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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 2 Hansard (6 March) . . Page.. 642..


MRS BURKE (continuing):

your approval for students, including many wearing school uniforms, to take part in political protest marches during school time?

MS GALLAGHER: No, I did not. However, we need to recognise that young people's participation in demonstrations is an important part of their growing up. The view I took was that it was a family matter that should have been discussed with their parents. There are measures in place, if parents approve of students being absent from school, to forward a note to the school, to approve that absence from school. From a legal point of view it would be impossible and actually negligent for the department to have given broad approval, saying, "All right, you can go."

We have obligations to students while they are inside the school gate during school hours. The demonstration was at lunchtime, which does encompass those hours. We should not and did not do it. However, having said that, I do acknowledge that the right to demonstrate, particularly in a time of such international uncertainty, is really important, particularly for our growing teenagers and adolescents, and it was quite proper for those students to attend, if they had their parents' approval.

MRS BURKE: I have a supplementary question. I thank the minister for her response to my question. I do not doubt for one minute that students have a right to protest. Minister, what action have you taken to ensure that teachers and schools are not actually fostering such action and are taking steps to ensure that students are at school, where they should be under the Education Act?

MS GALLAGHER: As I said, the teachers have acted appropriately. If the students were not at school and attended the protest yesterday, it was done with their parents' approval and not with the approval of the education department.

Bushfires

MRS DUNNE: My question is to the Chief Minister. Yesterday, in response to a question, you said, Chief Minister, that you had not been briefed on aspects of the fires on 18 January under the control of the New South Wales Rural Fire Service. Given that this was a crucial part of the firefighting effort and that you were the responsible minister at the time, wasn't it remiss of you not to have been briefed? Why weren't you briefed? Did you seek a briefing; if not, why not?

MR STANHOPE: Mr Speaker, I may have misled the Assembly yesterday. Yes, Mr Speaker, I was told that there was a dirty great bushfire burning in New South Wales, called the McIntyres Hut fire, and I was told that arrangements had been made for the New South Wales Rural Fire Service to be responsible for the fighting and containing of that fire. I was told that. I regret it if I have inadvertently misled the Assembly in relation to my claim that I had not been briefed. What I meant was that I had not been briefed on why, if or whether the Batemans Bay fire brigade had been turned back at the top of the Clyde Mountain.

I discovered today, in the briefing I received today from the Emergency Services Bureau, that they have at this stage no formal recollection or memory of having ever had any contact with the Batemans Bay fire brigade, but they think that maybe the New South Wales Rural Fire Service did, because the Batemans Bay fire brigade is a New South


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