Laws investigated for smacking

January 19th, 2014 at 6:40 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Police are investigating former Whanganui mayor Michael Laws after an allegation of child assault was made against him.

Laws, a former RadioLive talkback host and current Whanganui District Health Board member, was reported to police after allegedly smacking one of his children.

The incident allegedly happened at Whanganui Hospital last year. Laws, 56, was there with his three youngest children – Lucy, 9, Zoe, 7, and Theo, 5 – to visit their mother, Laws’ former partner Leonie Brookhammer, who suffered a stroke in August.

The Herald on Sunday understands the alleged smack was witnessed by a nurse in the assessment, treatment and rehabilitation ward. She reported it to the DHB and complained to police.

The Herald on Sunday asked police whether Laws was under investigation for allegedly hitting a child.

A spokesman replied by email saying: “Police can confirm they are investigating a child assault complaint made against a 56-year-old Whanganui man.
If correct, and the Police do prosecute, this could be hugely beneficial to the Conservatives as a high profile trial will put the spotlight on the law they want to over-turn.

Smart move by Craig

January 13th, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Conservative Party leader Colin Craig says he still smacks his children “just like two thirds of New Zealand parents”.

The party is a possible coalition partner with the National Party after this year’s general election.

Mr Craig told RadioLive today he wanted the issue of repealing the anti-smacking law to be “on the table” for future negotiations with National.

Asked if he would start smacking his own children if the law was reversed, Mr Craig said: “I occasionally do it right now”.

“Like two thirds of New Zealand parents I don’t go putting the good raising of a child behind a silly law.

This is a smart move by Craig. By admitting he smacks his own kids, he turns the issue into a more high profile one. If he is really lucky some one will call for him to be arrested and charged, and then that will give him even more publicity.

It isn’t a huge issue for most voters, but the Conservative only need 5%.

He said mostly his discipline consisted of “a flick of a finger on the back of a knuckle”.

“It’s hurts for a moment,” he said.

But the vast majority of discipline he used was not physical, he said.

As it should be.

Paul Little on polls

March 24th, 2013 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Paul Little writes in the HoS:

Family First got market research outfit Curia to survey attitudes on assaulting children – or “smacking” as they call it – as part of its perpetual campaign to have the law forbidding this overturned.

Whenever someone refers to smacking as assault, it isn’t hard to guess their views on the issue.

Family First appears to believe that not being smacked is the single most important issue facing our children. A “whopping” 77 per cent of those polled, FF claimed, wanted the law changed to bring back the bash.

Obviously, results on a question like this will depend on how it is framed. In this case, the 1000 respondents were asked whether the law should be changed so that “parents who give their children a smack that is reasonable and for the purpose of correction are not breaking the law”.

In other words, it was saying, “Do you believe something that is reasonable is reasonable?”

Critiquing of questions is always welcome. I do it myself to other polls, and it is important people understand the exact question asked.

In this case though what Mr Little overlooks is that the use of the term “reasonable” is not invented by Curia. It is the term that was in the law prior to 2007, and is the term used in the amendment that was put up by John Boscawen (and previously Chester Borrows), and is a term still in the law today. It is a term that was at the heart of the two year debate on the law.

“Should the law be changed so that it is legal to hit children when it is not legal to hit adults, or should there be one law for all?”

That would have got a different result. But it wouldn’t have been a very useful question to find out the answer to the question about whether people want the law to allow correctional smacking that uses reasonable force (as the law used to allow). I would also point out that the term reasonable force is still in the Crimes Act (s59) as parents can use reasonable force for:

  • preventing or minimising harm to the child or another person
  • preventing the child from engaging or continuing to engage in offensive or disruptive behaviour
  • performing the normal daily tasks that are incidental to good care and parenting

So I think the use of “reasonable” is entirely reasonable considering the current law.

Two other questions in the survey were equally absurd. Seventy-seven per cent said the new law had had no effect on child abuse. All credit to Curia for finding 1000 people who were up to speed with the latest data in that field.

Mr Little seems to be suggesting that people can’t have opinions on an issue, unless they are an expert on the field. I presume he also decries polls that ask people if they think fracking is unsafe and should be banned?

It is absolutely valid to find out if people think a law change has worked. What isn’t valid is to take the results of the poll as meaning the law has not worked. This is about finding out what people think.

The official crime stats should that NZ has less violent crime than in the past. But I don’t think this means it is wrong to ask people whether they think NZ is safer than in the past.

I blogged today on a poll regarding safety of nuclear powered ships by UMR. Does Mr Little think UMR were wrong to ask non-experts on whether they think nuclear powered ships are safe?

For the problem with Question 3 – “Would you still smack your child if you thought it was reasonable … despite the current law?” – see Question 1, above.

Mr Little misses the point of this question. Apart from the fact that the term “reasonable” is used because it is in the former (and current) law, this question is about finding out if people will obey the law, even if they disagree with it. An overwhelming majority say they will ignore the law and do correctional smacking even though it is explicitly illegal. That is a quite extraordinary to have so many people say they will break the law.

