Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Good work if you have a mate who gets it for you

THERE are still some pockets of probity in Australia's fine institutions of higher learning, and it is to be hoped that one of these yet survives at Macquarie University, new employer of Margo Kingston. If so, here are a few questions that need to be placed before the university administration:

1/ By what process did Margo come to be granted access to Macquarie's funds?
2/ Was the position advertised, with desired qualifications listed and other candidates interviewed. If so, who and how many?
3/ Has anyone else ever been engaged via the same process, whatever it may have been, that added Margo to the payroll?
4/ How much will Margo be paid?
5/ Who will vet her timesheets, expenses etc?
6/ Was the relationship between Margo and Catharine Lumby known when the former's appointment was confirmed?.
7/ Who approved the appointment other than, presumably, Lumby?

and finally,

8/ Are Macquarie University's ethical standards as high as those of the woman it has just engaged?

In September, 2005, Margo Kingston's Web Diary published an article under the byline of Catharine Lumby. At the foot of the article, this disclosure appeared (emphasis added):

Catharine Lumby has worked as a print journalist for two decades in Australia and the US. She is the Chair of the Media and Communications Department at the University of Sydney. Her most recent book, coedited with Elspeth Probyn, is Remote Control: New Media, New Ethics published by Cambridge University Press.

Disclosure: Catharine is a friend of Margo’s and former Fairfax colleague.

Was a similar disclosure made when Lumby, presumably, engaged Margo? If not, why not?

UPDATE: Macquarie University helpfully provides a code of ethics to guide its staff in the conduct of their duties. The section reproduced below comes to mind (underlines added for emphasis):

Conflicts of Interest

Conflicts of interest are inevitable in modern universities and do not, of themselves, imply impropriety. A conflict of interest will arise, however, where a staff member engages in activities or advances personal interests at the expense of the University's interests or the interests of other staff members or students. In these circumstances, the staff member must declare the conflict to their supervisor and take immediate steps to resolve the conflict of interest.

Staff are to avoid any financial or other interest or undertaking that could directly or indirectly compromise, or appear to compromise, the performance of their duties. Staff faced with a potential conflict of interest must seek advice from their supervisor or other senior members of the University.

The following situations are provided as examples of where a potential for conflict of interest exists:

A. Financial Interests
B. Personal and family relationships between staff members
C. Personal and family relationships between staff members and students
D. Research.......

B. Personal and family relationships between staff members

  • Where staff are working with family members or with persons with whom they develop close personal relationships or such relationships exist with prospective staff they must be aware that this has the potential to create a conflict of interest if one staff member is:
    • involved in a decision relating to the selection, appointment or promotion of another;
    • in a supervisory relationship to another and is responsible for employment related decisions. Such decisions could include the provision of opportunities and resource allocation for research, conferences and staff training and development; and referee reports, or annual performance development reviews.

 UPDATE II: Catharine and Margo, these gals are tight!

...and, boy, are these gals tight...


  1. The second link "And tight" to no longer works - I wonder why that would be...?

  2. As Barry Humphries once famously said, "That's not a conflict of interest, that's a CONVERGENCE of interest".

  3. Is not Margo the wunderkind who discovered that we can save the planet by not flushing the lavatory each time we urinate? Ah! And so civilisation marches forward, one inch at a time.
    Now, had she lived in a rural area, someone could have told her about 'longdrops', or even how to make lemon trees flourish.
    My apology for being scattalogical - it is from the nature of the subjects of this post.

  4. 1. Prof Lumby is listed as being on the staff of USydney, then UNSW, and finally MacquarieU. Either she can't hold a job, or her employer requires frequent name changes, to stay ahead of the bailiffs?

    2. "gals are tight"- are we referring to an excess of alcohol consumed?


  5. Macquarie University has plenty of form when it comes to hiring people of little competence yet with 'approved views'.