Misha Ketchell writes:

Crikey has learned that the
daughter of Foreign Minister Alexander Downer has won a prestigious
British Government scholarship to study in the UK worth up to $60,000 –
after her father discussed her application with the British High
Commissioner.

25(?)-year-old Georgina Downer has won one of the
British Government’s Chevening postgraduate scholarships, to be
announced in a few weeks’ time, and has left her job at the law firm
Minter Ellison and moved to London to prepare to study at the London
School of Economics.

Crikey has obtained evidence that Mr Downer
discussed his daughter’s application with the (now retired) British
High Commissioner Sir Alastair Goodlad, casting doubt about the impartiality of the selection process. Crikey
also understands that Georgina Downer has privately acknowledged that
she was awarded the scholarship because she is the daughter of the
foreign minister.

And although the scholarships are available
only to Australians who “have obtained, or expected to obtain, at least
an upper second class undergraduate degree,” according to the
application forms, (Here) Georgina Downer was awarded a low third class
honours degree from Melbourne University (here). In 2003, foe example, seven out of eight Chevening scholars had first class honours degrees.

A
Downer spokesman, Chris Kenny, told Crikey the foreign minister had not
“lobbied” over his daughter’s application and he “resents the
suggestion that his daughter may not have won the scholarship had she
not been the daughter of the Foreign Minister.”

A
spokesman for the British High Commission in Canberra has told Crikey
the 2005 scholarship winners were still to be finalised and it wasn’t
the High Commission’s “recollection of events” that Mr Downer had
raised his daughter’s application. Even if Mr Downer had mentioned it,
he said, the High Commissioner doesn’t play a role in the selection
process.

He said he Chevening selection panel considered
interview performance as well as academic results and it was
“unashamed” about awarding scholarships to people with the potential to
improve ties between Australian the UK. Crikey rang Sir Alastair
Goodlad, who’s retired to London, but he refused to answer any
questions about the scholarship. Georgina Downer has not replied to
emails from Crikey.

The Chevening Scholarships, for a year’s
study for a postgraduate qualification, are funded by the British
Foriegn Office and the Commonwealth Office. http://bhc.britaus.net/News/newsdefault.asp?id=193 Current federal finance minister Nick Minchin was a former scholar. Need more here…

http://www.law.unimelb.edu.au/ugrad/2003finalhonoursNo.3.pdf

Peter Fray

Get your first 12 weeks of Crikey for $12.

Without subscribers, Crikey can’t do what it does. Fortunately, our support base is growing.

Every day, Crikey aims to bring new and challenging insights into politics, business, national affairs, media and society. We lift up the rocks that other news media largely ignore. Without your support, more of those rocks – and the secrets beneath them — will remain lodged in the dirt.

Join today and get your first 12 weeks of Crikey for just $12.

 

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

JOIN NOW