The Sydney Morning Herald has lost its bid to use Freedom of Information to access and publish an internal Sydney University report into alleged professional misconduct by the Dean of the Conservatorium of Music, Professor Kim Walker.

Sigrid Higgins, a judicial member of the NSW Administrative Decisions Tribunal, has delivered a 12-page judgment supporting the university’s right to keep the report into alleged plagiarism, prepared by barrister Anthony Britt, private and confidential.

Walker was temporarily suspended duing the inquiry but was restored to her position last September after the allegations against her were found to be “completely unsubstantiated”.

Last December the university issued a press release saying that there had been an “inadvertent inaccuracy” in one Walker’s footnotes which she had corrected in a “spontaneous and unprompted” action, adding: “No other allegation was substantiated.”

In rejecting the SMH application to publish the Britt report, Ms Higgins found that the entire body of the report had been obtained under conditions of strict confidentiality and that to breach that confidentiality would impair the university’s ability to receive and test complaints in the future.

She also found that disclosure of the report would, on balance, be contrary to the public interest.

But the frenzied opponents of Walker have not taken this setback lying down. Now they have obtained a commitment from incoming Vice Chancellor Dr Michael Spence to conduct a wide-ranging inquiry into the management of the Con.

Spence has appointed former Federal Court judge Roger Gyles QC to head the investigation.

Will the anti-Walker brigade be silenced if Gyles gives her a clean bill of health? Not likely.

Peter Fray

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