Newsletter #86 — S. 59 debate report

Greetings all!

The debate I had with Dr Ian Hassall on Section 59 at the Rationalist House in Auckland on Sunday 23 April went well.

Genevieve and I drove to Hamilton and stayed with friends from the Hamilton Family Bible Assembly who drove us up to the Rationalist House in Symonds St, downtown Auckland on Sunday night. There were about 10 of us altogether, which pretty much equalled their numbers. The Rationalists and Humanists who were there were mostly quite interesting and entertaining characters, fun to talk to and quite stimulating academically and intellectually.

Dr Hassell mainly dwelt on research “findings” plus a few statistics. Well, these are easily blown out of the water, for people on all sides of the argument agree, when pressed, that it is impossible to prove that this event or these events in a child’s life CAUSE this set of negative social behaviours later on. He committed the usual propaganda techniques of conflating violence, abuse and smacking into one single undifferentiated category; of paternalistically pronouncing that his opinion, formed from newspaper accounts, of what this or that parent did to a child was abusive assault when juries of 12 of his peers had judged, having seen all the evidence in excruciating detail, the parent to be justified in using that force; claiming same human rights for children as for adults but immediately saying he really doesn’t mean ALL (such as right to vote, to smoke or go to jail).

He didn’t raise as many issues as I thought he would, so in fact I did not get the chance to rebutt the normally raised arguments that we need to repeal Section 59 to fulfill our UNCROC agreement; that we need to repeal to send a signal to society that family violence will not be tolerated; that no other piece of legislation allows one group of people to be assaulted by another; that any and all families are as prone to family violence as any other. So I had to settle for thrashing the research and statistics argument: I named quite a few more reasearchers and referred to and actually held up the research documents of far more studies than did he. I was able to provide a lot more context to the cases he trotted out again (the horsewhip lady and the wooden rod man) having spoken with the lady herself and knowing the wooden rod was the size of a normal wooden spoon. And the human rights argument always ignores the fact that children are children are depend on parents and that parents are expected and legally required to provide the necessities of life: so the children are not autonomous after all. And if you want to talk physical integrity, I said, let’s look at the schools, how they force children to attend, sit in non-ergonomically designed chairs for hours, listen to politically correct, dumbed down lessons, be bullied, exposed to drugs, pornography and headlice and are themselves NEVER asked what they think about it. Try treating adults that way and see what happens. This kind of abuse goes on everyday, but no one argues against it, because it is perpetrated by state officials at schools, whereas parents cannot be allowed free rein to rear their chidlren as they see fit.

The points I actually presented in the first part were more varied than his: that the whole debate was not about violence, since Section 59 does not condone or justify violence in any way, but it was about removing parental authority by denying them the use of “force” however the word may be defined in the future. That smacking, regardless of how light, will be regarded as criminal assault, just as the Police Commissioner has said in writing. That any kind of discipline that uses force, even time out, will also be regarded as criminal assault; that to argue that the Police will use common sense and discretion and not charge wee acts of smacking is to ask the Police NOT to enforce the clear wording of the law. That the inevitable police and social worker harassment of reasonable parents will lead to REAL child abuse, as Swedish lawyer Ruby Harrold-Claesson documents again and again has happened there since smacking was banned in 1979; that repeal is simplistic in that in makes no effort to understand “force” in all its forms, or look into the origins, motivations, aims, objectives, methodologies, philosohies and outcomes of the institution of smacking; that the repeal lobby do not count a person’s deeply held beliefs about the closest thing to most of our hearts….how to raise our own children….for anything but just expect them to change a practise held for thousands of years. And I reviewed how repeal will INCREASE child, parent and family abuse.

It was interesting to note that the humanist association had shrunk so much, they had to join in with the rationalist association. And now this joint group is shrinking so much, they are hoping to join forces with the skeptics association.

We had a fun time discussing evolution vs creation science afterwards, and it was interesting to note that they regarded the Intelligent Design movement as creationism in disguise, only that they were trying to promote a god who was a lot smaller than the God of the Creation Science movement. The Rationalist house had a very impressive library downstairs, complete with overstuffed leather chairs and copies of Bibles, creation science books and other books we would recommend…plus some really wild titles claiming Christ was a mythological person. It would be great to spend many hours there. The folks there were friendly and enjoyed engaging us in debate and conversation, and were always pleasant and not aggressive or overly confrontational. They also presented Dr Hassall and I a generous gift. No one was declared winner of the debate.

Several in our group exchanged addresses and emails, so there may be some more fruitful communication yet to come.

Thanks for all your prayers.


Craig Smith

Newsletter #87 — Bill under fire

Family Integrity #87 — Bill under fire

Wednesday, 24 May 2006 7:05 a.m.

It has been very gratifying to see wide press and radio coverage of
Bradford’s admission that her Bill to repeal Section 59 of the Crimes
Act would probably criminalise too many parents. Claiming she does not
want to criminalise a light smack, quite an illogical claim given her
consistant stance that any smack is unacceptable violence, that one
cannot define reasonable force as it only calibrates legally allowed
violence, that whatever is considered an assault against an adult should
be considered an assault against a child. She is now in favour of
somehow amending the Bill to make it clear that a light smack would not
be criminalised.

