John Key correctly said yesterday, in a speech:
What is quite clear, however, is that almost all members of Parliament say they want the same outcomes.
• To prevent violence against children being protected by the defence of reasonable force.
• Not to criminalise good parents who occasionally give their children a light smack.
• To lower the threshold for acceptable physical discipline.
Key makes the point that the current bill does criminalise smacking for correction:
Say, for example, you see your young son slowly pushing his sister’s Barbie doll into the fire. Under Sue Bradford’s bill, you would be able to use force to pull your son away from the fire, because his actions constitute offensive or disruptive behaviour, as well as being potentially dangerous.
But if you then gave him a smack and told him not to do it again, this would be against the law.
Key asked to meet with Sue Bradford and Helen Clark to see if they could find a compromise which will achieve all three objectives. Sue Bradford, to her credit, is keen to talk and will address National’s caucus. The Government had David Benson-Pope come out and sneer, and accused John Key of being soft on child abuse.
The bill as it stands is horribly unpopular with the public. National could just let a flawed bill pass into law and reap the electoral benefits of most MPs oppossing it. It is to Key’s credit that he would rather stop a bad law being passed, by proposing direct talks on a compromise.
Having said that, I am unsure a compromise can be found. Because the Greens insist their party “was not willing to lower the threshold for acceptable physical violence towards children”. With such an absolutionist position, it is hard to see compromise.
You see despite denials from some, I blogged last Thursday that the bill as worded does ban smacking for correctional purposes:
They claim they only want to target the most serious abuse cases which are getting off in the courts (which average one very two years incidentally) and that parents who lightly smack their children for correctional purposes won’t have to worry about prosecution because Police will use common sense.
But, and this is the big but, why then did they feel the need to insert legislative defences for the use of force, or smacking, when it is being done to prevent harm or prevent disruption? I mean by the same logic, the Police would use common sense and not prosecute?
Parents feel this bill is MPs telling them how to raise their children. And they are in fact right. Because Bradford and Clark have a bill which says we approve of you smacking your children for the purposes of preventing harm or preventing disruption (and will give specific legislative protection to you) but we do not approve of you smacking your children for correctional purposes, so we will not give you any protection for that.
And over the weekend I pointed out, that in regard to the infamous Timaru riding crop case, the Borrows amendment would 100% rule out a defence for that, while the current Bradford/Clark bill would not necessarily be effective in preventing a defence in court.