Parents and smacking

April 2nd, 2012 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Martin Johnston at NZ Herald reports:

A survey indicates there has been an increase in the number of parents who choose not to smack their children, in line with the controversial “anti-smacking law” implemented in 2007.

The survey was commissioned by conservative lobby group Family First from Curia Market Research, a firm headed by centre-right blogger David Farrar.

It is based on responses from 500 parents of children aged less than 12. It found that 44 per cent reported never smacking their children since the 2007 legislative change to remove the Crimes Act defence of “reasonable … force” for parents who hit their children to correct them.

Twenty-nine per cent told Curia they had smacked rarely since the change, 21 per cent said occasionally, 1 per cent said frequently and 5 per cent were unsure or refused to answer.

The full results are on the Family First website.

The never-smacked figure was higher than found in a 2009 Herald-DigiPoll survey of parents of 4-year-olds.

That poll found that 39 per cent of mothers and 33 per cent of fathers never smacked – and that was more than three-fold higher than the rate during the four decades to 1997.

I’d be a bit careful comparing a poll of parents of four year olds and a poll of parents of children aged from zero to 11 years old. I would suspect that the older the children the less likely parents are to smack.

This is not to say that the “never smacked” figure may not be increasing. It may or may not be. But one would want to compare data of parents of same aged children to be able to say if there is a trend.

Survey findings

66 per centof parents would “smack to correct in future”

44 per centhad not smacked their children since the 2007 law change

49 per cent think law change “caused decline in discipline”

81 per cent would not report someone for smacking

63 per cent think law should be changed to allow hand smacks

75 per cent say 2007 law change has not changed New Zealand’s level of child abuse

One interesting aspect was the views of parents on whether the law change has caused a decline in disciple. Only 42% of parents living in areas in the top three (least deprived) deciles said it had, but 59% of those in the bottom three deciles (most deprived)  said it had caused a decline discipline.

Winston says he will force Labour to repeal anti-smacking law

August 8th, 2011 at 8:28 pm by David Farrar

Bob McCoskrie has blogged responses from minor political parties on whether repeal of the anti-smacking law would be a bottom-line issue in coalition negotiations.

ACT have said they will push for it, but it is not a bottom line issue – in fact they sensibly have said there are no bottom line issues in advance, as it depends on your vote share.

The Kiwi and Conservative parties have both said it will be a bottom line issue, but neither rate in the polls.

What I found interesting was the response from NZ First:

NZ First policy is to repeal the anti smacking law passed by the last parliament despite overwhelming public opposition. Accordingly we will not enter any coalition or confidence and supply agreement with a party that wishes to ignore the publics clearly stated view in a referendum on that issue

Now if one assumes Winston is telling the truth (always dangerous), it is a very significant statement.

National has already ruled out Winston as a potential option. In fact Key has explicitly said he would go into Opposition than do a deal with Peters. Hence, the only party that may end up negotiating with Peters is Labour.

So if NZ First, do make 5%, and somehow a centre-left Government can be formed, a non negotiable condition of support from NZ First will be repealing the anti-smacking law. I wonder how that would go down with all the Labour and Green voters?

My Mummy’s A Criminal

July 18th, 2011 at 8:49 am by David Farrar

Family First have done this video to bolster their argument that some parents have been prosecuted for trivial acts of parental discipline.

While I have to say I’m largely over the debate (and I think most Kiwis are also), my view is the same as in 2007 – that the law should be changed in line with the Borrows amendment which would actually define reasonable force, and apply it to all situations where parents may need to use some force.

Jurors mitigating anti-smacking law

March 20th, 2011 at 10:12 am by David Farrar

Sarah Harvey in the SST reports:

A JURY has set a new benchmark under the so-called “anti-smacking” legislation by acquitting a father even though he admitted tying his son to his wrist, shaving his hair off, and washing his mouth out with soap. …

The father and his new wife were found not guilty after a trial on 15 charges alleging cruelty against two children from his previous marriage. The children were aged 10 and under at the time.

The couple’s lawyer used Section 59 of the Crimes Act, the amendment championed by Bradford, as a defence.

The case tested the amendment and showed what a jury would allow in terms of “justified force” to prevent or minimise harm, or to stop the child engaging in “offensive or disruptive behaviour”.

Here’s the irony. If Sue Bradford has gone with the Borrows amendment, then the court case may have ended up differently. Bradford’s law bans any use of force for “correction” but allows “reasonable force” for other purposes such as preventing offensive or disruptive behaviour.

The Borrows amendment would have defined reasonable force for both correctional purposes, but also the other purposes such as preventing disruptive behaviour.

So this is an absolute own goal in my opinion.