This seems to have started from two articles in the June issue of
Investigate Magazine where several QC lawyers expressed their opinion
that repeal of Section 59 would make even “time out” an assault, just as
we have been saying all along.

Here is the Family Integrity Press Release on the issue. We need to
watch where this new attitude of Bradford’s will lead. Her Bill should
be dumped and the whole issue dropped. There simply is no reason to
modify this Bill. Violence and abuse toward chidlren are already
illegal. Educate, enforce and go for the real souces of violent
influences in this society such as TV, video games, abortion on demand,
rampant school bullying, etc.

Craig Smith

For Immediate Publication

Truth is Catching Up

It appears Sue Bradford has admitted that her Bill to amend the Crimes
Act to ban smacking is flawed and itself needs ‘amendment’.

Since August last year when the Office of the Police Commissioner
confirmed that repeal of Section 59 would make any smacking into a
criminal assault, Bradford has claimed this has not been her intent. Yet
her Explanatory Note in the Bill itself clearly confirms that it has
always been her intent. She has also illogically claimed again and again
that the Police will not enforce the law should her Bill pass and
Section 59 be repealed.

The latest issue of Investigate Magazine has comments from several top
New Zealand QCs confirming precisely what Family Integrity has been
saying for months: that if Section 59 is repealed and parents are
prohibited from using any force with their children, be it reasonable or
unreasonable, even the most-often-mentioned alternative to corporal
discipline, “time out”, will almost certainly be classed as a criminal
assault as well!

Commonsense would dictate that Ms Bradford’s Bill be withdrawn. The
dawning truth of its implications has shown it to be completely

But it gets worse. Ms Bradford is starting to talk about amending the
Bill, presumably to tighen up the definition of what constitutes
“reasonable” force. She has until now consistently rubbished such ideas
as they work against her objectives of criminalising any parental use of
force at all with their own children. Family Integrity also opposes the
idea of defining “reasonable” force, but for a much different reason: it
is simply impossible to do.

Looking only at the Crimes Act, Sections 39, 42, 48, 52, 53, 56 and 60
all allow for “reasonable” force in scenarios such as riots and self
defense and maintaining order and discipline on board a ship or
aircraft. Sections 41, 45, 46 and 55 allow for the use of force, without
the limiting word “reasonable”, in cases such as suicide or defense of
your home. The word “reasonable” has no meaning in law, and cannot be
defined in law, without a context, without the judge or jury knowing all
the relevant circumstances. And this is precisely what Section 59 calls
for: if a parent is to be justified in using force with a his or her
child, the force must conform to two limitations: it must be used by way
of correction, and it must be reasonable “in the circumstances”. In the
life of any family there are an infinite variety of circumstances that
play out over time. To try to define them all as either “reasonable” or
“unreasonable” would require an entire library full of descriptions. The
very idea is daft. Just like Bradford’s original Bill to repeal Section
59 in the first place.

As Family Integrity has been saying all along, Section 59 of the Crimes
Act is a brilliant piece of legislation that should not be tampered

Craig Smith
National Director
Family Integrity

Newsletter # 88 — Composition of Select Committee Changes

Family Integrity # 88 — Composition of Select Committee Changes

Friday, 26 May 2006 11:42 a.m.

Dear Friends,

Ed Rademaker and I attended the first hearing of submissions on the Bill to repeal Section 59. I hope to have a report of that later today. What a propaganda war this is turning out to be!

In the meantime, take note of the composition of the Justine and Electoral Committee which is hearing this Bill:


Craig Smith
National Director
Family Integrity
PO Box 9064
Palmerston North
New Zealand
Ph: (06) 357-4399
Fax: (06) 357-4389

Our Home….Our Castle

—–Original Message—–
From: Craig Smith []
Sent: Friday, 26 May 2006 10:48
To: Lynne Pillay
Subject: membership of select committee


Here is the membership of the Justice and Electoral Committee from the
Parliament website:.

Justice and Electoral
Russell Fairbrother, Christopher Finlayson (Deputy Chairperson),
Ann Hartley, Lynne Pillay (Chairperson), Nandor Tanczos, Nicky Wagner,
and Dr Richard Worth.

At the hearing in Parliament yesterday, however, others such as Sue
Bradford and Anne Tolley were apparently sitting on the committee.

Has the Membership of the Justice and Electoral Committee changed?


Craig Smith

—–Original Message—–
From: Cath Anyan []
Sent: Friday, May 26, 2006 10:55 AM
To: Craig Smith
Subject: RE: membership of select committee

Dear Mr Smith

The permanent membership of the committee has not changed. The committee
has formed a subcommittee of five members for the Crimes (Abolition of
Force as a Justification for Child Discipline) Amendment Bill. The
subcommittee comprises Lynne Pillay, Ann Hartley, Nandor Tanzcos, Nicky
Wagner and Chris Finlayson. However, yesterday Sue Bradford replaced
Nandor Tanzcos and Chris Finlayson was replaced by Jackie Blue for part
of the meeting and Anne Tolley for part of the meeting.

