute's board of governors, Les Taylor, happens to be a frequent Liberal Party donor and a friend of Mr Abbott, according to The Guardian.

However, a spokesman for the PM defended the scholarship awarded in 2011, when Mr Abbott was still Opposition leader, since it was given "based on her application and art portfolio" not as a gift.

MPs are mandated to declare gifts received, including presents for their spouses and dependent children if these are worth at least $300 and are from non-official sources. But the gifts, according to the guidelines, may not be registered or disclosed if on the MP's judgment it does not represent conflict of interest.

A spokeswoman for Mr Abbott said in a statement, "Under the Statement of Registrable Interests, a scholarship is not a gift, it is an award based on merit and disclosure is not required ... If alternative advice is provided, Mr Abbott will meet the amended requirements"

She added that Frances finished with distinction-level results from Whitehouse in December 2013 and has moved to Melbourne where she is employed by the same institute as teacher's aide. Frances plans to pursue a Masters degree this year.

According to NSW Election Funding Authority records, Taylor donated over $12,000 to the NSW Liberal Party from 2007 to 2010, and spent $9,000 more on tribute dinners for ex-Liberal leaders John Howard and Brendan Nelson.

Greens Senator Lee Rhianon opined the scholarship raised "serious questions about ethics and conflicts of interest."

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The Sydney Morning Herald article on the scholarship comes at a time that the Coalition is under fire for its proposed budget and among those who have expressed disagreement are university students.

On Wednesday, several hundred university students in Brisbane held a street protest against the budget, particularly the deregulation of school fees which would bring up cost of education.

Kat Henderson, a Queensland University of Technology student, hurled a challenge to Coalition politicians during the rally at Queens Park. She said, quoted by ABC, "I've got a great idea. Hockey, Pyne, Abbott, Bishop: You all got your education for free. How about you pay back, and every other politician pays back, the full amount of their course?"

Also on Wednesday in Melbourne where the winking incident happened, a radio caller named Stella from Geelong was able to make the PM admit he broke an election promise after she chastised Mr Abbott for introducing a new tax.

Mr Abbott said, "I obviously accept a levy is something you pay out of your pocket ... I'm not going to quibble over calling it a tax - if you want to call it a tax that's fine."

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Candid shot of Tony Abbott and wife Margie (Reuters)
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