“It is probably the worst thing I have ever done to my child, but I grabbed my tie that I wear for church and I tied his wrist to my wrist beside my bed so he couldn’t take off and go and kill himself,” the father told the Sunday Star-Times. “Then he did manage to loosen it, so I did tie it around his neck for only about 30 seconds. I admitted to those things in court, but given the circumstances and what I was trying to achieve – trying to stop him killing himself – I was found not guilty.”

He also gave his son a “number two” haircut to teach him a lesson after a couple of years of stealing from his parents.

He was found not guilty of the charges relating to those incidents, as well as incidents where he was accused of making his children have cold showers, and excessive time-outs. He said the charges were exaggerated, and in some cases fabricated, but admitted the tying, cutting the child’s hair and washing his mouth out.

The jury accepted the three acts happened, but the majority decided they were OK.

Here’s an interesting question. Under the proposed law changes by Simon Power, would these parents have been entitled to a trial bu jury? Depends on what the exact ahrges were I imagine.

Deanne Shilton, the lead juror in the case, contacted the Sunday Star-Times through a third party. She said she was “embarrassed to be a New Zealander” and felt awful for the couple for having to go through the case – particularly the heavily pregnant wife of the father, who was forced to climb several flights of stairs to court cells during any break.

Shilton said she contacted the couple after the case to say how embarrassed she felt. It was obvious to her from the start the couple should be acquitted. She said most, but not all, of the other jurors felt similarly. “Good decent parents trying to instil a sense of responsibility, honesty and integrity, as well as the action-consequence moral in their children have been put through a living hell for their efforts.” …

But Bradford said the incidents were abuse. “I’m not familiar with the details of the case but the sort of things you are talking about – to me they are all assaults against children. And I think it’s really sad that a jury would think that those kind of activities are acceptable.

Might I suggest that it is better to learn the details of the case, rather than just apply labels.

I don’t think anyone condones the listed activities as ideal parenting. But like the jury I would hestitate to turn the parents into criminals for their actions, considering how difficult it sounds like the children were.

But I also do wonder why were the children so disruptive? Look sometimes, a kid is just a “bad apple” and it is no fault of their family or environment. But sometimes kids can rebel against an overly harsh environment. At the end of the day, it is dangerous to make judgements from afar.

Herald on anti-smacking law

December 9th, 2009 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The NZ Herald editorial:

The Prime Minister’s appointment of child psychologist Nigel Latta to lead a review of the smacking law was an inspired one. Dr Latta, a noted defender of smacking, has undertaken the work with an open mind and has come to conclusions that should answer the concerns of 87 per cent of those who voted in the recent referendum.

Dr Latta, assisted by Police Commissioner Howard Broad and the head of the Ministry of Social Development, Peter Hughes, has found that smacking as most people know it – light, admonitory, open-handed and instantaneous – remains permissible. Social workers are not alarmed by it and police are not prosecuting it, despite all the claims to the contrary of initiators of the referendum.

The review has found none of their cited cases stood up to closer scrutiny. Police investigations that seemed trivial or frivolous at first glance all turned out to contain more serious elements than the parents had admitted to campaigners such as Family First. Dr Latta said: “In all cases there wasn’t one where I thought the only reason [the police] investigated was because of the law change. In every case, when I looked at the police file, it was blindingly obvious why they had.”

I still think the law is a bad law, and that the Borrows/Boscawen amendment would be a far better law. I even think the original Bradford bill (merely to delete S59) would be a better law than the current one which is says it is fine to smack for some reasons, but not for others – and doesn’t define what level of force is reasonable.

So I would still like a law change. However Latta’s review of the disputed cases is reassuring that the Police and CYFS are not pursuing parents just for a light correctional smack. I was already pretty confident the Police were not over-reaching, but was worried about some of the zealousness you can get with CYFS.

Dr Latta’s findings ought to put to rest the fears of many parents who have been under the misapprehension that the Bradford bill outlawed smacking entirely. It never did, though it often seemed Sue Bradford was content to leave that impression. A complete ban would have been fine with her.

Well it does outlaw correctional smacking entirely. But it is unlikely you will be sanctioned for breaking it. John Key once compared it to speeding – if you do 51 km/hr in a 50 km/hr zone that is breaking the law, but you won’t get pinged.

Bradford did indeed want to ban smacking entirely. Even worse she lied about her intentions and said it was not about banning smacking. If she had been honest from the beginning, the law may not have met such anger.

The law expressly allows parents to use reasonable force to stop or prevent a child doing something dangerous, disruptive, offensive or persisting in such behaviour. Confusion was created because the law also says smacking is not permitted as a means of “correction” alone.

