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Monday, 18 November 2002
Page: 6576


Senator CARR (1:52 PM) —I am speaking today on the Higher Education Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 3) 2002. This is the bill that closes down that bunch of frauds, those shonks, those shysters, out at Norfolk Island, whom this minister has defended for the last four years. We have a situation where the Labor Party has raised certain matters concerning these people for four years through Senate estimates and the government has been defending them. Now the government has been forced to bring in a bill to close down this shonky operation. We applaud the government for finally realising what a hopeless bunch of administrators they are. At the last Senate estimates the government said that I was the `$3 million man'. Remember that? On and on the government went about the amount of money spent through the Senate estimates as I was trying to force this government to be accountable. Well, this is the sort of work that Senate estimates actually produces: a situation where the government, despite the unbelievable stupidity of the ministers on the other side of this chamber, has been obliged to act.

I say that $3 million, which is an extraordinary figure even by the government's amazing calculations, in that context demonstrates that this government is able to be held accountable through the work of this Senate. I say this in a context where we have an international export industry worth about $4 billion per annum, and it is the failure of this government to protect that industry—its failure to ensure that serious quality assurance measures are actually in place—that has put that industry at risk. The international education industry in Australia has been put at risk by the actions of the Greenwich so-called `University', this mob at Greenwich, the cuckoo in the nest of Australian higher education. Of course, they were never a university, but they were allowed to exist and to trade on the international education market as a result of the blunders of this government and the debacle by the ministers for territories and education in this parliament. We have seen these ministers referred to in many quarters as the galahs of international education in this country because of their failure to accept the evidence presented for some years in this chamber. They were being duped. They were being led up the garden path by the Norfolk Island legislature—all nine good men and true out there and I think I have seen a couple of women there as well. They were being misled by that body. We had a minister that accepted the advice that an Internet university would only work on one island. The Internet, according to Senator Macdonald, would only apply on Norfolk Island—an extraordinary proposition.

The ministers were led up the garden path by some shadowy figures. There is, for instance, the Duke of Brannagh—one Dr John Walsh, the so-called chancellor of the university on Norfolk Island. Dr Walsh—`the duke', as he has been infamously known throughout recent years in education circles—has seen this Internet outfit kicked out of two states of the United States, Missouri and then Hawaii, and kicked out of New Zealand and Victoria but accepted by this government. It was accepted by the people within this government who do not seem to know day from night when it comes to education. The duke got really lucky when he found that Senator Macdonald had been appointed the Minister for Regional Services, Territories and Local Government and that there was a minister, Dr Kemp, who was more than happy to accept any advice from Norfolk Island's legislature on this issue. The councillors of Norfolk Island were of course playing right into the hands of the duke at Greenwich University, because they were operating in cloud-cuckoo-land.

Greenwich University have never been a real university. They have been up to some extraordinary practices over time which have made Australia the laughing stock of the rest of the international education community. They ran courses in advanced alchemy, new mysticism and intuition. They ran some orthodox courses as well, but the courses were established in such a way that we saw the chair of an ad hoc committee, established through the department of education and the Commonwealth, challenge the bona fides and indicate, through Senate estimates, that there were in fact operations at Greenwich that were frankly not up to the standards of a high school course on the mainland—yet they were claiming themselves to be a university! We had a situation where they were not able to operate on the basis of a normal year 12 standard to be found anywhere else in the country.

We had a strange litany of staff employed at Greenwich. There was a person who was employed as the head of the consciousness studies department, Dr Weiss Miller PhD. He had a doctorate from—you guessed it— Greenwich University and he was a member of the Association for Past Life Research and Therapies. I think that is a remarkable qualification for an academic in any university; nonetheless, he was given this special appointment. We had the Reverend Carl Lindgren, who was a member of the International Order of the King's Daughters and Sons and a member of the Sovereign Order of Orthodox Knights Hospitaller of St John of Jerusalem and an ordained chaplain of the Rose Cloister. These may be important qualifications in a university, but only this government would see them as being necessary for employment at a university in this country. We cannot really believe some of the actions that I have referred to. We have Dr Walsh, who, as I remember, bought the royal titles to the Russian throne and also the French throne and managed to organise himself in this way. Interestingly enough, he was deputy chair of the Internet gaming commission on Norfolk Island as well, so I think we can understand how he can apply these creative talents to more commercial ventures as well. He had attracted a number of degrees from the Columbia Pacific University, a university which was forced to close by the US government. The big clincher was of course the Vice-Chancellor of Greenwich University, a Dr Ian McKechnie, who was a convicted embezzler. He knocked off $220,000 from the Brotherhood of St Laurence in Victoria— quite an achievement indeed for a vice-chancellor!

The Commonwealth government allowed this shonky operation to continue for four years on the basis that advice was given by the department that the ministerial adviser in Dr Kemp's office, Mr Phil Norton, said, `Look, there are so many shonky universities operating in Australia at the moment that one more won't matter.' What a tragedy! The tragedy is that the government took four years to wake up to itself and chose to defend this outfit for that period. Now the parliament is seeking to redress the problems created by this government. It is, as I said, a great tragedy that it took so long for that to occur. I think we ought to bear in mind, however, the comments made by people in this chamber, Senator Tierney being one. He described the comments made by the Labor Party as `outrageous behaviour' which was defaming the staff of Greenwich University and said that we were grasping at straws in attacking this organisation.

Debate interrupted.