A recent FOI release from the ANU showed that so far a total of $794,277.60 has been spent on establishing a new office in Perth for Chancellor Julie Bishop. This comes at a time of cost-cutting measures at the University. 

COVID-19 revenue loss has caused funding cuts across the ANU. Since the start of 2020, 529 courses have been disestablished (88 of which were taught in 2020). In a message which announced the ANU’s operating deficit of $162.4 million this April, Vice Chancellor Brian Schmidt described the past 12 months as the “hardest” period in the University’s 75-year existence. The pandemic has caused 467 redundancies in University staff so far. 

An ANU spokesperson noted that it is ANU policy to provide an office to the University Chancellor and support staff, including the Pro-Chancellor (the deputy of the Chancellor on the council, currently Ms Naomi Flutter). They also remarked that ANU maintained an office in Melbourne under former Chancellor Professor the Hon Gareth Evans and currently maintains offices and sites across other areas of Australia as a part of ANU’s national remit. 

Recently, The Canberra Times reported that the ANU’s Vice Chancellor Brain Schmidt defended the $800k expenditure on Ms Bishop’s office on the basis that it would be unfair not to give Ms Bishop equal treatment to the male Chancellors that came before her. Professor Schmidt said that I don’t think it’s appropriate, somehow, suddenly to have a female chancellor to treat her different than our previous male chancellors, and we need to give her the opportunity to really commit to the work she does for us at ANU and provide an appropriate set of accommodations”. 

In response to this, the ANU Education Activism Network stated in a post on Facebook it is “[d]isgraceful for Brian Schmidt to claim that women’s rights was the reason ANU management spent $800,000 on a new office for Julie ‘Asbestos’ Bishop, when hundreds of jobs have been cut, and while ANU still won’t commit to stop outsourcing student healthcare”. 

Ms Bishop forewent her honorarium – worth $75,000 – in 2020, due to the financial impact of the COVID-19 crisis. 

The ANU spokesperson also noted that the plans for the Perth Office began in 2019 when Julie Bishop was announced as Chancellor, before the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.  

They also noted that “it’s appropriate and valuable to have an office in WA, which is also used by travelling and Perth-based staff” and that “ANU will always ensure that any such arrangements add value to its operations and assist in the delivery of its distinct national mission”. The Perth Office has already been used for both student and alumni oriented events and will continue to be used for similar events in the future.