And that is why I think the Borrows law is superior. It defines reasonable force (and sets it at a very low level) but doesn’t leave you trying to work out if a smack is for preventing disruption (ok), good parenting (ok) or correction (not ok).

S59 Review

December 7th, 2009 at 4:45 pm by David Farrar

The Nigel Latta et al review of how Police and CYFS are implementing the new Section 59 has been reported back to the Government. It is online here. Some extracts:

It makes 13 recommendations to improve information to parents etc.

What is very interesting is the detailed responses to some of the cases that have been in the media.

The pillow attack case

December 4th, 2009 at 6:39 am by David Farrar

The pillow attack case is interesting because t both can and can not be linked to the S59 debate. The Herald reports:

A judge has thrown out an assault case against a man who threw a cushion at his nephew’s head following an argument with the boy’s mother.

George Taylor was accused of assault last New Year’s Eve following an argument about whether the mother of the 6-year-old was being overprotective of her children.

He threw a small decorative cushion at his nephew’s head, and although the mother did not see the incident, she called the police. …

At the hearing, the boy, who was speaking from behind a protective screen shielding him from the accused, told the court that the pillow strike had not really hurt and that he felt no ill-will towards his uncle.

The boy said he had been hit on the top of the head, had not been injured and had not been sore.

Now in a literal sense, this case has nothing to do with S59 as the defendent was an uncle, not a parent. In fact it is due to the complaint from a parent, that it proceeded at all. So some would argue it is protecting parents rights.

However others may argue that as the law now places parents on much the same platform as all other adults, a parent may now have to fear a pillow fight leading to charges. Personally I think that is over-reaching, as the key thing here is it is the parent, not the child, who insisted on charges.

Yesterday in court, the judge said a trial would potentially damage the boy and dismissal of the case was in the overall interests of justice.

The judge also blasted the police as “ridiculous” and “petty” for bringing action against Mr Taylor.

This is the aspect that will cause more legitimate concern amongst opponents of the anti-smacking law. The Government and PM puts great stock in the discretion available to Police. When you see the Police applying such discretion badly, it makes you nervous.

On the other hand, the system worked. The court correctly threw it out and reamed the Police. But a pity Mr Taylor had to go through a year of stress over something that should never have been a criminal matter.

$450,000 for anti anti-smacking law march

October 28th, 2009 at 8:29 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

An Auckland property manager who is spending $450,000 to promote a march against the smacking law says he hopes it will be the biggest protest march in New Zealand history.

Colin Craig, 41, and his wife Helen own companies which manage high-rise apartment buildings including Nautilus at Orewa and the Sentinel at Takapuna.

He says he has never belonged to or donated money to a political party, and had never given money to the Family First lobby group until Prime Minister John Key refused to change the smacking law when 87.4 per cent of voters said in a referendum that smacking should not be a criminal offence.

But yesterday he teamed up with Family First leaders Bob McCoskrie and Bev Adair to announce plans for a “march for democracy” in Queen St at 1.30pm on Saturday, November 21.

Mr Craig will be the major funder with a budget “in the hundreds of thousands – I hope not more than $450,000”.

Good on him for spending his own money on a cause he believes in. If Labour were still in Govt, no doubt there would be calls for some sort of law to stop Mr Craig from being able to spend his own money in this way.

Anti-Smacking Law meeting in Waimakariri tonight

September 21st, 2009 at 3:19 pm by David Farrar

For those interested, there is a public meeting in Waimakariri tonight, about the anti-smacking law. Details:

Monday 21 September, 7.30 p.m.

St. Bede’s College

Performing Arts Centre

210 Main North Road, Papanui, Christchurch City

John Boscawen, ACT M.P.

David Garrett, ACT M.P.

Larry Baldock, Leader of the Kiwi Party and Referendum Organiser

Bruce Logan, Founder of the Maxim Institute and ex School Principal

The anti-smacking law review

September 8th, 2009 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

John Key announced yesterday the panel and terms of reference for reviewing how Police and CYFS are implementing the amended Section 59 (the anti-smacking law).

The TOR says:

To review New Zealand Police and Child, Youth and Family policies and procedures, including the referral process between the two agencies, in order to identify any changes that are necessary or desirable in the interest of ensuring that:
1. good parents are treated as Parliament intended under the Crimes (Substituted Section 59) Amendment Act 2007
2. provisions of the law (both criminal and under the Children, Young Persons, and Their Families Act 1989) are applied to those who abuse children.

Now like many, my preference is for a law change, not just a review of policies and procedures. But the choice of independent reviewer is a very good one, which should give some credibility to what he reports back.