Generally, Sue Bradford will be replacing Nandor Tanczos for this bill
and Chester Borrows will be replacing Chris Finlayson.

Cath Anyan

Cath Anyan
Clerk of the Committee
Justice and Electoral Committee
Parliament Buildings

Phone: +64 4 471 9245
Fax: +64 4 473 0127

Family Integrity # 89 — Opening Oral Submissions, Part A

Monday, 29 May 2006 10:36 p.m.

On Thursday 25 May 2006 Ed Rademaker and I attended the first sitting of the Justice and Electoral Select Committee to consider submissions on MP Sue Bradford’s Bill to repeal Section 59, which would effectively ban smacking (and criminalise a lot of other every-day parenting activities as well).

It was a showcase of the “heavies” lined up in favour of repeal: Save the Children, EPOCH, Familes Commission, UNICEF,, Barnardos, Relationship Services, CCS, IHC and the Commissioner for Children. Each of these was totally in favour of repeal, and each was also absolutely opposed to any amendment or attempt to define what constitutes “reasonable force”.

In fact, they were nearly one in their arguments with the exception of the Families Commission: Dr Prasad, having discussed widely across religious and cultural and ethnic lines, was keen to see repeal followed by a long introductory time of perhaps 18 months before enforcement began, in order to educate people about the changes and their implications. For this he was forcefully castigated by Labour member of the Committee, Ann Hartley, who said they were tired of waiting for change. She and chair Lynne Pillay made no pretence of how much they favoured the Bill.

The membership of the Select committee is also somewhat fluid as well as biased. Apparently a sub-committee has been formed specifically for this Bill and is made up of Labour member and chair Lynne Pillay, Labour member Ann Hartley, Green member Nandor Tanzcos (who was replaced on Thursday by the Bill’s sponsor Sue Bradford), National member Nicky Wagner, and National member Chris Finlayson who was replaced on Thursday by National member Jackie Blue for part of the time and by National member Anne Tolley for the balance of the hearing.

This report is in two parts (and will be posted out in instalments): the first mentions the common themes running throughout the ten presentations and makes extensive comments on each. The second part deals with distinctives of each presenter.

Part One:

All the groups were united in the arguments they use. They are:

1. Smacking is spanking is hitting is beating is violence is abuse.
2. This is not an anti-smacking Bill, it was an anti-violence Bill.
3. The repeal of Section 59 will not criminalise parents, and that is not our intention. We are sure the police will not prosecute light smacks.
4. Any attempt to define what constitutes “reasonable force” only validates the use of violence.
5. The existence of Section 59 says violence is acceptable.
6. The Select Committee had before it a golden opportunity to exercise real moral courage and leadership by repealing Section 59.
7. Parents cannot be expected to know what is best, as they are operating in the absence of any formal training while we experts have the benefit of modern day theory and practice.
8. Research only shows negative results of physical punishment.

All of these are inconsistent and illogical.

First, conflating the terms smacking, hitting, beating, violence and abuse as though they all mean the same is an old muddle-the-language propaganda ploy. We have the different words because they mean different things. The batsman never spanks the ball, he hits it.

Second, the Parliamentary Committee Chair, Lynne Pillay herself, commented testily how frustrated she was that people referred to this Bill as the anti-smacking Bill. Dr Prasad, the Families Commissioner, said it is an anti-violence Bill. UNICEF’s Beth Wood said Section 59 means you can be excused if you beat your child. Jeff Sanders of Relationship Services said that Section 59 affirmed violence against children is acceptable. That means they assume that Section 59’s wording (“Every parent…is justified in using force by way of correction towards the child, if the force used is reasonable in the circumstances”) allows for beatings and other shows of violence against children. What do you think? Does this wording allow for violence and abuse against children? The actual use of Section 59 in real court cases shows that it most definitely does not. (More on this later.)

So how do they come to such a ridiculous conclusion that “reasonable force” does equate with violence? Because they are religiously committed to the ideology of the United Nations Committee for the Rights of the Child, the group that monitors how well each country is conforming to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCROC). This Committee, according to Frances Joychild of the NZ Law Commission, has said that a smack, no matter how light, constitutes violence and abuse by definition. Now this UN Committee is made up of people from, among other places, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Thailand, Egypt and Burkina Faso: not exactly showcases of children’s rights when they practise things such as intense suppression of religious minorities, beheading and stoning and cutting off of hands for various crimes, no political parties, no voting, child torture, child floggings, child death sentences, child slavery, child prostitution. Why should New Zealand listen to such no-hopers?

