March 24, 2009
Although the reform of the child discipline law was supported by both National and Labour in May 2007 it remains unpopular with a large proportion of New Zealanders, The Nelson Mail said in an editorial on Tuesday [24 March 2009].
Surveys have shown greater than 80 per cent disapproval of what has become known as the “anti-smacking law”.
Last year a petition with 390,000 signatures was presented to Parliament, forcing a citizens’ initiated referendum which will be held by postal ballot in August and ask the somewhat loaded question: Should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offence in New Zealand?
Meanwhile ACT MP John Boscawen is planning a private member’s bill which would allow parents to use “reasonable force” to discipline their children within clearly defined limits.
Plainly the issue is not dead – but it should be. The repeal of Section 59 of the Crimes Act went ahead on a 113-8 vote.
Now, almost two years down the track, it is clear that good parents are not falling foul of this progressive and sensible legislation which removed the right to thrash children but doesn’t require police to prosecute when very minor assaults occur.
The essential point is that children now have the same protection against assault as adults – and that’s as it should be.
Mr Boscawen’s bill would attempt to lessen the rights of children and should be opposed for that reason.
The wording of the referendum means that it will almost certainly receive a lot of support – but that doesn’t mean that the law should be revisited.
The right decision has been made and it is to be hoped that the Government has the gumption to stick with it.