Talking points for the upcoming referendum

June 7, 2009

Pretty soon, the referendum to overturn Section 59 of the Crimes Act will be a hot topic of conversation. We list here a summary of facts to help inform your discussions and help you understand the issues better – and to start those conversations.

Opening gambits

  • You are working on a campaign to encourage people to vote YES in the upcoming referendum about child discipline.
  • Some people want to see Sue Bradford’s 2007 amendment to Section 59 of the Crimes Act overturned.
  • That original decision was one made by Parliamentarians in a free vote.
  • Now every voter has a chance to be heard.
  • Referendum 2009 is unnecessary, expensive and, now, inevitable.

The Law as it stands

  • The law has been in force for two years.
  • The only way to send a clear message is a ‘YES’ vote.
  • The referendum will ask a very ambiguous – and subtly clever – question: Should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offence in New Zealand?
  • To maintain the current law which protects children from physical punishment people must  vote ‘YES’.
  • A substantial ‘YES’ vote will send a message to parliament that voters approve of the new law is working.
  • Children deserve the same legal protection as adults against assault.

A smack from good parents

  • The referendum question may make voters feel ambivalent because it makes them accept that a smack can be a part of good parental correction.
  • That’s exactly what the organisers of this referendum want – to discourage opponents from voting.
  • Try the question another way: “Should speeding, as a part of good driving, be a criminal offence?”  Absurd, right?

What’s going on?

  • The group who initiated this referendum think hitting children is fine.
  • The YES vote campaign vehemently disagrees. It believes children need protecting and one way to do it is to protect the rights created for them by the changed legislation.
  • The referendum aims to reverse that law change and take those rights away.
  • YES vote campaigners believe the law is working well and can only help protect our children.
  • By voting YES we send an important message to parliament.
  • The new law has not criminalised parents unnecessarily.
  • Research tells us that smacking doesn’t work. It leaves children confused and parents feeling frustrated and angry.
  • Research also tells us that non-violent parenting is more successful.
  • Non-violent parenting is the more enlightened view. It’s a privilege to live in a country where children have this protection.
  • Overturning the current law would be retrograde and barbaric.
  • We are part of a global movement to ensure children are protected in law.
  • In our view, the government has to make laws to protect the most vulnerable citizens and that includes children. The law is consistent with community and government efforts to promote positive parenting.
  • It’s as simple as that.
  • Maori leaders say smacking is simply another expression of violence against our young ones – that includes the maiming and killing of our children – and it doesn’t teach your child what they did wrong. It teaches them that hitting other people is OK.

To support the law as it is now, we must encourage everyone we speak to, to vote “Yes” when their postal voting papers come – and that they mail them in.

It will be the quickest, positive action for children we can take this year.

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

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