Actually, Beth Wood of UNICEF was honest enough to say that she was thoroughly anti-smacking. And Maree Russell from EPOCH said it was morally wrong to smack children. The IHC folks said “smacking” was often a euphemism for a real beating. Even though Committee Chair Lynne Pillay was keen to establish that this was not an anti-smacking Bill, all the presenters spoke out clearly against smacking in any form.
And since repeal would mean parents who smack (or use any kind of force by way of correction as opposed to restraining for safety’s sake or forcefully getting a child out of harm’s way) are definitely exposed to a possible charge of criminal assault due to the wide definition of assault in Section 2 of the Crimes Act, to say it is not an anti-smacking Bill is quite dishonest. To say it is an anti-violence Bill, when there isn’t any more than an unsubstantiated and illogical claim that Section 59’s existence allows for the continuation of violence in this country, is simply irrational.

Craig Smith
National Director
Family Integrity

Family Integrity # 90 — Opening Oral Submissions, Part B

Tuesday, 30 May 2006

Part One:

All the groups were united in the arguments they use. They are:

1. Smacking is spanking is hitting is beating is violence is abuse.
2. This is not an anti-smacking Bill, it was an anti-violence Bill.
3. The repeal of Section 59 will not criminalise parents, and that is not our intention. We are sure the police will not prosecute light smacks.
4. Any attempt to define what constitutes “reasonable force” only validates the use of violence.
5. The existence of Section 59 says violence is acceptable.
6. The Select Committee had before it a golden opportunity to exercise real moral courage and leadership by repealing Section 59.
7. Parents cannot be expected to know what is best, as they are operating in the absence of any formal training while we experts have the benefit of modern day theory and practice.
8. Research only shows negative results of physical punishment.

(Dealing now with points 3 & 4):

Third, since the obvious can no longer be ignored – that repealing Section 59 will criminalise even the pacifist’s favourite method of discipline of time out – Bradford and all these presenters have had to start crowing about how they don’t intend to criminalise parents. What they intend is irrelevant, and they know it: what counts is what wording is finally enacted. They have also been making assuring noises about how the Police won’t prosecute minor acts of technical assault, but will use discretion. Well, for crying out loud, that’s just what Police do now: use discretion, as to whether the force used by parents is reasonable or not. But if Section 59 is repealed, it doesn’t matter about force used: any act of force by a parent toward a child will be an assault, end of story, just as any act of force by one adult toward another is assault. This is precisely the intention Bradford had in mind when she wrote the Bill, for she says so in the Bill’s Explanatory Note: “The effect of this amendment is that the statutory protection for use of force by parents and guardians will be removed. They will now be in the same position as everyone else so far as the use of force against children is concerned. The use of force on a child may constitute an assault under section 194(a) of the Crimes Act.”

And I would like to know how Bradford and any of these presenters can assure us what the Police will or will not do in the future? Dr Andrew Jack, PhD, the legal expert of the Police Commissioner’s Office wrote Family Integrity a letter on 11 August 2005 saying quite clearly, “If Section 59 was repealed in its entirety, parents would not be authorised to use reasonable force by way of correction….smacking of a child by way of corrective action would be an assault.” So what discretion can Police use when all smacks are assaults and there is no longer any legal justification for reasonable smacks or light smacks (such as what Section 59 currently provides for parents)?

The first point of agreement among the anti-smacking brigade referred to above is that smacking is hitting is beating is abuse. Up until now they have all been very consistent and united on this point. But now they are saying they don’t intend for the Police to worry about “light smacks”. Watch what happens next.

Fourth, every single one of these presenters was adamant that the Committee must not make any attempt to define “reasonable force”, as it only calibrates degrees of violence against children. Now think about this for a moment: they are not talking about calibrating or defining “unreasonable force”: that is already ruled out of bounds. They are opposed to calibrating “reasonable force” for that is the same as calibrating violence. “Reasonable force” is the same as violence is what they are saying. And they don’t want to calibrate it. But in the next breath they calibrate violence into a category known as “light smacks” which is so acceptable they do not intend for the police to prosecute it. And yet the IHC folks said force against children was very seldom reasonable. The Save the Children presenter said no force was ever reasonable.

This is known as speaking with a forked tongue. The anti-smacking lobby is now trying to be on both sides of the argument at the same time. This is hypocrisy of the first order. “Light smacks” apparently qualify as “reasonable force” for the anti-smacking lobby does not want to criminalise it or see the police prosecute it. But they do not want to define “reasonable force”, for that is calibrating violence. They are keen to justify “light smacks” as “reasonable force” which should not be criminalized or prosecuted when the whole objective of this Bill is to get rid of any legal justification for using “reasonable force”!

The picture that is emerging appears to show that Bradford, Kiro and co. do not want PARENTS to have the LEGAL justification, the LEGAL authority, to freely use reasonable force with their children. They appear to favour a system of selective application of the law wherein specific people, families and people groups can be targeted. We were told at the hearing that Police will use discretion based on guidelines they develop from time to time. Cindy Kiro in fact volunteered to help Police develop these guidelines which, one would presume, will further calibrate force beyond the vague term “light smacks”….even though she strongly disagrees with such calibration as it only validates the use of violence.

These so called child advocates do more flipping and flopping than a fish out of water.

