A potential scholarship scandal is looming for the daughter of Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, Frances Abbott. Frances Abbott was, in 2011, awarded a $60,000 scholarship by the Whitehouse Institute of Design. Now, classmates are questioning her reception of the scholarship, claiming that, based on her current performance, it seems unlikely that she received the award due to merit and her art portfolio.
Tony Abbott has, of course, claimed that Frances received the award based on her portfolio and applications. Recent discoveries, however, have pointed toward the highly subjective nature on the grant, and many are questioning how the close friendship Abbott has with the institute’s chairman, Les Taylor, may have influenced his daughter’s selection.
“Having studied in the same classes alongside Tony Abbott’s daughter … I can assure you that there were no scholarships awarded to any other students in our cohort,” says Chad Mason, a classmate of Frances who had to pay $68,000 for his degree. “I can definitely say that I studied with some extremely talented people who were more deserving of a $60,000 scholarship.”
There are two issues at stake here. One, of course, is the unjust award of a scholarship to a student because of her father’s political affiliation, rather than the merit of the student. The other issue is that, if the scholarship was awarded for this reason, Tony Abbott should have declared it. His office has so far maintained that, since the scholarship was not a gift under current law, no declaration was necessary.
On the other hand, Abbott supporters have said that people questioning Frances’s merit might have a difficult position to defend, considering that she graduated with distinction and will likely go on to start her Master’s degree this year.
Abbott has not been a popular political figure with many students as of late. At a student rally in Melbourne this week, students gathered and chanted a range of phrases, such as “block the budget” and “Tony Abbott, f— you, we deserve a future too.”