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5The Independent Weekly
news July 9 - 15, 2010
After his meetings became public,
his subsequent parliamentary travel
report mentioned their London
encounters, though not the one or
more in the United States.
Rann s report, dated June 23, says
Lee was in London to promote her
husband s new book. The report
also mentions that Lee indicated she
may not be able to start on July 1 as
planned, but it gives no indication
that this later starting date would
be a problem. "Officers within
the Department of Premier and
Cabinet are currently discussing
with Professor Lee her request to
delay taking up her appointment,"
It is not clear from the report
whether this was discussed with the
Premier during or after his London
There is no mention of the New
York meeting or meetings.
So how has the story of Laura Lee
developed so quickly from that of
eagerly sought-after international
architect heading up a key design
position in Adelaide to her not
coming at all?
The progress through June makes
subsequent developments more
Lee met Rann in Covent Garden
on June 3. They were photographed
by a South Australian, who thought
Lee was Rann s wife. The Premier
told ABC local radio he had dinner
with her. There was no mention
in the interview that Lee might be
having second thoughts.
On June 13, Lee was still
expecting to come to Adelaide.
An Adelaide journalist emailed
her asking for an interview to be
done after she arrived on July 1.
She replied: "I would be pleased to
meet with you when I am next in
Adelaide. When my diary is being
set for my time in SA, I will be sure
to make contact and arrange a time
to meet. Kind regards, Laura."
Just five days later, on the
morning of Friday, June 18, The
Independent Weekly reported
exclusively that Rann had met Lee
in New York. Later that same day,
a staffer for the Premier said Lee
had requested a delay to the start
of her job "due to changed family
and professional circumstance" and
this was being "considered" by the
There was little to suggest,
officially, that Lee s short delay
would be a major problem, given her
contract was for three years.
The Government staffer also said
Lee would be working part-time, and
at a lower rate than the rumoured
$250,000 a year.
But on Thursday, June 22 -- the day
the news was dominated by Julia
Gillard s ascension in Canberra --
Paul Holloway told the Legislative
Council the Government had
declined Lee s request for a delay to
September 1. His stated reason was
that there were too many projects
the Government had to get on
with. Not only that, he said, but the
Government had already moved to
appoint the Institute of Architects
Tim Horton to fill the post.
Some might suggest Lee s replace-
ment in the position was handled
with even more alacrity that Kevin
Rudd s removal as Prime Minister.
Efforts to contact Lee to discuss
her apparently sudden change of
heart have so far proved unsuccess-
But some observers might be
forgiven for thinking we have not
heard the whole story from the
Government and there are now
conflicts between what Rann wrote
in his report and what Holloway told
Rann s June 23 travel report says:
"I understand that Professor Laura
Lee is also assisting the Hon Paul
Holloway, the Minister for Urban
Planning, in arrangements for his
forthcoming visit to Europe to look
at urban design initiatives."
Yet Holloway initially denied
in Parliament he had such a trip
On July 1, more than a week after
Rann s report, shadow finance
minister Rob Lucas asked Holloway
about the cost and make-up of the
minister s proposed overseas trip.
"Will the minister be catching up
with Ms Lee whilst he is overseas to
discuss matters of mutual interest?"
Holloway was flummoxed. "I
would have thought hypothetical
questions are clearly out of order.
To ask about a trip that I have not
even gone on yet, that I haven t
even planned or booked is a bit it
outrageous," he replied.
Mr Holloway then went further,
accusing public servants of breach-
ing the Public Sector Act to supply
Lucas with information -- informa-
tion which had simply come from
Rann s own parliamentary report.
"Perhaps we do need an ICAC
(Independent Commission Against
Corruption) for these corrupt
public servants who are actually
breaching the law and telling the
honourable member. Perhaps the
Hon Mr Lucas s telephone should be
one that you would tap all the time.
You might pick up a few journalists
he is talking to."
The suggestion he would
countenance tapping journalists
conversations was stunning enough,
but Holloway then changed tack.
He next suggested Lee would not
be coming because of "constant
attacks that were really unneces-
sary ... why would any international
person want to come to our city?"
"Is that why she s not coming
here?" host Matt Abraham asked
Holloway on ABC radio.
"I don t know what you re trying
to prove," Holloway responded.