Craig Smith
National Director
Family Integrity

Family Integrity # 91 — Opening Oral Submissions, Part C

Tuesday, 30 May 2006

Part One:

All the groups were united in the arguments they use. They are:

1. Smacking is spanking is hitting is beating is violence is abuse.
2. This is not an anti-smacking Bill, it was an anti-violence Bill.
3. The repeal of Section 59 will not criminalise parents, and that is not our intention. We are sure the police will not prosecute light smacks.
4. Any attempt to define what constitutes “reasonable force” only validates the use of violence.
5. The existence of Section 59 says violence is acceptable.
6. The Select Committee had before it a golden opportunity to exercise real moral courage and leadership by repealing Section 59.
7. Parents cannot be expected to know what is best, as they are operating in the absence of any formal training while we experts have the benefit of modern day theory and practice.
8. Research only shows negative results of physical punishment.

(Dealing now with points 5 & 6):

Fifth, Section 59, they say, is to blame for most of this country’s woes in the area of child abuse. Its existence has created a culture of violence toward children. If only this legal justification for parents to use “reasonable force” were repealed, it would send a clear message to society that child violence will not be tolerated. Again, they equate “reasonable force” with violence.

As evidence of the claim that the mere existence of Section 59 breeds violence in this country, reference has been constantly made to the cases where courts allegedly justified parents who, it was said by the pro-repeal lobby, committed acts of violence and abuse upon their children. The one case specifically mentioned during this Committee hearing was the lady in Timaru, the one Children’s Commissioner Cindy Kiro has on many occasions in the past referred to as the “horse whip lady”. At this hearing, Kiro expressed her disappointment that the jury in Timaru acquitted her, justified the force she used on her child, which, in Kiro’s view, was clearly abusive.

Now just consider what’s going on here. Dr Kiro, not having been at the Timaru court, and already having shown her tendency to irresponsible exaggeration (the “horse whip” turned out to be an 18 inch riding crop, and the “bamboo cane” she has mentioned in the past turned out to be a bamboo garden stake, smaller around than your pinkey), insists that her opinion is superior to and should be regarded by her hearers as more accurate than the unanimous decision of 12 of her peers who had all the details of the case laid out before them in excruciating detail. As a matter of record, the Timaru lady’s son voluntarily submitted to the discipline; the school was so impressed with his immensely improved behaviour that they commended his mum for it; the lady made no statements in her own defense, neither did she or her lawyer call any witnesses. They let the prosecution have free rein to do all they could to prove her guilty, and in so doing they convinced the jury she was justified and innocent. And the prosecution did not appeal the jury’s decision. Yet Kiro’s paternalism and arrogance toward this parent and toward the jury system is still so great, that she still cannot stop herself from publicly denigrating them both.

The other case the anti-smacking lobby continually refers to is the “wooden plank” incident in Hawkes Bay. First of all, we must note that they rarely ever refer to any but these two. That’s because cases of suspected child abuse where Section 59 is brought up are very rare, about 1.4 a year, according to YouthLaw soliciter John Hancock of Action for Children and Youth Aotearoa, part of the anti-smacking lobby. And in the majority of these cases, the defendant is found guilty. That means that Section 59 is working very well: parents who are tried using a Section 59 defence and who are justified are less than one a year and closer to one every two years.

Well, it turns out the “wooden plank” has also been referred to as a “2 by 4”. It was in fact a 30cm x 2cm stick, the same size as a wooden spoon. The boy had lied to his dad about stealing $40 from a visitor to the house, submitted willingly to the smacking and testified in Court that the injuries to his back had been sustained by serious abrasions caused by an accident that occurred several days earlier while roller-skating.

In addition, the anti-smacking group somehow manage to bring up the names of children visciously and brutally murdered – Lillibing, James Whakaruru, Delcelia Witika, Tangaroa Matiu, Coral Burrows, Saliel Aplin, Olympia Jetson and Mereana Edmonds, whose killers are behind bars – and talk as though there is some kind of link between these monsters’ actions and the “reasonable force” wording of Section 59. But there is no link at all. Section 59 was never brought up in any of these cases. And yet the Barnardos group said at this hearing, “How many more James Whakarurus and Lillybings do we need to sacrifice for the sake of Section 59?” What on earth are they talking about? Please, where is the logic in that?

Sixth, the Select Committee was encouraged to ignore the nay-sayers they would hear from in subsequent submissions (Dr Kiro was especially articulate in emphasising this) and to seize this opportunity to show real moral courage and leadership. That is, ignore overwhelming public opinion in favour of retaining Section 59 and repeal it anyway.

Craig Smith
National Director
Family Integrity

Family Integrity # 92 — Opening Oral Submissions, Part D

Tuesday, 30 May 2006

Part One:

All the groups were united in the arguments they use. They are:

1. Smacking is spanking is hitting is beating is violence is abuse.
2. This is not an anti-smacking Bill, it was an anti-violence Bill.
3. The repeal of Section 59 will not criminalise parents, and that is not our intention. We are sure the police will not prosecute light smacks.
4. Any attempt to define what constitutes “reasonable force” only validates the use of violence.
5. The existence of Section 59 says violence is acceptable.
6. The Select Committee had before it a golden opportunity to exercise real moral courage and leadership by repealing Section 59.
7. Parents cannot be expected to know what is best, as they are operating in the absence of any formal training while we experts have the benefit of modern day theory and practice.
8. Research only shows negative results of physical punishment.

