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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Professor Barry Spurr's emails

Although Professor Barry Spurr is obviously a clever man, he didn't know one of the most important rules in life - never put down in writing what you really think, unless you are prepared to see it published on the front page of tomorrow's newspaper. 

And that's what happened, the esteemed Professor of Poetry has been suspended by the prestigious University of Sydney for revealing how he really feels about sensitive issues, particularly Aboriginal issues.

He referred to Prime Minister Tony Abbott as an "Abo lover", Nelson Mandela as a "darky" and described Aboriginal people as "human rubbish tips."  He also referred to the 1950s when there weren't so many "bogans" "fatsoes" "Mussies" and "Chinky-poos" around.

The professor hit back and said the emails were just a "whimsical linguistic game."

Chris Graham

As soon as the news broke, the university issued the following statement:

Professor Spurr is suspended, effective immediately, from teaching and engaging in any other University business and is precluded from attending any University campus while the matter is investigated and dealt with in accordance with the terms of the University's Enterprise Agreement.
Racist, sexist or offensive language is not tolerated at the University of Sydney.  The expectations of our staff and affiliates in respect of their professional conduct are clearly set out in the University's Code of Conduct.

Enter Chris Graham, new editor of New Matilda, a centre-left independent Australian website of news, analysis and satire.  Mr Graham was the former managing editor and founder of Tracker magazine, owned by the NSW Aboriginal Land Council and is also the former and founding editor of the National Indigenous Times (NIT).

The professor's lawyers have been successful in stopping the emails for now - the Federal Court has ordered New Matilda not to publish any more details before another court hearing tomorrow.

Chris Graham said the professor wants the emails returned, the articles deleted and the source of the leak revealed.  He said that hell would freeze over first. 

And there's a threat hanging over the recipients of those emails - nobody knows who they are because their names were blacked out. These friends of the professor, who apparently share his views, might be mortified to be brought into the scandal. And Chris Graham could release them tomorrow.

When the professor said they were just a "whimsical linguistic game," Graham released a second lot of his emails which made it quite clear that definitely was not the case.

Yesterday in the Federal Court in Sydney, Professor Spurr's barrister Arthur Moses SC, argued the publication of the emails had breached the common law protection against the invasion of privacy. Graham said he was still waiting for a legal briefing on its potential ramifications.

Frances Abbott

Last month Freya Newman 21, pleaded guilty to one count of accessing data held in a computer to obtain details of a $60,000 Whitehouse Institute of Design scholarship to Tony Abbott's daughter Frances and handing it over to a journalist.  Not long after, those details appeared in New Matilda.