CHARLES Sturt University (CSU) has defended spending $2665 to meet with Liberal Party powerbrokers at four functions to further its case for a rural medical school.
CSU representatives met with members of the Liberal Party of Australia NSW Division four times between February and June this year, information obtained on the Electoral Commission NSW website reveals.
Three functions were held in Sydney and one in Canberra with NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and the state’s treasurer Dominic Perrottet among those the university’s officials met with.
Donations of $490, $800, $1100 and $275 were paid by CSU to attend the functions.
The NSW Auditor-General's Report states that “universities should ensure their policies prohibit political donations”.
A CSU spokesman said the university engages with politicians and political parties from the government, the opposition and the cross-bench for a variety of reasons.
“To advance the interests of the university, specifically our research priorities, community projects and increased funding for higher education more generally,” he said.
“It is no secret that the university has been very committed to its vision for a medical school based in a regional area.”
The spokesman said the medical school project required strong relationships to be built with government at all levels.
“[These meetings helped] to raise awareness and push for a greater understanding of the critical importance to country communities of providing medical training in the bush,” he said.
“It is important for Charles Sturt University, as Australia’s largest regional university, to be engaged with decision and policy-makers within all levels of government.
“As part of the university’s advocacy on issues of significance to the organisation and its regional communities, the leadership of the university will meet and speak with ministers and all members of parliament to discuss a broad range of initiatives that will progress the university and benefit our regions.”
The spokesman said the university had met its legal obligations in the area of political disclosures.
“In doing so the university acknowledges the guidelines provided in the Auditor General’s Report,” he said.
CSU has partnered with La Trobe University to advocate strongly for a Murray Darling Medical School (MDMS) to be approved.
According to the MDMS website, the school would be “a rurally-focused medical school with campuses in Orange, Wagga-Wagga and Bendigo – across the Murray Darling region where doctor shortages impact on health care”.