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You may have noticed that eccentric billionaire Clive Palmer likes to style himself “professor”. The title is certainly all over his companies’ websites, over presentations he gives, in Woman’s Day. Undoubtedly it adds a certain lustre to the Palmer reputation, suggesting the man is not merely a mining behemoth but of gargantuan intellect as well.

How did Palmer acquire this title and what is he a professor of, exactly? David Peetz, a professor himself at Griffith University, pointed out to us that Palmer’s original “professorship” had finished. From 2002 until February 11 last year, Palmer held two honorary appointments as adjunct professor at Deakin University. According to the university: “People who are given the honorary title (adjunct professor) are allowed to use the title of professor but in all formal documentation and sign off they must use the full title of adjunct professor. They are not considered employees of the university.”

But Palmer also took another adjunct professorship, at Bond University, in June 2008. The university told Crikey:

“This role is honorary and is given to individuals in recognition of their goodwill, positive endeavours and support to the academic institution.

“In Mr Palmer’s case, he has contributed by sharing his business expertise and experience with our students, assisting with the placement and career outcomes for graduates, and the provision and facilitation of industry networks.

“As is common practice within university circles, an adjunct position gives the holder the right to use the title ‘adjunct professor’ and the use of this title is normally reserved by the holder to matters and events of university relevance.”

Whether Palmer uses the title in a manner “reserved to matters and events of university relevance” is something perhaps for Bond University to consider.

But better yet, what is Palmer’s adjunct professorship in? He’s adjunct professor of management at the university’s School of Sustainable Development.

Well, more accurately the Mirvac School of Sustainable Development.

The school’s focus is primarily on urban design, but Palmer’s record on sustainable development provides an intriguing contrast. To take just two current examples: Palmer’s Queensland Nickel has been criticised for the environmental and social damage being inflicted on Raja Ampat in West Papua, sufficient to prompt the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission to criticise Queensland Nickel; then there’s Waratah Coal’s apparent determination, as part of the vast, troubled China First project, to ride roughshod over community concerns about the likely destruction of the Bimblebrox Nature Refuge.

Then again, as the Mirvac School of Sustainable Development says in its promotional materials, “sustainable development is not just about minimising environmental impacts”.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
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