Posts Tagged anti-smacking referendum

Child discipline law does not make caring parents criminals

July 7, 2009

From the Human Rights Commission

A legal opinion prepared by the Human Rights Commission finds that parents have little reason to be concerned that they risk being prosecuted if they give their child a trivial slap or smack.

The Commission has released the legal opinion to help inform debate in the upcoming referendum on the child discipline legislation.

Critics say the new law creates uncertainty for parents. However the legal opinion says the original section 59 of the Crimes Act was no clearer. It said the use of force by parents “by way of correction” was justified if the force was “reasonable in the circumstances.”

Because “reasonable” was open to interpretation, it led to parents being acquitted for disciplining their children with belts, hose pipes and pieces of wood.

Chief Human Rights Commissioner Rosslyn Noonan said, “We’re asking that all those with a genuine concern for the welfare of children and their parents provide accurate information rather than creating unfounded fears on this issue.”

The Commission’s legal opinion says that children may not be hit for the purpose of correction, but states: “Section 59 now allows parents (or someone acting in that role) to use reasonable force for a variety of purposes including the prevention of harm to the child” and to perform the normal daily job of providing good care and parenting.

The amendments gave the police the discretion to prosecute. When receiving a complaint, the police can choose not to prosecute if the offence is considered so “inconsequential that there is no public interest in proceeding with a prosecution.”

The Chief Commissioner said the police have used their discretion wisely and are not prosecuting parents without good reason.

Chief Commissioner Rosslyn Noonan said, “The real issue is that there should be no tolerance for violence against children, even in the guise of parental correction.”

The Human Rights Commission supported the amendments to section 59 because it meant that no longer could abusive parents charged with beating their children hide behind a spurious defence.

And because the amendments are a significant step in making real the human rights and responsibilities set out in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCROC).

Ms Noonan regretted that the referendum question is so flawed that it cannot but provide a meaningless result. “The great shame is that the confusion the question has spawned will result in apathy and cynicism that will undermine still further people’s willingness to participate in New Zealand’s political processes.”

Steve Biddulph talks on TV3

July 3, 2009

Listen to John Campbell interview Steve Biddulph on  Campbell Live (TV3 July 2, 2009). Biddulph had earlier spoken at St Kentigern School in Auckland, where he told 500 parents to vote yes in the referendum.

Smacking never worked for me – why I’m voting Yes

July 2, 2009

Geoffrey, who would prefer to remain anonymous, recently wrote to all MPs about his experience growing up in a violent and insecure home. His story supports the Yes Vote campaigners’ contention that smacking can ever be said to be “good parental correction”.

He received replies from Jim Anderton, Catherine Delahunty and Peter Dunn.

Dear MP

I am appalled that there are adults who have no idea of an alternative to smacking a child.

I was born in 1960 and my parents were convinced that corporal punishment was the way to discipline us.

It didn’t work.

The violence escalated until I was insecure at home and at school (corporal punishment at school). In both cases, home and school, I felt I had no recourse and my behaviour got no better as a result of being assaulted by my parents and teachers.

My relationship with my parents was distrust and disrespect right up until I left home. I admit, that once I left home my relationship with my father was better, but there has always been an emotional distance that will never be bridged even though I am 49 and he is 82.

I was married 28 years ago and I have three adult children. These three children have never been hit by their parents and are kind considerate and caring adults, the youngest is 21. In contrast to my own relationship with my parents, they are close to us and seek us out for support and advice.

My oldest son entrusts us with the care of his four month old daughter every weekend, something I couldn’t trust my parents with for my children for fear of their corporal punishment ethic.

Home is a place where a child should feel safe and have no fear where they must feel protected and not threatened – even if they have no language yet.

Smacking is a reaction by a frustrated, brutish mentality in a stressed individual who has no idea of any other approach. To sanction this behaviour, as many religions do, is to allow the brute mentality to take what they feel is the most expedient course of action. Unfortunately, corporal punishment has the opposite effect.

In the 1960s it was considered right to discipline one’s wife with violence, a crime which the police could not take action against because an old law stated a man’s home was out of bounds in domestic incidents.