A tale of two petitions

March 19th, 2013 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

I’ve blogged on the leaked comments showing that Labour, Greens and the unions spent probably around $400,000 (mainly taxpayer funded) on gaining enough signatures for their referendum petition.

I thought it would be useful to contrast that with the previous successful petition, on the smacking issue.

I e-mailed the organiser, Larry Baldock, on how they got enough signatures and they did it the old fashioned way. They didn’t use taxpayer money to hire people to collect signatures. Larry says:

My wife and I spent almost 16 months travelling around NZ almost 4 times, some of the time in a sign written camper van collecting signatures in towns and cities, at AMP shows, field days and any events like V8’s, home shows etc.  Many days on the beach at Mt Maunganui. Some elderly supporters, spent many days each week right through winter sitting at a table outside a Post shop and collected thousands of signatures.  There are many stories! 

Such a contrast to having 10 paid staff work on co-ordinating the petition and using taxpayer funding to pay people to collect signatures. What Larry and others did is what CIRs are meant to be about – the public petitioning Parliament. Not the losing parties in an election trying to over-ride the election result.

Now the smacking petition got their signatures and a referendum was held. The result was beyond over-whelming. In response to the question:

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

87% voted no. Now one can quibble that the use of the term “good” is a bit loaded, but anyone who seriously thinks the result would have been vastly different with deletion of that word is deluded.

The referendum was held at the end of a two year high profile debate on the anti-smacking law. It is silly to suggest that NZers did not know exactly what they were voting for.  Maybe a slightly differently worded question would have got say 80% in favour instead of 87%. But that result was a massive landslide, You just can not credibly suggest that there was not a majority against the ban on correctional smacking.

Also polls every year since the referendum has shown a vast majority think that the law should allow correctional smacking that is reasonable (the old law allowed reasonable force). Family First have released the 2013 one which Curia did for them. I think the question is quite fair. In full it says:

In 2007 Parliament passed a law that removes a defence of reasonable force for parents who smack a child to correct their  behaviour, but states the Police have discretion not to prosecute if they consider the offence was inconsequential. 

Do you think the anti-smacking law should be changed to state explicitly that parents who give their children a smack that is reasonable and for the purpose of correction are not breaking the law?

So the question include what the law change was, specifically mentions the inclusion of the Police discretion and asks if they think correctional smacking should be legal, if reasonable. Now I am sure some can and will quibble over exact wording but considering the results were 77% said yes and only 18% no I am utterly confident that any alternate wording would produce much the same result, so long as it wasn’t totally slanted (such as should parents be able to assault their children).

There can be no doubt that the majority of New Zealanders want correctional smacking to be legal, and there was a referendum that said so by a massive 7:1 margin.

Now one can have the view that a party’s policy should triumph over a non binding referendum. I certainly hold that view.

But what is absolute hypocrisy is to be a party that ignored the results of this 2009 referendum, and then two years later to then demand that the Government should break its election policy on the basis of the asset sales referendum.

What many do not know is that a bill was selected for first reading in Parliament in 2010, just a couple of weeks after the referendum result. The bill would have implemented the referendum result by amending the law so that:

it is no longer a criminal offence for parents, and those in the place of parents, to use reasonable force for the purpose of correcting their children’s behaviour and there are clear statutory limits on what constitutes reasonable force

The law was basically identical to what the referendum called for. Now how did Labour and Greens vote on this bill, just three weeks after the referendum? The voted it down (along with every other party except ACT) at first reading.

Now I think National should have voted for the bill, but at least National is consistent that their party’s policy over-rides a referendum result. They have never ever said that referenda should trump elections.

But the actions of Labour and Greens in 2010 show that they are happy to ignore referendum results – unless it is a result they personally agree with.

Their asset sales referendum is nothing to do with democracy. It is mainly a device for them to use taxpayers money to get people onto their e-mail and direct mail lists.

So every time Russell Norman or David Shearer demands that the Government should not proceed with asset sales due to the proposed referendum, someone should ask them when will they be voting to amend the Crimes Act to allow correctional smacking. There is no response they can give which isn’t hypocritical.

And we should change the law to stop parliamentary parties from spending their parliamentary resources on promoting a referendum petition. CIRs are meant to be initiated by citizens, not by the losing parties in an election campaign.

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.

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.

A tazer instead of a smack

November 21st, 2009 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Telegaph reports:

The officer was called to the girl’s home in Ozark, Arkansas, by her mother because she was behaving in an unruly manner and refusing to take a shower. …

In a report on the incident the officer, Dustin Bradshaw, said the mother gave him permission to use the Taser.

When he arrived, the girl was curled up on the floor, screaming, and resisting as her mother tried to get her in the shower before bed.

“Her mother told me to take her if I needed to,” the officer wrote.

The child was “violently kicking and verbally combative” when he tried to take her into custody and she kicked him in the groin.

He then delivered “a very brief drive stun to her back,” the report said.

The officer has been suspended – not for tazering the ten year old, but for not having the mandatory video camera attached to it!

Interestingly one could argue that under Sue Bradford’s law, an officer could tazer a child, if it was deemed reasonable force for purpose of preventing disruption. Unlike the Borrows amendment, Bradford’s law does define limits for reasonable force.

$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.