Archive for June, 2009

Three days left to call referendum off

June 30, 2009

Media Statement                                     30 June 2009

Promoters of the child discipline referendum are increasingly damaging their own cause by failing to take the opportunity to call it off.

“With just three days left until the Governor-General issues a writ for the referendum, its organisers are coming off as arrogant, inflexible and unconcerned at the massive and unnecessary expense they are responsible for,” said Yes Vote spokesperson, Deborah Morris-Travers.

“Even among those who support their question, there is an overwhelming belief that the whole exercise is a terrible waste of money.

“Demanding an amendment to the child discipline law in return for calling off the referendum is outrageous.  The law grants children the same legal protections as all other citizens have.  This is fair and reasonable, especially when law is being administered sensibly and sensitively.

“By trying to place responsibility for the referendum’s cancellation in anyone’s hands other than their own, its promoters are dodging their responsibilities as its creators.  Sheryl Saville, Larry Baldock and Bob McCoskrie started this farce and they are the only people with the power to withdraw it.

“The leaders of the two main parties have shown remarkable courage as leaders in standing by the current child discipline.

“They are not doing so to be popular, but because they know from their constant exposure to the reality of New Zealand’s high rates of family violence that this law is an important step towards creating safe, loving environments for our children to grow up in the 21st century.

“The Yes Vote coalition repeats its call for the referendum organisers to do the right thing, call off the poll before this Friday, and save the country at least $6 million,” concluded Ms Morris-Travers.

  • Contact: Deborah Morris-Travers, Tel 0274 544 299

Why the referendum is a futile way to spend $10Mil

June 29, 2009

By Gordon Campbell

In his column on Scoop, Gordon Campbell takes to task the instigators of the upcoming referendum on a law which “appears to be working exactly as the law makers intended. Parents are not being criminalised en masse by the law change, as some had feared” and the system which allowed it to proceed.

He also criticises the question saying it “contains a value judgment about the context (“good parental correction”)” and “assumes the question of whether, under current Police procedures, such a smack can ever be a criminal offence”.

Essentially, he says the “public is being asked to pass a judgement on a scenario that two years down the track, has not eventuated”

At the very least, he writes: “the Key government will be wanting to wait and hear from the MSD review of the current law – and how it is operating – before reaching any decision. Unfortunately, the public will not be able to do likewise.”

Opposition weakens

June 28, 2009

Media release: Students Against Violence                        June 28, 2009

It has interested me to watch the debate heat up once more over the last few weeks, once again the so called ‘anti-smacking law’ was headlining the newspapers.

The attention moved from the law itself to the referendum and the question itself. It is interesting to see that the New Zealand public haven’t been fooled by the question and are simply going to ignore it, perhaps in the shadow of our countries political party leaders John Key and Phil Goff.

New Zealanders appears to be questioning the credibility of the ‘No Vote’ campaigners amidst the controversy of Christine Rankin and the ambiguous wording of the question, which has now backfired on the instigators of the referendum.

It amazes me how desperate the ‘no vote’ campaign has come. Their claims of ‘parents being criminalised’ are seriously miss-leading and it makes my stomach turn to think of the children in these situations.

The stories are all about parents who have been made out to be good, loving and caring. What disgusts me is the absolute belief from these campaigners that the cases all represent good parental discipline!

Not only that, I also notice stories, which supposedly headlining their campaign, now having been removed from the No Vote website. They are now very difficult to find. Consequently, I believe the public have realised these stories have no credibility and that the parents were never criminalised for them.

The past few weeks have seen the opposition get weaker and weaker from Larry Baldock getting absolutely toasted in an interview by Sean Plunket, to John Key and Phil Goff declaring they aren’t interested in the referendum and the general public supporting the child discipline law.

Let’s face it, if this law wasn’t working parents would know about it. Good parents would be getting thrown behind bars and our friends and whanau would be living in complete fear.

Christine Rankin’s pathetic fear tactics haven’t fooled many and have simply caused more controversy about her position as a families commissioner rather than the actual content of the article.

I strongly believe it’s time the opposition threw in the towel and just gave up. Every day New Zealanders have adapted to our zero tolerance of violence in the home and our leaders are all indicating there won’t be a change in the law. The question means that the answer you give can never clearly represent your views on the issue and will have no direct impact on the government’s decision to keep the law in its current form.

  • Johny O’Donnell, youth advocate for the Child Discipline Law, chairperson Students Against Violence

Ms Savill – pull the referendum!

June 26, 2009

Media release: Barnardos            June 26, 2009

Barnardos New Zealand wishes to clarify the situation that Family First is so diligently trying to confuse. There is only one person in this nation that can stop the upcoming citizens initiated referendum. That person is Sheryl Savill – the instigator of the petition that has required the referendum to be held,” says Murray Edridge, Chief Executive of Barnardos New Zealand.

Ms Savill has only until Friday, 3 July 2009 – after which the Governor-General will issue the writ for the referendum.

“Today, Family First claimed that others had it within their power to call a halt to this unnecessary and fruitless exercise by complying with their demand for a law change. In turn, Family First would reward the nation by withdrawing the referendum which would save some of the $9m they have needlessly imposed on the country.

