Former probation officer Christopher Horan writes in today’s Otago Daily Times that people are sick of the debate and it’s time to move on, comparing the present situation to the debate around corporal punishment in schools. We moved on, and few regret the move to more effective ways of disciplining children in schools.
I’m confident that most parents who oppose Sue Bradford’s child-discipline Act are caring and responsible parents. That’s why I’m also sure they will be uneasy in the knowledge that their view is shared by most wife beaters, sex offenders, child abusers and child killers.
These are the people who cling to a distorted sense of entitlement to control the lives of others.
Better late than never. The Dominion Post’s editorial this morning backs the current Child Discipline Law, and Sue Bradford’s initiative.
… The law change has affected the child-rearing practices of many other other mums and dads. They have diligently tried to learn new ways to discipline wayward youngsters, even when their patience has been stretched almost to its limit. And police report that, despite the fears of Mr McCoskrie and Mr Baldock, they were called to only a few more “child assault events” in the six months to April 4 279 compared with 258 in the previous period. Of the 279 cases, none involved a “smacking” prosecution.
As long as police keep exercising common sense and parents strive to act with restraint, the Bradford initiative has been no bad thing.
As I am sure everyone is excruciatingly well aware, we are right now in the middle of the postal referendum on the physical discipline of children.
Voting started on 31 July and finishes on 21 August.
At a cost of $9 million to the taxpayer, the referendum asks:
Should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offence in New Zealand?
I reckon this question is both misleading and ambiguous.
A lot of people tell me they have no intention of voting, or are going to spoil their ballot paper, because they are angry about money being wasted on such a confused proposition.
Other people are keen to vote ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ because they have strong views on the issue and want to vote regardless.
This includes me of course. I will be voting ‘Yes’ and encouraging others to do the same, as I see that voting ‘Yes’ is a vote for keeping the law as it is.
Parents are not being prosecuted in their droves for giving their children a ‘smack’.
There is actually no offence called ‘smacking’ in New Zealand law.
There is, however, an offence of ‘assault’ which has always been there.
What the law change in 2007 achieved was simply the removal of the defence of ‘reasonable force for the purpose of correction’ which in the past allowed some parents to get away with quite badly beating their children.
The ‘reasonable force’ defence also meant parents felt they had a state-sanctioned right to use physical force as a way of disciplining their children.
New Zealand made a huge step forward two years ago when Parliament voted by a huge majority to take away this defence and give our children the same legal protection from violence as we adults enjoy.
I hope that despite the anger people justifiably feel at the way in which money is being wasted on this confused referendum question, some of you at least will consider voting ‘yes’ as an expression of support for the law change.
People often ask me, ‘If you think this question is so ambiguous, what should the question have been?”
Of course it could have been any number of things, but I believe a much fairer question would have been something like ‘Should the defence of reasonable force for the purpose of correction be available to New Zealand parents?’
At least people would then have been a lot clearer on what they were voting for or against.
I have put a member’s bill forward seeking to ensure that in future when someone comes up with a proposal for a citizens’ initiated referendum, the Clerk of the House – who approves these questions – has more legal guidance on what should go forward.
I am suggesting that questions that are ambiguous complex, leading or misleading should not be accepted, and that the proposer keeps working on the question with the Clerk until it is clear and simple.
I am in discussions with the Minister of Justice about this at the moment, and hope the Government may change the law in this area as a result.
Meanwhile, the debate on whether our kids deserve a childhood free from violence continues, and will for a while yet, whatever the result on 21 August.
Do parents have the right to smack their children?
The referendum on smacking is sparking controversy nationwide. As a result New Zealand’s premier debating society is hosting a show down between prominent Yes and No Voters in 2009.
The debate; open to the public, with entry by gold coin koha, is being organised by the Victoria University Debating Society and is sponsored by the University.
Side affirmative will be represented by champion student debater Udayan Mukherjee, commentator and former journalist Dave Crampton (who blogs at http://big-news.blogspot.com) and Wellington lawyer Michael Mabbett.
Green Party MP Sue Bradford will speak for the negative side, as will founder of Lobby Group EPOCH and former UNICEF NZ Advocacy Manager and Beth Wood. They will be joined by Victoria University Debating Society President Polly Higbee.
Each debater will have around ten minutes to speak, and a show of hands at the end will determine the winner.
Tea and coffee (and heated discussion) will be served after the debate.
“That parents have the right to smack their children”
Monday August 10, 6:30pm – 8:00pm
Lecture Theatre One,
Rutherford House, Pipitea Campus, Victoria University
The New Zealand Herald’s Political Editor Claire Trevett reports on how MPs will be voting in the referendum. The overwhelming majority of MPs will either vote YES or abstain, and only five said they would be voting no.
