The Paul Homes interview on Q&A was fascinating. Holmes was at his most hostile. He used every argument and language of those who support the anti-smacking law. He denigrated his guests as supporting violence, yet Cheryl Savil especially just sat there calmly and refused to allow Holmes to misrepresent her.
The video and transcript are here. I recommend them as good watching:
Cheryl you are a Mum two kids, how old are the kids.
CHERYL Ten and twelve.
PAUL And do you smack them?
So immediately tries to personalise it, but gets a calm response.
CHERYL SAVILL I have smacked them in the past, and I found it effective when they were younger?
PAUL How often would you have smacked them?
CHERYL Actually it differed between the two children, they’re quite different little characters, and one of them is quite a strong willed character and it’s interesting to point out that discipline is on the things and correcting a child is when we’ve used smacking, so when it’s you know you’re not to touch something and they’ve gone to touch it, well I have one of them that would actually eyeball me and be quite defiant in her behaviour so smacking was effective, a little light smack on the hand.
Something hundreds and thousands of parents may have done.
PAUL So why are you so passionate about the right to use physical violence against children?
And then we get the loaded language.
CHERYL Well I don’t think it’s a right, the terminology there, the right to use physical violence. Smacking is one of the things that parents can use as a technique to help discipline their children.
The calm response.
PAUL But why do we want to allow violence against children, I mean if an adult smacks, let’s use the word smack, if an adult smacks another adult it’s considered unacceptable, in fact it’s probably criminal, why should it be acceptable for a big person to assault or to smack a little child?
Here he repeast the pejorative term violence. Appears to concede and call it smacking. And then goes for anothe pejorative word – assault.
It is the equivalent of calling an unwanted kiss on the cheek, a sexual assault or violation.
CHERYL Well it’s quite a different relationship between a parent and their child than between adults. So a parent’s responsibility is to raise their child to become a responsible loving productive member of society, and that’s what I think is the issue here, the parenting role is very different to the role that we have as adults in relationship to each other.
And another calm rational response.
PAUL What did you use, a wooden spoon or the hearth brush or what?
Another attempt to attack the mother personally. he could have asked if she smacked with a bare hand or with an implement
CHERYL No I used a smack on the hand like that, or a smack on the bottom. When you actually show the footage often you’ll see a parent grabbing the child by the arm and whack whack whack whack and I don’t agree with that I think that’s going too far. So I need to really clarify that.
And another calm response, clearly saying what she finds acceptable and unacceptable.
Well can I just clarify that, if you smack a child as they’re about to touch that’s preventing bad behaviour, but if they do it, if they do something naughty, and then you say you’re not to do that again I’m going to give you a smack don’t do that again, that is correction, that is illegal, and this is the minefield that parents are going through that you can smack to prevent that behaviour but not to correct.
McCroskie correctly points out the current law.
PAUL Nobody’s going through a minefield Bob.
The response being an unsupported assertion. And he is meant to be the neutral interviewer.
PAUL Parents are very calm, can I suggest to you everyone agrees, the Police, the government, both major parties, Bernardoes, Plunket, everyone agrees….
Paul think the lobby groups and the MPs represent everyone. Did he not wonder about why 300,000 people signed a petition, why it was cited as a factor in Labour’s loss, or why polls show 80%+ oppose the law. And he has the gumption to claim everyone agrees.
CHERYL I actually think it’s quite interesting that there has been this move away from smacking or from actual violence which we don’t agree with, you know anger in action.
PAUL Smacking, hitting, what’s the difference Cheryl?
Back to the language war.
CHERYL Well a big difference, you know there is a seriously big difference, if a child gets bruised that’s too far.
And a calm response again
BOB Same with time out Paul, there’s appropriate time out, but locking your kid in a dark room for three hours is child abuse.
I thought this was a very apt analogy. Any disciplinary method can become abusive. There is a difference between a light smack and a violent thrashing just as there is a difference between a time out and imprisonment.
PAUL What is your smacking history Mr McCroskie?
BOB I was smacked, and it did me the world of good. There was nothing wrong with it.
And again Holmes tries to personalise it, rather than debate the issues.
PAUL Well it was a simpler world perhaps, but go back to a situation that obtained before we amended section 59, kids in New Zealand were the only kids not protected from physical violence. They did not have the same protections afforded to adults and animals.
BOB Yes they did, they were protected because the smack had to be reasonable and for the purpose of correction within the parent child relationship, so kids were protected from violence, if a parent went too far they were prosecuted.
PAUL And they got off Bob.
BOB One or two got off, there were a couple of exceptions.
PAUL A couple of very brutal incidents.
BOB And that’s what we wanted to do was to amend the law, we agreed with Chester Burrows amendment, we agree with John Boscawen’s member’s bill, which simply more clearly defined what was reasonable and what was not, it was a win win situation, that’s what parents want, they want certainty in the law. At the moment we’ve got this mish mash, parents don’t know where they stand.
And this is a key point. As far as I know no-one is arguing to go back to the old law. The Borrows amendment would beyond any doubt take care of those cases where there was public disquiet about verdicts under the old law.
PAUL But isn’t it strange that in this day and age we’re having a debate about whether we should be able to assault children?
BOB No it’s not about assault.
And for the fourth of fith time Holmes uses the language of the small minority who support the law. It is Holmes at his most biased. He has lost basically every argument, so he resorts back to slogans.
PAUL Come on!
CHERYL It’s not assault. Assaulting children – in fact actually the footage that you showed of whacking a child over and over and over again, I don’t agree with that, that’s not what I’m saying, and that’s what – I talk to hundreds of parents, I talk to parents in the school ground all the time, and they say to me this is crazy, what’s going on with the law.
And again a good response.
PAUL Is this driven by adherence to the old biblical saying that to spare the rod is to spoil the child? Do you believe that?
BOB No I think we be disciplining kids, I think we should be bringing them up, we should be training them and they should have clear boundaries, they should be surrounded in a loving family and the question is should a parent who’s bringing up a loving family, is loving the kid, doing all the things right, and chooses to use a smack, should they be criminalised, I would say no, it’s as simple as that, 85% of New Zealanders are saying that.
This time Holmes tries to paint it as religious fundamentalism. But there are many people like me who support gay marriage, abortion on demand, ending blasphemy laws, minimal censorship, gay adoption, legal prostitution etc etc – yet think this law that criminalises so many parents is wrong and should be amended in line the Borrows/Boscawen bill.
I thought Therese Arseneu summied it up well on the panel discussion:
THERESE I think what the debate comes down to is that one smack that’s she’s talking about, that she agrees that if it’s multiply smacks it is assault, and I guess what you hear from their side is that they don’t take great comfort in the fact that the Police – you know the compromise that came from National that the Police will have discretion when it comes down to that one smack, it’s highly unlikely that any parent is going to be criminalised for one smack, but the problem is that parents don’t like that that one smack is considered criminal.
No they don’t. They resent it like hell. And the Borrows/Boscawen bill would change it so that it isn’t.