  • For more information contact: Murray Edridge Chief Executive, Barnardos Phone (04) 385 7560 or 0274 851 896

Loving smack? Hateful hug?

June 26, 2009

By Deborah Coddington

Why am I supporting the Yes Vote Team? For a number of reasons.

First, there’s the pragmatic reason.

Ten years ago I didn’t think much about Section 59 of the Crimes Act, but then I was assigned to write a feature for North & South magazine on the short life and cruel death of James Whakaruru. I interviewed the families of James and his killer and I realised, to my horror, that it wasn’t just a “light smack” used as everyday discipline, but jug cords, vacuum cleaner pipes, belts, closed fists, pieces of wood – anything close at hand when tempers were lost.

Members of the whanau argued with me, even as the earth on James’ grave was still fresh and the little windmills fluttered in the Hawke’s Bay breeze, this was acceptable if their children were naughty. Misbehaviour was defined as not eating their food, answering back or not answering back depending on the mood of the parent, making a mess – in fact any behaviour seemed to depend on what side of bed the parents got out of.

With some people you can educate and persuade as much as you like but you’re never going to make a difference. I believe you have to accept that laws must be changed if children’s lives are to made better. I accept that children will still die – sadly – and children will still be bashed, but there will be parents whose behaviour will be moderated because it is against the law to smack, belt, slap or whatever you like to call it.

You only have to look at smoking laws, or seatbelt laws, to see how they have changed people’s habits.

Secondly, the philosophical reason. I believe in the non-initiation of force, so why shouldn’t that apply to children as well as adults? Why should children have a lesser defence in court when they have suffered violence?

If I give my husband a shove, or a flick over the ear, or even a smack on the bottom, that is assault. There is no defence. If he lays a complaint and it goes to court, I cannot use “reasonable force” as defence because my husband might have come home late from the pub for the fifth time that week and needed some discipline.

So why should a child, who may have suffered similar initiation of force against their person, not be similarly protected? A child is a human being, with the same powers of reason as an adult – a mind, a heart, a brain. A child is not an “almost human being”.

Thirdly, getting rid of Nanny State. Eh?

Yes, you read that correctly, I want Nanny State out of our lives. Therefore the same law should apply to adults and children (though I am happy with the John Key amendment as it stands).

The pro-smackers who claim Nanny State is telling parents how to raise their children by banning smacking are actually doing more of the same by telling parents what kind of smack they can give their children. Act MP John Boscawen wants a new Bill which would allow a light smack. This is just another politician butting in with another law. Sue Bradford’s Bill actually got Nanny State out of people’s lives, but there was so much hysteria, nobody seemed to realise that.

I don’t expect miracles from Sue Bradford’s law change but hopefully, in the next few decades, we might see a shift in attitudes toward children in this country. It doesn’t help when issues are poisoned, and people like Christine Rankin are applauded for polarising the debate. It’s not simply a case of leftie versus rightie; Commie versus Christian. Jesus said suffer the little children to come to me, but Family First backs a father who allegedly repeatedly pushed over his little boy on the rugby field.

Loving smack? No such thing. How about hateful hug? And finally, consider this. Within marriage, rape was once legal between man and wife because marriage was taken as consent. Imagine we were campaigning to change the law, and those who opposed the amendment had written a referendum question which asked: “Should forced sex as part of a good marriage be a criminal act?”

Referendum instigators called on to withdraw their petition

June 25, 2009

Media Statement                                  June 25, 2009

If the instigators of the citizens initiated referendum are serious about making life better for children in New Zealand, they should exercise their ability to stop the referendum and save some of the $9 million committed to this futile PR stunt.  This is money that could be applied to making a real difference for New Zealand’s children and their families.

“The promoters of the petition forcing the referendum, Sheryl Saville, Larry Baldock and Bob McCoskrie, have a short window of time in which they could demonstrate some common sense and commitment to New Zealand families in these hard economic times, by withdrawing their petition,” said Yes Vote spokesperson Deborah Morris-Travers.

Legally, the petition can be withdrawn by its promoters before the Governor-General issues the writ for the referendum, which must be done by Friday 3 July 2009.

The Yes Vote coalition is calling upon them to act responsibly in this matter.  It is clear from the referendum debate over the last two weeks that the question is misleading, many people remain confused about the application of the law, and there is no political will to change the law when it is working effectively.  The outcome from the referendum therefore will be of little value.

The Yes Vote Coalition represents the major agencies working with communities to support parents and families.  We support the child discipline law and we support parents.  We see and understand the challenges faced by families throughout New Zealand and we know those families don’t want precious government resources being wasted on a referendum that will add little to the future well-being of their children.

“We call on the petition promoters to withdraw their petition while it is still possible to do so,” concluded Ms Morris-Travers.

  • Contact: Deborah Morris-Travers. Tel 0274 544 299

Prime Minister commits to action on child abuse

June 25, 2009

Media Release: UNICEF NZ (UN Children’s Fund)          24 June, 2009

The UN Children’s Fund in NZ is pleased that the Prime Minister has made an emphatic statement of the Government’s intent to do something about abused children.

