School review panellist Kevin Donnelly linked to tobacco giant

One of the two men appointed by the government to review Australia's national school curriculum was employed by the tobacco giant Philip Morris to design a program teaching schoolchildren about peer pressure and decision-making.

The material, given to more than 1500 children in Australia and New Zealand, did not discuss the health dangers of smoking.

Instead, it encouraged students to make their own decisions about doing ''something wrong'', including smoking (later versions, including an Aboriginal one, featured discussion of the harmful effects of smoking).

Internal Philip Morris emails from the time show that the company was concerned that acknowledging that it was behind the 1999 ''I've Got the Power'' education packs would be counterproductive because of ''anti-smoking fervour'' in Australia.

The author, Kevin Donnelly, was on Friday announced by Education Minister Christopher Pyne as one of two men charged with reviewing Australia's national schools curriculum (with the University of Queensland's Professor Ken Wiltshire).

Dr Donnelly said on Saturday he had never hidden his work for Philip Morris, and had taken the project on condition he would have full editorial control over its content. ''It was more a resilience program,'' he said of the fact it did not mention the health risks of smoking.

Mr Pyne said the pair's appointment was ''an important step on the path to a world-class national curriculum''.

Mr Pyne - who said the review would look at ''partisan bias'' that dictated what children were taught - did not mention that Dr Donnelly had worked in 2004 and 2005 as chief of staff to Kevin Andrews, who was then the Coalition's employment and workplace relations minister.

Dr Donnelly has had a long association with the Coalition.

An outspoken critic of the current curriculum, he argued in November: ''The cultural-left has taken the long march through the education system and enforced its biased, ideological world view on schools.''

He has also called for the Bible to be taught in state schools.

But Dr Donnelly told Fairfax Media on Saturday his work would be independent.

''I've written a lot for the popular media, but really I think people need to distinguish between the day-to-day political debates and what is a significant, challenging, but sensitive, review of the curriculum,'' he said.

The story School review panellist Kevin Donnelly linked to tobacco giant first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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