The Yes Vote – NZ Referendum on Child Discipline 2009

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The referendum question was designed to mislead and confuse people.

Should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offence in New Zealand?

This question suggests that hitting children is good parental correction. It is not.

Unfortunately the negative outcome from the recent referendum will lead to a huge amount of pressure being put on Government to change the law to reintroduce a statutory defence in section 59 of the Crimes Act 1961.

The Prime Minister, Rt Hon John Key, has several times said that he thinks the law is working well and does not intend to change it but he needs our support to say strong on this decision.

Here is what you can do to help.

1. Write to your MP
2. Follow and contribute to the debate
3. Encourage your friends to do the same


1. Write to Members of Parliament to let them know you want the current law retained

To send an email to your MP, or a group of MP’s, you can use our handy email your MP widget which contains letter templates. It will only take you two minutes.

If you’d like to write your very own email, then look up your MP’s details (or download a complete contact list) and then send an email directly to them at firstname.lastname@parliament.govt.nz .

You could also put pen to paper, or ink to printer, and send your favourite MPs a snailmail.  Paper still holds sway in the halls of parliament, and it won’t even cost you postage — what have you got to lose?  A simple letter to your MP might run something like:

Hon [MP’s Name], MP
Freepost Parliament
PO Box 18888
Wellington

[ date ]

[MP’s First Name],

I’m writing to you to express my concern at the outcome of the poorly worded referendum on child discipline. I do not believe that its outcome represents a clear message about the law – only slightly more than 50% of New Zealanders responded. Many reported that they would not vote because they objected to the question. Others were confused by it and may have unintentionally given the wrong answer. While the intent of the referendum was to undermine the child discipline law the question used was devious and responses to it do not necessarily reflect how people regard the law or how it is working in practice.

I support the existing child discipline law, which was amended by Parliament in 2007 to remove excuses for parents beating their children.

When Parliament reviews this law, I urge you to consider the rights of children and support positive parenting.  Retain the law, it is a good one.

Yours faithfully

[ Your name and return address ]

2. Follow and contribute to the debate

The debate about physical punishment of children and the related law is set to continue for some time yet in New Zealand. This is a positive thing and healthy debate will contribute to moving on.

Keep yourself informed about the issues, and talk about them with your family, friends and colleagues.  Follow the news media, write letters to the editor, comment on blogs, and stand up for what you believe in!  If you like electronic media, you can subscribe to our e-newsletter, take our web site’s RSS feed using Google Reader, or follow us on Twitter.

There is also a Facebook group, YES in ’09 which is not run by nor associated with The Yes Vote Coalition, but which has interesting discussions on the topic.

3. Encourage your friends and networks to do the same

Encourage others to spread the word. We will continue to  stand up for the rights of the people least able to do so for themselves – children. Write little articles for your kindy, playcentre, school or church news, and point people back to this web site.

he debate about physical punishment of children and the related law is set to continue for some time yet in New Zealand. This is a positive thing and healthy debate will contribute to moving on.

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

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