The reviewer (along with the MSD CEO and Police Commissioner) is Nigel Latta, the host of the Politically Incorrect Parenting Show, that showed on TV One.

Latta has said:

I have been approached by the Prime Minister and asked if I would consider participating in a review of the Police and CYF processes around S 59 to see if the law is working as intended. I have agreed to participate in this review on the basis that it was understood that my role was independent and that I was able to speak freely about both the process of the review, and my opinions regarding its findings.

So if he disagrees with any conclusions, he will say so. And more interestingly:

For the record, and this is something I have commented on publically in a number of contexts, my personal view on S59 is that I did not agree with the original law change.

I also voted no in the referendum. I do not believe that a parent smacking their child, in the ‘common sense’ understanding of what that means, should be subject to criminal prosecution or investigation.

That is a very useful statement, because he has said not only should parents who merely lightly smack their child not be prosecuted, he says they should not be investigated (presumably by Police or CYFS).

Again my preference is for a law change, but nevertheless this review looks to be potentially quite positive if done well.

A referendum on referendums!

September 7th, 2009 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Press reports:

Smacking referendum campaigner Larry Baldock wants a referendum, to run in conjunction with elections in 2011, on whether the results of referendums seeking repeal or amendment of any law should be binding.

The Kiwi Party leader and a leading organiser of the smacking referendum said the refusal of Prime Minister John Key to act on the result of that referendum raised questions about the abuse of executive power.

While I wish to see the law amended, and believe most of the public do also, the referendum was not a vote on repealing the anti-smacking law.

I, for one, would not vote in favour of repeal and returning to the old law.

I certainly would vote for amending the law, as outlined in the Borrows amendments in the Boscawen bill.

But the referendum did not specify that the law be repealed or amended. For Baldock’s proposal to work, the referendum would have to explicitly (instead of implicitly) state what law is to be repealed.

If we did have binding referenda, I’d be tempted to start one to get rid of the archaic criminal offence of blasphemous libel. Blasphemy should not be a crime – it should purely be an issue between a person and their church.

Mt Roskill public meeting on anti-smacking law

September 6th, 2009 at 11:48 pm by David Farrar

ACT MP John Boscawen is holding a public meeting in Mt Roskill on Monday to put pressure on MPs to back his bill (based on the Borrows amendments) amending the anti-smacking law. This is the first in what will be a series of public meetings.

John has pointed out than in 56 of the 70 seats (including Mt Roskill), more people voted No in the referenendum than voted for the electorate MP.

The Mt Roskill meeting will be addressed by Emeritus Professor of Law Jim Evans. It starts at 7.30 pm, Mon 7 September at Hay Park School, 670 Richardson Road, Mt Roskill.


August 30th, 2009 at 5:27 am by David Farrar

The Herald on Sunday reports:

Heavyweight boxer David Tua says he is in favour of the anti-smacking legislation remaining intact, saying that such punishment must always be “a final resort only”. …

“Kids are like that too. You don’t retaliate – you take time out, they take time out and you and they think more clearly. Smacking can only be a final, last resort and should never be a regular thing.”

The anti-smacking law does not allow smacking as a last resort. All smacking for correctional purposes is illegal.

Armstrong’s View

August 29th, 2009 at 11:05 am by David Farrar

John Armstrong touches on a number of issues:

No matter what spin the anti-smacking brigade puts on last week’s referendum, the result is still mind-boggling. …

The assumption of voter ignorance is the typical sort of patronising claptrap used by the liberal elites to conveniently explain away something that disturbs their comfort zones. …

Ditto with the smacking referendum. Voters understood exactly what they were doing. Politicians ignore the outcome at their peril.

There is a huge disconnect between the so called liberal elite and the rest of NZ on this issue. Armstrong is right – people knew exactly what they were voting for. This is an issue that has had two years plus of public debate.

Those in National’s senior ranks are most definitely taking note. The highest “no” votes were registered in provincial and rural seats held by that party.

Once it was clear that the turnout was going to be much higher than predicted, the Prime Minister ensured he had a response prepared. This amounted to more monitoring of the existing law to ensure it is working as intended.

That was obviously not going to satisfy the referendum’s organisers, who were seeking the repeal of the relevant section of the Crimes Act.

While Sue Bradford’s amended initiative remains the law, National has taken on board the message from the referendum that voters are drawing a line in the sand against any more measures which might be termed liberal, socially progressive or nanny state-ish.

I remain unconvinced that this will be enough. I think it will remain an issue until the law is amended.

And I don’t think one should include “socially progressive” in the same sentence as “nanny state”. Certainly some people are against both, but I see de-criminalising prostitution (or more correctly solicitation) as the exact opposite of nanny state.

