Holmes on smacking referendum

July 26th, 2009 at 4:38 pm by David Farrar

The Paul Homes interview on Q&A was fascinating. Holmes was at his most hostile. He used every argument and language of those who support the anti-smacking law. He denigrated his guests as supporting violence, yet Cheryl Savil especially just sat there calmly and refused to allow Holmes to misrepresent her.

The video and transcript are here.  I recommend them as good watching:

Cheryl you are a Mum two kids, how old are the kids.

CHERYL Ten and twelve.

PAUL  And do you smack them?

So immediately tries to personalise it, but gets a calm response.

CHERYL SAVILL I have smacked them in the past, and I found it effective when they were younger?

PAUL How often would you have smacked them?

CHERYL  Actually it differed between the two children, they’re quite different little characters, and one of them is quite a strong willed character and it’s interesting to point out that discipline is on the things and correcting a child is when we’ve used smacking, so when it’s you know you’re not to touch something and they’ve gone to touch it, well I have one of them that would actually eyeball me and be quite defiant in her behaviour so smacking was effective, a little light smack on the hand.

Something hundreds and thousands of parents may have done.

PAUL So why are you so passionate about the right to use physical violence against children?

And then we get the loaded language.

CHERYL Well I don’t think it’s a right, the terminology there, the right to use physical violence.  Smacking is one of the things that parents can use as a technique to help discipline their children.

The calm response.

PAUL But why do we want to allow violence against children, I mean if an adult smacks, let’s use the word smack, if an adult smacks another adult it’s considered unacceptable, in fact it’s probably criminal, why should it be acceptable for a big person to assault or to smack a little child?

Here he repeast the pejorative term violence. Appears to concede and call it smacking. And then goes for anothe pejorative word – assault.

It is the equivalent of calling an unwanted kiss on the cheek, a sexual assault or violation.

CHERYL Well it’s quite a different relationship between a parent and their child than between adults.  So a parent’s responsibility is to raise their child to become a responsible loving productive member of society, and that’s what I think is the issue here, the parenting role is very different to the role that we have as adults in relationship to each other.

And another calm rational response.

PAUL What did you use, a wooden spoon or the hearth brush or what?

Another attempt to attack the mother personally. he could have asked if she smacked with a bare hand or with an implement

CHERYL  No I used a smack on the hand like that, or a smack on the bottom.  When you actually show the footage often you’ll see a parent grabbing the child by the arm and whack whack whack whack and I don’t agree with that I think that’s going too far.  So I need to really clarify that.

And another calm response, clearly saying what she finds acceptable and unacceptable.

 Well can I just clarify that, if you smack a child as they’re about to touch that’s preventing bad behaviour, but if they do it, if they do something naughty, and then you say you’re not to do that again I’m going to give you a smack don’t do that again, that is correction, that is illegal, and this is the minefield that parents are going through that you can smack to prevent that behaviour but not to correct.

McCroskie correctly points out the current law.

PAUL Nobody’s going through a minefield Bob.

The response being an unsupported assertion. And he is meant to be the neutral interviewer.

PAUL Parents are very calm, can I suggest to you everyone agrees, the Police, the government, both major parties, Bernardoes, Plunket, everyone agrees….

Paul think the lobby groups and the MPs represent everyone. Did he not wonder about why 300,000 people signed a petition, why it was cited as a factor in Labour’s loss, or why polls show 80%+ oppose the law. And he has the gumption to claim everyone agrees.

CHERYL I actually think it’s quite interesting that there has been this move away from smacking or from actual violence which we don’t agree with, you know anger in action.

PAUL Smacking, hitting, what’s the difference Cheryl?

Back to the language war.

CHERYL  Well a big difference, you know there is a seriously big difference, if a child gets bruised that’s too far.

And a calm response again

BOB  Same with time out Paul, there’s appropriate time out, but locking your kid in a dark room for three hours is child abuse.

I thought this was a very apt analogy. Any disciplinary method can become abusive. There is a difference between a light smack and a violent thrashing just as there is a difference between a time out and imprisonment.

PAUL What is your smacking history Mr McCroskie?

BOB  I was smacked, and it did me the world of good.  There was nothing wrong with it.

And again Holmes tries to personalise it, rather than debate the issues.

PAUL Well it was a simpler world perhaps, but go back to a situation that obtained before we amended section 59, kids in New Zealand were the only kids not protected from physical violence.  They did not have the same protections afforded to adults and animals.

BOB Yes they did, they were protected because the smack had to be reasonable and for the purpose of correction within the parent child relationship, so kids were protected from violence, if a parent went too far they were prosecuted.

PAUL And they got off Bob.

BOB One or two got off, there were a couple of exceptions.

PAUL A couple of very brutal incidents.

BOB And that’s what we wanted to do was to amend the law, we agreed with Chester Burrows amendment, we agree with John Boscawen’s member’s bill, which simply more clearly defined what was reasonable and what was not, it was a win win situation, that’s what parents want, they want certainty in the law.  At the moment we’ve got this mish mash, parents don’t know where they stand.

