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Schools and fast food mix riles parents and n -

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Reporter: Simon Lauder

TANYA NOLAN: The Federal Education Minister is being accused of supporting insidious advertising by
a fast food company.

Nutritionists and parents' groups say Julia Gillard shouldn't endorse a free maths education
website set up by McDonald's which credits the company's restaurants.

McDonald's says it's a community service, not an advertisement.

The Deputy Prime Minister says the website is a good resource for Australian students and the fast
food giant is entitled to display its sponsorship.

Simon Lauder reports.

SIMON LAUDER: The maths online homepage is laid out in blue, red and grey. Down the bottom of the
page is a large yellow 'M', underneath a sentence which reads:

VOICEOVER: This has been made possible by McDonald's Australia, and its hundreds of franchisees who
have covered the costs of supplying the program.

SIMON LAUDER: Below the Maths Online logo is this information:

VOICEOVER: Proudly provided by your local McDonald's restaurant.

SIMON LAUDER: McDonald's says the tutoring program has been developed by maths experts over a
decade and will be available to Australia's 1.46-million high school students for free.

The managing director of McDonald's Australia, Catriona Noble, says it's about community service.

CATRIONA NOBLE: There's no reference to, you know, promoting anything, talking about food. It's as
simple as that. We think you know, along with our licensees, who are most of our McDonald's stores
are owned by small businessmen and women, and it's about giving back to the community.

SIMON LAUDER: The launch of the website was publicised this morning with an endorsement in the
McDonald's press release from the Education Minister. Here's a reading of Julia Gillard's
endorsement.

VOICEOVER: I commend McDonald's for taking this step and encourage secondary schools and students
across the country to utilise this resource.

SIMON LAUDER: But not everyone's convinced the fast food giant has charity as its number one
priority.

SHARON JOHNSON: We definitely don't want our children being soft targets of what would be a really
successful marketing campaign.

SIMON LAUDER: Sharon Johnson from the Parents and Citizens Federation of New South Wales says the
Federal Government endorsement lends the McDonald's initiative credibility and that could be open
to abuse.

SHARON JOHNSON: The Happy Meal and the Quarter-Pounder Meal add up to a really great opportunity
for McDonald's to get some exposure online by saying that they're offering students an educational
experience.

SIMON LAUDER: Are you saying you're concerned that the maths website might use maths problems that
involve calculations of French fries and hamburger costs?

SHARON JOHNSON: (laughs) I don't think anyone would dare be so vulgar, but one might suggest that
it's an easy avenue to explore how maths works in society, absolutely.

SIMON LAUDER: Nutritionist Dr Rosemary Stanton sees the McDonald's branding of the website as a
form of backdoor advertising.

ROSEMARY STANTON: I mean if this didn't work to encourage children to have more of the product, I
think that we could have, it's a fair bet that the company wouldn't be doing it.

SIMON LAUDER: Dr Stanton says she's disappointed by the Education Minister's endorsement of the
website.

ROSEMARY STANTON: The food industry realises that sooner or later junk food advertising to children
is going to stop and so they're looking at other ways to make sure that their name is constantly
before the children's eyes and ears, and this is a very insidious way of getting to them.

SIMON LAUDER: Do you think an endorsement from the Federal Government further muddies the water in
that regard?

ROSEMARY STANTON: I think it really does. It absolutely muddies the water because people are always
trying to curry favour, I suppose, with the Federal Government. Why wouldn't you? I mean they're
going to supply money for lots of things. So that when they endorse something, people then are a
bit more reluctant to criticise whatever it is that's being endorsed.

I would have expected much more from this Government and I think it's very disappointing.

SIMON LAUDER: The Education Minister Julia Gillard has made a point of encouraging the private
sector to support the education system. Ms Gillard says the Maths Online website is a good example
of that and the branding doesn't go too far.

JULIA GILLARD: Clearly we believe that the engagement of corporate Australia with schools has to be
on the basis of making a genuine difference, not on the basis of product promotion. But this Maths
Online resource, put forward by McDonald's, I believe is a responsible way of making a difference.

SIMON LAUDER: Do you accept that high school students are a soft target for advertising and that a
logo is a form of advertising?

JULIA GILLARD: McDonald's as a company that is subsidising the free availability of Maths Online
would obviously put its name on the site. We obviously wouldn't want to see a site like this used
for advertising or food products promotion.

But I do believe that corporate Australia can play a role in supporting our schools; in providing
role models in schools; in providing personnel to assist students, particularly students who need
mentors; in providing school communities with some of the skills that they may lack, particularly
in financial management and other areas where corporate Australia has expertise; and through
initiatives like this one.

SIMON LAUDER: So you don't believe that the logo on the homepage of this website is a form of
advertising?

JULIA GILLARD: I believe McDonald's is able, and should be able to put its name on this site. This
site will be a good resource for Australian students.

TANYA NOLAN: Federal Education Minister Julia Gillard.