(Dealing now with points 7 & 8):

Seventh, several presenters affirmed that parents do not have the benefit of “modern child rearing theory and practice”. The implication is that the 80% of New Zealanders who disagree with outlawing reasonable force are in the dark really, and fairly ignorant. And so these lobby groups want to use the force of law to bring us ignorant parents into line with their own peculiar biases and prejudices.

And these folks are biased; they have agendas, make no mistake about that. John Bowis of Save the Children said, “No force is reasonable.” This is hardly a majority opinion. Maree Russell of EPOCH said smacking is morally wrong, that children have a right to the physical integrity of their bodies, as do adults. Of course, she didn’t bother to qualify that statement to allow for parents wiping children’s bottoms or to allow for state agents in the form of teachers, police and truancy officers to require children to attend schooling institutions several hours a day, five days a week for nine months a year for ten years and to sit where they are told in non-ergonomically designed chairs and to wear uniforms, whether they like it or not, just as adult prisoners have severe limitations on the physical integrity of their bodies as to where they can go and what they can do. Dr Prasad of the Families Commission said Parliament cannot wait for majority opinion to favour non-smacking disciplinary measures, but must take the lead and “give the strongest signal possible about violence”, presumably by repealing Section 59. If they repeal it but then don’t prosecute, as they all affirmed was the intention, how will that send any message at all about violence?

The CCS crowd was really confusing: they straight-up admitted that even though their client parents insisted that they needed a larger parenting tool-kit, one that included various types of force, to deal with their disabled children, CCS as an organisation disagreed with these very parents they claimed to be serving and wanted full repeal with no definition of “reasonable force.”

The clincher was the comment made by UNICEF CEO Dennis McKinley: “All the opposition to repeal of Section 59 is coming from parents, and since they are the ones likely to be prosecuted, it is understandable.” Perhaps Dennis was being more honest than most: his words were that parents are the ones “likely” to be prosecuted. It was clear that none of these groups perceived parents as the resident experts on child training and discipline, as the ones most highly motivated and possessing the greatest degree of commitment toward their own children’s best interests, as the ones who know their own children most intimately by virtue of spending the most time with the children. These child advocacy groups made it clear that they know what’s best for other people’s children. The picture they painted is an adversarial one of parents against children with their various child advocacy groups as the good guys coming to rescue the children from their brutish, uninformed and selfish parents.

Eighth, most of them made reference to research showing only negative effects of violence toward children. All researchers, and nearly every parent, would agree on this. What was left unmentioned is the research on the effects of mild corporal discipline, “light smacks”, research that took care to exclude clear and obvious cases of criminal abuse against children in its statistics. Such studies by people such as Dr Diana Baumrind of University of California at Berkeley, Dr Robert Larzelere of the Univerisity of Nebraska and Dr Rex Ahdar of the University of Otago have shown positive effects of corporal correction. They uncovered the personal and methodological biases employed by researchers such as Dr Murray Strauss of the University of New Hampshire, Dr Joan Durrant of the University of Manitoba and Dr Anne Smith of the University of Otago. (Dr Larzelere states that he and Dr Durrant used the same set of Swedish data to arrive at opposite conclusions.) They highlighted the impossibility of isolating episodes of corporal correction from all other life experiences in a person in order to show a causal link between such episodes and negative social behaviours. (All researchers will admit this when pressed, but the pro-repeal researchers often fail to bring this up in their discussion documents and also use wording such as, “research has shown conclusively…”, “we know from research that…”, etc.) And Dr Ahdar has demonstrated how illogical and arrogant is the paternalism consistently employed by the anti-smacking lobby’s arguments.

On top of the commentary contained in the clinical and academic research, there is the social and legal commentary of a unique group known as the Nordic Committee for Human Rights (NCHR). This is a collection of lawyers from the various Scandinavian countries who have seen the destruction of families caused by both prosecution of parents who practise corporal discipline (now defined in these countries as assault) and by social welfare agents removing the children from the homes where parents are accused of practising corporal discipline (accused of assault). This NCHR is dedicated to rectifying this anti-smacking legislation because it is so damaging to their societies. See .

Family Integrity hopes the Justice and Electoral Select Committee will pay attention to such people who have been down this proposed road and are now sadly occupied with picking up the many pieces.

Craig Smith
National Director
Family Integrity

Family Integrity # 93 — Opening Oral Submissions, Part E

Tuesday, 30 May 2006

Here is a description of the 10 child advocacy groups’ individual submissions plus summary in emails Part E and Part F

Part Two:

First up was John Bowis of Save the Children who put a lot of emphasis on finding out what children say about corporal correction and on what the research he chose to read says about overseas experience. He set the pace for using emotive language in any reference to children and discipline (usually called hitting or beating or most often, violence toward children).