In marked contrast, National’s reform agenda for the economy and social service delivery is meeting little resistance. For example, Bill English has now mentioned on several occasions three dreaded words that usually spell political death – “capital gains tax” – without his world caving in.

That is not to say the Finance Minister is about to bring in such a tax.

But the lack of opposition is emboldening the Government to move faster on the economic front than it might otherwise have done, another example being National’s willingness to allow mining of minerals on parts of the Department of Conservation estate.

I am pleased that National is showing signs that the status quo will not deliver the economy we need.

If nothing else, the politics surrounding the latter is proof there is a God – and that he or she has a wicked sense of humour.

How else to explain the private member’s bill promoted by Act’s John Boscawen, which allows parents to give their child a “light” smack for corrective purposes, making it onto Parliament’s order paper for debate.

The odds on the measure securing the sole spot available were a staggering 28-1 against. Beating those odds in the ballot of private member’s bills – plus the timing just days after the referendum result – suggested divine intervention.

I joked to a Christian lobbyist after the bill was drawn, that perhaps this does show that God is indeed on their side 🙂

National is relaxed about Act getting a pay-off in the polls from Hide appearing principled by saying he would resign his Local Government portfolio rather than steer legislation through Parliament with which he could not agree.

Act has struggled to register above 1.5 per cent support since the election, while backing for National is up to 10 percentage points higher than the party got at the ballot box last year.

While Act appears to have decided to be less supine in its four-way relationship with National, the Maori Party and United Future, it has to ensure it does not overreach itself and become the docked tail wagging a very large National dog.

Most in National would like ACT to be close to 5% than 1%. And again to be fair to Rodney he did not publicise his stance on resigning over the Maori Seats. Whomever leaked the Tau Henare e-mail did that.

National ultimately holds the whip hand. Act’s survival as a parliamentary party rests on Hide holding his Epsom seat. National has no qualms about reminding him that it retains the right to select a quality candidate and make a proper fight of it in the electorate.

Hide’s threat to resign his portfolios is akin to the Black Knight’s sword fight with King Arthur in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. As Arthur hacks off the Black Knight’s limbs one-by-one, the latter insists his wounds are nothing more than a scratch and suggests the pair call it a draw.

Again I think it is fair to stress Rodney did not want this made public. But having been made public, is is true that there is limited room to take such a firm stance again without a degree of backlash.

If there is a lesson to be drawn from the Byzantine nature of MMP politics, it is not to view an argument over something like the non-establishment of Maori seats in isolation. The Maori Party has been the loser in that instance, it should be the winner elsewhere, thereby reinforcing its current inclination to stick with National.

The review of the foreshore and seabed law will see it emerge the winner when it comes to concessions.

I have blogged previously that by 2011 the Maori Party will probably have a fairly impressive list of achievements or wins. And what will be more remarkable is all of them were gained voluntarily – National could have governed without them.

Brave or Foolish?

August 28th, 2009 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

This week’s Dispatch from St Johnnysburg at NBR asks whether John Key is being brave or foolish with his refusal to support the Boscawen bill to amend the anti-smacking law.

As usual, comments and feedback can be made on the NBR site.

Boscawen Smacking Bill drawn

August 26th, 2009 at 12:19 pm by David Farrar

I have had confirmed that the bill drawn from the ballot is John Boscawen’s bill to amend Section 59 in line with the Borrows amendment.

I would hope that both Labour and National would vote for this bill to go to select committee. The public have shown they are not happy with the current law, and the Boscawen/Borrows bill/amendment is a pragmatic option that would rule out the problems of the old law, but remove the rather silly differentiation between “correction” and “good parenting” and “preventing disruptive behaviour”.

The Government did not want this as an issue while it concentrates on the recession and economic issues, but private members bills are not subject to Government timetable, and the House has just two options at first reading- to vote it down despite the referendum result, or to vote for it to go to select committee and let the select committee consider how well the current law is working, and whether the Boscawen bill would be an improvement.

ACT are having a run of good luck with the VSM Bill and now this Bill. Good on them.

As I said, I hope Labour will back the bill to select committee also. That would not be turning their backs on the law they voted for. It is not about going back to the old law. It is about whether the amendments in the Boscawen bill are worth considering – and they are.

A copy of the Bill is here in word format.

UPDATE: To my surprise National will not even be supporting the bill at first reading. I thing this is a pretty huge mistake, and one they may regret over time.

