Archive for August, 2009

Audio: John Angus and Katrina McLennan discuss the need to retain the Child Discipline Law

August 24, 2009

Children’s Commissioner John Angus and Family Court lawyer Katrina McLennan were intereviewed on Morning Report today.  Key points:

  • The legislation is working well for children and parents
  • We’re not seeing lots of parents being investigated and dragged before the courts
  • The law has given assurance to children and says that violence against children is totally unacceptable, that they should be protected from assault the same as anyone else
  • The law has given legitimacy and reinforced bystanders getting involved where they see a parent assaulting their child, as in the Jimmy Mason case
  • The law will not end child abuse in NZ overnight, but it’s an important first step
  • Allowing smacking sends a message that violence is acceptable
  • The Police and Child Youth and Family are not unduly targeting parents

Katrina asks, is this about protecting children or protecting parents? Which is more important?

To us, the choice seems clear.

Listen to the Audio:

Tapu Misa: John Key must hold the line

August 24, 2009

In an opinion piece in today’s Herald, Tapu Misa says that despite the referendum result, John Key must hold the line:

If the purpose of the referendum was to stop good parents being criminalised for “light” smacking, we don’t have a problem. So far no parent has been prosecuted successfully for that. The law allows “inconsequential” physical force – such as a light smack – in several circumstances, including stopping a child harming themselves or others.

But it rightly rules out the kind of parental correction that began with smacking and led to James Whakaruru’s stepfather beating the 4-year-old to death for bedwetting.

That’s an extreme example. Some people don’t recognise child abuse unless it involves a maimed or dead baby, but those who work with children know that the abuse continuum is less clear-cut. Hundreds of damaged children never end up in the public eye.

Read the full article at the Herald.

Time for real action on child abuse

August 23, 2009

Whatever proposals the Cabinet considers this week, they must focus on the need for real action on New Zealand’s shameful levels of serious child abuse.

“It is time to stop squabbling about the right to smack children and get down to serious action to stop child abuse,” says the Yes Vote coalition spokesperson Deborah Morris-Travers.

“On this, there is no disagreement between Yes and No voters.

“We have the world’s worst child death by maltreatment rate, and the consequences of child maltreatment and are costing all New Zealanders $2 billion a year in social welfare, legal, prison system and other costs, let alone the community and social costs.”

That cost is the conclusion of an Infometrics report prepared for Every Child Counts, which counts many Yes vote supporter organisations among its members.

“The Prime Minister is to be applauded for sticking by the law as it stands, and for seeking non-legislative responses which can give people comfort on the issues that clearly concern many.

“We hope that the Government will now seize an opportunity to take serious action on the real problem that distresses us all: the huge cost to individuals, society, and the economy of child abuse.”

“Since before its passage in 2007, member organisations of the Yes Vote coalition have advocated active communication with the public about what the law means and how it is intended to operate to contribute to lowering child abuse rates in New Zealand.

“If such action is part of the Government response, we will support that wholeheartedly. Such an approach would hasten the change in social attitudes to physical punishment which is already occurring, and which is a fundamental part of stopping child abuse.

A wooden spoon for Larry Baldock

August 23, 2009

Smacking isn’t enough for Larry Baldock, the man who collected thousands of signatures for the referendum.

He wants to bring back the ruler and wooden spoon.  He was quoted in the Herald as saying,

“I’m not opposed to the wooden spoon or ruler because you can control things with that better than you can with an open hand.”

We’d like to thank Larry for showing his true colours.  And evidently Bob McCoskrie agrees with him. But where will it stop?

USA Religious Right funds Vote No

August 23, 2009

According to an article in The Herald headlined “US funding for ‘no’ vote”, one of the core groups behind the referendum and Vote No campaign has received over $1m in funding from a conservative American religious group.  Funding has increased recently to over $200,000 per year.

Focus on the Family’s US spokesman Gary Schneeberger said his organisation involved itself in political debate: “We absolutely do – and certainly in the United States we have advanced Biblical values in the public square, without question.”

Are we allowing foreign political interests to meddle in New Zealand’s electoral process?  If so that’s very scary!

Read the full article at the herald to learn more.

Dr Seuss referendum question clearly confused some people

August 23, 2009

John Key said in June that the referendum question could have been written by Dr Seuss.

