Page 3248 - Week 11 - Tuesday, 13 November 2007

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On this matter—on the OMFC matter—I am not going to say anything more. The processes that Health have in place are operating. The cases have been referred from one doctor. They are going through the hospital’s processes. They are going through the clinical privileges committee, which is the appropriate place for them to go through. If there are any further allegations to be made, I will not be responding to Mrs Burke, because this is not the right place to do it.

Schools—student smoking

MRS DUNNE: My question is to the Minister for Education and Training. Minister, on 5 November this year, in an interview on WIN television in relation to information that a 16-year-old student at a Canberra high school was allowed to smoke, you stated that “16-year-old girls often make statements that are not correct”. The mother of the student in question also believes that it had been agreed that her daughter would be allowed to smoke when she was let out of detention to destress herself. Minister, why did you portray to the community that this student and her mother were liars? What has your department done to address this student’s addiction?

MR BARR: I thank Mrs Dunne for the question. In relation to my statement during that press conference, I was asked a direct question following the series of statements I had made, and, as I have been stating from the beginning, when it was first raised by 2CC on the Saturday prior, 27 October, that there was no truth in the allegation that the school had given the student in question permission to leave school grounds to smoke. That was the allegation that was made, but at no point has that ever been the case. So the entire premise of the 2CC report and the subsequent story in the Sunday Telegraph were false, as has been indicated repeatedly by the principal of the school and by staff at the school reporting to the principal.

Let me make this clear: at no point did the school condone the student smoking; at no point did the school give the student permission to leave the campus to smoke; at no point has the department of education given the student permission to smoke; at no point have I, as minister, given the student permission to smoke. The question of what the student does off the school grounds is, of course, a matter for that student and for the student’s mother. However, the student has been provided with a range of counselling and support services. Without wanting to go too far, because I do not believe this is the appropriate place to be discussing the pastoral care needs of this particular student, it would be fair to observe that this particular student, over the course of her studies at this high school, has been suspended on occasion and has needed additional support. The allegations that have been made perhaps have been accelerated by those opposite, who, in spite of repeated denials from the school that the incident ever took place, have sought continually to raise this matter.

The fact that it got into the national media is unfortunate, given the fact that there is no validity to the story, and it perhaps stands as a lesson for journalists to check their facts before they pursue these sorts of stories. It is interesting that some of television’s more entertaining programs, Today Tonight and A Current Affair, sought to pursue the story but dropped it on the basis of their concern that in fact there was no story. So when those particular television programs show no interest in something, it does give

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