No smacking compromise

One should give credit to Sue Bradford for her willingness to talk to John Key on a compromise, even though no agreement could be reached. This is not entirely surprising considering Bradford has always said she is unwilling to define any acceptable level of force – even light smacking, as being worse than the status quo

Plaque on both their houses points out how extraordinary Bradford’s position is – arguing that reducing the level of acceptable force is worse than the status quo.

Now Bradford has come out and said that the fear parents have that this bans smacking is the fault of bill opponents. But having had occasion to reread her bill this week, her protestations of innocence do not add up. Just look at the official purpose of the Bill:

The purpose of this Act is … abolishing the use of parental force for the purpose of correction.

Now this is as clear as day. None of this Clark bullshit about just removing a defence. The purpose of the Bill is to abolish the use of parental force for correction. Now it could not be clearer. Smacking is a subset of parental force for correction. The purpose of the Bill hence is to abolish or ban smacking. These are Bradford’s own words in her own bill.

This is why compromise could not be found. The aim of the bill is to abolish the use of any parental force for correction.

Now looking through the Bill again I found to my horror the amended Bill is far far worse, in my opinion, than the original Bill was.


The original bill merely deleted Section 59. It left the law silent on parental correction. It meant there was no specific statutory defence, but the judicial authorities would be able to consider the circumstances of particular cases.

But the amended bill goes far beyond just abolishing the specific defence. It states in s59(2):

Nothing in subsection (1) or in any rule of common law justifies the use of force for the purpose of correction.

I should have highlighted this earlier. This doesn’t just remove parental correction as a defence. It outlaws it by statute. And even worse it specifically wipes out any ability of a court to consider common law in its interpretation. I’d say that any case that makes court, no matter how trivial, will be a slam dunk for the prosecution. Because 59(2) explicitly rules out any defence.

So when Sue Bradford and Helen Clark claim the bill does not outlaw or ban smacking, remember these two things:

(1) The stated purpose of the Bill is to abolish the use of parental force for the purpose of correction

(2) Section 59(2) explicitly forbids the use of any force for the purpose of correction

So remember this bill is not just about removing a defence. The Bill’s own purpose states it is about banning parental correction which uses force, which includes smacking.

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