The growing politicisation of the Department of Education has been highlighted today with the release of details of the arrangements for Dr Bjorn Lomborg’s Australian Consensus Centre and the Abbott/Turnbull Government’s contract with the Nous Group.
During today’s hearing, Senator Simon Birmingham revealed that the Abbott/Turnbull Government withdrew its $4 million in funding for Dr Lomborg’s Consensus Centre four weeks ago but told no one.
Senate Estimates also discovered that former Department of Education Associate Secretary Robert Griew was handpicked by Minister Pyne’s Chief of Staff to undertake negotiations with the Senate cross-benchers on the Liberals’ plan for $100,000 degrees.
The Lomborg backflip follows considerable public backlash and Labor revealing at the last Senate Estimates that the Liberals were actively planning to impose a Consensus Centre on an Australian university.
This was another “captain’s pick” initiated by former Prime Minister Tony Abbott, imposed by former Education Minister Christopher Pyne, and shopped around the country by senior Education officials.
Senator Birmingham today revealed that former Minister Pyne withdrew the funding on 17 September 2015.
Despite this, Flinders University was actively discussing hosting Dr Bjorn Lomborg’s Australian Consensus Centre as recently as 1 October 2015.
When directly asked about the status of Dr Bjorn Lomborg’s Australian Consensus Centre being established at Flinders University on Adelaide radio at that time, Senator Birmingham said:
“I stand for academic freedom and autonomy of universities and that is entirely a matter for Flinders University.”
[ABC Radio 891, Thursday 1 October 2015]
Now the Minister says he knew full well that the $4 million in funding for the Australian Consensus Centre had already been withdrawn and the proposal dumped.
Yet he only advised Flinders University of the news this morning.
It is clear that the Liberals have sought to hide what they have been doing with the Consensus Centre, with no public announcement being made.
Throughout this process the Abbott/Turnbull Government has been working in the shadows, has sought to direct taxpayers’ money towards promoting Liberal propaganda, and conservative ideology while pushing forward with cuts to Australian university teaching and research.
It is time for the Liberals to come clean about all the discussions it has had about with Dr Lomborg and the university sector, and to lay out a full timeline of events and commitments made.