Now, we’re used to hate mail here at The Yes Vote headquarters – we’ve received plenty over the last few months, and it’s not unexpected given the nature of the question that there are a at least a few hateful people in the in the ranks of the pro-smackers.

What was our surprise then, when we received the following item yesterday:

Name: Richard
Email: [address removed]

It is a very sad week when a little 3 year old dies in our country from abuse that may have started with ‘a little tap’ and at the same time we have people like your group supporting the notion the violence towards our most vulnerable is ok.  I don’t think you understand what good parenting is and as for one of your representatives saying to his little girl ‘daddy loves you’ as he abuses her – how sick is that.  Shame on you

Time: Sunday August 23, 2009 at 4:04 am
IP Address: 125.237.176.[deleted]

Sent by an unverified visitor to your site.

This poor fellow obviously got the wrong end of the stick.  Some people are very confused about what YES and what NO meant on the referendum question.

We tried to be kind to this well-intentioned individual, and responded as follows.


You got it the wrong way around my friend … The YES Vote are the people who are against smacking!

Please take out your wrath on the VOTE NO people …

Undeterred, he responded:

Your response confirms for me that your organisation has got no idea about what you actually stand for and why the referendum was a waste of time.  By voting, anyone would have supported your contention that smaking is a part of good parenting – how sad.  By doing your homework and visiting hospitals etc, you’d see that the level of child abuse is appaling in this country and people who voted yes have been sucked into turning a blind eye to this and in effect supporting it’s continuation.  I’m pleased to say that I’m not one of these people!  I know heaps of people who are doing a great job of raising their kids without resorting to violence.

Thankfully, less than an hour later, he sent us the following apology:

Please accept my sincere apologies – I was so fired up I thought that I was emailing that lot wishing to over turn the current law – Baldock etc!!

I am sorry for directing my frustration at the wrong group.  I just can’t believe how naive people can be believing that smacking kids is ok.

I will do what you say.  All the best with your work – I wish you luck and again sincere apologies!!

Phew!  It just goes to show how devious and confusing the referendum wording was, and that good triumphs over evil in the end.  But we’re left wondering how many people were as confused as Richard when they voted.

Womens Refuge: Predictable referendum result on a stupid question

August 22, 2009

Women’s Refuge says the result of the referendum was a predictable outcome due to the phrasing of the question, “Should a smack, as part of good parental correction, be a criminal offence in New Zealand?”

Heather Henare, Chief Executive for the National Collective of Independent Women’s Refuges, says “The result is disappointing, but not a great surprise. The question was framed from the outset to capture a “no” vote.

“Most people believe that firm boundaries for children are necessary and many do not see a smack as a problem. Of course they don’t want to see parents criminalised over this issue.”

“What is being missed is the fact that good parents are not being criminalised under the amended law at all.”

“The referendum question assumes that smacking can be part of good parental correction. In fact, any degree of physical hitting sends a message to children that violence is acceptable. In almost every case, there will be times when those slaps or blows will be harder than they should have been, when anger becomes part of the equation.”

Ms Henare says, “Women’s Refuge supports non-violent, positive parenting. Contrary to popular opinion, this does not mean an absence of boundaries or parental responsibility. There are honest, sensible ways to establish clear boundaries for children that do not involve smacking.”

“We believe the existing child discipline law is an important step towards changing attitudes towards family violence. It would be a great shame if this country were to take a step backwards in that respect and change the law back to allow the physical punishment of children.”

“I have personally spoken with families who have had issues with violence for generations. They have said the law was one of the things that supported their decision to make their home violence-free. They talk of the freedom of knowing that violence towards their children is no longer an option.”

Ms Henare says, “We are calling on the government to retain the current child discipline law.”

A review of the law is due to be completed later this year. Ms Henare says, “That is when we should be evaluating it. I sincerely hope the government will wait for the report and not support changes based on the outcome of this confusing referendum.”

Auckland Anglican Dean Ross Bay rejects claim To God-given right to smack children

August 22, 2009

The Dean of Auckland’s Anglican Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, The Very Reverend Ross Bay, has expressed concern at the attitude of some Christians that it is their God-given right to use corporal punishment in the discipline of their children.

Commenting in the light of the recent referendum on the use of smacking, Dean Bay says that the view of some Christians is based in an image of God that characterises God as ready to punish human beings for the slightest misdemeanour. “The Christian image of God is what we find in the New Testament of the Bible, and is the God revealed to us in Jesus Christ,” says Dean Bay. “This is the God who does not wield power to force human beings to conform to divine purposes. What we see in Jesus is self-giving love poured out in a surrender to evil. The power of that divine love is what in turn overcomes evil.”