“New Zealand’s grim record of child abuse is a national shame and needs urgent attention” says UNICEF NZ executive director, Dennis McKinlay.

“The Prime Minister has recognised this and it is heartening that he has shown leadership with his statement in the House yesterday that not enough has happened and that his government intends to do more.

“We need this commitment to support what communities and individuals are already doing. It is gratifying that he has acknowledged that it’s not enough and that more needs to happen.”

Mr McKinlay referred to the lack of public education following the amendment of S.59 of the Crimes Act in 2007 and believes that if New Zealanders had the opportunity to be well informed about the new legislation, there would be more understanding of and support for the amendment.

“Removing the defence of reasonable force is a step towards eliminating child abuse. Acts of abuse that were previously defended through the old legislation are no longer defensible.”

Mr McKinlay says that he will seek a meeting with the Prime Minister and offer UNICEF’s support in his efforts to deal with our unacceptably high level of child abuse.

“Our youngest citizens are at risk. Support for parents and education about constructive discipline need to be prioritised in the Government agenda to help eliminate child abuse.”

Note: Tuesday 23 June

Hon JOHN KEY: “I go back to the point I just made: members on this side of the House care about abused kids. We look in the hospitals of New Zealand and see thousands of abused kids, and Christine Rankin has spoken out about the damage that is happening to those kids. We are going to do something about abused kids, because not enough happened under the previous Labour Government.”

I won’t smack my son

June 24, 2009

KERRY WILLIAMSON on his Dominion Post blog, says he would like to think that he will never smack his new-born baby boy – ever.

“No matter how mad I get when he acts up, I just don’t want to be that kind of parent. No matter how loud he screams, no matter how big a tantrum he throws, and no matter how much he ignores me, I don’t want to smack him,” he writes.

He’s also annoyed that the government has legislated to this effect saying: “I’d like to think that parents should be able to parent however they want. I’d like to think that parents are responsible, caring and considerate towards their children. I can’t imagine that not being the case. “

However, he says, the reality is not so nice nor easy and goes on to cite numerous and terrible cases of child cruelty in New Zealand meted out by parents who believe in physical punishment.

This is good parental correction? What happened to adult self-control?

June 23, 2009

Media Statement                         23 June 2009

Promoters of the referendum on child discipline must be truly desperate if they are willing to make a father who repeatedly pushes over his seven year-old their new poster-boy for “a smack as a part of good parental correction”, says The Yes Vote.

“The no vote campaign would have used the so-called ‘ear-flick’ Dad as their example of supposed injustice against parents until he was convicted of punching his child in the face.

“Now they are pointing to an angry father, who pleaded guilty to assault, as a ‘great Dad’.

“We all get tired and frustrated as parents, but actions such as those described are anything ‘good parental correction’.  They are a loss of adult self-control, pure and simple.

“If ever there was an example of why the new child discipline law is a step in the right direction to creating a society in which violence towards children is no longer tolerated, this has to be it.

“A Yes Vote in the referendum is a vote to ensure children and adults are protected equally.”

  • Contact: Deborah Morris-Travers  Tel 0274 544 299

Smacking – “It’s wrong, full stop” say children

June 23, 2009

Media release: Barnardos New Zealand             23 June 2009

“It’s bad that they are smacking them. It’s good that they are disciplining them but they shouldn’t be hitting them really hard. Maybe they could send them to the corner”

11-year old girl who participated in the What’s Up survey.

The debate around the Referendum ’09 on physical punishment has been widely debated by adults but who is listening to the voice of those who are at the centre of this debate – the children?

As New Zealand’s largest telephone helpline for children and young people, 0800WHATSUP provided an opportunity for children and young people to express their views about physical punishment and whether or not adults should be able to claim a legal defence if charged with assaulting a child.

“The initial results from the survey show that the majority of callers (more than 55 percent) do not think parents taken to court for hitting a child should be let off if they say they were disciplining the child”, says Murray Edridge, Chief Executive of Barnardos New Zealand.

“Despite this, comments from the children and young people who participated in the survey suggest many children are conditioned to expect and accept physical discipline from parents. Importantly, many of the callers suggested that parents should be let off with a warning or community service if they perpetrated low levels of violence against children”.

“This is how the child discipline law is working in practice. Parents are not being prosecuted for lightly or occasionally smacking a child, only serious levels of violence are being prosecuted”.

“Barnardos welcomes the sample of results in the survey that provide valuable insights into the views of children and young people about physical punishment. We are pleased that What’s Up has done this survey, giving children and young people the opportunity to express their point of view about a subject matter that affects them most in Referendum ’09”, concluded Mr Edridge.

Download the full report.

The telephone survey was conducted from 27 April to 10 May and was successful in eliciting a large proportion of meaningful votes and comments, with a response rate of around 10%. What’s Up continues to invite children and young people to express their point of view on the matter of “smacking” until the referendum closes on 21 August.


Uschi Klein, Communications Advisor
DDI (04) 382 6717
Mobile 027 228 3088
PO Box 6434, Wellington

Plunket Barnardos Save the Children Unicef Jigsaw Ririki Parents CentrePaediatric Society Womens Refuge Epoch

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