Second was Maree Russell of EPOCH, End Physical Punishment of Children. She just came right out and said that Section 59 is there to cover up assaults by parents upon their own children. This reveals an outrageous attitude toward the law and toward parents. She said “smacking” could not logically be called “light” or “loving”, terms parents use, because some children when interviewed called it “hitting”.

Third was the Families Commission, represented by Dr Prasad, Paul Curry, Mason Durie and a Ms. Campbell who said we’d met at a home educators’ conference in Christchurch years ago. Dr Prasad strongly urged the Committee to show leadership (read: ignore majority opinion) by not waiting for public opinion, but by forming public opinion in the repeal of Section 59. Section 59 did equate with family violence, he said, and that repeal was only one step in a longer term strategy to eliminate violence from society. He called it an anti-violence, not an anti-smacking Bill, and that the strongest possible message needed to be sent to society about violence. Because he acknowledged the institution of smacking came from deeply held religious positions, he wanted to see a lead-in time of perhaps 18 months between formal repeal and repeal taking effect so as to educate the public.

Dennis McKinley and Beth Wood from UNICEF were next. They liked the UN Committee’s “robust” (read: extremist) stand against corporal punishment, that even the lightest smack is abuse that must be outlawed. Beth especially dislikes that Section 59 “justifies” parents using force with their own children, called it an archaic law, that courts apply it inconsistently and that it was out of step with other legislation. The charge of inconsistent application is a red herring: it is due to the force needing to be reasonable in the circumstances. So a bare hand on the bottom can get a guilty sentence while a riding crop on the bottom can get acquittal. The hand was an explosive act on a wee two-year-old for soiling nappies, while the crop was a considered application on a large 12-year-old who submitted to the discipline after committing malicious property damage and serious physical assault with a weapon.

Fifth was a guy from who tried to characterise all parental corporal discipline as the undisciplined, out-of-control lashing out in frustration and end-of-tether scenario of his own personal experience. This type of caricature was quite common and reveals an inability or unwillingness to conceive of corporal correction as a conscientious, purposeful, measured, judicial, physical anti-dote to deep-seated spiritual manifestations of rebellion. Parents who understand the institution of smacking will testify that it positively sanctifies, purges and sweetens their children’s characters, rather than scares them into compliance. This guy seemed to think it was up to the Government to set the standards, guidelines and environment for parents’ training of their children.

Barnardos was sixth and basically said that if all parents would simply adopt their rationale, that using force with children is unnecessary, that they would discover it is unnecessary, just as teachers have found that caning is unnecessary. They failed to explain that for parents to discover this would also require them to adopt the rationale that children’s rights have priority over the responsibilities and duties of parents, that children are to be considered nearly as autonomous and independent as the parents, and that the parents must not expect their children to submit to or adopt the parents’ standards and values.

Seventh was Jeff Sanders of Relationship Services (the old Marriage Guidance). He reviewed a lot of negatives that go with violent homes. No argument here, but it was all irrelevant as it assumed the caricature that corporal correction or discipline or force is violent by definition, which it is not. He said that using force in this way does not model self-control. Again, this assumes that smacks are simply expressions of anger and frustration. These groups do not seem able to comprehend that force used by way of correction is of necessity a picture of self control.

Sanders, like several others, saw smacking on the same continuum as the most violent form of abuse: that they were the same in kind, only differing in degree. By now the cumulative effect of all the presenters was that New Zealand’s parents see it as their right and are happily in the habit of beating their kids into submission at the slightest provocation. This idea of “force used by way of correction” being on a continuum that slides easily into abuse and violence is completely false. For discipline to be discipline it first of all must be disciplined in administration. That is, its origins as an idea, its pedagogy, its motivation, aims, objectives, methodology and outcomes are all totally and utterly different from the beatings and hits that come from undisciplined frustration and anger, a caricature of the only kind of force that the repeal lobby seem to ever think about or recognise.

CCS was eighth and raised the interesting points that with disabled children, physical restraint and physical support were both intensively used, not only by parents but also by a larger number of non-family members who are generally involved with caring for the disabled. While repeal of Section 59’s justification for the use of force was clearly going to be especially problematic, CCS was all for it.

In ninth spot was IHC, who mostly just said they agree with CCS, although they emphasised more than others how very much violence was woven throughout New Zealand society.

Craig Smith
National Director
Family Integrity

Family Integrity # 94 — Opening Oral Submissions, Part F

Tuesday, 30 May 2006

Here is a description of the 10 child advocacy groups’ individual submissions plus summary in emails Part E and Part F.

(Final Instalment on Report)

Finally came Dr Cindy Kiro, the Children’s Commissioner. She saw repeal as a “fundamental and necessary step to ensure a safe and secure environment.” She made a comparison between repeal and the law to make seat belts compulsory, which was quite confusing since, while both are dealing with compulsion, repeal is compelling people to stop doing something, while the seat belt law compels people to actively do something. She was trying to say that with seat belts one gave up rights to a certain amount of freedom of movement that has led to a reduction in accidental deaths. Repeal should be embraced by parents as giving up the right to use violence on kids that will lead to less violence. Clearly, this is begging the question. It is the same as saying that if we ate less, we wouldn’t be so fat; if we drank more, we wouldn’t be so thirsty: it is so obvious, it is silly. But again, you have to equate the “reasonable force” of Section 59 with violence for the statement to make any sense in this debate, but as soon as you make that equation, it doesn’t make any sense.