Final Referendum Result

August 25th, 2009 at 1:54 pm by David Farrar
  • Enrolled Voters: 3,002,068
  • Votes Cast: 1,684,402 (56.1% of enrolled)
  • Invalid Votes: 1,685 (0.1% of enrolled) – unreadable etc
  • Valid Votes: 1,682,717
  • Informal Votes: 10,421 (0.6% of valid votes) – no indication of vote
  • Yes Votes: 201,541 (12.0% of valid votes)
  • No Votes: 1,470,755 (87.4% of valid votes)

Incidentally I have run the results through my margin of error calculator as it it were a poll. If one assumes those who did not vote would vote the same as those who did vote, then the margin of error for the no vote was +/- 0.022%.

The Election Results Website usefully now has a useful excel spreadsheet of the votes per electorate.

Lowest Turnout

  1. Tāmaki Makaurau 34.2%
  2. Hauraki-Waikato 34.4%
  3. Ikaroa-Rāwhiti 36.1%
  4. Waiariki 36.6%
  5. Te Tai Hauāuru 37.4%

Highest Turnout

  1. Bay of Plenty 66.8%
  2. Coromandel 66.2%
  3. Rodney 66.1%
  4. Waitaki 65.9%
  5. Selwyn 65.2%

Highest Informal Votes

  1. Wellington Central 2.02%
  2. Rongotai 1.23%
  3. Ohariu 1.15%
  4. Dunedin North 1.12%
  5. Auckland Central 1.10%

Highest Yes Votes

  1. Wellington Central 36.0%
  2. Rongotai 29.3%
  3. Auckland Central 29.2%
  4. Mt Albert 23.1%
  5. Ohariu 19.9%

Highest No Votes

  1. Waikato 92.54%
  2. Taranaki-King Country 92.41%
  3. Clutha-Southland 92.39%
  4. Hunua 92.38%
  5. Taupo 92.30%

The Government’s response

August 25th, 2009 at 11:51 am by David Farrar

John Key announced yesterday three initiatives in response to the referendum. Taking each in turn:

The Police and Ministry of Social Development chief executive lead a review of Police and Child, Youth & Family policies and procedures, including the referral process between the two agencies, to identify any changes that are necessary or desirable to ensure good parents are treated as Parliament intended.  The Commissioner of Police and Ministry of Social Development chief executive will seek an independent person to assist in the conduct of the review and will report back by 1 December 2009.

I think this is useful and desirable. I’d guess that more parents are worried about over-zealous action by CYFS, than they are about actually being prosecuted and convicted for a light smack.

Bring forward the delivery of the report from the Ministry of Social Development chief executive on data and trends and the effect of the law change from the end of the year to late September/early October. The Minister of Social Development will table the report in the House.

As MSD are doing the review, I will be amazed if it amounts to much. But yes useful to have it done earlier.

Invite Police to continue to report on a six-monthly or annual basis for the next three years on the operation of the law, and invite Police to include data on cases where parents or caregivers say the force used on the child was reasonable in the circumstances.

This is useful, as it may lead to a situation where a conclusion can be reached on whether the law is working or not. Now that I think that is the correct test, but it is the test laid down by the PM.

“Cabinet has agreed that if future Police data indicates a worrying trend, the law will be changed to ensure that good New Zealand parents are not criminalised for lightly smacking,” says Mr Key.

I regard “criminalised” as meaning are in breach of the law, not merely that they are not charged or convicted. And the law is very specific that smacking for correctional purposes is absolutely illegal.

The problem we have is that the Government’s test of “Is the law working” is not the test, that many others have. Their test is “Is this a good law”.

So why is the Government, or more specifically the PM, applying the “Is the law working” test? Why doesn’t he just agree to change the law?

Well the simple answer is he does not want to break his word, and that is not a bad thing. Since the compromise the test he promised was “Is the law working” and while I think that is the wrong test, that is what he promised.

So the PM has to balance up keeping his word, with responding to a clear public vote they do not like the law.

If the public are unhappy with no law change, there are a number of ways this could show itself. National could lose support to ACT who want the law changed. This is not a concern to National. Most of the smart people in National want ACT to be higher in the polls than 1%. Losing support to ACT doesn’t change the Government.

It is hard to see Labour picking up support from National on this issue. Labour are still blamed by most for the law, and Labour have little relevance at the moment for most people.

The nightmare scenario is Winston. His caucus had a conscience vote on this issue and Peters voted against. Could Winston use this to campaign in 2011 that National and Labour are the same, and if he gets back in he will force whomever is in Government to scrap the law. In those circumstances Phil Goff would scrap the law to have Winston make him PM.

