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Monday, 30 August 2004
Page: 26771


Senator Brown asked the Minister representing the Minister for Science the following question, upon notice, on 14 July 2004:

With reference to the answers to question on notice Nos 2871 and 2872 (Senate Hansard, 17 June 2004 p. 24214):

(1) Can a copy be provided of the statement made by Ms Donna Staunton in 2000 in which she accepted that nicotine is addictive and that smoking is a major cause of preventable illness in Australian society.

(2) (a) To whom was the statement made; and (b) how and when was it distributed.


Senator Vanstone (Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Reconciliation) —The Minister for Science has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

(1) A copy of the letter sent by Ms Staunton to Professor Simon Chapman, on 20 December 2000 is attached.

(2) (a) The letter was addressed to Professor Simon Chapman, Chairman of the Department of Public Health and Community Medicine, University of Sydney and copied to Professor Christine Ewan and Professor Sally Redman (both of the National Breast Cancer Centre).

(b) A copy of the letter was sent by Ms Staunton to the Chair of the National Breast Cancer Centre Board following Professor Chapman's questioning of Ms Staunton's appointment to the Board. The Chair then copied this letter to all members of the Board.

Ms Staunton released the letter to the Sunday Age in April this year and it was later referred to in an article published by that newspaper on 25 April 2004.

Professor Chapman also supplied the letter to the Editor of Australasian Science and extracts from it were published in the July 2004 issue of the magazine. In this issue, Professor Chapman was quoted as saying he copied the letter to the Australian Cancer Society Board and “one or two others”.

Attachment

AMP

20 December 2000

Professor Simon Chapman

Chairman

Dept Public Health & Community Medicine Building

A27 University of Sydney

NSW 2006

Donna Staunton Senior Executive

International Government Affairs AMP Foundation

AMP Limited

33 Alfred Street

Sydney NSW 2000 Australia GPO Box 4134

Sydney NSW 2001 Australia

Telephone 02 9257 7360 Facsimile 02 9257 6126

Email donna_staunton@amp.comau

Dear Professor Chapman

Thank you for your letter dated 14 December 2000.

I was sorry to hear of your mother. I do understand how agonising that sort of death is as my own mother is currently receiving palliative care for disseminated pancreatic cancer. I too feel very cheated that she will not share in the joy of watching my two young children grow up. I am, however, going to spend as much time as I can with her over the coming holidays.

Thank you also for your congratulations on my appointment to the Board of the National Breast Cancer Council. I agree that Sally Redman has done an enormous amount to elevate both the status and urgency of breast cancer control in Australia. I look forward to being able to contribute to the ongoing achievements of the Centre through my participation in the Board.

You are not correct in suggesting filet some of my Board colleagues were not fully aware of my “employment” history. It is something about which I have been quite open and all of the NBCC Board members were fully aware of it.

I am sorry that my appointment has caused you distress and I am afraid that you do not read my mind or intent very well. Let me explain and I will try to do the decent thing and in return I would ask you to have the grace to except me at my word.

As a registered nursing sister and then as a young lawyer, it was never my aim to work for the tobacco industry—frankly I stumbled into the work by chance. Having a nursing and legal background was in those days quite unusual and my superiors recognised the advantage I might have in understanding scientific and medical jargon.

Early in my legal career I met a number of senior medical and scientific experts who expressed to me what seemed to be a genuine doubt or at least scepticism about the relationship between smoking and cancer. The views I expressed in 1994 and 1995 were genuinely held by me. I now accept that nicotine is in fact addictive and that smoking is the major cause of preventable illness in Australian society.

I cannot relive the past, but I can assure you that I do not intend to again work for the tobacco industry. In future, I suspect the causes for which I will be using my skills will have a far more common ground between us.

Again I am sorry my past actions and present appointment have caused you so much distress. I hope you are able to accept my reply in the same manner that I have accepted your letter.

Yours sincerely

Donna Staunton

cc: Professor Christine Ewan, National Breast Cancer Centre Professor Sally Redman, National Breast Cancer Centre

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