There were the same cries of outrage by what seems the same people when this exemption to the law was overturned.

My guess is that we don’t want a referendum on the law which criminalises the wife beater, nor should we in the case of the same conservatives who want to be able to hit children with immunity to prosecution.

Keep our children safe!

Referendum may be badly worded but we must not ignore it

July 2, 2009

By Anne B. Smith

Many people, including myself, have been saying that the Referendum question about smacking, is ambiguous and misleading. So does that mean that we should ignore it and chuck it in the waste paper basket, or should we respond? The referendum question is: “Should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offence in New Zealand?” A lot of people – both ordinary parents and the majority of experts – don’t believe that smacking is part of good parental correction, but we should not be distracted by the phrase “as part of good parental correction”. The Referendum is really about whether the 2007 child discipline law is a good and just law, and whether it is in the best interests of children.

In my view we need to stand up and be counted by voting “Yes”. If we vote “Yes” we show that we understand the law as one small part of our country’s efforts to show that we care about our children and that they are human beings who should be loved and nurtured rather than hit. This law is not about criminalizing parents, because it is very clear that the police are not prosecuting occasional light smacking. It is about sending a message that parents should not have an excuse in law, if they hurt their children badly enough in the name of discipline, to come to the attention of authorities.

It’s important to put the issue in an international context. We are part of a global movement towards recognising that physical punishment is violence and a violation of rights. Some years ago we stopped physically punishing prisoners and juvenile offenders, and stopped spouses being allowed to physically punish their partners, and teachers from physically punishing children in schools and early childhood centres. We have now joined the 24 countries around the world, which have prohibited the physical punishment of children in all settings, including the home. Progress towards eliminating physical punishment around the globe has been exponential in the last decade. In 1999 corporal punishment was illegal in only eight states but today it is illegal in twenty four states – Austria, Bulgaria, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Israel, Latvia, Moldova, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Ukraine, Uruguay and Venezuela. High Courts in two further states, Italy and Nepal, have ruled that corporal punishment in childrearing is unlawful. Many other countries, such as the Czech Republic, Ireland, Lithuania and Serbia, are committed to full prohibition and are in the process of developing new policies and laws to bring this about. Laws do not always change behaviour, but recent research in Germany by Professor Kai Bussman showed that countries which had prohibited corporal punishment had fewer families using physical punishment and more families rearing their children without it. Especially if this law change is accompanied by education and support for other parenting methods, it can make a difference.

The Child Discipline law is just and good because it protects children from the public health risk attached to the use of physical punishment.  No, I am not saying that an occasional light smack is going to harm children forever, but regular use of physical punishment is a risk to children’s health. Research shows that physical punishment has been associated with children’s increased aggression; poorer academic achievement; poorer quality parent-child relationships; more depression and anxiety; and decreased self control.  No-one has been able to show that physical punishment has any long-term positive effects on children’s behaviour or development. Other more positive methods of parental discipline have been shown to be more effective, contribute to the well being of children and do not pose risks.

But by far the most important reason that the present Child Discipline law should be supported, is that physical punishment is an assault on children’s dignity. It is disrespectful of their physical integrity, and they find it shameful and humiliating. If we want to treat children without discrimination, as people with human rights, we must support this law.

  • Anne Smith is a professor in the education faculty of Otago University.

Yes Vote on YouTube

July 2, 2009

Yes Vote on YouTube

Academics critical of referendum

July 1, 2009

University of Otago senior lecturer in politics Brian Roper says (Otago Daily Times, 1/7/09) the Government’s $9 million anti-smacking referendum is an “absolutely appalling waste of money”.

He says the $9 million would be better used given to an organisation like Child Youth and Family.

“If [referendum supporters] were committed to ensuring the welfare of children in New Zealand, they’d suggest using the money to protect children from violence in family households, which is an enormous problem compared to parents being prosecuted for light smacking,” Dr Roper said.

He was also critical of the “totally biased” question.His views are suppoprted by fellow academic, associate professor of law, Andrew Geddis who says the referendum had “no legal impact whatsoever”.

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

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

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