Colin Espiner blogs on this issue, and he implores John Key to “hold the line”. I suspect Colin’s view is that of almost the entire gallery. I really do wish someone from the gallery could tell me what the problem is with the Borrows amendment. After all Colin says:

I’ve smacked my child, and I don’t want to be prosecuted for it. But I like the law, because it stops child beaters who bash their kids with lengths of hose pipe from getting away with it.

The Borrows amendment would mean Colin is not breaking the law when he smacked his child (assuming it was for correctional purposes) and it would also stop someone hitting their kid with a length of hose pipe.

Is Colin aware that the current law does not explicitly forbid hitting your kid with a length of hose pipe? If done for non-correctional purposes, it may be found to be reasonable force. While the Borrows amendment would rule that out in all circumstances.

It seems to me (and I admit I have a position on this subject) that what most Kiwis are telling the Government is that they don’t want to be told how to discipline their kids.

Yet they are. The Bradford law is explicit. It says you can not use any force at all for correctional purposes. It says you can use undefined reasonable force for good parenting, for preventing disruptive behaviour but not for correction. And that is exactly telling parents how to discipline their kids.

David Beatson blogs at Pundit and concludes:

Third, he should be prepared to consider an amendment to section 59 that might satisfy all parties – one stating clearly that legal parental correction does not include the use of force that results in a child suffering any form of physical injury or sustained distress.

That is basically the Borrows amendment. But despite it giving children greater protection in most areas, it is not acceptable to the 12%. You can not get a compromise that everyone will accept – there is too much gulf between the 88% and the 12%.

Dim-Post on changes to smacking law

August 24th, 2009 at 10:45 am by David Farrar

Danyl has been leaked the proposed changes:

  • Alter font of Section 59 amendment from Courier12 to Times New Roman.
  • Establish designated ‘coffee houses’ in urban areas where children can be freely smacked without fear of police intimidation.
  • Initiate second non-binding referendum to ask voters if they understood question in previous referendum.
  • Key to meet with Sheryl Savill, the woman who initiated the referendum, listen to her talk for up to five minutes and look at no less than twenty of her cat pictures.
  • Larry Baldock to negotiate law change with Sue Bradford on pre-condition that Bradford be confined within a pentagram and bound in a straitjacket and hockey mask throughout the talks.
  • Key to address Families First meeting, stand at podium with shit-eating grin and demand to know who the fuck else they’re going to vote for.

Excellent satire, as usual.

Laws on Smacking

August 23rd, 2009 at 7:02 am by David Farrar

Michael Laws writes:

IF THERE is one thing that Friday’s anti-smacking referendum will never influence it is those morons who believe that a corrective smack on a child’s bottom constitutes child abuse.

Indeed equating that to child abuse, is like equating an unwanted kiss on the cheek to sexual assault.

The country has rejected this absurd correlation.

Yet a few people remain in denial. In their fantwasy world a differently worded referendum would have got a different result from the 88% who said no. They are wrong. You could have removed the word “good” and at best 1% to 2% difference I would say. What makes me say that? There have been over a dozen polls done by multiple companies on the smacking issue over the years. Almost all of them have 80%+ disagreeing with the law. The referendum result is entirely consistent with what NZers have been saying for the last two years,

Those who deny the legitimacy of the result, are quite simply bad losers.

As all the child beatings and deaths of 2009 prove, the anti-smacking legislation has failed. It hasn’t stopped one beating, one abuse, one death. And it never will. You can’t reason with drugged, drunk, violent parents, acting out their inadequacy, with an act of parliament. If you could, we would all be living in Utopia. …

This simple fact has escaped the intellectual grasp of the “Yes” campaigners. It seems self-evident to me indeed to the entire nation but not to the zealots whose faith blinds them to reason. As an air-blown kiss is not a prelude to rape, neither is a corrective smack a prelude to Nia Glassie.

Exactly. And all but a few zealots get this.

Without question the best solution has always been and remains so that of the amendment that Whanganui MP Chester Borrows advanced within his caucus in late-2006.

It excused “transitory and trifling” disciplining and it is the genuine compromise that John Key should choose in response to Friday’s overwhelming result.

What many do not get is the Borrows amendment will actually provide greater protection to children. The current law doesn’t even define reasonable force for purposes of good parenting, preventing disruption etc. One might be able to use a horse whip legally under the Bradford law – so long as not for correction.

The Borrows amendment is absolutely the best way forward.

Vote Sizes

August 22nd, 2009 at 3:51 pm by David Farrar
  1. 1,420,959 – No to correctional smacking as a criminal offence
  2. 1,053,398 – 2008 Vote for National
  3. 935,319 – 2005 Vote for Labour
  4. 838,219 – 2002 Vote for Labour
  5. 800,199 – 1999 Vote for Labour
  6. 701,315 – 1996 Vote for National

Key’s response

August 22nd, 2009 at 1:02 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Options for changing New Zealand’s approach to smacking children will go to the Cabinet on Monday after New Zealanders voted by 88 per cent that a smack should not be a criminal offence.

