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    Hundreds march over government inaction

    By admin | November 21, 2009

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/3085149/Hundreds-march-over-government-inaction

    Hundreds march over government inaction

    By DAVID GADD – Stuff.co.nz

    Hundreds of Aucklanders marched up Queen Street today to protest at repeated government inaction on citizens-initiated referendums.

    Organiser Colin Craig said the March for Democracy was being held to protest Government failure to respond to three citizens-initiated referendums: reducing the number of MPs; a more victim-centred justice system and amending the anti-smacking legislation.

    On the march was the Thomsen family from Te Atatu Peninsula.

    “I think it is important that the government knows that we have a voice,” said dad Ken, who marched with wife Serena, mother Orpa and children Daniel, 13, Asher, 11, Samantha, 8, and Sean, 5.

    “The people that voted them in do need to be listened to,” Mr Thomsen said.

    The protest was principally sparked by the anti-smacking law – almost 90 percent of people who voted in a referendum asking New Zealanders whether smacking should be illegal voted no.

    The referendum cost $9 million and asked: “Should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offence in New Zealand?”

    The Chief Electoral Office said there was a 54 percent voter turnout. A total of 1,622,150 votes were cast with 87.4 percent in favour of repealing the controversial new law.

    “We would like the government to take our voting and voice into much more serious account. We would like the government to return to their roots of representative government,” march organisers said.

    “The recent ignoring of the recent Citizens’ Initiated Referendum, where 87.4 percent voters asked for change, is just one example of the trend away from listening to the people of New Zealand.”

    “We the citizens of New Zealand demand that the government employ the principle of democracy; enacting laws in accordance with the wishes of the majority.’

    Therefore, the march was demanding the smacking law be changed so that a light smack was not a criminal offence, said Mr Craig.

    However, a review of the “anti-smacking” law has found no increase in the number of parents being investigated or prosecuted for light smacking.

    The review was required by law two years after the change to Section 59 of the Crimes Act, which removed the defence of reasonable force for parents or guardians who hit their children.

    In the report, Ministry of Social Development head Peter Hughes said he could find no evidence that parents were being subject to “unnecessary state intervention” for occasionally lightly smacking their children.

    The number of police prosecutions for smacking remains at one, while there have been 14 cases of minor physical discipline resulting in prosecution.

    Hughes said in his report he was satisfied that none of the prosecutions involved “inconsequential” smacks, with the victim being punched, slapped, or hit multiple times on various parts of the body in most cases.

    Social Development Minister Paula Bennett said she thought the review went some way to comforting parents that the law was being interpreted in the way it was intended.

    “However, in light of the Citizens Initiated Referendum on this issue, a further report is still being undertaken by Police Commissioner Howard Broad, Mr Hughes and (child psychologist) Nigel Latta,” Bennett said.

    It is due with the Prime Minister and the Ministers of Police and Social Development and Employment before the end of the year.

    That report will review policies and procedures to identify any changes that may be necessary to ensure that good parents are treated as Parliament intended and the provisions of the law are applied to those who abuse children.

    Also on the march today were the proposer of the 99 MP’s referendum Margaret Robertson and Garth McVicar from the Sensible Sentencing Trust, representing the Norm Withers Law and Order Referendum.

    Also marching was singer Yulia, who became a New Zealand citizen in 2005.

    “As a young girl I grew up with the concrete dust of totalitarian based poverty and the ruin of a war torn post-communist Volgograd as my playground,” she said.

    “Let us not take these freedoms for granted. Let us not forget the horrific price of totalitarianism. By marching for democracy we demonstrate that despite being from many cultures and backgrounds, we can get together and be one people under New Zealand democracy.”

    Some of the more unusual placards included ‘Bring Back Dancing with the Stars’ and one calling for a referendum on former TrueBliss singer Carly Binding.

    The march also had a group waving Maori sovereignty flags.

    And as it moved up Queen St, the march passed a protest group from the Unite Union trying to organise a petition to raise the minimum wage.

    Children’s Commissioner Dr John Angus said this week that the march was not in the best interests of children and parents would be better to spend more time with their children.

    He said the march was also poorly named.

    It was not about democracy but about re-instating a law that allowed parents to assault their children and claim a defence of reasonable force.

    “I don’t believe that finding ways to define when and how children might be hit, at what age and what with, for purposes of correction is in any way connected to the best interests of children.”

    But march organiser Colin Craig said parents knew better than Dr Angus what was best for their children.

    “What worries me is that this tax-paid bureaucrat is trying to dictate once again to good parents what is best for their children.”

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