At coffee on Monday a companion observed that I appeared to be pretty heated up on the Section 59 issue. I said that yes I was, but not on the primary issue of Section 59 but because of the absolute lies being told by the Bradford bill backers.
I actually recognise that a reasonable case can be made for outright repeal of Section 59, on the grounds that a small minority of parents can not cope with subtleties such as the concept of reasonable force. If they (Clark/Bradford) were honest that this bill would now ban smacking, but that they are asking parents to accept this restriction in order to help with that small number of problem families, then you might even have got a majority of parents onside and selflessly willing to make that sacrifice for the greater good. In fact almost every person I have spoken to has said that they could be persuaded if it was framed like that.
But the proponents of this bill have lied and twisted and spun. They are the reason 85% of NZers are now against this bill. It has been a catalog of political incompetence. Yes the bill will probably get passed into law, but the political ill will they have generated may haunt them for some time.
So what are these lies? Let us take them in turn:
NZPA quotes Steve Maharey using the standard Labour line of:
“It simply removes the defence of a person who is facing prosecution in court for using excessive force to discipline their children,”
The Labour spin is that smacking is already illegal, and that a defence in the Crimes Act is just something you can use in court. This is with all respect absolute bullshit and we know this with common sense.
Another Crimes Act defence is the right to self-defence. Now does Labour claim that it is illegal to use force to defend yourself in self-defence? Of course not. Take an example. Let us say you are in town and someone pulls a knife out on you and your girlfriend. He goes to stab you. You whack him in arm and he drops the knife. You have just saved your life, and maybe your girlfriend’s.
Now according to the Labour lies, you have just committed a crime, and that your right of self defence is something you will have to use in court. This is obviously not the case, Crown Law will not prosecute you, the Police will not charge you – because you have not broken the law. A defence under the Crimes Act means your actions are not illegal. So for Labour to claim smacking is already illegal, means you accept that defending yourself from a knife wielding maniac is also illegal. They can not have it both ways.
The second lie is that this is all about bating and thrashing, to quote Helen Clark in the Herald:
Helen Clark yesterday said some bill opponents were “demanding the right to be able to thrash and beat children”
This ignores that almost all opponents will be satisfied if the Borrows amendment is passed. And it is hysterical nonsense to claim that such an amendment allows any thrashing or beating. It sets the bar very low as only trifling or transitory. The more they try to demonise those who disagree with them as being “child beaters”, the more you piss off 85% of NZers.
Even if one does not like the exact wording of the Borrows amendment, the Government ignores the question of why it simply doesn’t pass a law saying you can not beat or thrash children, but a light smack is okay for correctional purposes. One can only conclude because they do in fact want to ban smacking, but don’t want to admit it.
Then we have the lies and spin over whether the Bradford bill repeals Section 59. It does not (her original bill did). The bill amends Section 59 to remove one defence and insert around four new ones.
Amazingly Tony Milne is arguing that this is a repeal. This I am afraid is a clear example of Labour tactics of arguing semantics over substance.
Let’s take Tony’s argument seriously for a second, that replacing one set of words with another is a repeal rather than an amendment. Let’s say a future Government removes the current definition of murder, and replaces it with a new definition which allows for three degrees of murder (like in the US). Well by Tony’s logic such a Government has repealed murder as a crime!!!
This is where all the Government arguments fall short. They argue legal semantics instead of common sense. They argue it does not ban smacking when it does. They then argue smacking has been illegal for 100 years when it clearly has not. They argue an amendment is a repeal. It’s just an insult to people’s intelligence, and is why 85% of NZers are now against the bill.
The Government is in fact having a false debate. They are arguing the merits of a total repeal of Section 59 vs the status quo. What is on the table is whether or not to vote for the Borrows amendment which will in fact drastically lower the level of force deemed reasonable and allow smacking for correctional purposes, on top of the four other grounds now listed in the Bradford bill.
The Government still appears desperate to get this through Parliament as quickly as possible. Having failed to ram it through under urgency, the signs now are they may make it an official Government bill (which at least would be more honest) so it can progress more speedily. It will be interesting to see if they finish committee stage today.