Education union calls for new Crown chairman to step down from university role

By Ethan Anderson Updated
Crown CEO Steve McCann exits the business

The incoming Crown Resorts chairman Ziggy Switkowski is facing calls to step aside from his role as a chancellor of a Melbourne university.

The Age reports that the National Tertiary Education Union, which represents university staff and academics, has said the former Telstra and Optus boss’ new role at the gambling giant is inconsistent with RMIT University’s values.

“The NTEU and the wide RMIT community expects chancellors to demonstrate a commitment to social wellbeing and the public interest,” the union told members on Thursday.

Petition calling for Switkowski’s resignation

A union petition calling for Dr Switkowskis’ immediate resignation says that Crown has “been shown time and again to be a socially destructive force”.

“The Higher Education Act requires by law that University Council members have ‘an appreciation of the values of a university’,” it says.

“Given RMIT values include being ‘agents of positive change for our students, the community and beyond’, it is simply untenable that Ziggy Switkowski continues in his role of RMIT chancellor or as a council member whilst chair of Crown Resorts Board.”

Asked to comment on the push for his resignation, Dr Switkowski said: “This matter is being dealt with by the RMIT team and enquiries should be referred to them”.

An RMIT spokeswoman said it was “a matter for the chancellor and RMIT council”.

The RMIT council, which is the university’s governing body and is chaired by Dr Switkowski, has been contacted for comment.

Crown named Dr Switkowski as its new chairman in late August, to replace former Howard government minister Helen Coonan as the $6.3 billion grou’s casino licences in Melbourne, Perth and Sydney are in jeopardy following a string of high-profile scandals.

Victoria’s royal commission into Crown will deliver its findings on whether it is fit to hold the licence for its flagship Melbourne casino by October 15, after exposing a string of legal and ethical breaches including its cavalier approach to gambling harm.

Crown’s licence for its new Sydney casino is suspended after an inquiry in NSW confirmed reports that Crown had facilitated money laundering and had been infiltrated by organised crime syndicates.

A separate royal commision into Crown’s Perth casino is underway in Western Australia.

The rolling scandals that have hit Crown over the past two years have prompted an almost complete clean-out of its board and senior management.

The company has pledged to “reform” to win back the confidence of gambling regulators and the public.

Announcing his appointment to lead Crown’s board, Dr Switkowski said he was looking forward to “working with board colleagues, CEO Steve McCann and Crown employees to grow value for shareholders by continuing the urgent work to reform the business”.

Coonan welcomes Switkowski to top job

Switkowski will formally take the reins following approvals, a Crown spokesperson said, with the non-executive director Jane Halton to act as the firm’s interim chair.

Coonan, who became Crown chairman in February 2020 after joining as a director in 2011, said it had been a privilege to serve on the company’s board.

The former Howard government minister added that her aim had been to drive a “transformation” of the company after its reputation was left in tatters by the inquiries in NSW, Victoria and WA.

“Crown is firmly on a pathway to rebuild trust and positioned for success over the long term,” Coonan said.

She also welcomed the appointment of Switkowski and said a smooth succession was critical for Crown.

Coonan became the focus of intense scrutiny at the tail end of Victoria’s recent inquiry into whether Crown could retain a licence for its Melbourne operations.

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