"It s just that he had, well he has, a
friendship with Laura Lee and knew
her quite well I think. Met her in
London and New York as part of his
overseas trip and then it all sort of
fell in a heap. It went pear-shaped,"
co-presenter David Bevan had said
But this may not be the end
of Lee s involvement. Holloway
has now revealed the professor
will still be on the public payroll,
funded through the Commonwealth
Government, to work on a project
with Adelaide City Council.
"Laura Lee has been very helpful
and continues to be helpful. She s
working on another project for
integrated design for the city,"
But what will she actually do,
and what could she have done
had she taken the original job?
"Laura Lee was appointed to
an exceptional new position,
one that is well-remunerated,
and has not given an interview
and has refused interviews
since that appointment,"
Sunday Mail editor Megan
Lloyd said on ABC radio. "So
she pops up overseas. She has
meetings with the Premier.
You ve got media who have been
trying to put some reasonable
questions to her. This is some-
one who the Opposition asked
questions about in Parliament.
Paul Holloway actually couldn t
answer about what her record
of achievement was prior to
this appointment in terms of
what has she actually built or
ABC Stateline editor Simon
Royal also voiced reservations.
"The oval will go where it
is and there is no alternative.
The hospital will go where it
is and there is no shifting that.
The City Council has its plans
for Victoria Square. These are
really important things that you
would think a commissioner ...
whose reason for being is the
integration of Adelaide, might
have something to say about it,"
"What is she going to do?
Choose the lighting and pavers?
If we were serious about
getting the maximum value
from that sort of position, the
integration of Adelaide, and you
have a number of really expensive
projects coming up, maybe you
would want that person to actually
have a say in where those projects
should go rather, than just lighting
Channel 7 political reporter and
some-time FIVEaa presenter Mike
Smithson finds some aspects of the
Lee story difficult to explain.
"I specifically asked the Premier,
Did you meet anyone from Carnegie
Mellon in America? and he said,
No, I didn t . Now, subsequently,
we ve found out that he did meet
with Laura Lee in America as well
as in London and Laura Lee is on the
Carnegie Mellon University Board.
She s an academic on the board.
"There is a little bit of a cloud
over what her exact role is in life.
Why did the Premier say, I didn t
meet anyone , but he actually met
her. Again, does this -- I m not saying
make us suspicious -- but it just,
something doesn t seem right with
this whole thing."
Meanwhile, the Premier is
refusing to say how much public
money Carnegie Mellon University
has been promised for its Adelaide
campus for the next four years.
The Opposition criticised the
original funding agreement for
establishing the campus, which
involved up to $19.5 million.
Rann told Parliament that the
agreement had expired and a new
one has been based on the univer-
sity s growing enrolments.
"The new agreement is exempt
from public disclosure under the
Department of the Premier and
Cabinet Circular 27 Disclosure of
Government Contracts," he said.
Meanwhile, the concept of
integrated design seems to have
slipped in the Adelaide Hills.
This week Mt Barker Council
decided to oppose the Government s
plan for an extra 50,000 people in the
area in just 15 years.
"It can t be supported at this time
because as a responsible council
we ve got to provide for the future
for our community and it s our
community now -- our grandchil-
dren and our great grandchildren,"
mayor Ann Ferguson said on
"I know we ve been identified for
growth, but it has to be managed,
sustainable. We must have solar,
we must have rainwater. These
people need to have parks to go to,
they need their toilets to be flushed
to provide them with this basic
day-to-day living, and at this time we
don t have that," said the mayor.
Local Government Association
president Felicity Lewis said other
councils were similarly worried. "I
think it s important to understand
that local government isn t anti-
development," she said. "It s about
Holloway is unrepentant. "We re
responsible to the people of SA for
growth," he emphasised. "If every
council said, We don t want growth
in our area , and they tend to do it
these days, what are we supposed to
do? Just stop all growth?"
Integrated design is a concept,
Laura Lee explained at that Town
Hall meeting, and about spaces
It is, she said, about "building
Yet from Mt Barker to Adelaide,
and in the spaces between, the
jack-in-the-box appointment and
sudden disappearance of the
Carnegie Mellon professor provokes
as much controversy as the urban
environment which the government
Curious case of Laura Lee
From Page 3
Rann in Parliament after his UK and US trip.
Photo: Kate Elmes
observers might be
forgiven for thinking
we have not heard the
whole story from the
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