Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 8 Hansard (27 October) . . Page.. 2314 ..
MR BERRY (continuing):
It is a disappointing chapter. I trust that it was just an honest mistake. I hope that there is some sort of retraction. I just hope that this episode assists in alerting the media to be extremely careful about their reporting of incidents that may happen in schools because of the potential permanent damage that they can do to schools by exaggerating the incidents which occur.
It could be seen to be colourful news reporting these sorts of things; but an altercation between a couple of students, or even a few students, is not enough to blacken the image of a school. In my view, this was a very risky course for Ten Capital to have taken, so far as the school was concerned. I respect their right to report things as they see them, but I hope that they will be just a little bit more cautious in future.
MR STEFANIAK (Minister for Education) (5.24): Mr Temporary Deputy Speaker, I endorse the comments Mr Berry made and intend to speak in this adjournment debate on that subject. Mr Berry has the press release which I put out in conjunction with the Attorney-General and Minister responsible for police services, whose department also has suffered as a result of this incident. The news footage, I understand, was of weapons being in the vicinity of Lyneham High during an incident that occurred there at 3.00 pm yesterday. That is completely false. In fact, the AFP has confirmed that the scenes with a knife and a baseball bat being taken in evidence have no relationship whatsoever to the incident at Lyneham and, in fact, they related to an armed robbery. I will be tabling the press release, which contains the police Minister's statement of the events, so I will not speak to that. The reports of the incident by the police and the school authorities make no mention of any weapons at all. The footage was completely misleading and it has caused considerable distress to parents, students and the staff of Lyneham High School. A number of those parents have rung my office to express their concern about this, and I share their concern.
I would endorse what Mr Berry said, too. He is quite right in saying that Lyneham High School is an excellent high school. I have been advised by the police whom I spoke to that they were most impressed by the action of the principal in relation to this incident. They have an excellent working relationship with the principal and with the school. I commend the principal and the staff for the way they handled this matter and for running an excellent school in the ACT. I want to stress that.
I also commend the very prompt action of the Australian Federal Police in this matter. We are very lucky. Not only do we have excellent schools and excellent staff of the calibre of Lyneham High School, but we have a truly excellent police force as well.