Dean Bay says that this activity of God in the death and resurrection of Jesus should always be the starting point for a Christian image of God that affects human behaviour. Jesus’ attitude to children is seen in his welcoming them for blessing when the adults around him are telling them and trying to send them away. Dean Bay says that it is unfortunate that these images are made secondary to an approach founded in the ancient proverb of ‘spare the rod and spoil the child’.

“I am concerned that a particular stance on child discipline has too often been characterised as ‘the’ Christian view. Many Christians would think quite differently in relation to this matter”.

Nevertheless the Dean takes a realistic view about this issue. “The irony of the referendum is that people were being asked to affirm something for which the current law already makes provision. If there is an issue to be addressed it is around the interpretation and application of Section 59 by Police and CYFS. Hopefully the Prime Minister’s announcement on Monday will offer some clear guidance in this regard”.

Meantime the Dean hopes that the image of the God of love and mercy revealed in Jesus Christ will be the image which characterises all human relationships, especially relationships where one person holds power over another.

National Council of Women stands by the Child Discipline Law

August 21, 2009

The National Council of Women of New Zealand (NCWNZ) will continue to support a law that allows children to grow up free from violence, regardless of the referendum results.

In 1997 NCWNZ passed a resolution by majority that called for the repeal of Section 59 of the Crimes Act 1961 so that children could be afforded the same legal protection from assault as adults.

NCWNZ applauds the law changes that followed and urges the government to stand by the decision made in 2007 to protect children from unjust physical punishment.

“There needs to be more education around the current law and more information around the benefits of positive parenting over physical discipline,” says Elizabeth Bang, NCWNZ National President.

Studies have shown that rewards are more effective than punishment in terms of modifying behaviour for the better. The use of physical punishment has also been shown to produce overwhelmingly negative lifelong consequences and condition the individual to view violence as a solution.

“If it’s not an effective discipline solution and has harmful side effects on the individual and society”, says Elizabeth Bang, “why would anyone ever use physical discipline”.

NCWNZ believes the law is working and that the child-rearing practices of many New Zealanders are being positively affected.

“The child discipline law gives our kids the possibility to grow up in a society that over time will become less violent,” says Elizabeth Bang, “that’s a good thing”.

Viv Gurrey: The Referendum did not provide a mandate for changing the Child Discipline Law

August 21, 2009

On behalf of Parents Centres New Zealand Inc and our 52 affiliated Centres across New Zealand Chief Executive Officer Viv Gurrey, says “The result of this referendum does not provide a distinct and clear mandate for changing a law that is proven to be working” .

“Our membership urges the National led government and all Members of Parliament to wait for the outcome of the planned review of the law” before considering (if any) action.

“Now we have the loaded, confusing and ambiguous referendum behind us, let’s rely on hard facts and data to inform decisions”.

“It is more than enough that we have gone to an unnecessary expense to feed the egos of some in our society that appear to be obsessed with their personal right to hit a child. Let’s not compound this further by making change without supporting facts”.

“These facts state categorically that this law is working” says Gurrey. “Parents Centres have no doubt that this trend will continue”.

Parents Centres considers the referendum question was obtuse in its intent. Those who poll professionally are very aware that the result you achieve depends specifically on the question you ask. If you ask people if they want something that looks bad, dishonest or false to happen the majority will say no. In this referendum the question is framed up as good parents being made into criminals.

It suggested that hitting children was good parenting practice and those ‘good’ parents are being criminalised when neither is true. Because of this, we are aware that some people preferred to abstain from voting or even to vote no despite being supporters of the current law.

“Many credible agencies and individuals who touch the lives of parents and children daily have taken the opportunity that this referendum has offered to better inform people about the law and about positive parenting”.

Research is showing that growing numbers of parents recognise there is no need to use physical punishment and the law is consistent with this shift in public attitudes and behaviour. Parents Centre would like to see increased public education about the law and further resources made available to support sector organisations in their provision of service”.

Mrs Gurrey concludes by saying “Parents Centres will continue to focus on providing the essential support and education to parents that they need to raise healthy and confident children able to contribute positively to society in a resilient home environment free from physical discipline”.

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

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