Page 3249 - Week 11 - Tuesday, 13 November 2007

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one an indication that perhaps there is no validity to the particular story. It is unfortunate that the opposition continues to peddle it. It is unfortunate that Mrs Dunne continues to appear on a particular radio station and to use question time to peddle this myth. It did not happen; at no point did the school give this student permission to smoke.

I have made very clear the government’s position in relation to smoking in our schools. It is interesting that, five months ago, when I made an announcement that there would be no smoking from 2008 on any ACT public school campus, Mrs Dunne went to the media and said this was a bad decision that was made without consultation and that teachers had a very stressful job. The implication of Mrs Dunne’s statement was that teachers should be allowed to smoke on campus. Mrs Dunne now comes into this place and seeks to argue that the government is not setting an example in this area. Given her statements to the Canberra Times at the time, and repeated again when she was challenged by the Canberra Times on this matter only last week, it represents a new level of hypocrisy for Mrs Dunne. It is unfortunate that she seeks to use this unfortunate situation and the troubles of a 16-year-old girl at one of our high schools to score political points. It is very disappointing.

MR SPEAKER: A supplementary question from Mrs Dunne.

MRS DUNNE: Thank you, Mr Speaker. First of all, can you actually confirm the impression that you have now put on the record that what has happened in this case is that the school has allowed the student to leave the campus and they will turn a blind eye to what they do when they leave the campus? Isn’t the fact that you have effectively claimed that the girl and her mother are liars an attempt to cover your appalling handling of this matter?

MR BARR: Mr Speaker, I reject both of those outrageous assertions by Mrs Dunne. They are not really even worthy of a response. But again I need to stress and put on the record that at no point did the school ever say that it was okay for a student to leave the school grounds to smoke.

We know from the interview on WIN television and from the various other media interviews that the student has undertaken that the student has an addiction to cigarettes. So the important question, surely, should be: how can we, the community, or this Assembly or the shadow minister possibly assist in helping this student? The important thing here is that this student is able to complete her studies to get the year 10 certificate and to receive assistance to give up smoking.

Those would seem to be the two important things that should come from this incident, if any good can come from this incident with the muck-raking and the peddling and all the offers and bribes that have been thrown around by certain media organisations in an attempt to draw this story out. With all the allegations that are out there about what is really behind this, the two good things that could come out of it would be for the student concerned to finish year 10 and get a year 10 qualification and receive assistance to give up smoking. They would be two very positive outcomes. Can I say that the staff at Stromlo high are working very hard to achieve those two positive outcomes?

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