Constructive debate called for on second anniversary of child discipline law

June 21, 2009

Media Statement: The Yes Vote Coalition 21 June 2009

Debate ahead of the August referendum on the child discipline law risks being the same polarising, wasted opportunity as it was in 2007, says the Yes Vote coalition.

“The Yes Vote welcomes the fact that all political parties, except Act, have pledged their support for the child discipline law, which came into effect two years ago today.

“While the last week has been an important demonstration that our political leaders understand the importance of retaining the law as it is, the debate has reignited some of the angry and abusive tone that characterised debate in 2007…

“The reality is that when it comes to stopping New Zealand’s appallingly high rates of child deaths and abuse by international standards, we are all on the same side,” said Yes Vote spokesperson Deborah Morris-Travers.

“Yet some of the mud slung at supporters of the current legislation obscures this important fact of national unity.

“We have never promoted the view that simply passing a law would either instantly change attitudes or national child abuse statistics.  To expect that would be naïve.  However, opponents of the law continually cite individual abuse cases as “evidence” the law isn’t working,” said Ms Morris-Travers.

“There is a slow shift occurring in New Zealand, which has already occurred in many countries, away from physical discipline as an acceptable element of parenting.  The child discipline law has an important contribution, over time, to reducing the attitudes and behaviours that put children at risk of abuse.

“I suspect that in 10, 20, 30 years time, we will look back with the same surprise as we now look back on racial segregation, opposition to the women’s’ movement, or native forest clear-felling and we’ll wonder what this debate was all about.

“Change takes time and leadership.  The Yes Vote welcomes the political leadership shown over the past week.

“We have noted the many public statements from journalists and MPs expressing disapproval of the referendum question and of the cost, however, we see this as an opportunity to better inform people about the child discipline law, how it is working two years on, and the importance of ensuring a focus on the interests of children.”

Ms Morris-Travers concluded by saying, “We look forward to constructive participation in a national debate as the referendum unfolds and we remind people there are some good reasons to vote in the referendum, to support a Yes Vote:

  • To demonstrate that people are not fooled by the referendum’s tricky question.
  • To continue to demonstrate to politicians that there is support for the law.
  • To address attempts to undermining public confidence in the law.
  • To achieve some quiet time for the law to bed down peacefully and have a positive effect on the way children are disciplined in New Zealand.
  • To observe over time, and in an unbiased way, how it is working in practice.”
  • Contact: Deborah Morris-Travers.  Tel 0274 544 299

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

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