Her presentation really was a pulling together of what everyone else had said, repeating all the arguments already heard, as if reading from the same script. She said repeal will not create a specific offense of smacking or corporal correction….it won’t need to, as the definition of assault in Section 2 will automatically make such actions crimes under Section 194(a) of the Crimes Act, precisely as Bradford was careful to point out in her Bill’s Explanatory Note.

One of the Committee members pointed out that the letter from the Police Commissioner of 11 August 2005 made it clear that any smacking would be an assault. Kiro then said she contacted the Police Commissioner who said he hadn’t “signed the letter off” and that he wasn’t happy about it. This prompted Committee member Ann Hartley to exclaim, “Oh, I didn’t know that letter was unauthorised.”

Notice, however, that Kiro did not say the letter was unauthorised or that the Police Commissioner disagreed with the letter’s contents. In fact, when the letter was written, the Police Commissioner was Rob Robinson. Mr Robinson retired in December 2005 and Steve Long stepped in as Acting Commissioner until 4 April 2006 when Howard Broad was appointed as the new Police Commissioner. So who exactly did Dr Kiro speak to?

In regard to the issue of the Police not prosecuting light smacking if repeal should happen, Kiro said, “I’m sure Police will be required to exercise discretion.” This was not nearly as positive as the other presenters. She did mention how Police discretion is a function of guidelines the police force develops, and said she’d be happy to help police develop their guidelines in relation to the repeal of Section 59.

Even though Committee Chair Lynne Pillay was keen to establish that this was not an anti-smacking Bill, all the presenters spoke out clearly against smacking in any form. Nearly everyone also mentioned the issue of parents being criminalized by repeal. Some said it was not their intention to criminalise; others that the claim was nonsense and mischievous, confusing criminalisation with prosecution; and others said that the police would not prosecute “light smacks” and other minor cases of technical assault.

Let’s examine these options:

Not the intention: this is irrelevant. What matters is what the wording of the law says, and a simple repeal will cause Section 2’s incredibly broad definition of assault to kick in and make virtually all acts of hands-on parenting without the child’s consent into criminal assault.

Mischievously confusing criminalisation with prosecution: it seems more likely that the presenters who said this are confused and saying that the actions of parents will not be criminalized until they are prosecuted. That is like saying you are not breaking the speed limit by doing 150 km/h until you get a ticket.

Police won’t prosecute: this appears to admit that force used by way of correction will be criminalized, but the Police will turn a blind eye or consider a certain undefined level of force used by parents not to be in the public interest to prosecute. (This is not to be confused with the use of force to restrain a child from doing damage to himself or others or with the use of force to remove the child from imminent danger.) So any use of force to correct or train or discipline one’s child becomes technically an act of assault, but probably not worth prosecuting. These 10 child advocacy groups are saying that they believe there is an undefined area of force referred to throughout the hearing as “light smacks” that will probably not be prosecuted, while there are other equally undefined areas of force, presumably of a greater magnitude than “light smacks”, that will be prosecuted. The Police will be left alone, apparently, to use whatever discretion they decide to use in deciding whether to prosecute or not. This creates a legal environment where virtually every parent is guilty at all times, leaving the Police free to selectively apply the law when and where they like, targeting specific people or people groups.

How can New Zealanders interpret these conflicting ideas? There are several options:

1. Police can selectively apply the law, or threaten to do so, to intimidate and control large sectors of society, as totalitarian regimes have done in the past.
2. Police will haphazardly apply the law too strictly or too loosely here and there doing great damage to their own credibility and to society’s respect for the law.
3. The pro-repeal lobby and child-advocacy groups hope to win over their opposition with promises that there will be no prosecutions of parents who use the undefined category of force known as “light smacks”. Once repeal is achieved, these groups will mount steady pressure to apply the law more and more strictly and consistently in order to force all parents effectively to adopt their ideological child rearing position that one must not use any force to correct or train or discipline children.
4. CYFS has been operating outside the law for some time already, telling staff and parents that it is illegal to smack children, an assertion which is not true. Repeal will just bring the law into line with CYFS’s current illegal practices.

Honestly, if there is a category of force that these child advocacy groups are happy to see go unprosecuted, a category they called “light smacks” all the way through the hearing, they must consider such force reasonable. So why not leave Section 59 just as it is, since it justifies this very thing, “reasonable force used by way of correction.” If they want to send a message about violence in society, how about going for the culture of death surrounding abortion and drug use? How about going for the gratuitous, gory and often sexualised violence on TV, DVDs and video games, the negative influence of which has been demonstrated again and again? How about doing something about the out-of-control bullying on school playgrounds all across New Zealand? This stuff is all in-your-face, whereas negative issues around Section 59 really are hard to see….even after these 10 advocacy groups have spun their most creative tales.

Craig Smith
National Director
Family Integrity


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