And this is a key point. As far as I know no-one is arguing to go back to the old law. The Borrows amendment would beyond any doubt take care of those cases where there was public disquiet about verdicts under the old law.

PAUL But isn’t it strange that in this day and age we’re having a debate about whether we should be able to assault children?

BOB  No it’s not about assault.

And for the fourth of fith time Holmes uses the language of the small minority who support the law. It is Holmes at his most biased. He has lost basically every argument, so he resorts back to slogans.

PAUL Come on!

CHERYL  It’s not assault.  Assaulting children – in fact actually the footage that you showed of whacking a child over and over and over again, I don’t agree with that, that’s not what I’m saying, and that’s what – I talk to hundreds of parents, I talk to parents in the school ground all the time, and they say to me this is crazy, what’s going on with the law.

And again a good response.

PAUL Is this driven by adherence to the old biblical saying that to spare the rod is to spoil the child?  Do you believe that?

BOB No I think we be disciplining kids, I think we should be bringing them up, we should be training them and they should have clear boundaries, they should be surrounded in a loving family and the question is should a parent who’s bringing up a loving family, is loving the kid, doing all the things right, and chooses to use a smack, should they be criminalised, I would say no, it’s as simple as that, 85% of New Zealanders are saying that.

This time Holmes tries to paint it as religious fundamentalism. But there are many people like me who support gay marriage, abortion on demand, ending blasphemy laws, minimal censorship, gay adoption, legal prostitution etc etc – yet think this law that criminalises so many parents is wrong and should be amended in line the Borrows/Boscawen bill.

I thought Therese Arseneu summied it up well on the panel discussion:

THERESE        I think what the debate comes down to is that one smack that’s she’s talking about, that she agrees that if it’s multiply smacks it is assault, and I guess what you hear from their side is that they don’t take great comfort in the fact that the Police – you know the compromise that came from National that the Police will have discretion when it comes down to that one smack, it’s highly unlikely that any parent is going to be criminalised for one smack, but the problem is that parents don’t like that that one smack is considered criminal.

No they don’t. They resent it like hell. And the Borrows/Boscawen bill would change it so that it isn’t.

Lockie on Q&A

March 29th, 2009 at 2:56 pm by David Farrar

I missed watching it live, but have now viewed the second segment of Q&A online. The guest was Lockwood Smith (and his fiancee).

The panel discussion afterwards was very interesting. It was Therese Arseneau, Paul Holmes, Ron Mark and Laila Harre. They were all very approving of Lockwood’s decision to try and get Ministers to answer the question, if it is a straight forward primary question.

Laila made an interesting point, about why this may have happened. She said that Lockwood is not personally or politically very close to the National Party Leadership. She contrasted that to Margaret Wilson and Jonathan Hunt who were both extremely close to Clark. In fact we got told how every time she had been in the Speaker’s office, Clark had phoned Hunt while she was there. There is a certain incompatability with being a senior advisor to the PM, and being the Speaker. And we saw that when we had the disgraceful collusion over Harry Duynhoven’s status as an MP.

Lockie I am sure values his own public reputation more than making life too easy for his colleagues. Hence why he has tried to change some things. And ironically I think it actually benefits National also, even though some weaker Ministers may find it hard going. The public see a Government as very arrogant when it refuses to answer even the most simple questions. It loses votes eventually.

What I have found interesting is that Lockie has actually introduced a number of changes, not just redefining the line between addressing and answering the questions. They are:

  1. Playing “advantage”. This was referred to as a light handed regulatory approach with clear boundaries, but I see it as a rugby analogy where he concentrates more on kepping the game flowing, rather than penalising every technical infringement. Several times I have heard him say something along the lines of giving the Opposition more supplementaries because a Minister went on too long. So rather than pul everyone up, he is just striving for a reasonably fair process.
  2. The previously referred to moving the boundary between addressing and answering the question
  3. Is cracking down on points or order that are not points or order. Winston used to be the biggest offender at that – I would say only around 2% of his points or order were legitimate, but Wilson would never pull him up.
  4. Discouraging tabling of documents just to be able to read out what it is. He can not stop anyone seeking leave to do so, but has tried to shame MPs by pointing out whenever they seek leave that they are abusing the process and leave should only be sought for documents not already available to MPs. And this seems to have had some effect on reducing such tabling requests
  5. Time – it has been many years since question time took only an hour. Hell Helen called a snap election in 2002 because of a few extra minutes a day of question time. In the last two years it was routinely taking around 100 minutes. It is now a lot closer to 60 again.

TVNZ also has online the transcript of the interview with Judith Collins.


March 22nd, 2009 at 10:17 am by David Farrar

Just watched the first Q&A. Overall pretty good.

The Guyon Espiner interview with Key was solid. He probed Key on lots of areas – and Key actually revealed quite a bit of stuff we didn’t know.