Of particular interest is Chester Borrows, who “had supported the petition to force the referendum before the compromise law was passed in 2007 – said he would not vote and did not believe the law should be changed.”
Labour: Steve Chadwick, Charles Chauvel, Kelvin Davis, Darien Fenton, Parekura Horomia, Moana Mackey, Su’a William Sio, Maryan Street. Progressives: Jim Anderton.
United Future: Peter Dunne.
Green Party: Sue Bradford, Keith Locke, Kennedy Graham, Metiria Turei, Russel Norman, Jeanette Fitzsimons, Sue Kedgley, Kevin Hague, Catherine Delahunty.
NOT/ PROBABLY NOT VOTING
National: David Bennett, Jackie Blue, Chester Borrows, David Carter, Judith Collins, Chris Finlayson, Tim Groser, Nathan Guy, Tau Henare, Steven Joyce, Nikki Kaye, John Key, Todd McClay, Tony Ryall, Katrina Shanks, Nick Smith, Anne Tolley, Chris Tremain, Louise Upston, Michael Woodhouse.
Maori Party: Tariana Turia.
Labour: Phil Goff, Annette King, Trevor Mallard, Damien O’Connor.
Today New Zealand celebrates two years of positive change for children since the law changed to give children the same legal protection from assault as adults.
New Zealanders should be proud of the progress made in positive child rearing practices with a clear message getting through that the use of force for correction is never justified, said Green Party MPs Sue Bradford and Metiria Turei.
The pair are heartened to celebrate two years of a safer world for our children and young people.
The 2007 amendment removed a legal defence that saw parents who had beaten their children claim a defence of ‘reasonable force’ and escape criminal convictions.
Ms Bradford said the law change is her most significant achievement as an MP, but she cannot take all the credit.
“I’m conscious that it’s a major social reform only brought about through the dedicated work of many individuals, community and church organisations – and MPs.
“But none of us can rest on our laurels.
“It is important now to continue to progress from this positive move and to ensure that the law continues to afford children the greatest possible protection.”
All the evidence so far – including three police reviews – shows the new law is working well. An array of Non-Governmental Organisations – such as Plunket, Barnados, Save the Children, Unicef, Jigsaw, Women’s Refuge and Parents Centre – have joined forces to promote the YesVote campaign, said Green Party Co-Leader Metiria Turei.
“Our MPs will vote ‘Yes’ in the coming referendum despite the confused and ambiguous question. We recognise that the referendum is a misguided attempt to return our law to the 19th century. On this two year anniversary, we celebrate how far our country has moved to create a safer world for children and young people.”
The young people of New Zealand will look back on the law change as a pivotal seachange in our country’s culture, Mrs Turei said.
“I’m proud of the work our party has done, and the achievements we’ve made with that law change. I’m proud of the work of Sue Bradford, in leading that change for the Green Party and for the community. Our kids will, in time, recognise the importance of this law change too.”
Green Party MP Sue Bradford this morning launched a Member’s Bill aimed at ending the use of confused questions in Citizens Initiated Referenda.
“Many New Zealanders have been shocked this week to discover the actual wording of the referendum question proposed by opponents of the law change that helps keep children safe from violence,” said Ms Bradford.
“The Green Party believes it is high time we ended the practice of allowing referenda petitions containing ambiguous questions to be put forward.
“My Citizens Initiated Referenda (Wording of Question) Amendment Bill will be placed in the parliamentary member’s ballot this Thursday 18 June, if one is held.
“The Bill requires the Clerk of the House to only allow referendum questions which are not ambiguous, complex, leading or misleading.
“If a person proposing a referendum question has their wording turned down, they will still have the option of reformulating their question until it meets the new criteria.
“Given comments by Prime Minister John Key yesterday that he thinks stricter rules around referenda questions should be introduced, I am also hopeful that even if my Bill is not drawn from the ballot this week, the Government may pick it up,” said Ms Bradford.
“I believe there would be cross party support for such an amendment.
“There are people who will be confused by the referendum and choose not to vote. There are also people who support the current law but don’t want to engage in a badly-worded and misleading referendum.
“However, I still believe the strongest statement we can make to demonstrate our commitment to protecting our children from violence is to vote ‘yes’ in the postal referendum.”
If you are going to use or distribute material from our campaign in any way, eg remixed or mashed up, please ensure that your actions are compliant with the relevant legislation, as the Yes Vote Coalition cannot take responsibility for actions beyond our control or knowledge.
The bottom line is that we want to play by the rules. We appreciate your support, but please act ethically, thoughtfully, and within the law.