Well it is good to see that the voices of 1.4 million New Zealanders won’t just be ignored.

It was muffled by a low turnout of 54 per cent, including 0.3 per cent who spoiled their votes, so even the huge “no” vote fell just short of half of the enrolled electors.

That is not a low turnout for a referendum not held with an election. The referendum that chose MMP for the run-off with FPP had only a 55% turnout. So it was only 1% less than the choice of electoral system.

Prime Minister John Key said in Australia – where he is on an official visit – that voters had said strongly that “they don’t want good parents to be criminalised for a light smack”.

Yes, but that is not just saying they do not want to be prosecuted and convicted. It is saying they do not want it to be a criminal offence.

His own view was that the law was “working as it is now”.

But on Monday, he would take to the Cabinet “options which fall short of changing the law but will provide comfort for parents about this issue”.

There will be a lot of interest in these. However I believe that the law should be changed. The reason is quite simple.

The criminal code is there to reflect the views of the public on what is and is not acceptable behaviour. And almost every provision in the criminal code would have 99% of adult New Zealanders say this should be a criminal offence. 99% say it is wrong to murder, it is wrong to rape, it is wrong to beat someone senseless, it is wrong to steal etc etc.

But here we have 88% of adult New Zealanders (who voted) saying this should not be a criminal offence. If Parliament does not heed the views of voters on this issue, then we have an awful precedent where Parliament is sits as rulers rather than servants of the people, imposing their private criminal code, rather than society’s.

I’m not an advocate that Parliament in every circumstance should do what public opinion wants. The referendum on the number of firefighters was a classic case. Economic issues can be similiar as the public can vote for cutting taxes and increasing spending without the responsibility of having to balance the budget.

But when it comes to our criminal code, I find it hard to offer up a reason why Parliament would insist on criminalising something that not only lacks majority support for being a criminal act, but in fact has massive and sustained opposition.

The public understand this issue. Hell, it has been debated for two to three years. They know exactly what they voted for. The percentage who spoilt their ballot papers was a miniscule 0.3%.

There is a simple solution to all of this. The Borrows/Boscawen amendment/bill. It will in fact provide greater protection to children (as it significantly lowers the level of acceptable force for non-correctional situations) but remove the insulting differentiation between smacking for preventing disruption and for correction.

Smacking Referendum Results

August 21st, 2009 at 8:13 pm by David Farrar

The interim results are:

1,622,150 votes cast which I think is a 54% response rate. That is higher than most local body elections and pretty good for a referendum not held with a general election.

87.6% voted no and 11.8% vote yes.

A massive victory for common sense.

As a proportion of total enrolled adults, 47% voted no, 46% did not vote and only 7% voted yes.

Detailed results are here.

The three electorates with the lowest no votes are:

  1. Wellington Central 62.1%
  2. Rongotai 69.6%
  3. Auckland Central 70.1%

I think it shows how different opinion is within those enclaves, compared to most of the country. Having said that even WC almost had 2:1 voting no.

The electorates with the highest no votes (all 92.6%) are:

  1. Waikato
  2. Clutha-Southland
  3. Hunua
  4. Taranaki – King Country

The number of electorates who in each band for the no vote are:

  1. 60% – 65% 1
  2. 65% – 70% 1
  3. 70% – 75% 1
  4. 75% – 80% 3
  5. 80% – 85% 13
  6. 85% – 90% 22
  7. 90% – 95% 29

The turnout range varied from 32.8% in Tamaki Makaurau to 65.1% in Bay of Plenty.

Schools Debating

August 7th, 2009 at 9:04 pm by David Farrar

The National Finals of the New Zealand Schools’ Debating Champs are this weekend. The Grand Final is at 10 am on Monday in the Legislatuve Council Chamber at Parliament.

The Wellington team includes Maria English and the Canterbury team Robert Brownlee. Good luck to all participants.

New Zealand are the current world champions and this competition will help determine who will defend the title in 2010 at Doha, Qatar.

Also later that day on Monday the 10th is a public debate on the moot “This House believes that parents have the right to smack their kids”. It is hosted by Vic DebSoc and starts at 6.30 in Rutherford House Lecture Theatre.

83% no vote predicted

August 3rd, 2009 at 7:56 am by David Farrar

I’ve blogged at curiablog the Colmar Brunton results on the smacking referendum.

70% of respondents said they intend to vote in the referendum, and 83% say they will be voting no.