The panel was Therese Arseneau (who is permanent) and Phil O’Reilly and Russel Norman. I did find it unusual that you would have the leader of an opposition party as one of the panelists discussing the interview of the Prime Minister. I would have thought MPs should only ever be interview subjects, not panelists discussing other MPs.

The second interview (done by Holmes) was with Andrew Little. I was amused to see footage of Andrew in the mid 80s (when I first met him) and even more amused that they dug out a televised exchange between Andrew as NZUSA President telling Tertiary Education Minister Phil Goff that he is talking nonsense and Goff asking Andrew to stop talking over him. The moderator was a very dapper Lindsay Perigo!

I thought it was revealing when Andrew said “Labour has Phil Goff as its Leader – it only has one leader – it’s Phil Goff”. I was waiting for the “for now” 🙂

Andrew did say that he had criticised Labour in the past as EPMU National Secretary. I think he misses the point that yes he did in the past, but now he is Labour Party President he could never criticise Labour publicly.

More revealing I thought was that he appeared to be saying he would be a President more in the style of Judy Kirk – behind the scenes, than Mike Williams who was very high profile.

Andrew finished by saying his record shows that he is very professional (and to be fair to Andrew few would dispute that) when dealing with workers issues, and already has been working with a number of Ministers.

Holmes asked if he would stand for Rongotai if Annette King stands for Mayor and vacates her seat before 2011, and Andrew kept his options open saying he has not considered that scenario. I read that as a “yes”.

I was surprised Holmes was relatively tough on Little. In my mind I saw Guyon as doing the tougher interviews, and Holmes doing the slightly less pointed ones. But Holmes pushed Andrew quite hard and asked some very good questions.

Therese made a very interesting point about Andrew’s two hats that he may build up a bigger media profile than Goff, because he is so often in the news as EPMU National Secretary.

Russel Norman made the point that while it is good to see Labour promoting insulating homes now, that getting them to agree to the package before the election was like pulling teeth.  Normal also acknolwedged that National is wrong footing Labour by doing things both on the right and the left.

Overall the panel discussion moderated by Holmes went very smoothly I thought.

I think that TVNZ will be pretty pleased with their first episode.

Blog Bits

July 4th, 2008 at 9:07 am by David Farrar

The Hive quotes from the Wall Street Journal on how Obama is adopting Bush’s policies. He’s gone to the centre on gun cuntrol, on wiretappaing and now embraced faith-based initiatives. He’s also defended General Petraeus, started to embrace free trade and welfare reform.

We await Obama’s announcement to stay in Iraq and invade Iran.

Frog Blog has a copy of Labour’s script for responding to questions in the House from National:

  • Attack National for hidden agenda
  • Talk about how bad things were in the 1990s and how most problems today stem from that
  • Comment on the questioner’s intelligence or physical appearance
  • Shake with outrage at having one’s authority questioned (Some minsters can pull of this act better than others)
  • Change the topic
  • Insult Gerry Brownlee
  • Await a patsy from the back benches where you get to laugh at something stupid a National Party MP said at some point in their history.
  • Try a little bit more outraged shaking.

Therese Arseneau at TVNZ asks and answers the question of how reliable are opinion polls:

Labour says a 95% confidence interval means one poll in 20 may be a “rogue poll”. This term is misleading. A 95% confidence interval simply means one poll in 20 may produce a result outside the stated margin of error – and it could be just 0.1% outside. But the chance of all three polls being outside at the same time is more like 1 in 8,000 – statistically possible but highly improbable. …

May Public Polls

June 6th, 2008 at 12:11 pm by David Farrar

The monthly polling newsletter will be out over the weekend. You can subscribe to the full newsletter here.

There were seven public polls in May 2008, and the average of them shows a distinct trend. Labour have dropped almost 3%, with National, NZ First and the Greens all making gains.

Of course it is not just a National vs Labour race, but the projected seats per bloc also show a trend. The CL bloc actually led until March 2007.

Another interesting graph is this one done by Therese Arseneau, a political science fellow at Canterbury University, using the One News Colmar Brunton results:

Therese has gone back to 2002, which was a low point for National. The graph does show a very clear trend over the last six years, when you iron out the monthly highs and lows. She comments:

The trends are striking. National’s vote has been growing, on average, by just under half a percentage point (.46%) per month since 2002. At the same time, Labour’s support has been dropping by just under a quarter of a percentage point (.23%) per month.

These trends have been amazingly consistent and strong, particularly for National. Don Brash’s Orewa speech did seem to alter them for a time, sparking a boost for National (and dip for Labour) in early 2004.  This disruption was not sustained and within months of the speech, support for both National and Labour had reverted back to their steady procession along the trend lines.

The trend has also been consistent through three successive National leaders. There was a spike after John Key replaced Don Brash as leader but again, the growth in National support settled back to the trend line.

This suggests that neither event on its own was decisive to National’s renaissance. Instead, for six years now National has been heading towards victory and Labour towards defeat.

Long-term trends are the hardest ones to turn around. A massive rise in the polls can just as quickly reverse. The slow steady rise or fall is far more desirable or undesirable depending on which you are facing.