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Home  >  The social experiment  >  A brief summary...  >  Response to...

Response to the summary

Several individuals have been informed about the brief summary of the Griffith affair and been asked whether any measures have been put into place to prevent a similar scenario from happening in the future (the letters were sent on the 21 Jan 13). They have been selected on the basis of relevance in the here and now.

See the Update 22 January 2015 for the latest.

They are:

Julia Gillard
Currently Australia's Prime Minister (this is February 2013), she was approached in 2007 in her capacity as the federal minister for education. Now, with more information about the Griffith affair at hand, would she still accept such behaviour or has she concerned herself in the meantime with educational issues such that it is more difficult for fraud and character assassination to be practised?

Peter Garrett - and now Craig Emerson
Currently the federal minister for education. While not involved at the time, the same question can be asked of him: are there any measures in place now that ensure general ethics are being observed? According to correspondence from his department, the minister more appropriate to my query is Dr Craig Emerson, Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Science and Research. My letter has been forwarded to that Department. Update 22 May 2013: Sharon Bird, Minister for Higher Education and Skills, informs me she has also been forwarded the letter to Peter Garrett. Universities are "autonomous, self-accrediting institutions", she writes, "provided that [their administration processes do] not breach their funding agreement with the Australian Government". Which means committing fraud and security breaches are not within the scope of any agreement between universities and the government. Quite remarkable, really.

Carol Nicoll
Chief Commissioner, Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency. Previously TEQSA existed in the form of various entities as Vice Chancellors Committee, Universities Australia and the Australian Universities Quality Agency (and headed by different individuals as well). They too had been approached at various times. Would TEQSA under its current framework consider what went on at Griffith unacceptable and are any relevant measures in place?

Minter Ellison Lawyers
This particular entity is included here, not because the firm had been one of those approached with a view to seek redress (they weren't), but because Peter Bartlett, one of their staff, had an article published in Brisbane's Courier Mail dealing with the deteriorating degree of freedom of speech in our society (CM, 26 February 2013, "Media should remain free to expose serious wrongs"). Given that the Vice-Chancellor wanted to have my website taken down in 2009 because it was deemed to be "defamatory", and later Minter Ellison's Senior Associate in Melbourne, Jessica Fletcher, had emailed Griffith University to offer advice on further steps for the same reason, their public stance regarding freedom of speech to "expose serious wrongs" does not gel with the actions they are willing to perform in private to achieve exactly the opposite despite the available evidence. Perhaps Mr. Bartlett would be willing to elaborate.

Below are the responses as they have been received. The dates refer to the day of receipt.


anchor arrow Julia Gillard
19 Feb 2013: My letter was referred to the Attorney-General. Below is the pertinent quote from the Assistant Secretary:

"While the Australian Government does not have a role in developing or implementing student complaint or grievance resolution policies, you may find the resources available on the Access to Justice website (www.accesstojustice.gov.au) of assistance. The website provides information and access to services to assist with resolving disputes. The website reflects that access to justice goes beyond access to courts, lawyers and litigation - it is also about access to information, support and opportunities, and about having a fair and equitable experience in everyday life."

The accesstojustice website mentioned above does indeed offer services that go beyond the courts etc. Under any other circumstances they may well be useful, but not in this case. For example, Ombudsman's offices do not deal with the matters relevant to this dispute, as has been ascertained already; mediation, conciliation, conferencing and so on need a referral from either the police, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, or the courts, as becomes apparent when clicking the link to the Dispute Resolution website.

In the end, it comes down to the same problem: when it involves a dispute with a university, their autonomy guarantees the normal means available for conflict resolution are denied to the student.

As far as the security issues are concerned, the Attorney-General's Assistant Secretary cannot provide any assistance. The highest law office in the land stays away from universities allowing hackers to infiltrate their systems (see Griffithgate: mirror of decay), and has equally nothing to say about a university inviting a regime like Saudi Arabia to set up shop on its campus (see The social experiment).

11 Apr 13: A response from the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet arrived addressing the issue of cyber threats. The letter points out that on the 23 January the Prime Minister launched Strong and Secure: A Strategy for Australia's National Security, part of which is the new Australian Cyber Security Centre, "providing a single interface for Australian industry". One of the agencies there is the Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT Australia), the "point of contact for cyber security issues affecting major Australian business". The Defence Signals Directorate has online resources to make one's personal computer more secure. To access go to http://www.dsd.gov.au.

