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Australian Catholic Uni "stalling" on rent demand

The Australian Catholic University is reportedly "stalling" a demand from Cardinal George Pell to pay millions of dollars in rent for its two Sydney campuses which, until now, it has leased for a peppercorn amount.

The protracted negotiations are the subject of a report in today's Australian Financial Review, which cites three separate sources in making its claim that Cardinal Pell has asked the university to pay $50 million over 20 years, which it says is equivalent to paying the Sydney Archdiocese $2.5 million a year for the use of the two campuses in North Sydney and Strathfield.

After a meeting this month, the university's senate said in a statement that after taking legal and financial advice, it had asked its two most senior officers to "enter into formal interactions" with the Archdiocese to resolve the rent issue and obtain security of tenure over the sites.

Under a gentleman's agreement the Sydney Archdiocese was charging the ACU a peppercorn rent of $10 annually. However, earlier this year, the Archdiocese informed the ACU it would exercise its right to review the properties' "management fees".

According to Cardinal Pell, the Strathfield campus is worth $19 million. A recent valuation of the North Sydney campus is understood to value it at more than $5 million.

Cardinal Pell is president of a company, Australian Catholic University Ltd, which owns the ACU, a private educational institution. (However, the ACU is subsidised by the federal government to offer courses for the same cost as a public university.) At the same time as he is trying to impose huge new costs on the ACU, Cardinal Pell is also championing the entry into Sydney of the Perth-based Catholic university, Notre Dame Australia. The two universities will both be offering courses in Sydney in the subject areas of teaching, nursing and business.

A member of the ACU negotiating team, the university's chancellor, Br Julian McDonald, last week refused to add to the brief statement released by the ACU after the senate meeting.

The dispute began earlier this year when the Archdiocese informed the ACU it would exercise its right under the terms of the agreement to review the properties' management fees. The ACU's vice-chancellor, Peter Sheehan, warned at that time that the university could not afford to pay a commercial rent without reducing staff numbers or raising fees.

Catholic uni delays rent demand (Australian Financial Review 29/11/2004 - payment required)

ACU National
ACU Senate mulls over Sydney Archdiocese rent determination (CathNews 19/11/04)
ACU National in negotiation over rental determination with the Archdiocese of Sydney (Australian Catholic University 18/11/04)
ACU Senate considers Pell concerns about curriculum (CathNews 24/9/04)
Teaching program review at ACU National (Australian Catholic University 23/9/04)
ACU National seeks further legal advice on rental demand from Archdiocese (Australian Catholic University 23/9/04)
Pell denies link between Uni rent and curriculum change (CathNews 17/9/04)
Pell in rent bargain with Australian Catholic University (CathNews 9/9/04)
Pell offers rent break for more religion in uni (Australian Financial Review 9/9/04)
ACU head reveals surprise at Notre Dame Uni announcement (CathNews 4/8/04)
Notre Dame welcomes Federal support for Sydney campus (CathNews 2/8/04)
Who puts the 'R' in Catholic? Who puts the 'C' in Liberal Arts? 'We Do!' (ABC Religion Report 12/5/04)

29 Nov 2004