I smiled to myself when Charles Richardson described Dr Kevin Donnelly
as “supposedly partisan.” That’s like saying Eddie Everywhere calls a
fair and balanced Collingwood game. This so-called independent expert
is a Liberal Party member, a former chief-of-staff to Federal Liberal
Minister Kevin Andrews and is a serial Liberal preselection candidate.
These things alone should discredit him as being an independent expert.

Adding to his credentials, Mr Donnelly has spent years trying to peddle
the ‘I’ve Got the Power’ anti-smoking campaign into Australian schools.
Interestingly, the whole program was funded by tobacco giant Phillip
Morris. Hmm.

The program was aimed at youngsters and supposedly gave them the power
to make the right decision about smoking, ie when is the best time to
start. The program even had a role playing section where students
used peer group pressure to convince someone to smoke!

What the program doesn’t mention are any facts about the death and
disease caused by smoking. When the program was rejected by Australian
schools and educators, the good Doctor tried to flog it in poorer
Asian countries. Professor Simon Chapman, a leading international
authority on tobacco control and editor of the British Medical
Journal’s research journal, Tobacco Control, has described ‘I’ve Got The
Power’ as “a typical tobacco industry sponsored content-free zone where
you will search in vain for any information that actually explains why
smoking is harmful.”

“All over the world, the tobacco industry cynically funds these token
gestures said to discourage smoking, while not pausing for a second to
pocket profits from teenage smoking. Educators who collude with these
lame efforts are either utterly naive or active participants in the
industry’s duplicity.”

Strong stuff. It now surprises me that Brendan Nelson, who was a vocal
opponent of the tobacco industry when he was AMA President, would take
seriously a report written by Kevin Donnelly. How can a Federal
Minister take advice about what is good for students from someone who
promoted such a program?

Or is it just that Brendan Nelson needs a right wing ideologue to start
a fear and loathing campaign about our public schools across Australia?
Brendan can then ride in like a knight in shining armour, make some
baseless statements to grab headlines and firm up his chances to become
the next Prime Minister. And if Brendan gets to The Lodge, maybe Mister
Donnelly will be rewarded with his dearly desired pre-selection?

PS You might remember the Victorian Auditor General also raised
concerns about Kevin Donnelly being awarded half a million dollars’
worth of contracts by the Kennett Government without them going to
tender. I hope Brendan Nelson isn’t doing the same thing.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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