This is by far the most relevant and to-the-point correspondence received so far. Then again, whether the appreciation towards cyber security extends to a university trying to swing a secret deal with demographics already under observation remains an open question.


anchor arrow Craig Emerson
14 June 2013: no response so far.

3 July 2013: After a series of quite remarkable events in Federal Parliament which eventually culminated in Kevin Rudd replacing Julia Gillard as Prime Minister (exactly the opposite occurred three years ago) several ministers resigned rather than serve under the new leadership. One of them was Craig Emerson. When reporters resort to the word "shambolic" in describing the final hours before the change over, it can be assumed Mr Emerson had other things on his mind during all those weeks [1].


anchor arrow Carol Nicoll
21 Feb 2013: Gary Brook, Director, Regulation and Review, was informed about the issue. Below are the pertinent quotes from his letter:

"As Director of the relevant regulatory areas of TEQSA I have been notified of your complaint and may refer to it as part of ongoing regulatory activities with the provider. Please note that Section 188 of the TEQSA Act prevents TEQSA from providing any further information to you in relation to the use, if any, of this information for the regulation of the provider."

"TEQSA registers and evaluates the performance of higher education providers against the Higher Education Standards Framework, specifically, the Threshold Standards. Information on the Threshold Standards is available at www.hestandards.gov.au. TEQSA may assess aspects of a higher education providers operations including compliance with the Threshold Standards at any time. Various assessment mechanisms available to TEQSA are outlined in sections 59-61 of the TEQSA Act."

From the foregoing and the information available through the above link provided, it seems what TEQSA offers is a somewhat generic summary of the standards expected from higher education providers in Australia. As such it represents an overall framework within which these institutions are meant to operate.

Since TEQSA makes it clear - in the correspondence at hand as well as on its web pages - that its brief concerns the setting of standards, when it comes to practical measures in response to some non-observance TEQSA does not see itself as the appropriate instrument.

This may well be in line with the concept of the separation of powers; in this case between legislature and executive.


anchor arrow Minter Ellison Lawyers
"It is not our policy to respond to enquiries relating to clients of the firm" - Mark Green from Minter Ellison.


anchor arrow Update 22 January 2015: Jackie Trad, local Labor state representative for South Brisbane

As the date indicates this entry refers to events that happened a while later, with recent local and international developments lending them a particular poignancy.

With state elections set for 31 January our politicians are once again filling the letter boxes.

In the latest flyer from Jackie Trad a number of individuals from her electorate tell us how much she cares for the community, how she is there for us. Provided an issue can be turned into a polemic against the incumbents.

Other than that it's a different story.

Back in September 2014 I sent her an email about the then current inquiry by the Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC) into conduct by Metro North Hospital and Health Service; the Gold Coast Hospital was also mentioned. Since the CCC investigation was preceded by a report from Minter Ellison Lawyers, and this law firm has been, if not still is, in the employ of Griffith University, there could be a potential conflict of interest. I referred to my own experience with GU and Minter Ellison (see first section above). There was no response.

On 8 October I sent her a letter asking more specifically whether there was a veil of secrecy surrounding matters Griffith, especially since my dispute was about professional jealousy, subsequent fraud and deception, behind-the-scenes character assassination, and GU's vice-chancellor Ian O'Connor's attempt through Minter Ellison to have my website shut down. As mentioned before there have been a number of entities who suddenly became mute or changed their established procedures as soon as the name 'Griffith University' came up.

When there was still no reply by 6 November I went to Ms Trad's office asking for an appointment. Her assistant told me I would receive a reply within a week. I didn't.

On the 2 December I went to her office again and was assured a response would be forthcoming in January.

Well, it's the 22 January and I am still waiting.

It was Vice-Chancellor Ian O'Connor who secretly tried to invite Saudi Arabia onto his Nathan Campus. Griffith is supposed to be an Australian, therefore Western university, whereas Saudi Arabia has one of the worst human rights records in the world.

Leo McKinstry's article "Why is the West kowtowing to this monstrous regime?" gives some idea of what we are talking about.

Furthermore, it was Saudi Arabia which instigated diplomatic action against Denmark when Jyllands-Posten published a number of cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammad. This was two years before Ian O'Connor rolled out his welcome mat.

Since then the issue of free speech has not gone away, symbolised only recently by "Je suis Charlie". Those ramifications are redefining the global scene as we speak.

On the other hand Ms Trad is no slouch handling correspondence when it suits. On Friday 16 January I made an application for a postal vote on the Electoral Commission's website and I had my papers the following Tuesday. A day later, on 21 January, I got a personally addressed letter from Ms Trad dated 20 January with a how-to-vote card because she understood that I had applied for a postal vote.

From my action as a voter until her response : 4 days. From my inconvenient action concerning Griffith University until today and with no response in sight: almost 5 months.

Perhaps Ms Trad does not want to be bothered with fraud and the like, especially when it concerns Griffith University. Or perhaps her own background prevents her from relating to the sentiments coming from an advanced European nation.

I also do not have the thousands of dollars to pay admission to one of those events in Queensland where well-heeled citizens can voice their concerns to politicians from both major parties over dinner and wine.

Having politicians who use our resources for self-indulgence while completely ignoring the threats to their society shows how decadent we have become.

And by the way, the evidence supporting my complaints is stored away safely.


anchor arrow Final comments

14 June 2013: Not all entities on the list in the summary have been approached again for the purposes of this page, but that does not mean their responses at the time had been satisfactory.

Make no mistake, in any other less protective context these kind of actions would have resulted in jail sentences. In some countries a comparable behaviour to that of Ian O'Connor's Saudi affair could have seen him sentenced even to death. Then again, the spectacle of individuals crawling before another culture by damaging their own when such an act would be punishable over there, is not that uncommon. Generally speaking, the associated bias and revenge towards anyone daring to move away from the politically accepted has been a leitmotiv in universities ever since, although not every institution would have followed it as intensively as Griffith. The postmodernist slew to the left in Western academic circles has not been lost on others (for example, see the philosopher Leo Strauss' daughter Jenny Strauss Clay's responses to criticism of her father).

In Queensland we have the added element of parochialism which ensures the closing of ranks should any outsider question the tolerated mediocrity. In the case of the Crime and Misconduct Commission for example (one of the entities approached and currently subject to an inquiry into its conduct [2]) I was assured, "on my word as the Assistant Director", that the decision to investigate the Griffith matter would be made in Canberra (as is normal anyway). Yet it turned out it wasn't - the files stayed in Brisbane. Another piece in the mosaic of obfuscation which is representative of the entire scenario. It seems there are parallels to what happened between the University of Queensland and the CMC investigation into the former's alleged nepotism, see the social experiment page.

Queensland law firms themselves have come under the spotlight for unethical behaviour including lying to courts, embezzlement and exorbitant billing practices, so much so that Legal Services Commissioner John Briton has threatened to expose them publicly [3]. As for Minter Ellison Lawyers, whose head office is in Melbourne, offering to silence someone who complains about fraud (as you do when your client is rich enough) is a matter of aiding and abetting.

And then there are the ongoing revelations about behind-the-scenes behaviour that is highly questionable but nevertheless legal, such as the machinations within the Moreton Bay Regional Council regarding electioneering by its Mayor [4].

Although those events bear no direct relation to Griffith University, they do say something about the overall climate in which deals are made, responses are formulated, and consequences are passed over.

With such arrogant transgressions of ethics and willful applications of bias by the ruling class, is it any wonder more and more people are becoming radicalised?

After all, as history shows, no regime lasts forever. And when a new stage is set, will the old guard have secured their exits? Will Mark Green and his gang at Minter Ellison have arranged a safe haven for Ian O'Connor and Leneen Forde, a place perhaps where Asian maids can be had and tossed aside at their whim?

A rather pertinent quote comes to mind: "The standard you walk past is the standard you accept" - General David Morrison, in a response to misbehaviour by some military staff.

References:

1. Courier Mail, Brisbane, 1 July 2013, "PM faces down caucus haters after the coup".

2. Courier Mail, Brisbane, 7 March 2013, "Whistleblowers at risk"; 9 March, "Martin still faces inquiry"; 12 March, "CMC chief departs without resigning"; 13 March, "CMC breaks its own rules"; 16 March, "Boss defends CMC integrity"; 16 March, "Broken corruption watchdog put the bite on Parliament"; 21 March, "CMC 'drip-fed' information"; 23 March, "CMC says 16 'at risk' over files"; 6 April, "Keeping Watch On The Watchdog Is Quite A Job"; 24 April, "Premier hints at overlord for CMC"; 3 May, "CMC boss out after a month".

3. Courier Mail, Brisbane, 12 April 2013, "Watchdog tied on legal reform".

4. Courier Mail, Brisbane, 10 May 20113, "Driscoll had hand in push for Mayor's re-election".


© Martin Wurzinger - see Terms of Use